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Begin with your most important point. Use short sentences and clear, non-jargony language. Remember your end goal.
These were among the tips BeyondDC creator and Greater Greater Washington (GGW) blogger Dan Malouff imparted at a recent lunch talk at the Mobility Lab. Malouff discussed how to blog effectively and get published on websites such as GGW.
Among his main points:
- Put the most important information up front, in the first paragraph, with more specific details and supportive facts following. The glut of information and competition demands clarity and incisiveness. "Lead with the takeaway," Malouff said.
- Inform before you persuade. The best articles use a piece of news or data as a starting point, and then use it to draw conclusions or make an argument. It's important to explain the context, as readers are not all experts already.
- Transportation and city planners (not to mention lawyers) like to use jargony language. Blog readers respond better to simple language. Complicated, wordy prose can make an otherwise compelling article unreadable and/or suspicious. Use the rule that easier-to-read is better.
- Don't use the passive voice much if at all. If you can insert "by zombies" after the verb, then you are using it. For example, the sentence "The use of passive voice is discouraged" is easy to identify as passive voice since one could add "by zombies" and the sentence would still make sense. Instead, the sentence could read "Don't use the passive voice." (Avoid nominalizations, like "the utilization of this grammatical construction leads to complication of the communication," too.)
- Keep articles short. A thousand words is typically too long. The "sweet spot" for web writing is 300 to 600 words.
- Keep the blog post to one main idea. If you want readers to remember more than one big takeaway, then split the article up into multiple posts.
Mobility Lab Communications Director Paul Mackie facilitated the lecture. He called blogging an inherently democratizing medium. He said that institutions such as the New York Times are no longer the gatekeepers of information. Anyone with a keyboard now has a voice. Mackie described blogging as a way to "become a thought leader."
(Author's note: This article is 374 words long and, therefore, perfect.)
Cross-posted at Mobility Lab.
Cities are great places to raise children, DC in particular. So Greater Greater Washington and Streetsblog are teaming up to host a playdate and family picnic to bring our readers together for some kid-friendly fun.
Instead of another after-work happy hour at a 21+ bar, we want to get to know each other's families and enjoy the great urban outdoors. Streetsbaby Luna and Greater Greater Wunderkind Sophie will be in attendance and can't wait to spill things on you and your children.
The picnic will be at the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden (between Constitution Avenue and Madison Drive and 7th and 9th Streets NW) on Saturday, May 31, starting at 11:00 am. We'll try to congregate in the southeast corner, near 7th and Madison, but may shift if it's crowded there. Call 202-460-4376 if you have trouble locating us.
The Sculpture Garden is accessible by every single Metro line, several buses, and the Pennsylvania Avenue cycletrack. While we suggest transit, bicycling, or walking, you can also drive there, and either spend a lot of time hunting for on-street parking spaces or pay for a private garage.
This will be a not-quite-potluck: If you can, please bring a (non-alcoholic) beverage, chips, cookies or some other snacky side to share, but it's every family for itself on the main course. The Pavilion Café is right there and ready to serve you soups, salads, and sandwiches if you can't be bothered to spend your morning slathering mustard on whole wheat bread.
No one will be turned away for lack of kids. Your definition of family works for us, whatever it may be. And of course, you're welcome to come on your own.
Please RSVP here with the number of people (of any age) you'll be bringing so we have an idea how many folks to expect. We can't wait to see you and meet your family!
Our first-ever reader drive is over, and we did it! Thanks to so many of you who contributed, we passed our goal for this reader drive and helped Greater Greater Washington on its road to sustainability.
We brought in $3,684 since the start of our matching challenge, which helped us get the entire $3,000 match and even go beyond. We've taken in over $15,000 for this reader drive.
Besides the two people who offered $1,500 matches each, we had people contribute $500, $250, and many denominations all the way down to $10, $5, and even $1.
That money alone isn't enough to cover our costs and pay for Shawn, but it gets us on solid ground for the moment along with money from CSG and myself. Plus, there's a lot more we'd like to do, like expanding our coverage to more communities around the region, or even just having staff to handle more of the day to day administration so I and the other volunteer editors can spend more time writing (I sent/will send out all of the supporter thank-yous myself, for example!)
So if you didn't contribute yet, please do now and it will continue to do a lot of good. The boxes reminding you to support us won't be at the bottom of each post, but there will still be a button on the sidebar you can always use, and we hope you will.
Plus, I'm always working on a whole pile of ideas for big and medium-sized projects we could do to advance the conversation around the shape of our communities, if only we had the resources for them. I'll post more in the near future about some of those, and meanwhile, if you have a line on people or organizations that might want to support community conversations, web tools akin to the Redistricting Game, organizing, and more, please get in touch.
Thank you so much for your support of Greater Greater Washington!
