Blogging Challenge – guidelines and hints

from Emma Norling, our Blogging Challenge Judge

So… you’re entering Pi Wars, and you’ve decided to enter the Blogging Challenge as part of it. As I will be judging this challenge for the second year in a row, I felt it would be good to provide a few words of advice.

First up, there are four key areas that I consider: the information that you provide, the look of the blog, the “feel” of your presentation, and how well you present your ongoing story. Let me briefly discuss each of these in turn.

The information

Here, I’m looking for content. A big part of this is the documentation of your design decisions, your build process and your testing. There might also be information about your team make-up, your organisational structure, and so on. A really good blog will provide an ongoing resource – perhaps for your own team in future years, or for others who are thinking of building a Raspberry Pi-based robot.

The look

You don’t have to be a fancy web designer or graphic artist to have a blog that looks good! Most blogging platforms have lots of different templates available, but don’t try to use anything too fancy. A plain and simple blog can often have a better look than an overly-fancy one. Keep your writing structured, and try to have a balance between words and pictures (or videos). Schools often have quite strict rules around photography, but some teams in the past have been quite creative about this, getting team members to draw themselves instead of having photos, and so on. If your rules are so strict that you can’t even include photos of your robot, maybe you could include design drawings to break up the text?

The “feel”

Try to give your blog a personality to go with your team. If you’ve got one author, don’t just be a dry reporter, but try to make the reader feel both your disappointments and successes. If you’ve got several different contributors, make it clear when the posts are being written by different team members. You don’t have to name names, but you could give a little bit of context at the start of any blog post, e.g. “This post today is going to be about our team’s work on the maze, from the perspective of the two of us who have been writing the code so far…” Giving a little bit of context like this will help the reader adjust to the different details (and level of detail) in different blog posts.

The ongoing story

Start your blog early, and try to update it regularly. A really good practice is to set yourself a timetable about when you are going to post updates, and stick to it as best as possible. Sometimes things will happen and you’ll be late or miss a post, and other times you’ll have a burst of work that you decide to split into multiple posts, but that shouldn’t be a problem. Don’t leave blogging to the last minute though. You might be able to throw together a bunch of posts in the last few weeks before the competition, but you will miss out too much detail, and there will be no real sense of your journey if you do it this way.

A special note for schools and young competitors’ teams

Don’t worry, I recognise that these teams may have different skills in terms of writing and technical ability. I’m looking for a feel from that team. I’d never expect to see the same detail from a team of primary school students as from a team of 16-year-olds. But I am still hoping that you can address the above four points to some extent.