On Blogging

Forgive thyself, blogger

That tweet you blasted out with a massively embarrassing typo in it? Or the email newsletter that went out with a gaffe of epidemic proportions? Too bad. It’s like that late night fling you can’t take back and your wife leaves you.

You’re utterly unforgiven.

But that blog post? You can correct it anytime. Your constant refinements can mushroom it into a finely tuned piece of literature. You can even rewind time to edit out the aforementioned fling.

You are forever forgiven.

Long time blogger artist Austin Kleon writes on blogging as a forgiving medium compared to others:

The ability to “move it around for a long time” is what I’m looking for in a writing medium — I want words and images to be movable, I want to switch them out, copy and cut and paste them, let them mutate.

But most importantly, I want to be able to be wrong. I want to change my mind! I want to evolve.

. . .blogging feels to me like a world of endless drafting, endless revisioning.

It’s a beautiful thing to be able to re-create over and over again.

(Now if yer twisting the truth after-the-fact for nefarious purposes, that’s a whole different matter that will bite you in the arse.)

He also makes a excellent point when he says readers need to be forgiving towards bloggers too. After all they’re expending their blood, sweat, and tears without asking for much of anything in return.

To do the exploration that growth and change requires, one needs a forgiving medium… but what one really needs forgiving readers.

While you’re over there, bookmark him and sign up for his newsletter. It’s good sheet.

Blogging from insecurity into authenticity

There’s times we tangle with bouts of insecurity when we do that delicate dance of laying words out for the world to read (and we know it can be harsh sometimes).

It happens to all of us, bloggers new and old. 

The best way out of that uncomfortable tango? Get out of other people’s heads by remembering you are writing for yourself.

Be authentic.

Shahrin at Small Moments of Wonder waxes eloquently on this:

The thing with blogging is . . . it’s the authenticity that matters. . . . I like the person they have created with their words. I connect with those stories. It’s all because of the personal touch they add – it’s their uniqueness that makes me visit their page again and again.

…do not compare yourself with other bloggers. Something I am learning each day that you got to do your own thing. Remember blogging is something you do for yourself.

More where her words sing:  “Blogging Insecurities” →

How about you? Reply with your thoughts below.

Be comment friendly

Comments, comments, comments… Some bloggers hate ’em. Some love ’em. It’s a personal choice; there’s no right or wrong to it.

In my experience, enabling comments accelerates your blog’s growth organically because you’re planting the seeds for a community to sprout around you.

But if you’re gonna do comments, you gotta go all in and do ’em right.

Think of the comment area as your very own town square where folks make the effort to come from the far reaches of the web to write to you. They choose your blog out of millions out there! It’s a honor.

But with town squares come great responsibilities. 

Your people are like any other — they want to be heard. Acknowledge their comments — at the least thank them for chiming in (whether you agree with ’em nor not). Check your spam/approval queues religiously to free legitimate comments so they’re not lost in limbo. 

Set the tone by making your comment area a warm and friendly place. And if someone acts like a jerk, kick ’em out. It’s your place, your rules. 

Keep the square clean – fumigate spam as soon as you get a whiff of it (be smart and save time by leveraging available anti-spam tools).

That’s the basics… There’s more.

Ally at The Spectacled Bean went on a roundabout and hit up a bunch of new blogger’s comment areas. Her varying experiences were eye-opening and sobering.

Her insights shine light on what might not be so obvious to us how we can make our blogs more “comment friendly” to readers. 

Take a gander at The Perks and Pitfalls of Reaching Out to Newfound Bloggers.

Be sure to check her comment area out while you’re there — with over 300 replies from fellow bloggers and readers, it’s a resounding refrain of her experiences.

(Also take note of how she’s responded to every comment!)

What are blogrolls?

Blogrolls are a retro and radically simple concept:

They’re a list of links on a blog to other blogs. 

Most bloggers use them to refer readers to their favorite blogs. Some use blogrolls to promote one another, i.e. “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”

Many link to other blogs that write about the same things they do. Or to those that have absolutely nuttin’ to do with ‘em.

They could be just a few links or a billion of ’em.

There’s no rule or one right way to use blogrolls.

You don’t need any special software or tools. Really, it’s just a list of links. Simple and easy to maintain.

Why keep a blogroll?

They’re a great way to cross-promote each other and to alert your readers to other cool blogs like yours out there. Often blogrolls are the only way folks find blogs because search engines today are not friendly to small blogs (by shoving ’em where the sun don’t shine).

Personally I love looking over blogrolls — I’m often delighted with what I come across on my browsing adventures thanks to friendly bloggers pointing the way.

