Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Blogging Best Practices: 16 Tips
better blogging, pure and simple
Hey there, blogger!
Are you following Dr. W. Edwards Deming's advice: pursuing Continual Improvement?
Are you absolutely sure your blog could not be enhanced, made better, tweaked, or fine-tuned? Be honest.
Why You Should HATE Your Blog!
Did that get your attention?
I like to say, in a deliberately confrontational, disturbing manner:
"HATE your blog, then improve it."
I've had bloggers say, "I don't hate my blog. I love my blog, that's what motivates me to make it excellent."
I say, "Baloney. Love, as defined by Freud, is the Overvaluation of the Object Choice."
That means: we all tend to over-estimate, exaggerate the good qualities, of what or whom we love. I think Freud's definition may apply more to what we call "infatuation" or "puppy love", but even in more mature cherishing, we must admit: we gloss over, downplay, and de-emphasize any negatives.
That's probably good in many cases. But, when it comes to our blogs and blogging practices, "loving my blog" can also blind us to things we could improve.
Don't gaze dreamily at your blog design, colors, layout, and text, thinking, "Oh my, what a wonderful work of art and brilliant writing. What awesome thinking is displayed here. I'm a genius and a scholar. My amazing personality and tastes shine through so vividly. Coolness to the furthest extreme."
Bah! That kind of attitude gets you NOWHERE.
I have never seen a blog that was perfect.
So let's go. Let's examine some points regarding how YOU could possibly IMPROVE your blog, and KEEP IMPROVING it on a regular, even daily, basis.
Better Blogging Check List:
(1.) Get a BEAUTY MAKE-OVER.
First, is your blog ugly? Boring looking? Typical looking?
Upload photos to your posts. Get an art/photo program like JASC Paint Shop Pro or PhotoShop. Learn how to make artistic banners or images for your posts, like I do. Almost nobody does this, and I can't understand why.
Look at Dvorak Uncensored for a great use of images for EVERY post.
Consider a fresh new design template. Or go into your template code and fiddle with the colors and layout. Email me if you need help.
Are you encouraging visitors to comment? Are you actually asking them questions in your posts...or are just preaching sermons and sharing your personal junk?
Get off the pulpit and get a two-way conversation going. That's what makes blogs special.
Are you presenting great information in a hard to assimilate fashion? Don't bury good tips and facts in dense paragraphs.
Break up those solid blocks of text into bite-sized chunks. It's called "copy chunking". Use bulleted, numbered, or asterisked lists.
Never give readers several points in one paragraph. Make those points easier to skim, scan, and absorb. List them.
Are you embedding hypertext links within your post text? I used to put lots of links in my posts at Vaspers the Grate, but I was writing carefully researched articles, almost scholarly tomes.
Now I use fewer links in my posts, but I think I need to get back to heavy hypertexting. What do you think? Linking is how we stay connected to the blogosphere. It indicates humbleness, acknowledging other sources, expanding your readers' information pool.
You better be visiting other blogs...and posting comments on them. I think it's pathetic and wrong for any blogger to be a lurker, slinking around in the creepy shadows of the blogosphere.
You reap what you sow. Post comments and receive comments. It's that simple.
Add value to other blogs by posting intelligent remarks. You read a post at someone else's blog. It bores you. You move on to another post or another blog. Something you read irritates you. Puzzles you. Enlightens you. Makes you laugh. Increases your expertise.
Then why on earth would you be so selfish and shy as to run off without telling the blog author your opinion, or complimenting them, or challenging their dumb statement? Crawl out of your shell and yell.
(6.) POST DAILY.
At least strive to meet the goal of one post per day.
WARNING: If you post sluggishly, only a few times a month, or once a week, many visitors will think you don't care about your topic, or you've abandoned your blog.
(7.) USE HUMOR.
Don't be stuffy. Crack jokes. Say things in a funny way once in a while. Make fun of yourself: this is a very important technique.
People LOVE it when someone practices self-parody or self-effacement. Poke fun at your faults and insufficiencies. This is a fast way to present a warm, humanizing presence in your blog.
(8.) LOVE YOUR AUDIENCE.
Sincerely seek to provide honest, practical, helpful material to your readers. Be patient and kind to flamers.