As this week comes to a close, so does our reader drive, and you have really come through. We've almost maxed out our $3,000 matching challenge grant. Can you help us get the very last bit of the way there?
The urbanist thermometer is almost at the cornice!
Readers have pitched in $2,236 since we started the match on Tuesday. That match doubles any contribution up to $3,000, which means we only have $764 left to go to hit this target. If you can support us with some of that last $764 you get to double your impact.
We'd love to stop having to talk about fundraising too, at least for a little while. Can we close out the reader drive by maxing out the match and hitting $15,000? Thank you so much to everyone who has already contributed and to in advance to everyone who does!
Since we started our $3,000 matching challenge yesterday, our readers have really come through and chipped in $1,356. That's 42% of the $3,000 matching target in one day! Can we close out this week with the rest?
The urbanist thermometer gets higher. Original photo by ekelly80.
Readers contributed $250, $100, $20, $5 a month, and even just $5. Our matching grant givers will double anything we get this week up to $3,000 total, so we've actually raised $2,712 in the last day.
All of it makes a big difference in helping us pay Shawn, keep Greater Greater Washington's quality high, and invest in reaching out to more communities and on more issues that affect the shape of our neighborhoods and quality of life all across our region.
I've updated our little "townhouse thermometer" on the right. Can you give $20, $100, $250 or whatever you can so we can max out our challenge, get that townhouse photo up to its zoning and historic maximum height, and close out this last week of our reader drive on a high note, even getting all the way to $15,000 in total? Thanks for all your support!
Thanks to many of you, our beloved readers, we've raised $9,120.63 so far in our first-ever reader drive. There's just one more week; can you help us close it out on a high note as you double your impact this week?
Your support, combined with contributions from the Coalition for Smarter Growth and some money of my own, helps cover core expenses of Greater Greater Washington, including our new associate editor, J. Shawn Durham.
For this final week of our reader drive, we have a way to double the impact of reader support. Two generous individuals have agreed to match one for one any more contributions you make, up to $3,000. That means that we could potentially get to $15,000. How far can we go?
Your support will help us pay Shawn to keep the quality and pace of articles on Greater Greater Washington high. If we get more support, we can also have Shawn put time into reaching out to more communities that we don't talk about as much; we'd really like to do more east of the Anacostia River, in Prince George's, and in many parts of Virginia, for example.
Please support us today with $20, $100, $500, or whatever you can afford. If you can do a monthly or yearly contribution, that can go even further by giving us a more reliable funding stream (though of course you can stop contributing at any time).
If you don't want to use PayPal, you can mail us a check (the address is on this page); drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know so we can count it toward the goal!
I jumped into the DC hyperlocal blogging scene back in 2005, when I moved to the Woodridge neighborhood in Northeast. I came across Greater Greater Washington in early 2008, when David posted about development in Brookland, and later in the year, I met him in person.
Because I'd since moved to Shaw, and had applied to graduate school for community planning, I was interested in finding another way to be involved in a city-wide (and, ultimately, a region-wide) discussion about urbanism and smart growth. So I asked David if he'd consider having contributors. The rest is, as they say, history.
Since then, I've been involved with GGW in a number of roles, most recently behind-the-scenes as an editor. I am proud of the debate we stir up, the advocacy we stand behind, and the community we've built.
Over the years, we've tried to disseminate important information and to do it in a way that is both timely and accessible. Too often, and especially with the topics we cover, it's easy to lose the meat of a story in jargon and lack of context; our aim is to cut through the technical terminology that can alienate readers and to give you the background you need to make an informed decision.
We've been lucky to work with some extremely talented and dedicated volunteers since 2008, and we look forward to many more years doing the same. We've also been lucky enough to employ a part-time associate editor recently, and we need your support to keep it up and to make GGW even greater. Please consider a contribution to the site
Almost 6 years ago today, I stumbled across a new urbanism blog, and my immediate reaction was, "why couldn't I have thought of a creative name like that?" But more importantly, I was amazed at how great the content was, and how much of it the single author turned out. I subscribed right away.
From the start, Greater Greater Washington was a great introduction to the issues. At the time, I was in planning school at the University of Maryland, and I'd only lived in the region for about 7 months. But very quickly, I was learning all sorts of things about planning and policy in the District and the region as a whole.
Over time, David was joined by Michael Perkins, Jaime Fearer, and others. The coverage of urbanism and policy continued to get better as the site grew as more people joined the cause. I came on board in December of 2008 after David asked to crosspost a piece I had written wondering if President-elect Obama was going to be progressive on transportation.
Over time, Greater Greater Washington grew. More contributors joined, and we were producing more and more content. David was the sole editor at the time, and while his demanding standards made sure our quality never suffered, the workload was too much for David alone. In the summer of 2010, he asked the contributors for editorial help, and I volunteered, because as a planner I could see the positive impact GGW was having. And I didn't want to lose it.
