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So you want to blog, eh?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I’m often asked about blogging. What is it? How do I do it? What does it do? How does it work? And other beginning questions. 

In the spirit of helping others, and not having to repeat myself often, I’d like to offer some answers:

There are basically 3 types of blogs:

1) Personal diaries (for an outstanding example of one, check out Richard Bartles daily blog)
2) Topical blogs (Terra Nova, Huffington Post)
3) Reflective experiential  blogs (mine is an example in this category, Terry Real, Confused of Calcutta and of course, Dave McDivitt).

1) Please understand this: blogging is a commitment. You can’t blog for 6 months and then stop - it doesn’t work that way. Commit to 2 years minimum, at least 2 to 3 times a week of writing. One of things blogs do well is build community and become a place where people come and visit to read things they are interested in.  They are visiting your blog because you are talking about something important, in a novel / unique / smart way. So write frequently and for a long time. Or else don’t blog.

2) It’s ok to put links up as blog entries, but your ratio of links to great original stories should be 1:6. So for every one link you post as a blog entry, you should write at least 6 really good posts. If you must post a link, perhaps it could be as a response (like here) to an interesting story. Remember the mantra: people come to visit your blog because it’s updated frequently with really interesting stuff.

3) Start out with typepad or maybe blogger. They are easy to get started with and free. Once you have been blogging for a year, upgrade your typepad account, or switch to Expression Engine. These services offer expanded tools and fine-comb adjustments to your site. Make sure whatever you use has good comment moderation tools.

4) Put links to other sites that are relevant and interesting on your site. This is often called a “blogroll”, and it’s polite.

5)  You must write original, topical, relevant, and focused material!  You are blogging because you have something to say

6) Make sure your site Validates and make sure your ATOM / RSS validates

7) Install google analytics (or some other cool visitor statistic program) on your blog.

8) If ANYONE leaves a meaningful comment on your blog ALWAYS respond quickly and fully. If someone cares enough to comment, chances are other people do as well. This builds community.

9) I often re-task emails and questions and post them as blog questions/answers.  I always strip out the identifying details, and write long answers to questions. If you regularly visit a forum or newsgroup you should keep this in mind - anything you write is potential blog material.


Finally, Look at this post it has 10 ideas for making a great blog, and I’ve gotten quite a few comments and questions about the post.



On 27 August 2007, Tom Hoffman inscribed the following thoughts about this post:

Bill,
Your first two points in particular seem 180 degrees off to me. 

Compared to any other medium I can think of, blogging encourages to you try it out with little or no obligation and drop it if you don’t like it.  Perhaps you mean “don’t expect to attract a substantial readership in less than six months?”

Also, there are plenty of HUGE blogs that are mostly links (e.g., Boing Boing, Daring Fireball).  So that seems to refute your second point.

On 29 August 2007, Bill inscribed the following thoughts about this post:

Hey Tom!

Thank you for your comment - Sorry my capcha isn’t working, I’ve removed it for now, until I can fix the permissions on the image directory.

Here’s the deal:

I think the best thing blogging can be is about providing a novel, smart, and unique perspective on issues relevant to your readers. We are looking to influence and inform a discussion about a topic (sometimes, we are just venting, which is ok, too).


The reason I suggest people blog for more than 6 months is traction, and the incredible ratio of noise to signal in the blog-o-sphere. I also see many people and businesses think about blogging as some type of “magic wand” which will help their product, point-of-view or maybe their business. They start up a blog, and spend a month or two vigorously posting, and then (like so many blogs) fade into obscurity. I wonder how many great ideas we are missing because people don’t realize it takes time for great ideas to be noticed on the internet? There is also search-engine optimization, which is important if you want your ideas heard by many folks; and this also takes quite a bit of time.

I should of been clearer when I referred to link-post. Usually the entire post looks like: “great story here”.

Helpful? Sure, but it doesn’t add to the three criteria I mentioned in the beginning: novel, unique and smart. Slashdot has hundreds and thousands of threaded comments for each link - I’m not sure that’s bloggy in the sense I was referring to.

Thank you for your comments, again. I’ve posted this reply on my blog (removing your name) to help clarify what I meant by blogging.

By the way, I found your comment about “...not worth your time…” a little unbecoming; please don’t forget this 😊



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Bill MacKenty, Chief Zuccini

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