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November 06, 2004

The D'Oh of Blogging

The D'Oh of Blogging
Various and Sundry Hints and Alarums For Those New to the Diversion of Blogging
by Ghost of a flea, Esq.

Some time ago I was asked to offer advice to new bloggers. Here are ten belated thoughts.

1. First, read Venomous Kate, Dean Esmay, John Hawkins, Asterisk* and 47 key tips from "the world's best bloggers." I suppose this list makes me a "linker" more than a "thinker"... Follow their advice but follow this advice in particular: do not try to be the Instapundit. We already have one. He's crazy or obsessional or a law professor and you can't out-post him so don't even try. I could not figure how the InstaWife put up with him until I learned she is a director. I dated a director. Those people are even more obsessive than bloggers.

2. Remember: these are the most public words you have ever said. These are words for which you can be held accountable. It may feel like you are writing into the void but the fact is that everyone from your employer to your parents to the people from high school who will laugh if you fail are all part of the potential audience. Keep it in mind. This is along the lines of the advice about wearing clean underwear in case of traffic accidents. There is nothing stranger than the realization people you have never met are reading your work every day let alone the day when someone from your "real" life first mentions reading something on your blog. Creepy.

3. There is only one JD Salinger of the blogosphere and it is not you or me it is Angua. Don't expect to find your voice right away. Pay attention to accidents and treasure them when they happen.

4. Write about what you know and admit it when you don't know something. This is the blogosphere, friends. Your ass is being fact checked, a fact that keeps most people honest. Expect to make mistakes, lose your temper, make an ass of yourself and learn that the ruthless honesty of the blogosphere is matched only by the respect accorded to a sincere expression of d'oh! after any of the above.

5. Some people post irregularly to their blogs and that's fine but readers will only commit to your blog if they know what to expect. Imagine getting a year's subscription to a monthy magazine that decided to change its format half way through the year after taking an unannounced sabbatical for the months of February, May and June. Would you subscribe next year? Almost any format, subject and publishing routine will attract a readership. Find your format and stick to it.

6. Link generously. Most bloggers will find you through their referral logs and great conversations and friendships often start this way. Comment on other people's blogs as another way into the conversation.

7. Copy edit your work. Good spelling and grammar lend weight to your opinions while the converse is also true. And now a frantic check for errors in this post...

8. Flee Blogspot as soon as you can and take the time to create a distinctive graphic for your blog. Many of us look at hundreds of web pages every day and it is important for readers to know what they are reading. Blogging is branding. Let the medium emphasize your message.

9. Do not be afraid to ask for help. I can manage odds and ends of HTML but proper CSS is beyond me. I have special thanks in a permanent place on my sidebar for good reason.

10. Don't expect to make any money from blogging. This is, of course, more of a do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do proposition because I fully intend to get rich from blogging and write future posts from a country house in the Cotswolds. Ok, scratch this one. To paraphrase one of the writer's of Will and Grace: embrace your greed and yearning for fame. They will carry you through.

Oh, alright, here is number 11.

11. Enjoy yourself. Not having fun? Take a break or take up a new hobby. Blogging can be a lot of work but this is the best conversation going. You get to meet the very best of people from anywhere you speak the language and further afield than that if they happen to speak yours. I have chatted with publishers and military heroes and even got a cheery note from Kylie Minogue. Sweet!

Posted by Ghost of a flea at November 6, 2004 12:04 PM

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All good, very good.

Posted by: Alan at November 7, 2004 12:51 AM

Thanks, Alan!

I have been informed a trackback ping was sent by this post to a blog I did not intend. There was a serious problem in loading this post and my server appeared to be having trouble at the time. If I have unintentionally pinged any other blogs I want to offer an apology. Please let me know as this would help me track down the source of the problem.

Posted by: Flea at November 8, 2004 06:36 AM

Could you do me a favour and write three sentences on trackbacks? I have no idea how to use them and whether they are better URLs to use to reference a post. I know I have wanted by times to be noted on a trackback but never seem to create the reference correctly.

Posted by: Alan at November 8, 2004 07:04 AM

I am afraid you have reached the limit of my trackback knowledge. Flea-readers who know what they are doing are invited to comment! :)

Posted by: Flea at November 8, 2004 12:14 PM