Today, I know of several elected officials who read the site regularly, and I don't know a planner who doesn't. But our impact isn't just because planners and politicians read the site. It's because you do. It's because we have been successful in getting more people educated about the issues and helping them get involved in the process.
I certainly wasn't alone in wanting to help. As the workload grew beyond what David and I could handle, other contributors volunteered to become editors. But they weren't alone. Because you have always stepped up. Several times, Breakfast Links has been in trouble of disappearing. And every time, new readers volunteered to take on the most difficult (and most popular) part of GGW: curating links.
Since its inception, Greater Greater Washington has been working to change the dialogue. Not only by creating a forum for discussion here, but also by getting new groups involved in the process. Planning is complex and can be daunting for people who haven't been involved before. But building our communities is something that everyone should have a role in. GGW has made planning more accessible to many.
I think that's the true value of the site. Greater Greater Washington has served as a source of education for many, and it's helped make planning more accessible to all. Helping everyone have a say in how to make their communities better. Greater Greater Washington has provided many people with an accessible introduction to the issues facing growth: from gentrification to streetcars, from inclusionary zoning to fare policy, from budget policies to fantasy Metro maps.
In order to keep growing and to keep serving the region, we need your help again. Hiring an editor to fill Dan Reed's shoes is a necessary step to allow the site to continue to grow, and really just to stay where we are. If you can't wait for Breakfast Links to go live every morning, if you enjoy the dialogue we foster, if you value the impact that GGW has on building a better Washington, I hope you'll support us however you are able.
Every little bit counts. And your support will help us continue to work for a stronger, more diverse, more walkable, more livable region.
Greater Greater Washington wasn't the first blog about urbanism or local policy-making in Washington, DC, but it's the one that changed the discussion. It's the one that brought arcane subjects like zoning and transit planning into the city's mainstream.
By the time I first discovered Greater Greater Washington, I'd already been writing BeyondDC for many years. I was one of a cadre of bloggers writing about development and transportation, along with people like Richard Layman and DCist's Ryan Avent.
But we were few and far between, and most of us either had other jobs or split our writing with other subject matters. DC's online urbanist community, such as it was, had no home base and no leader. We were a niche network of geeky wonks, great at expressing opinions but not so good at building broad support.
Greater Greater Washington changed all that.
When David Alpert showed up, with his mountain of energy and dedication, that was a game-changer. David had the skills and time to do what the rest of us couldn't. He went to public meetings, he drew maps, and he wrote, and wrote, and wrote. All of it was accessible to anybody. All of it was interesting, and exciting. All of it elevated the public discussion about what Washington could be.
And the readers poured in. Then some of the early readers started writing too, and the whole thing grew exponentially.
At first, I admit, I was a little jealous.
But it took me about 3 seconds to realize what was happening. A mere blog was becoming a community, and that was too wonderful a thing to pass up. I had to be part of that.
And become a community Greater Greater Washington did. With more writers and more readers, we started to have an impact. Not only on other policy wonks, not only on the editorial pages of other media, but on the tone of the discussion itself, and later on elected officials.
Thanks to Greater Greater Washington, urbanists in the DC region are a political force. We've gone mainstream, and we're making a difference.
Please help us keep making a difference. Please donate what you can, so our community will still have the strong voice it needs.
There's no shortage of blogs in the DC area that talk about specific neighborhoods. In fact, for 8 years, I've written one myself. But Greater Greater Washington tells a unique story about our region as a whole.
I don't remember when I started reading GGW, but I was struck by the slogan "the Washington, DC area is great. But it could be greater." Our region is undergoing a massive period of growth, resurgence, and evolution. In doing so, the traditional lines between "city" and "suburb" are blurring, both in terms of demographics and the built environment.
To understand what's happening in our communities, sometimes we have to look at the big picture. From the start, GGW has looked at the opportunities and challenges facing places from Georgetown to Germantown and everywhere in between, and how they're all connected.
Greater Greater Washington is a place where smart, passionate people, including residents, advocates, community leaders, elected officials, designers, and planners, can come together and talk about where we're going as a region. It's given me the chance to share the stories of my community, Silver Spring, and to read the stories of places throughout the District, Maryland, and Virginia, that other media don't report.
This blog is an invaluable resource for those who care about making stronger, more sustainable communities, and has become the envy of places around the nation. Over the past year, I've been proud to serve Greater Greater Washington as its associate editor, and while I won't be in that position much longer, I'm eager to remain a part of this amazing community.
Moreover, I'm excited to see where GGW will go next, and what stories we'll get to tell in the future. But we can only do that with your help. If you care about having an online community that's able to look at the big picture of Greater Washington, I hope you'll support us with a donation.
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