5 Things: BloggingPosted: October 14, 2014
I’ve written a lot of words here, over a few years, and I’ve learned some small things about blogging. There are some important things you need to know before you start.
- The World is Full of Dead Blogs. There are countless blogs that start with one or two posts and then stop, pretty much forever. This isn’t a huge problem, beyond holding down usernames that other people might want to use later (grr), but it doesn’t help people if they’re trying to actually read your blog sometime in the future. If you blog, then decide you don’t want to blog, consider cleaning up after yourself because it will make it easier for people to find your stuff when you actually want that to happen. If you’re not prepared to answer comments but you still want your blog to stand, switch off comments or put up a note saying that you don’t read comments from here. There’s a world of difference between a static blog and a dead blog. Don’t advertise your blog until you’ve got a routine of some sort going, just so you know if you’re going to do it or not.
- Regular Blogging is Hard. It takes effort and planning to pump out posts on a schedule. I managed every day for a year and it damn near killed me. Even if you’re planning once a week/month, make sure that you have a number of posts written up before you start and try to always keep a couple up your sleeve. It is far easier to mix up your feeds to keep your audience connected to you by, say, tweeting small things regularly and writing longer pieces that advertise into your Twitter feed semi-regularly. That way, when people see your name, they realise that you’re still alive and might read what you wrote. If you can, let people know roughly how often you’ll be writing and they can work that into their minds around what you’re writing.
- Write What You Want To Write But Try To Be Thematic. It’s easy to get cynical about things like how many people are following you and try to write what other people would like to read. Have some sort of purpose (maybe 2-3 different themes tops) so that what you write feels authentic to you, fits into your interests and is on a small range of topics so that people reading know what to expect. I stretch the rubber band on education a lot but it still mostly fits. I have a different blog for other things, which is far less regularly updated and is for completely different things that I also want to write. Writing somebody else or on something that you don’t really know about almost always stands out. Share your passion in your own way.
- Be Ready For Criticism. At some stage, someone is not going to like what you write, unless you are writing stuff that is so lacking in content or that is so well-known that no-one can argue with it. If you express an opinion, someone is probably going to disagree with you and if they do that rudely then it is going to sting. Most people who are reading you, and yes you can see the number of readers, will read you and, if they say nothing, have no strong feelings or probably agree with you to some extent. People are more likely to comment if they have strong disagreement and many of the strong disagreers in the on-line community are card-carrying schmucks. Some of them are genuinely trying to help but there are any number of agendas being pushed where people are committed (or paid) to jump on on-line fora and smash into people holding discussions. Some people are just rude bozos who like making other people feel bad. Hooray.
SADLY, YOU MUST HAVE A STRATEGY PREPARED FOR THIS. I don’t condone this, I’m working to change it and I think we have a long way to go in our on-line social structures. However, right now, it’s going to happen. Whether this means that you will take steps if people cross lines and become genuinely abusive, or whether you have other strategies, think about what will happen if someone decides to have a go at you because of something you wrote. The principles of freedom of speech start to fall apart when you realise that some people use their freedom to remove that of other people – which is logically nonsensical. If someone is shouting you down in your own space, they are not respecting your freedom of speech, they are not listening to you and they are trying to win through bullying. John Stuart Mill would leap up from the grave and kick them in the face because his idea of Freedom of Speech was very generous but was based on a notion of airing bad ideas in order to replace them with good. If he had been exposed to the Internet, I suspect he would have been a gibbering wreck in two days.
Remember: someone else who feels strongly can always start their own blog to air their views. You do not owe idiots space on your comments just so they can abuse people who agree with you or spout nonsense when they have no intention at all of changing their own minds. You going mad trying to be fair is completely unreasonable when this is the aim of the Internet Troll.
- Keep It Short and Use Pictures. This is the rule I have the most trouble with. I now try to limit myself to 1,000 words but this is, really, far too long. Twitter works because it can be scanned at speed. FB works for longer things that you are bringing in from elsewhere but falls apart at the long form. However, long blogs get ranty quickly and you are probably making the same point more than once. Pick a size and try to stick to it so your readers will know roughly what they are committing to. Pictures are also easy to look at and I like them because they throw in humour and colour, which break up the words.
There’s a lot more to say but I’m more than out of words! Hope this helped.