List your favorite blogs however you like and post them in your sidebar or on your about page or set up a page just for your blogroll (like I did on my personal blog). You can put it anywhere and in whatever format you like. There’s no particular rule on placement. Just make sure it’s visible for your readers.

Tend to that list like a garden — check on it every couple months by clicking through the links to make sure those blogs are still kickin’. You don’t wanna send your readers to defunct blogs, do you? Plant new seeds by adding new blogs you’ve come to like recently.

Don’t worry about sending readers away. It’s the very nature of the internet for folks roam and explore the wild electric yonder. If they like your blog, they’ll be back (and if not, it wasn’t meant to be in the first place 😜).

Need inspiration for some blogs to link to? Browse our own blogroll!

Get blogrolling, fellow blogger!

So you want a blog!

WOOT! It’s great you wanna blog and it’s way easier than you might think.

Right off the bat I recommend WordPress for your first blog. Yes, it’s a subjective view but from my years of experience muckin’ with other platforms and WordPress, it’ll be one of the easiest ways to get going and it’s rock solid. It’s a major reason why WordPress powers a large portion of the blogosphere.

First, a couple quick exceptions:

  • If you’re more into what some folk call micro-blogging where you prefer to post tweet-style updates I heartily recommend Micro.blog. (You can micro-blog with WordPress, too if you prefer) They have a great community and are very helpful. What’s unique is they have a shared timeline of all micro.blogs in their network so your posts are more likely to be discovered by fellow Micro.bloggers. A caveat – they charge a small monthly fee. IMO it’s well worth it and you’ll be supporting a much needed alternative to the commercial web.

  • If you have a technical bent and like slinging bits ‘n bytes around, you’ll want to search around for something you can host on your own. There’s tons of choices out there, far too many to list here. Try searching for “self hosted blog” and “static blog.” Github is also a great source for more self-hosted blog software. Of course, you can also self-host WordPress.

Now on to WordPress.

The quickest way to get rolling? Go to WordPress.com and click the “Get Started” button.

They’ll walk you through the steps. I recommend you start with their free plan, it’s more than adequate and once you feel like you’ll keep at it you can always upgrade later/migrate to professional hosting if you desire.

WordPress.com also has a huge community of fellow bloggers. One of the brilliant things they did is to embed a universal blog “Reader” into their system that lets folks in the community browse stories from the thousands of blogs in their ecosphere. This means your blog posts will show up on their Reader, giving it fast exposure and lots of help if you ask for it (hint: use tags in your blog posts to show up in specific Reader categories).

If you find WordPress doesn’t tickle your fancy, here’s a few alternatives you can easily try:

There’s no “The One” in blog software — pick whatever works for you and has the least amount of writing friction.

The important thing is to get started banging away on your keyboard and share your thoughts with the world. You never know who might be reading. Just get going!

Ah, what to write about?

Whatever quivers your heart or tickles your brain. It can be as personal or as technical as you like. Anything that makes your keyboard sing!

Avoid the common mistake of writing for the audience. Write for yourself and only yourself. One way to do this is to view your blog as your online journal/diary. Those are great blogs because they’re unvarnished and real, whether it’s about upgrading motherboards or forever lost loves or how fast yer grass grows.

Don’t worry about monetizing your blog (if that’s what you seek) – it’s way too early for that. Just keep doing that voodoo you do and the rest will come later. Build your baby up first.

SEO (search engine optimization)? Ugh. Don’t write for Google. Write for you and your people. The best bloggers I’ve read don’t give a shit about SEO. They focus on sharing consistently and organically building their own community of followers (quite smart ‘cuz it keeps their blog from being at the mercy of Google’s constantly changing algorithms).

Which is why I recommend opening your comment sections up. It’s how you build community. Yes, comment systems can be a pain in the spammy ass, but it’s well worth it. Don’t be afraid to moderate and prune out the jerks. It’s your town square – you set the tone. Make your comment area a warm and inviting place to chime in.

Engage with your readers! Reply to them, at the least say thank you. They’ve made the effort to visit to your blog out of millions out there and rarer yet, they’re writing back to you. Never take that for granted. If they have blogs too, reciprocate by visiting theirs and commenting on something you like.

Do have patience. It takes time to build a following. Keep at it — each word you type brings you closer and closer. Make sure you have fun with it too. That’s the whole point, yeh?

Any questions or thoughts?  I’d be happy to help — hit reply below.

Blog on!

– Ray

P.S. It goes without saying — pretty please put a blogroll on your blog listing your favorite blogs for others to find.