Delete comment spam and abusive comments immediately. When I see comment spam or abusive comments sit in a blog for weeks, I delete the blog from my blog roll and never return. That's how serious I am about maintaining a clean, ethical, beneficial blog.
Speak in friendly terms. Write like you're composing an email to a lover, family member, best buddy, or someone you admire.
(9.) HELP NEW BLOGGERS.
Cruise around the blogosphere. Link around like crazy. Bounce from one blog to another until you discover a cool blog you never knew about before.
Here's one I stumbled upon today:
If a blog is really newly created, or simply new to you, read it and post comments at it.
How can you possibly in good conscience read a plea, a question, a complaint, a cry for help or clarification, at another blog, and pass on by?
You reap what you sow. If you wish bigtime bloggers would help you, answer your email, visit and post comments at your blog, are you doing that for other blogs?
(10.) SEARCH POTENTIAL POST TOPICS.
Can't think of anything valuable to post? No problem. Think of something you're interested in, or confused about. Type that word or phrase into your favorite search engine (mine is Google, but I'm an unabashed Googlephile).
Scan the search results. Only click on links that seem credible, serious, professional. Prefer the links that end in ".org" or ".edu" or ".gov"
Read some good posts on your topic. Make notes. Copy the URLs. Then write your post, summarizing or reacting to what you read. Be sure to link to your information sources.
Here are two links that inspired me for this post:
"Are Blogrolls Hurting Us?" by Terence Heath
About blogrolls creating a "caste system" of incestuous blogging, cliques, and suggestions on trimming blogrolls or being more active with them, visiting and commenting at those blogs you blogroll.
"Blog Resolutions for 2005" by Wayne Hurlbert
A fantastic collection (but wish it were a list) of tips on how to improve a blog. By a master of blogging, very smart and effective blogger. Amazing guy.
(11.) STUDY USABILITY.
Go to Jakob Nielsen's Use It.com web site. Full of fascinating articles on increasing the usability of any web site or blog. By the foremost expert in the field, a former Sun Microsystems engineer. Buy all his books and study the principles. You'll have an edge that other bloggers will envy.
(12.) STUDY WEB DESIGN.
Learn about the basics of good web design. The most important aspect of any blog or web site is the first fast visual impression it makes on visitors.
Did you hear me? Sound extreme? Well, studies have been made by Consumer Reports WebWatch and Stanford University, among others, and the conclusion is that visitors leave a site within seconds if it looks sloppy, amateurish, ugly, sleazy, or unprofessional.
(13.) STUDY WRITING.
Learn how to write in general by reading classic novels and also authoritative books on writing skills.
I turn for writing inspiration to such classics as the Bible, Buddhist texts, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, Marcel Proust, Ernest Hemingway, Maurice Blanchot, Jacques Derrida, John Updike, Roland Barthes, Jerry Seinfeld, Mark Twain, James Thurber, Will Self, and many other novelists, business book authors, columnists, artists, philosophers, comedians, mystics, and short story authors.
Talk with other people about blogs. Both computer savvy people and those who know little about computers, internet, web sites, and blogs. This will energize you for future posts.
I talk to my physical therapist (for my frozen shoulder problem), my wife, my family, her family, my musician friends (I used to perform and record avant garde electronic music, still plan to continue when I get time), practically anybody I run into, just making small talk to be friendly.
No wonder no one calls or stops by anymore. I'm a blog fanatic, and it shows.
Learn some HTML so you can fiddle with your template, add sidebar material, add widgets and add-ons, create your own "Read These First" or blogrolls or important notices (see any of my blogs for examples of this.) I need to learn a lot more.
(16.) VISIT EXPERT BLOGS.
How often do you go to blogs by Doc Searls, Cory Doctorow, Matt Mullenweg, Seth Godin, Darren Rouse, Neville Hobson, Steve Rubel, Dave Taylor, Amy Gahran, Robert May, Steven Parker, Buzz Bruggeman, David Weinberger, Evan Williams, Jorn Barger, Debbie Weil, and the many other blog experts and pioneers?
Blogroll these folks' blogs. Then interact with your blogroll by visiting these blogs. Make it a habit to check up on these experts, all of them, at least once a week.
vaspersthegrate [at] yahoo [dot] com
[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate
Posted by steven edward streight at 5/31/2005 11:32:00 AM