Blog Essentials
February 10, 2005 10:32 AM   Subscribe

What do you consider to be the bare essentials of function in a blog?

My soon-to-be "blog" is going to be a collection of my crappy creative non-fiction and fiction. I like simple. But I don't know that everyone else does. Do you miss stuff like referrers/trackbacks, feeds, email notification, archives by category, searches, commenting, etc., if they aren't there?
posted by mealy-mouthed to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
1. Hot-Damn-Awesome Content. If a site doesn't have interesting content, I won't read it.
2. Feeds. If a site doesn't have a feed, I won't read it.

I will still read a site without comments, searches, blah blah blah. But those two are necessary.
posted by rhapsodie at 10:46 AM on February 10, 2005

Are you writing the blog for yourself or for your audience? (that's an honest question, not a cynical one.) If you want it simple, I recommend to keep it simple. Whatever does go on there- whether it be links, journalesque entries, short fiction, etc- will appeal to people (not necessarily the same people in each case, but there's an audience out there for everything).
posted by hopeless romantique at 10:50 AM on February 10, 2005

I think trackbacks are usually a waste of time. On a political or academic blog, you might want to see who else has written on the same issue. But on personal blogs, the lists of referrers just seem like mutual ego-stroking to me.

Commenting seems like a personal choice. If you want comments, allow comments. If you don't, don't.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:51 AM on February 10, 2005

If you only write intermittently, feeds are good way to ensure people come back instead of getting bored of checking the site regularly and finding nothing new. I've never used archives by category; Google is better than almost all site searches; and public referrers and trackbacks are only occasionally interesting. If you have a bunch of friends/fans reading your site, comments can work well, but otherwise they're usually only worth reading if very bored.
posted by cillit bang at 11:04 AM on February 10, 2005

If you want to create a monologue skip the trackbacks, comments, and links.

If you want a discussion add them all in.

But, never, ever, forget to have the full text feed.
posted by ?! at 11:32 AM on February 10, 2005

It bugs me when people say "weblogs should be like this" or "weblogs should be like that". (It also bugs me when people say "all weblogs are X" which is usually followed by "and I don't like X".)

Weblogs are as different as their authors. There are not hard and fast rules about what one has to contain. Do what feels right for you. If you want categories, add categories. If you want trackbacks, turn on trackback. But do it for you.

Make your weblog reflect who you are, not who you want to be, or what you think others want. Write what you want when you want.
posted by jdroth at 11:47 AM on February 10, 2005

Full text feed! The only site I read that doesn't have a full-text feed (or a feed at all) is mimi smartypants, only because she's just that damn funny.
posted by gramcracker at 11:51 AM on February 10, 2005

One alternative to the commenting you see on most blogs (and also an alternative to the option of simply not having comments at all) is to have a single feedback-type box for the entire blog. Comments go to you (by email, into a file, whatever delivery method works for you) rather than being immediately posted. This has the advantages of a) still allowing feedback (yeah, you could just put an email address on there too, but easier is better); b) not having spam automatically appear in posted comments; c) you can choose which feedback to post and respond to, and better yet you can bulk up your content with any feedback you get and your responses.

Plurp, though no longer updated, was one weblog that used this mechanism. Go back into his archives and look for the sub-entries labeled "Blab" for the reader comments he incorporated into Plurp.

I get mildly-to-moderately peeved at weblogs that don't have some non-email feedback mechanism. Also those (not many but there are a few) that don't archive the content all the way back to the beginning. (Archives by date are fine with me, I don't generally use the categories.) The other features you listed I don't care about.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:18 PM on February 10, 2005

If I find your blog at some point in the future, don't make it difficult for me to read the past posts. The ideal is monthly archive pages with the full text. Sure it will be a big page, but I don't care at that point. The worst is that crappy calendar where you have to click on each date to get to the post from that date, and only that one post.
posted by smackfu at 1:29 PM on February 10, 2005

As mentioned above, a good blog is one that sticks out based on originality, features included. Barebones for me is an RSS feed (the sole answer in this comment). I could care less about all the rest. A blog's interaction can be minimial, this is something I never ask for from a movie, an article, a book, or a good speaker. However, this is probably what 'sets the blog apart.'

As they say in the fields, do what you do, and do it well. If you do, you'll be apart regardless..
posted by sled at 1:34 PM on February 10, 2005

Good advice to which I would add, some form of contact information. If your blog is rendering badly on my browser and I can't inform you of it, I'm never going to return.

A short summary of what the blog is about, on the main page, can also be handy.

Also try to limit the number of server connections your blog has to make to speed up load times some.
posted by fenriq at 4:59 PM on February 10, 2005

Feeds. Permalinks. The rest is all about style, taste, and function - none of it undermines or reinforces the blogness of it.
posted by TTIKTDA at 6:24 PM on February 10, 2005

I would say permalinks and monthly archives really are the only "must haves." Yes, feeds are good ... for geeks. I include myself in this (there are VERY few non-feed sites that I read), but us feed readers are still in the vast majority.
posted by arielmeadow at 9:47 PM on February 10, 2005

D'oh, lemme try that again: people who use feeds are still in the vast MINORITY.
posted by arielmeadow at 9:48 PM on February 10, 2005

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