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A blog is not the same thing as a blog post

I routinely see and hear the word “blog” used incorrectly – not just in conversation, but in official newsletters and publications. Let’s break out the old SAT analogy format to clarify the term:

blog is to blog post as magazine is to article

“I just wrote a blog about the health benefits of napping!” is akin to saying, “I submitted a magazine to National Geographic about the sleep habits of Zebras!”

When you use the word “blog”, you are referring to the entire web page that contains a list of entries, not to one of the entries themselves. A blog is a type of website, or a feature within a website. An individual entry on a blog is usually called a “blog post”. (With a space – not “blogpost”.) For example, right now, you are reading a blog post on my blog. (Not a blog on my blog.)

When you are referring to an individual, dated, authored entry within a blog, you have a few options, including:  blog post ~ post ~ entry ~ article ~ piece

Just don’t call a blog post a blog!

Need more convincing? Here is how the word “blog” is defined by various outlets:

  • “a discussion or informational website published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete, often informal diary-style text entries (“posts”)” (Wikipedia)
  • “a regular feature appearing as part of an online publication that typically relates to a particular topic and consists of articles and personal commentary by one or more authors” (Merriam-Webster)
  • “a list of journal entries posted on a web page” (techterms.com)
  • A website, similar to an online journal, that includes chronological entries made by individuals. (BusinessDictionary)

I could not find a single source that defines a “blog” as the individual entry on a blog (aka a “blog post”). If you are able to find one, please share!

It’s true that colloquial usage can morph into correct usage, and maybe that’s what’s happening. But until then, please don’t confuse your readers by implying that you wrote an entire, multi-entry blog on “10 reasons to take a nap right now” when you only wrote a single blog post.

Related article: This is a Blog Post. It Is Not a “Blog.” (Slate)

 

Aflatoxin infographics: Making a complex issue more digestible

Aflatoxin – a naturally-occurring toxin produced by a fungus that infects certain crops – is getting a lot of attention right now in the agricultural development sphere.

I worked with a small team of USAID staff and implementing partners to develop an infographic on aflatoxin. Our goal was to create an eye-catching one-pager that conveys some core messages: 1) Aflatoxin is bad for human health; 2) Aflatoxin has global economic consequences; 3) Aflatoxin is a common/widespread problem; and 4) We can do something about it! This infographic has been shared with a variety of audiences to help spark interest in the topic and elevate it as a priority in international development.

Click on the image to view a larger version:

For another take on an aflatoxin infographic, here is a nice, concise image from the International Livestock Research Institute:

ILRI aflatoxin infographic

Kindling knowledge exchange without bandwidth: An interview with Peace Corps volunteer Ryan King

I enjoyed the opportunity to practice my on-camera interview skills for the latest entry in the Agrilinks “KM Insights” video series. (Two lessons learned: curb the instinct to blink, and don’t wear orange pants!) Watch the video below to get the scoop on Peace Corps Ethiopia’s strategies for supplying its volunteers with the information they need to run agricultural projects.

This post is cross-posted from Agrilinks.

Most agricultural development practitioners—certainly, those based in major cities—rely on the Internet for daily knowledge exchange. There is no faster way to obtain new technical reports, join training webinars and conduct research than to use your favorite browser and a trusty broadband connection. But what about project implementers who are stationed in remote locations for more than a week or two? For example, many Peace Corps volunteers serve in small villages without reliable electricity or Internet bandwidth. How can they obtain the information they need to do their jobs well?

Ryan King, a Peace Corps volunteer leader serving in Ethiopia, and I discussed these challenges and honed in on a few good practices in a recent Agrilinks “KM Insights” interview, which you can watch above. He manages projects that support Feed the Future’s objectives, such as volunteer efforts to build productive household gardens, alleviate environmental degradation and educate communities about nutrition. To succeed in these projects, Peace Corps volunteers need to be able to access the best available information on low-cost technologies that can be employed at a household scale. However, as Ryan noted, getting information to volunteers is a constant struggle due to lack of connectivity.

As a step toward simpler information distribution, Peace Corps Ethiopia has equipped many of its volunteers with basic Amazon Kindle e-readers, which are refreshed with updated reports and briefs when volunteers return to post. Ryan explained that volunteers used to be sent to their sites with “a suitcase full of books” for reference, but now, nearly all of those volumes can be stored on a single hand-held device with a long battery life.

