Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Blog as I say, not as I do

An old friend of mine - since I like to maintain anonymity on here we'll call him Mr Durden - is about to start blogging. Now he's web-savvy, and has designed some good websites in his time, so doesn't really need any advice. However, he asked me, as a "seasoned blogger", whether I had any tips on how best to get going. I interpreted this to mean "please send a list of vaguely patronising do's and don'ts about blogging"; here's more or less what I sent in reply, minus the Durden-specific asides.

  • DO sign up with a reputable and established blog host. Blogspot (aka Blogger) is popular, and I can't think of any other I'd recommend more highly. If I was starting afresh, that's where I'd go.
  • DON'T set up and host your own blog, like I have. It seems like fun at first, but ends up being more trouble than it's worth.
  • DO tag/categorise all your posts.
  • DO ping after every new post. You can ping Google's blog search engine and I'd also recommend something like Ping-o-matic for pinging lots of others automatically.
  • DO post comments in other people's blogs, and link your comments back to your blog. It generates a surprising amount of traffic.
  • DO submit your RSS feed all over the place.
  • DO consider using things like Feedburner and Technorati to get your feed syndicated.
  • DO ensure that people can add your posts to the aggregator or social network of their choice. You can go through and add Retweet, Digg, Delicious and the rest separately, or you can use AddToAny like I have, and get them all in one hit.
  • DON'T chase the Zeitgeist. If you write about the flavour of the month, then your post will be lost in a sea of similar posts. Yes, you're right, this didn't stop me writing about the election recently, though in part that was because I couldn't resist naming one post "Electile Dysfunction".
  • DO blog often. Even if you manage to attract some subscribers, my experience suggests that you won't keep them unless you have regularly updated content.
  • DON'T post unoriginal content too often. Yes, I occasionally just embed something interesting from YouTube, but if you do it too often (unless that's the sole purpose of the blog) it gets tiresome.
  • DON'T over-egg customising your blog's theme/stylesheet. Just because you can use 25 different fonts, doesn't mean you have to. Or should. Ditto the colour palette. Go steady.
  • DON'T be tempted to blog anything illegal. Most of the big blog hosts (and Blogspot in particular) are very hot on pulling posts if they infringe the terms of service. No warning either, so keep backups of what you post. This is especially true if you should ever post an MP3 of questionable legality - your post runs the risk of being pulled faster than you can say "DMCA notice". Far better to find said questionable file elsewhere on the Internet and then just link to it using an anonymous redirection service like
  • DO write interesting stuff. There are too many "This morning I had cornflakes and coffee for breakfast" blogs in the world already.
  • DO ensure accurate grammar and punctuation and (at least if you want me to read you) don't use annoying web abbreviations like "lol" or "u" or "imho" or anything else... unless you're being very obviously and unmistakably ironic (or better still, sarcastic), and even then tread carefully.
  • DO link to other relevant content from within your posts. People like to have "further reading" and it helps if you can point them in the right direction.

So... what do you think? Agree/disagree? Am I a terrible old blog snob? Half of you write blogs too - any rules you'd add to or remove from the list? Note the fifth point above, and leave your comments.

1 comment:

  1. Since I wrote this I, too, moved the whole shooting match to Blogger.