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[Edited Jan 21, 2013]

“Between You and Me” is a series of blogs I have to share personal discoveries and views of the SAP community.

I’m a moderator in the SAP Community Network, which means I am one of over 800 topic-specific SCN moderatorsSCN Space Contact List reviewing blog posts submitted by SCN bloggers. Besides reviewing new blog posts, moderators also review documents and discussions in their topic areas to ensure relevance and quality. In this post, I’d like to share with you my personal criteria for evaluating the quality of blog content (and also what I do when I see a really good blog).

On our previous SCN platform, points were awarded manually by moderators. I liked how those who in my ‘position’ got the chance to award points. However, I also knew there were many others in the community just as  or more qualified (and maybe had a faster response time than me) to evaluate quality and award points. The major part of points for contributions is now awarded by community members at large, by rating and liking content such as blogs or documents. I’m liking the automation and letting the community judge quality and value of the content.

image (Image: SAP)

My personal criteria for judging blog quality (and points) revolves around critical thinking. I am looking for a Think-Blog-Think mindset exhibited by bloggers.

Here’s what I mean:

Think

I want to see critical thinking. To me, critical thinking is carefully collecting and using available information to form a belief or to guide a decision.  Sure, purely informational blogs are acceptable. To stand out, I look to bloggers to express their opinions and how they arrived at their conclusion, or share knowledge and discuss how this may benefit others. Bloggers should think about how their post may be of value to the community before posting.

The more clear the thinking, the more informed the opinion and the more convincing the statement.

Blog

Jeanne Carboni posted some guidelines to Build Better Blogs that I urge you to read through. I care about the same things that make quality blogs, yet I don’t sweat the small stuff when I review blog posts. Small stuff includes grammar and spelling, or using official SAP product names. English is not my first language, and I don’t expect it to be the first language either for others in an online community of over of 2 million members from over 200 countries. I’m looking for clear expression of your thoughts that shows how you have thought about what you’ve written.

Think

You’ve thought about what you want to say and why you want to say in a weblog. You said it. Now what?

Well, did you know posting a blog is just the start of a conversation? I’d like to see bloggers take some time to listen and read what others say before responding. Responsiveness shows engagement (a good thing), yet I look for thoughtfulness and reflection in how bloggers respond (a better thing I think). No one has all the answers, and there is just no universally correct answer for some questions. Based on these premises, bloggers should consider the opinion and feedback of others, add them to the mix of information and evidence gathered, and reassess their own position.

Critical thinking isn’t just reserved for bloggers. Blog readers also need to view these posts with a critical eye. I love that I can now give points to some of our blog readers who post comments to blogs. Whether it was a few words of encouragement, constructive feedback or sharing further knowledge, these folks have obviously put in the effort to read the post and done some critical thinking of their own. Even if members receive no points for commenting, it does NOT mean there is no point in commenting. For some of us bloggers (myself included), receiving encouragement, engagement, feedback, and different opinions are our motivators to blog.

What can you do to support SCN bloggers and those who comment?

  1. Rate their blog (My Rating – stars)
  2. Like their blog or comment (Thumbs up)
  3. Add a thoughtful comment – even if it’s to say “Thank-you!” (Add a comment)
  4. Share the blog with others

I’m curious, what do you look for in a blog?

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33 Comments

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  1. Jon Reed
    Jason, I couldn’t agree more about commenting. This year I’ve been blogging on SCN less but commenting more on others’ blogs. Yes this means less points but I have a gut feeling it is the right thing to do and let’s face it, an SCN blog without a thoughtful comment or two looks a bit, well, lonely.

    I second your point about critical thinking. I would add to that, originality. Finally, effort. Most of the weakest blogs on SCN, in my view, simply lacked effort. But then I like meaty over breezy when it comes to blogs so some of that is personal preference.

    – Jon

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    1. Jason Cao Post author
      Hi Jon,
      Thanks for your comments and adding originality and effort to the mix. Although anectdotal, I’ve noticed a positive correlation between number of comments and how much effort bloggers put into their posts. There are many good exceptions to this of course – not to discourage those who have put much effort into their posts and receive few comments. I like that you’ve picked out originality. I really feel that through blog posts, our members have the opportunity to show their personalities and unique perspectives. This personal element should be applied to create original posts.

      Cheers,
      Jason

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  2. Tammy Powlas
    Jason,
    Thank you for posting this.  This is good feedback.