Ryan and I also discussed the value of video as a training medium for smallholder farmers, and the need for alternatives to online streaming in low-bandwidth areas. Open-access videos are preferable because volunteers can transfer them to DVD and give copies to their communities. In addition, audio transcripts are useful complements to video products, especially when translated into local languages.

Watch the full video for more of Ryan’s insights, and please share your experiences with low-bandwidth knowledge sharing in the comments section below.

The “third presenter” method of streamlining your presentation

PowerPointHumor

Here’s an all-too common scenario: Three presenters are scheduled to speak at a seminar, for 15 minutes each. The first two presenters go way over their allotted time, despite the timekeeper’s hand signals, in order hit upon every point they intended to make. The third presenter then comes up to bat, acutely aware that his or her time has been cut short. (S)he blows through his/her slides or notes, lamenting the lack of time, skipping the less-important or already-covered sections in order to focus in on only a few key messages.

Recently, I was the third presenter. I didn’t have PowerPoint slides, but had a long list of hand-written notes I intended to cover. The meeting started a bit late, and the two presenters before me went 5-10 minutes over their allotted time, so that by my turn, I was starting five minutes after I was originally supposed to end my talk. Even though I was allowed to take my full ten minutes, I knew that every minute I spoke would take a minute away from the discussion part of the meeting (undoubtedly the most valuable part). So I had to speak quickly.

As I glanced down at my notes, my brain automatically crossed off about half of the talking points on the page. That one’s not as important. That one’s self-evident. That one can be covered during the discussion. Instead I focused on the most salient and most interesting points, and expressed my desire to continue the conversation.

So the question is – if many of my points could be casually cut from the presentation, why did I include them in the first place? I think most presenters will agree that they try to squeeze too much content into any given talk, even knowing that the audience will only retain a few major points.

This experience gave me an idea for a way to streamline future presentations. The strategy is simple: pretend that you are the third presenter. Prepare a fifteen minute presentation as normal, but then pretend that you’re only allowed, say, seven minutes to talk. Practice out loud, using a countdown timer, to make sure that the time pressure is on. What messages and slides do you keep? What do you cut? Hopefully you will emerge with clearer picture of where the strength of your presentation lies. Go back and edit your presentation, focusing on the essential messages that you want the audience to retain. Plan for a clean, concise talk that goes under your allotted time.

…and next time you give a presentation as part of a panel, ask to go first! 😉

Bringing technologies to scale in Nepal to increase farmer incomes: An interview with Bill Collis of KISAN

This post is cross-posted from Agrilinks.

A farmer’s cooperative in Nepal is reaping real financial benefits from producing high-value vegetables in the off-season. Cucumbers and bitter gourd are grown in low tunnels covered in plastic, which creates a greenhouse effect, reduces temperature fluctuations, and protects the crops from weather damage. This relatively simple practice can produce significant boosts in income, due to the timing of the harvest. The farmer’s cooperative received training on this practice through Feed the Future’s Knowledge-based Integrated Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition (KISAN) project, a five-year activity that runs from 2013-18 and is led by Winrock International. While the training is one of the successful highlights from KISAN, on a broader scale the activity aims to put established knowledge into action in order to improve agro-inputs, extension, market access, and farmer livelihoods in twenty districts in Nepal. In addition to KISAN, USAID-Nepal also has awards with the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management, which both conduct research at local test sites to provide technologies and best practices that KISAN can bring to scale.

In March 2014, a group of USAID staff and partners (myself included) embarked on a two-day field trip to the Banke and Surkhet districts in western Nepal, where we visited field sites for the aforementioned USAID-funded activities. This trip was an addendum to the annual Feed the Future Innovation Lab Council Partners Workshop, which took place in Kathmandu. [Check out these blog post recaps of Day 1 and Day 2 of the field trip.]

I borrowed KISAN Chief of Party, Bill Collis, at one of the project’s vegetable sites for a brief interview about KISAN’s work on tunnel vegetable production. We also touched up the project’s model of collaboration with the Government of Nepal and with other Feed the Future implementing partners for spreading knowledge to farmers. Check out the video below!