Meta-Meta: Blog-Blogging-Blogging (27 lessons About Blogging)

I'm always interested to read tips on how to blog - and write - more effectively. This list of "lessons" comes from Pick the Brain, via 10,000 Birds:
Over the course of 97 posts and 1602 comments, traffic has grown to over 3,000 unique visitors a day, over 2200 readers have subscribed to the RSS feed, and several articles have been featured on the popular pages of Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and Netscape. It isn’t the most amazing start (there have certainly been bumps along the way) but I’m proud of what I’ve built and optimistic the site will continue to grow.

I want to share what I’ve learned, but it’d be pointless to try explaining it all. Rather, I’ve compiled a list of the 27 most important lessons.
- 27 Lessons Learned on the Way to 3000 Visits a Day and 2200 RSS Subscribers, Pick the Brain
I find I agree with most of the 27. I believe I'm even following most of the ones I agree with. A handful I disagree with; maybe I haven't learned that lesson yet, or maybe my context differs sufficiently from P the B that it doesn't apply.

Here's my synopsis, with my reflections in [brackets], including some questions for you, my readers. Read the full post for more explanation of each Lesson. If you have a thought about any of this, please leave a comment.
  1. a) help people solve a problem, and b) differentiate yourself.
    [I think I'm doing both. But not every post, or blog, needs to be task-oriented. "Build a raised bed in five minutes with no tools!" In fact, there are already sources of such information out there, biased or revenue-driven they may be. These two goals are in tension, so striking a balance between them is the art.]
  2. Blogging is not a great way to make money.
    [I never thought it was. I've had a Web presence since the early 90s. It's never been about money for me.]
  3. Make it as easy as possible for people to subscribe to your feed.
    [I've thought about putting more subscribe widgets at the top of the sidebar, or in the header. But I also get annoyed when I see 20 or 30 different widgets on some other blog or post. How hard is it to subscribe? What would make it easier?]
  4. Offer a full feed.
    [Here I disagree. I had a full feed at first. I changed it to a digest. I wish I had more control with Blogger about how much goes in the digest. Often the first X words don't make any sense. On the other hand, the first few sentences should make some sense on their own, per #9.]
  5. A bad post is worse than no post.
    [Yup. I've written my share.]
  6. Be prepared to completely run out of ideas after the first 3-4 months.
    [It took me about 8 months before I hit a dry spell over December-January. But it wasn't because I had run out of ideas. I always have lots of ideas. I had run out of energy and enthusiasm for it. I had to regroup to find my direction again.]
  7. It’s not always what you know, who you know is important too.
    [The fuller explanation suggests to use one's contacts for feedback and promotion. I'm getting a little less bashful about that, but my contributions must still stand on their own. ]
  8. Write catchy headlines and list posts that will be popular with the social sites.
    [Catchy headlines? I have been too clever. The headline and first sentence or two must make some sense. As for popularity, that's never been my strength, and I'm not going to start now. Though I look to statistics about visits and page views for feedback about how I'm doing, I'm not doing this for numbers.]
  9. Do everything you can to make your headline and opening paragraph as compelling as possible.
    [Compelling, okay, but not misleading. I find these three lines the hardest to write. See also #4 and #8.]
  10. Courteously encourage friends, family, and casual acquaintances to vote up and link to your posts.
    [You are hereby encouraged!]
  11. Don’t write every post for the social sites.
    [I don't write any!]
  12. Listen carefully to every piece of feedback but don’t be a slave to it.
    [The most difficult feedback for me to deal with has been communicated through private correspondence. Both instances occurred over the past month or so. Both have caused me to second-guess myself, and ultimately censor my own words. Anyone who knows me knows that's a BIG DEAL. In both cases, I've not been satisfied with the outcome, and I don't know what a preferable resolution would have been.]
  13. If your writing doesn’t have an edge it might as well not exist.
    [I err more on the side of edge. That's not always a good thing!]
  14. Always look for a different angle.
    [This is one of my strengths, I think. I like making connections, seeing relationships, understanding systems and interactions. I think that's what I like about natural history, ecology, and environmental sciences. I think it's also what attracts me to technology and engineering. This whole blog experiment is a long arc of making connections among themes and topics which resonate with each other for me.]
  15. If linking doesn’t provide value to your readers it’s a bad idea.
    [I don't link for linking's sake. It's always something I read, or find interesting, myself. In my sidebar is my real blogroll for Gardening and Nature blogs and sites. Yes, I need to find room for Brooklyn blogs, too! I try to follow the usual best practices for link usability in the body of my posts.]
  16. Write about your life in a way that’s relevant to your topic.
    [I try to relate my personal life to the themes of this blog. There's a lot I don't write about in this blog. I think there's been only one, maybe two, pictures of my cat. My cat is relevant to me, but to this blog, not so much.]
  17. Make people think.
    [I hope I do. First thing is to make myself think. See also #14.]
  18. Don’t be anxious to plaster Google Ads all over the place.
    [I've seen no good reason to ever start.]
  19. Design matters.
    [I've tweaked a ready-made template to get the look of this blog. But I've focussed more on content than container. There are some things which annoy me about the way my blog is laid out, which I would change if I had the time for R&D. What would you change about my blog's design?]
  20. Posting comments on other blogs is overrated.
    [I comment on thers' blogs only because their post sparks some reaction in me which makes me want to respond. I don't leave comments solely to drive content to my site, though that sometimes happens.]
  21. Respond to your commenters, especially the ones who disagree.
    [I try to respond to every comment, though I know I miss a few now and then. I'm glad that Blogger now has the ability to subscribe to comment feeds, though I don't know if anyone does. It would be nice if there was a single feed for allthe comments; that would be a more reliable way of keeping up with the conversations.]
  22. Obsessively reading other blogs and checking traffic stats are not productive activities. Your time is better spent doing things that actually increase traffic like creating content, doing research, and posting to relevant forums. [I've left this lesson in its full form, because the author makes several points, and this is something for which I'm still trying to find a balance.]
  23. Once you have a bit of success don’t flaunt it but let other people know.
    [I've done this a couple of times, such as this Spring's Rabies More Popular Than Sex and, more recently, I Was On TV! My photography is starting to get more notice, and that's new for me. I'm curious to see where that goes, and takes me.]
  24. Make use of blog carnivals.
    [I've contributed to several blog carnivals, and I enjoy finding opportunities to do so. I hosted my first blog carnival, Festival of the Trees #11, earlier this month. And I can tell you, it's an investment. And now I'm one of the coordinators of the first Brooklyn "meat carnival" which will follow up on the success of the Brooklyn Blogfest earlier this month.]
  25. Display your best posts on every page in a prominent location.
    [I like this idea. It's easy to do. But what are "my best posts"? Are they the most popular ones? The ones I'm most proud of? I think it has to be a mix. What would you choose to be among my Top N posts?]
  26. Read blogs about blogging.
    [Most of these are not that interesting. Frankly, I don't have the time. I've been on the Web, though not blogging, a long time now. For me, blogging is writing, first. I could spawn a parallel photoblog, but, again, I just don't have time. I know that folks like my photography. Maybe I could add a "picture of the week" to this blog which doesn't take a lot of time.]
  27. Do what works for you. Be completely genuine.
    [Oh, that would never work. I'm far too shy, withdrawn and reticent.]