    I have been inspired since before TechED to try to post responses to blogs, ever since I saw Matthias Steiner’s YouTube video at http://www.youtube.com/user/inscopeblog#p/u/1/lislxwGYFus

    I like what he says, if you read a blog, take the time to respond to it.

    There have been times when I have posted informational blogs that take forever, and there are no responses, but this week I found unexpected rewards. Someone e-mailed me a question, I did a Google search and found the answer in an SCN blog that I wrote in early January! 

    So for me, I like a variety, hearing about upcoming events, hearing from others about events they attended, or those highlighting what is going on in the community.  I appreciate those like Ginger Gatling who tonight pointed to a demonstration I may have missed posted somewhere else on the community.

    One thing I haven’t kept in mind is critical thinking – I will try to remember that in future potential blog postings.

    I look forward to the rest of your series.

    Tammy

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    1. Jason Cao Post author
      Hi Tammy,
      Thanks for taking the time to read my post and to add your comments! πŸ™‚
      Critical thinking is just one of many important elements to engaging blog posts.
      I like that you’ve pointed out “variety.” I love variety in blog posts, because it’s one of those those characteristics that define ourselves as human. Not sure that came across right – It’s good to mix it up a little. My “Between You and Me” series is all about variety. Check ’em out – some better than others. I hope others will point out more elements for me to keep in mind as I review blogs as well.
      Cheers,
      Jason
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    2. Jeanne Carboni

      Hi Tammy,

      Thank you for your comment….posted almost one year ago.  I really appreciate you sharing Matthias Steiner‘s video.  I hadn’t seen it before.  Also, I want to thatnk Matthias for being exemplary in his responses to blogs.  If everyone would do that, our community would be even more vibrant. 

      One of my New Year’s resolutions is to read / respond to more blogs. I’ve got both you and Matthias (and many others) as my role models.

      Jeanne

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  3. Derek Loranca
    I really enjoyed hearing your rationale behind assigning points.  It’s refreshing to hear the logic behind it and that thoughtful and well-written blogs can be rewarded with more than just points!  I think that the conversation that comes out of those kids of points are worth as much, if not more than the points themselves!

    Keep up the good work!!

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    1. Jason Cao Post author
      Hi Derek,
      I totally agree! And thank you for pointing out that the comments, conversations and feedback are worth more than the points. I make an assessment of blog quality based on the amount of critical thinking I think the blogger put in – this is only one of several other criteria.
      Thanks,
      Jason
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  4. Vijay Vijayasankar
    Hey Jason, after reading your blog – I went to look at how many points I got for the blogs I have posted. Probably normal for a BI guy, eh?

    On the plus side, I figured out where to look for points.

    On the minus side, I could not find any rhyme or reason on points awarded to my blogs so far. Well, it is kind of funny that I could not even find any points at all for last few blogs. Guess I am slacking big time now, that points have dried up on me πŸ™‚

    Just kidding – I really liked your blog, and I think those are great guidelines. Of Particular interest for me was the part on commenting, which is what I mostly do. Lot easier to wise crack on some one else’s blog, than to think originally πŸ™‚

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    1. Jason Cao Post author
      Hi Vijay,
      Let me look into your last few blogs and make sure we’re clearing the points assignment queue.
      Please keep both blogs and comments coming!
      Knowing you, the “wise cracks” always include a strong dose of wisdom.
      Thanks,
      Jason
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    2. Jeanne Carboni

      Hi Vijay,

      Laure Cetin is working diligently on a Gamification project, which will overhaul the way points can be viewed and enable missions (fun but appropriate), to encourage good community behavior.  You will be able to see more information about the points that you’ve earned.  Stay tune…a couple of blogs are in the works with many more details.

      Jeanne

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  5. Kunal Gandhi
    Hi Jason,
    All your guidelines are just perfect! 
    With due permission, can I also assume a minor but slightly important aspect of writing a blog – ‘fun to read’

    Regards,
    Kunal Gandhi

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    1. Jason Cao Post author
      Hi Kunal,
      Thanks for your feedback! Yes, ‘fun to read’ is a big one. As a blog consumer, I want to learn something from the blogger, and if it was entertaining, then that’s a dream come true. One of my favourite bloggers on SCN is Jamie Oswald (not that he appears in any of my dreams or anything!) πŸ™‚

      Regards,
      Jason

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  6. Matthias Steiner
    I think only those that have been moderators on big community sites know how much is going on behind the scenes. W/o the mods we may as well abandon the ship as we drown in sub-par content overflow. So, all there’s to say: Thank You Moderators.

