Mefites on great blogging
September 7, 2008 10:55 AM   Subscribe

I know that lots of Mefites blog and I thought It would be interesting to try to destill the knowledge and wisdom that people have about blogging.

As a blogger, what factors do you consider to be the most important in having a rewarding and successful blog?

How do your blogging habits look like?

Any tools of the trade that you swear by?

Any unexpected, good or bad, things you wish someone had told you about?
posted by Foci for Analysis to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I enjoyed Merlin Mann's advice about blogs.
posted by danb at 11:04 AM on September 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Practice first by talking to yourself in the garage for 20 minutes every day.

Seriously--decide what your blog is about and stick to it. Don't post about politics unless your blog is about politics because it will take over. Never post pictures of your cats.
posted by LarryC at 11:09 AM on September 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a very specialised blog, the content of which I've only seen on literally a handful of other blogs. I blog because I love to. It's a passion for me. Anything less is a waste of my time, as far as I'm concerned. If there's no passion to share experiences/knowledge with other people, there's no point reading.

Always remember your commentators. Blogging can be a very lonely experience when you get no feedback. I swear by giving my commentators an easy ride when commenting, and I always respond personally (would you just keep quiet in real life when someone commented on what you'd done?).

I know of bloggers who just ramble and expect people to be interested, and of others who tell a story, either within a post or across the months. One blogger I know of has a neighbour with a mistress, and it's always fun catching up with the goings on across the road from her. It's almost like a soap opera.

One blogger I know always posts interesting, open ended questions, and then answers them in the posting, while still encouraging people to contribute and share their ideas.

Write for your readership. If you write about brain surgery, for example, make it accessible to the people reading about it. Are they general web surfers, or surgeons? Are they looking for information, or chat?

Keep an eye on where your readers are being referred from. Get a Statcounter account (or similar), and check out what terms people are using to find your blog.

Have an About page where you write about the blog, not about yourself. Unless you are the topic of the blog.
posted by Solomon at 11:21 AM on September 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Disclaimer: While I've dabbled in blogging for years, I don't have a blog.

First, there are no rules for personal blogging. Want to post pictures of your cat? Go ahead! You can post whenever you want, however you want, whatever you want. The only problem: no one will read your blog unless they are your friends and you told them the address.

There are exceptions but don't count on them, unless you're famous for something else besides blogging

So, if you want a blog that will be read by people you don't know, you need to know some things:
  • Stick to a good topic. Caveat: Your life is not a good topic unless you are famous.
  • Make it personal. Sounds like a contradiction with the previous point, but one thing is to write about your life and something completely different is to write about your life when it relates to your blog's topic.
  • Stick to a schedule. Post every day, every three days or, if your content is magnificent, once a week. RSS makes it less of a problem, but still, try to post as regularly as you can.
  • A great design helps to get pageviews but doesn't create a regular readership.
  • On the other side, using the default theme of your blog engine is a big NO-NO. It's associated with spamblogs, personal blogs of the boring kind and bloggers who don't really care.
  • Don't expect sudden popularity. In fact, don't expect popularity at all.
  • It's a lot of work.

posted by Memo at 12:10 PM on September 7, 2008

I treat my blog as an intellectual dream journal of sorts, and I'm not too concerned about whether anyone actually reads it. (of course, I still refresh my technorati page compulsively, but that's a different story) This attitude has helped me a lot, because it means I post about whatever I'm thinking about, rather than what I think anyone would want to read--and thus I can play around with ideas, either mundane or original.

I post exactly six times a month. This means I actually have to force myself to do it, despite all my laziness. Sometimes this can make things a little forced, but other times I find myself developing a surprisingly good idea over the course of writing the post. I have actually used a lot of these ideas in my other work as well, which was one of my original reasons for starting the blog.

I also have a fixed post format: a brief, hopefully interesting or illuminating, extract from some work of philosophy, history, or lit-rah-chah, followed by an attempt to work out some of the interesting themes and threads in it, either using it as a direct explicandum or as an illustration of broader themes. Finding and typing the extract helps me ease into writing a post, and finding the work from which to take it is probably the most compelling aspect of the whole thing. And even if my interpretations are junk, as they usually are, at least I have a great source of cool quotes and passages!
posted by nasreddin at 12:10 PM on September 7, 2008

Best answer: It depends massively on what type of blog you run... I have friends with a, "my day really sucked and my boss is mean and i want to cry" type stuff, and I have friends who have popular, topic-driven blogs (politics, technology, etc.). If your blog is the latter, the former doesn't belong. (If your blog is the former, post whatever you want, because the only people that read it with any regularlity will be your friends.)

A few general bits of advice:
- Post regularly. A few of my favorite blogs go through periods where the author forgets about them for at least a month. When that happens, I, too, forget about them.

- Don't post too much. There've been a few days when I had nothing to do and ended up posting 5 really long posts in a row. No comments on any of them.

- If you're like me and (probably incorrectly) assume that more comments = more readers, I've found a couple tricks to get comments. One is to just ask end your post with a question. When you post a review about the new drink at Starbucks, close with a question like, "What's your favorite drink?" Another tip is to be a little bit controversial. (Don't be an over-the-top troll, though.) The people who read my blog are a good cross-section of political beliefs, so anything critiquing a politician is bound to get me a good number of comments.

- Linking (in your posts) to other blogs can sometimes result in return traffic. What's even better is to build up a collection of friends ("IRL" friends or just bloggers covering similar territory), and make a habit of linking to each other. I run a multi-user blog, so my posts benefit when another author posts something popular, because they're coming to the same site.
posted by fogster at 12:14 PM on September 7, 2008

+1 nasreddin. I never thought of my blog as an "intellectual dream journal" but I'm going to steal that phrase and use it from now on. Blog for your own fulfillment. If other people like it, bonus.
posted by adamrice at 12:35 PM on September 7, 2008

If you think a blog has to have one topic, you're probably a man. Just sayin'. Statistically, men tend to have single-topic blogs, while women tend to post about anything they feel like writing about. Those are my favourite kinds of blogs, personally; the diverse ones. Talking about one topic all the time gets boring for everyone involved. And often there's a thread of something in a variety of topics; for instance, I generally blog about instructional technology and librarianship. Then I got cancer. So I wrote about what I was going through with cancer. In the end, I created an exhibit about having cancer using instructional technology. Things blend together, particularly when you think about them and write about them.

Please post pictures of your cats. Particularly if you have an orange tabby like mine.
posted by Hildegarde at 12:48 PM on September 7, 2008

As a blogger, what factors do you consider to be the most important in having a rewarding and successful blog?

you really need to define your terms here. what does 'rewarding and successful' mean? monetary compensation? fame? expression? something else?
posted by krautland at 1:19 PM on September 7, 2008

One trick I swear by is answering AskMe blogging questions and referring cryptically to your own blog repeatedly in the answer. It drives people wild with curiosity and you will drive traffic to your blog via your profile page in no time.

No seriously, this is really valuable if you plan on using blogger.
posted by fire&wings at 3:48 PM on September 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

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