May 21, 2008

10 Things I Have Learned About Blogging

(A hearty shout-out to my fellow bloggers at the Chicago Bloggers Meetup! And no, it's purely coincidental that this note came up as our fearless moderator clicked in my URL. Nothing to do with Blogger's advanced posting function.)

Last week, I celebrated my fourth anniversary blogging, and a wise commenter suggested a post on the 10 things I have learned about blogging. Normally, I might do five things (based on another blog I read on a consistent basis)...but consider this two days' worth of five things in the same note. Enjoy!
  1. Write About Things That Will Keep You Writing Tomorrow - Granted, writing about pop culture, comics, television, and movies may not make much sense for a community, health policy, and social service oriented person like myself...but at the end of the day, I would rather leave that stuff at the office. Blogging about them would get old very quickly. I'm interested in them...but I tend to leave work at work. I blog about stuff that keeps me blogging on a regular basis, that makes me want to continue blogging.
  2. Good blogs involve a lot of "sweat equity" - If you're looking to get rich quick, blogs...aren't the best way. It takes quite a bit of time - creating and posting content, networking with other bloggers, figuring out the best approach, promoting your blog, etc. It's worth it - just be prepared for a lot of effort.
  3. It Takes Awhile To Find Your Blogging "Voice" - If you read the first month's worth of posts on this blog, you can hear the "seeds" of how I write...but it takes awhile to really get in the groove, to find one's own perspective. Just look at the abandoned blogs versus active blogs, and you'll have some idea.
  4. Data Is A Blog's Best Friend - I'm starting to play with Google Analytics, and have used Extreme Tracking and Technorati to determine how people are getting to my blog. It allows me to not only read other blogs (who may or may not refer me), but also track trends, and help me determine how to improve/maintain the blog's quality.
  5. Writing Well Means Reading. A Lot. - As I'm leaving comments on other blogs (to promote the blog), I also come across a lot of cool blogs that share my interests. This is where a really good feed reader comes in - I alternate between Google Reader (for a variety of blogs that can wait) and Netvibes (to track my social networking, e-mail, and local oriented blogs). But the best way to write is to read, to actively engage my linguistic skills. And if you want free e-books, as always, I propose Librivox, which has tons of good stuff available for your review.
  6. The Best Cure For Writer's Block Is to Stockpile Ideas - I make it a habit to carry around a small, pocket sized notebook and pen. When an idea hits, and I'm away from the keyboard, I write it down. Scribble a tentative outline, maybe even a blogging "schedule". This allows me to avoid the trauma that every writer fears: the blank page.
  7. Proofread, proofread, proofread - This is one of my major weak points - I'm in such a rush to blog that I rarely, if ever, check for such important things as grammar, punctuation, and spelling. I guess it's time that I finally break down and invest in a copy of The Elements of Style.
  8. Bloggers "Borrow" From Other Bloggers - No, I'm not suggesting that you take content from blogs and promote it as your own; that is plagiarism, which as I learned in high school is an academic crime. However, I have found tricks, widgets, memes, and other key pieces of information by reading other blogs. In addition, when I was deciding what to write about, it was reading two blogs - Something Old, Nothing New and Pop Culture Gadabout - that led me to realize "Hey, these are intelligent written blogs about what interests me...maybe this is something I can do as well." Plus, whether you're social bookmarking, using Twitter, Facebook, or Linked In...or even groups like Meetups or Netsquared, always get yourself out in the open. At best, you get a few new readers and or techniques; at worst, you meet some people and get some fresh air.
  9. Don't Worry About the Other Side of the Fence; Water Your Own Darn Lawn - Whether it's discussing blogging platforms like Wordpress, Blogger, Moveable Type or Typepad; useful widgets, other features (like podcasts or forums), or even just content - it's easy to get hung up on what the other guy's doing well. Ask him or her how he/she does it, and do it yourself. The tools that you are most comfortable with are the ones that are best for you.
  10. Behind the Monitor Lies A Human Being - Much of the reason why flaming and trolling are prevalent is that we often forget that, on the other side of the keyboard, there is a human being who deserves the same amount of respect, consideration, and dignity that we would wish for ourselves. Although, yes, it is quite tempting to get the temporary relief by using colorful, elaborate metaphors to describe former and current employers, former and current significant others, and/or fellow Internet's always a good idea to take the high road. Online misbehavior can often lead to further complications in life, so you might want to avail yourself of the "save to drafts" option when in doubt.
Well, there's my online lecture for the day. Hope you enjoyed reading, and please - feel free to comment.


barbara i said...

Great tips. Thanks for doing this for us. I like the ones about "watering your garden" and reading to get to be better at writing, especially.

Rasmussen said...

Thanks for the Blogger Meetup shout!

How much attention do you recommend for commenting upon other bloggers' sites as a method for building relationships? [at an early stage, and at the ripe-old blog age of 4 years (bTp)]

I recently overheard an interesting take on this - a pretty well-known blogger stated the time spent commenting on other people's blogs is better spent developing compelling content on their own site.

Is there an equilibrium?

Roger Owen Green said...

Actually, I have the same question as rasmussen. Of course, I NEVER comment on other blogs, so maybe I need to work the balance somewhat... Also, all the good ideas, but when, when, when does one find the time?

BTW, I'm listening to your disc for the third time. Gets better with every play.

Gordon D said...

Roger & Ryan

My suggestion - 70% creating content, 30% online "networking".

It really can't be 50/50 - you end up with OK content, and not a lot to share with others. It's also not 90/10 (in my opinion) - the point is to get people to the blog and reading.

Right now, my goal is to get more "outsider" glances at my blog (people who normally wouldn't read comics/movie/tv blogs)...maybe I should turn these 10 lessons into an e-book. Thoughts?

Siskoid said...

Thanks for the tips. It's never a bad thing to revise what you're doing and how you could do it better.

james said...

This is a great column, with solid advice. After trying a few different blog formats, I'm working on a Defenders site:

Rasmussen said...

> "..maybe I should turn these 10 lessons into an e-book. Thoughts?

Great idea! How about an eBook with an optional on-demand ooVoo Q&A ?! ;)