    I appreciate the insight you give into your own reward system Jason. I mostly agree to your approach, yet from my own experience I have to say that I have been surprised in both ways (good/bad) about the points assigned to my blog posts in the past.

    However, the case… and here you get my absolute agreement. A comment is soo much more worth than any amount of ponits could ever be.
    It’s the ultimate “thank you” to the author of the OP (original/opening post.)

    Readers may tend to take the content for granted. Yet, w/o feedback active contributors may loose interest in sharing (here)…

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    1. Jason Cao Post author
      Hi Matthias,
      Thank you for setting the example by taking the action of commenting! It is the clearest form of appreciation any blogger can receive.

      Thanks for pointing out the subjective aspect of points assignment. The criteria I shared are only my own, and I am but 1 of over 200 blog moderators (each following common guidelines but applying their own criteria in assessing value and quality of blogs). One way to achieve consistency is to have one person assign all blog points – even that is subject to subjectivity. πŸ™‚ Plus, we haven’t found that super-truly passionate-non-sleeping SCN member willing to take this on yet. Seriously though, we’re striving for consistency while also urging community involvement through the efforts of our moderators.

      Regards,
      Jason

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  7. JΓΌrgen Noe
    Jason,

    you really brought some light into points system. I sometimes wonder how much points I get for my blogs. Of course I try to reach maximum points and it’s not every time clear what was the reason for the moderator to assign this or that amount of points to my blogs. So I really miss feedback from moderators to my blogs and what could have been better or which important information may missing. I think, this would really helpfull to many bloggers. But it’s of course a question of time, especially of yours as a moderator. So what are ways out: More moderators? More staff for assigning points? Automating point assignment by a rules engine? Award something else instead of points? I’m not sure what is the best solution.

    Well, lot of discussions every year how to award points and sometimes controversies of assigned points. But I’m glad to say, situation has improved over the years and that is your work as mentor and moderator – Thanks.
    Juergen

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    1. Jason Cao Post author
      Hi Juergen,
      Feedback really is important. If you get a chance, search for “feed-foward” as I think there are some great potentials in using this concept in our community.

      Thank you for your questions and suggestions for managing points assignment for blogs. I considered another in my response to Matthias below. Laure Cetin on our SCN team has been working diligently to ensure we recognize the contributions of SCN members, so I’m glad you’ve noticed improvements.

      Regards,
      Jason

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  8. Tom Cenens
    Hello Jason

    Nice blog and I have to agree with the comments made here. Commenting on blogs is important, not only to show appreciation if you like a blog but also to provide constructive feedback with emphasise on constructive.

    I like they way that you look at blogs and how you assign points to it and it is neccesary to have moderators who care and take up the task of reviewing content so thank you for moderating.

    Kind regards

    Tom

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    1. Jason Cao Post author
      Hi Tom,
      Thanks for your feedback. Acknowledging and expressing appreciation for someone’s work does not need to take much time. Thanks for your support on this point.

      The process of critical thinking naturally opens one up to new ideas. For those with an open mindset, all feedback will be considered helpful. You bring up an important point about keeping feedback constructive. If one takes the effort to comment, why not put this in a way that others can benefit?

      Cheers,
      Jason

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  9. Jarret Pazahanick
    Good article Jason and I liked that you brought up the the point about comments. I try to comment on SCN blogs when I have a particular viewpoint or the blog touched me.

    As an SCN blogger I really enjoy reading comments and getting discussion started as often it can be better than the article itself (case in point my last article on SAP certification).

    My guess is that only 1 out of 100 readers on average leaves a comment and I would like to see that number go up as it would help the community on a number of levels.

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    1. Jason Cao Post author
      Hi Jarret,
      Thanks for your feedback! Your post about SAP certification is a good example that the blog is only the start of the conversation.
      I agree that the community would be much better off when more members participate and engage one another. What might help increase the probability of comments from blog readers?

      Regards,
      Jason

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      1. Tom Cenens
        Hello Jason

        I have noticed that once somone starts commenting, others often follow so one idea is that active community members initiate the comments and provide feedback in order to have new community members or less active ones join in more easily (lowering the fear factor of commenting and putting your name out there).

        Kind regards

        Tom

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  10. James Oswald
    πŸ™‚

    Really though, good rationale, and I appreciate your taking time not only to write this, but also to moderate. I’m sure you have some tough decisions to make out there, and I know it can’t be easy.

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    1. Jeanne Carboni
      Jason is on vacation until next Tuesday, which is why he’s not responding.  I’m sure he will get back to you when he returns.

