How to Blog (Annotated)

This entry was published at least two years ago (originally posted on March 23, 2005). Since that time the information may have become outdated or my beliefs may have changed (in general, assume a more open and liberal current viewpoint). A fuller disclaimer is available.

Shamelessly stealing an idea from Tvindy, I’m going to take a look at Tony Pierce’s recently posted “How to Blog” post and contribute my thoughts on his advice.

Because I have no original ideas of my own.

(This got pretty long — the rest is behind the cut…)

how to blog by tony pierce, 110

  1. write every day.

    Good idea, good advice — not always realistic. I do try my best to get something up here every day, though.

  2. if you think youre a good writer, write twice a day.

    Good writer or not, I don’t think there’s a need to force something out if there’s no great drive to. Unless you want to set this as a goal, in which case, be my guest. For me, I just operate on a “post when I feel like it” basis, which seems to work.

  3. dont be afraid to do anything. infact if youre afraid of something, do it. then do it again. and again.

    This is probably something that I could use some work on. I do self-censor to a certain extent here, though it’s something that I often debate with myself as to whether or not I should. On the one hand, much of what I enjoy reading are more heartfelt and personal posts…on the other hand, that’s something I’ve never been entirely comfortable with. I’ll occasionally tell myself that I need to start pushing myself a bit more in what I write about, but I never seem to get very far with that.

    Maybe someday…

  4. cuss like a sailor.

    Why? While I’m no prude, and certainly have nothing against tossing the occasional four-letter word in from time to time, I don’t see much reason to litter every sentence I write with whatever invective pops into my head. Nonstop, incessant cursing — especially of the standard “damn/shit/fuck/bitch/asshole” variety — does little more than show how woefully uncreative a speaker someone is. A well-timed and well-placed curse, especially if it’s not your garden variety swear word, carries far more weight and, when used well, can be far more effective.

  5. dont tell your mom, your work, your friends, the people you want to date, or the people you want to work for about your blog. if they find out and you’d rather they didnt read it, ask them nicely to grant you your privacy.

    Again, this is something each person has to decide for themself, though I’ve taken the exact opposite tack. I’ve never minded telling people about my site, my family (both nuclear and extended) and my girlfriend (and some of her family) read and comment from time to time. While I don’t think anyone at my work cares that I have a weblog, I do mention it from time to time (and my last manager did check in from time to time…on the clock from his office, even…).

    Admittedly, this does have the side effect of influencing what I write about (that self-censorship I mentioned after point 3). Pros and cons, admittedly — I’m less likely to write about things that involve people that I know read the site, and since that encompasses most (if not all) of the people closest to me, that does somewhat limit how personal I’m likely to get. Again, this is something I occasionally struggle with.

    Of course, in some instances, Tvindy might be right on the money:

    I’ve found the opposite to be true. Tell everyone in your life about your blog, and no one will ever read it. Forbid them from reading it, and they’ll never miss an entry.

  6. have comments. dont be upset if no one writes in your comments for a long time. eventually they’ll write in there. if people start acting mean in your comments, ask them to stop, they probably will.

    Definite agreement here. The comments are some of my favorite parts of this whole weblogging thing — without those, I might as well just be scribbling away in a paper journal somewhere. Getting feedback, knowing that I’ve managed to amuse, interest, or even annoy someone (though that last one certainly isn’t a goal) is a Good Thing.

  7. have an email address clearly displayed on your blog. sometimes people want to tell you that you rock in private.

    Mine isn’t right out in the open, but it’s not terribly hard to find, either — just hit the “About” link up in the navigation bar. Seems to be working so far.

  8. dont worry very much about the design of your blog. image is a fakeout.

    Yes and no. Content is the most important part, but a more personal design can be wonderfully indicative of the person behind the words — not to mention that it’s nice not to have every website look exactly the same.

  9. use Blogger. it’s easy, it’s free; and because they are owned by Google, your blog will get spidered better, you will show up in more search results, and more people will end up at your blog. besides, all the other blogging software & alternatives pretty much suck.

    Use whatever tool you want to use. Blogger’s a good place to start, as it’s free, but there are things about the other tools (LiveJournal, TypePad, Movable Type, WordPress) that are worth looking at too.

    I’m not convinced that Google pays any more attention to Blogger just because they own them, either — I’m more of the opinion that good clean code for the Googlebot is far more important. I’m not on Blogger, but I seem to get plenty of Google-love judging by my referrer statistics.