Melanie Vassallo said...

Hi Xris,

Thanks for this list, it really was very helpful. I'm one of those technically challenged people but thankfully a wicked typist.

Some of these points are ones I'd like to pick up, most interesting was directing people to an older/great post.

My biggest hurdle is time. With gardening season in full swing I have limited time on the computer. I've got to wean myself off of daily posts to the various lists that I belong to and dedicate that time first to my blog.


Xris said...

Melanie: Thanks! And thanks for coming by.

Be sure to read the original post on Pick the Brain. There's more nuance to many of these lessons than I captured here.

I'm also spending more time outside, especially when we have a non-rainy weekend like this one. I continue to adjust how much time I spend online. I still don't have time for everything I'd like, so I keep playing with priorities.

Ki said...

Xris, a good list that I should more closely ascribe to. I believe I'm about a 10 percenter.

One not mentioned on the list is KISS-keep it short stupid. I read early on that people read about 2 seconds worth of your writing before either deciding to keep reading or abandoning the effort. Apparently long paragraphs and wordy sentences were turnoffs especially in these days of sound bites, truncated text messaging and no content magazines. I've not been very successful in keeping with this advice but I try to keep it in the back of my mind if I have time to do some proof reading.

Julie said...


These lists of do's and don't's are like potato chips -- hard to resist.

But they miss the reason that I and zillions of others started websites-- freedom to write what and how we want. Advice like this assumes we're all moving in one direction, for the same reasons, so we'll adopt the "right" style/format/etc. once we wise up. Hey, if somebody wants to have pallindromes for every headline or write 7000 word posts or focus on hamster culture (actually there's a great blog on hamster culture), bully for all of them. Those are the folks we can all learn something from.

I could simplify these 27 pointers to one -- follow your bliss -- but then I'd be guilty of making a list!
(Oh yeah, and make sure your comments thingy is working. My last attempt at this vanished into the ether.)

All good wishes,

Xris said...

Ki: I have a really short attention span when it comes to reading things online. I can concentrate better and read longer writing when it's in print.

I forget the source: "I apologize for the length of this, but I didn't have time to make it shorter." It's hard to keep it short, to do the most with the least/fewest. This medium presents a greater challenge, as timeliness of information sometimes competes with cogent and concise writing.

Julie: The original post is clearer in its intent and the niche it addresses: How to drive traffic to your site. That's not my purpose. I'm not a mass-market kinda person. I'm finding my own niche in this ecosystem.

Sorry to hear you're having trouble commenting. That's the first I've heard. It would have to be a Blogger thing.

lisa said...

Thanks for this post, Xris! I'm pretty much with Julie, in that I'm in this very casually and motivated by my own "feel like it" meter...but it's good to read some ideas in case I'd want to "dial it up a notch". However, my garden has dialed it up about 10 notches for me, so all I seem to do lately is a couple "blog-by" readathons and move along! (It's a good tired, though.)