      Jeanne

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    2. Jason Cao Post author
      Hi Jamie,
      I’m making my way down/up the comments list. Thanks for your feedback. These are tough decisions to make for blog moderators. If they’re like me, moderators use these opportunities to add value back to the community, while also learning from all the blog post we read. A real win-win for us all.

      Thanks,
      Jason

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  11. Jeanne Carboni
    Jason, I like the way you shared your perspective, and expectations as a moderator.  In my opinion, well thought out and valuable content is the most important ingredient for a blog.

    Jeanne

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    1. Jason Cao Post author
      Hi Jeanne,
      Thanks for your feedback! The effort that bloggers put into their posts is something they can control and should be the start. One of the duties of blog moderators is to assess how well thought out the blog is. The value-assessment is a bit more difficult. One of my cues is to look at the comments the blog has received.

      Regards,
      Jason

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  12. Sylvia Santelli
    Great blog and great comments.
    For some bloggers, especially newer ones, it can take courage to post, so constructive feedback helps the blogger to feel that someone really did listen.

    I’m guilty myself of reading more then I comment. And to re-stress Tammy who re-stressed Matthias’ point, if we took the time to read it, why not take the time to comment.

    Thanks for sharing Jason.

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    1. Jason Cao Post author
      Hi Sylvia,
      Thanks for your feedback! Our blog moderators are doing a great job! Beyond releasing posts bloggers they’ve also been very instructive and encouraging in their approach with new bloggers.

      Cheers,
      Jason

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  13. Michelle Crapo
    They all play a role in blogging.   I agree the first and most important part of a blog is thinking – well maybe not in the ranting category.

    Points are nice.  They really don’t motivate me much.  I think the logic you use makes sense.   BUT points are subjective.  So a blog I feel is VERY good could get lower points than a blog I feel is OK.

    I find more value from the comments written in response to my blog.   That way I know someone is reading and responding to what I wrote.  Critical / Constructive feedback is ALWAYS welcome.  Not everyone shares the same views.  It’s interesting to hear the other side.  So yes, I agree with points for “good” comments.  Again this is subjective so it wouldn’t motivate me.  BUT you might get more people commenting that way.

    Now – on the flip side – critical feedback that is too harsh could stop a good blogger from continuing to blog.   So…  Subjective again.   Who decides what is too harsh?  Who decides the comment is a good one?

    I know I’ve seen some interesting thinking though.  Things like new “gamer type” icons.   Trying to make points on SCN more fun!   I like it.  In case you don’t know me – I’m all about the fun.

    Most of us take personal time to write / comment to blogs.

    So why would I read a blog?
    -Others comments
    -Interesting subject
    -Fun writer – keeping things light and informative is great!
    -To learn something.  Beyond the “how to”, what trouble did I run into, what was the result…

    I think why I would read a blog drives me to write the blogs that I do.  (Most of the time.)  Sometimes it is just that I have to get something out there.  (A rant)

    Long comment – as usual.

    Nice blog with a lot of thought put into it!

    Michelle

    Why did I read this one?  I like Jason’s blogs and it was an interesting subject because I like to blog.

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    1. Jason Cao Post author
      Hi Michelle,
      Thanks for reading my blog, for your feedback, and for posting your thoughts about points, comments and feedback!

      I don’t mind long. I like how you’ve considered both sides of the equation – that shows critical thinking. πŸ™‚

      The comments section is where I have a chance to get into a  bit more detail and explain other concepts I’ve left off the blog.

      I agree with your observations that much of the evaluation around blog quality is subjective. The “value in use” notion of digital content is such that value is contextual, and what some consider as valuable, others do not.

      So, how should we deal with subjectivity? I don’t think removing subjectivity is the right course of action. An important ingredient to critical thinking is subjectivity and using personal judgement to form an opinion or make a decision. Subjectivity and the personal opinions of members make a community vibrant and come to life.

      I believe one way to help is to be consistent. The same way that I tell my kids they need to go to bed by 9pm, and stick to the rule, we also have guidelines for our community members on behaviour we support, we also encourage our blog moderators to follow best practices, act consistently in giving new bloggers feedback, and award points consistently. We don’t forget that there are 200 blog moderators. We just want to make sure they follow consistent guidelines, and leave the rest to their own judgement.

      And yes, I do break the rules once in a while and let the kids stay up later. You gotta have some fun, right? I know you can relate.

      Thanks,
      Jason

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