  10. use spellcheck unless youre completely totally keeping it real. but even then you might want to use it if you think you wrote something really good.

    Yes. Yes, yes, yes — except for the “unless…” bit. The better someone writes (and, incidentally, I’d include capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and all the rest in there too), the more likely I am to pay attention to them. Elitist? Damn skippy. And I’m not about to change.

  11. say exactly what you want to say no matter what it looks like on the screen. then say something else. then keep going. and when youre done, re-read it, and edit it and hit publish and forget about it.

    I’d agree with the gist of this one. At least, I’d agree with how I’m reading it — don’t over-edit, and don’t edit after the fact (at least, not to the point where you’re changing what you say…correcting spelling errors is one thing, changing the entire tenor or point of a post is entirely another).

  12. link like crazy. link anyone who links you, link your favorites, link your friends. dont be a prude. linking is what seperates bloggers from apes. and especially link if you’re trying to prove a point and someone else said it first. it lends credibility even if youre full of shit.

    Don’t overdo it, though. Too many links, and noone will follow them. Definitely link if you’re responding to someone, though.

  13. if you havent written about sex, religion, and politics in a week youre probably playing it too safe, which means you probably fucked up on #5, in which case start a second blog and keep your big mouth shut about it this time.

    Amusingly enough, aren’t these the three things you’re not supposed to bring up in polite conversation? ;)

    Religion and politics I have no problem with rambling on about (though I’ve been staying away from politics for the most part since the election — I went into overdrive for a few months, and needed to back off for a bit).

    Sex and sexuality is one of the areas I tend to go back-and-forth on, though. There are a few topics that do catch my eye that I tend not to mention here (there’s that self-censorship again), though there have been times when I’m sorely tempted to start spouting off. As I said above, I’m not likely to jump into the realm of the “sex bloggers”, but there may come a time when I decide I don’t need to dance around the subject as much as I sometimes do.

  14. remember: nobody cares which N*Sync member you are, what State you are, which Party of Five kid you are, or which Weezer song you are. the second you put one of those things on your blog you need to delete your blog and try out for the marching band. similarilly, nobody gives a shit what the weather is like in your town, nobody wants you to change their cursor into a butterfly, nobody wants to vote on whether your blog is hot or not, and nobody gives a rat ass what song youre listening to. write something Real for you, about you, every day.

    Okay, so many/most/all of the little online quizzes you find are pointless, and seeing too many of them can get annoying. Still, they do occasionally amuse me, and every so often one comes along that’s actually interesting (such as the religion test from yesterday), so I’m not likely to entirely swear them off. They definitely shouldn’t make up the bulk of your posts, though.

  15. dont be afraid if you think something has been said before. it has. and better. big whoop. say it anyway using your own words as honestly as you can. just let it out.

    I can agree with this one, mostly because most people don’t really think about what’s rattling around in their head, they just parrot what they hear from those around them. If more people actually started sitting down to write things out and argue their case, they might either actually build a solid case for what they believe that’s built on their own thought processes, or they might end up discovering that they don’t really think what they thought they thought. Either way, it’s better than just letting everyone else’s rhetoric dribble out of your mouth.

  16. get Site Meter and make it available for everyone to see. if you’re embarrassed that not a lot of people are clicking over to your page, dont be embarrassed by the number, be embarrassed that you actually give a crap about hits to your gay blog. it really is just a blog. and hits really dont mean anything. you want Site Meter, though, to see who is linking you so you can thank them and so you can link them back. similarilly, use Technorati, but dont obsess. write.

    Whether you make your stats public is up to you, but having some form of statistics tracking is definitely a good thing. I’ve not used SiteMeter, but I’m liking the service I get from StatCounter, and have found out about quite a few links to my site through watching my referrer listings.

  17. people like pictures. use them. save them to your own server. or use Blogger’s free service. if you dont know how to do it, learn. also get a Buzznet account. several things will happen once you start blogging, one of them is you will learn new things. thats a good thing.

    Pictures are good things, though my service of choice would be Flickr.

  18. before you hit Save as Draft or Publish Post, select all and copy your masterpiece. you are using a computer and the internet, shit can happen. no need to lose a good post.

    Or use a third-party blogging client like ecto, which can save posts, and will automatically posts as you write them. Or compose your posts in a text editor before copying them into the web interface. No matter what tactic you choose, making sure a sudden glitch doesn’t destroy your magum opus is always a good idea.

  19. push the envelope in what youre writing about and how youre saying it. be more and more honest. get to the root of things. start at the root of things and get deeper. dig. think out loud. keep typing. keep going. eventually you’ll find a little treasure chest. every time you blog this can happen if you let it.

    We’re back to that whole self-censhorship thing again. I’m working on it, really. I promise.

  20. change your style. mimic people. write beautiful lies. dream in public. kiss and tell. finger and tell. cry scream fight sing fuck and dont be afraid to be funny. the easiest thing to do is whine when you write. dont be lazy. audblog at least once a week.

    Really, I think that most if not all of this could have been part of point 19 — it’s all advice on how to push yourself in your writing.

    The audblog (audio weblogging) thing I’m not sold on, though. I’m a text fiend — I can read it, savor it, work it over in my head at my own pace, save it, copy-and-paste and quote it, and so on. I can also edit as I write, make sure I’m choosing the right words or the right turn of phrase, make sure I’m not losing my train of thought, and all that. An audio post would likely be filled with um’s, ah’s, pauses, stumbling over words, and be a general mess — there’s a reason I don’t speak for a living! :)

  21. write open letters. make lists. call people out on their bullshit. lead by example. invent and reinvent yourself. start by writing about what happened to you today. for example today i told a hot girl how wonderfully hot she is.

    Again, this could have gone in with 19. Not bad ideas, though — I just don’t have that many interesting things happen to me from day to day (seriously — there’s only so much that can happen on a five-block walk to and from work, I don’t blog about my job, and my evenings are generally here at home in front of the ‘puter).

  22. when in doubt review something. theres not enough reviews on blogs. review a movie you just saw, a tv show, a cd, a kiss you just got, a restaurant, a hike you just took, anything.

    Not bad advice, I’ve done this on quite a few occasions.

  23. constantly write about the town that you live in.

    I do this as much as I can, but as I just pointed out, there’s only so much that can happen in a five-block walk to work.

  24. out yourself. tell your secrets. you can always delete them later.

    I’ll agree with everything here except the deletion. The actual “outing of secrets” is one of those things that I struggle with, of course. Deleting though — bad idea. If you don’t want it on the ‘net, don’t write it. Once it’s out there, it’s best to assume it’s out there to stay, in Google’s/Bloglines’/Technorati’s cache, quotes on other pages, or even just people’s memories.

    Of course, I have deleted things before, so I’m not entirely without fault here — but in my defense, to date I’ve deleted two posts (once at the request of the subject of the post, and once because I felt I’d gone too far, and I owned up to that one publicly). It’s a rare thing, and I don’t like having to do it.

  25. dont use your real name. dont write about your work unless you dont care about getting fired.

    No and yes, in that order, and for obvious reasons, I think — especially that second bit. :)

  26. dont be afraid to come across as an asswipe. own your asswipeness.

    I generally prefer to flush my asswipeness….

    I’m not afraid of coming across as an idiot, though — of course, I do try to keep my own personal level of idiodicy as low as possible. It happens to all of us from time to time, though.

  27. nobody likes poems. dont put your poems on your blog. not even if theyre incredible. especially if theyre incredible. odds are theyre not incredible. bad poems are funny sometimes though, so fine, put your dumb poems on there. whatever.

    I’ve written two poems in my life, neither of which were really fit for publication anywhere. One is long-lost, the other…well, actually, I think it’s in one of my old Quotebook pages somewhere, to my eternal shame. I’ve just never been much of one for poetry.

  28. tell us about your friends.

    I know I’ve mentioned my friends when our lives intersect…though that isn’t quite the same as telling people about them. This one might actually be worth filing away for later.

  29. dont apologize about not blogging. nobody cares. just start blogging again.

    I don’t mind the occasional “sorry I haven’t been around much…” post, and I’ve done them from time to time. Given that a good number of my readers are family and close friends, sudden unexplained abscences are things that they probably would care about, after all.

    At least, I’d hope they would. ;)

  30. read tons of blogs and leave nice comments. if you’re going to ripoff/mimic/be inspired by one blogger make it raymi, shes perfect.

    I do read a lot of sites — 306 feeds in NetNewsWire right now — and I try to remember to comment (or TrackBack) fairly often.

    I have no idea who raymi is, though, and would rather not rip anyone off or mimic someone else — I’m me, after all — so I’ll leave that bit alone.

iTunesPleasant Smell (Rethought by Keith Hillebrandt, Clint Mansell, and Trent Reznor for the Nothing Collective)” by 12 Rounds from the album Pleasant Smell (1998, 3:30).