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Blogging Advice
Posted by: Jon Henke on Friday, August 26, 2005

Via James Joyner, I see Simon World has some excellent tips on blogging. I know it's been done a lot, but some of these bear repeating...and expanding upon:
1. If you want to start blogging and have huge amounts of traffic instantly I can recommend one of three things: be an established journalist/opinion maker; be Glenn Reynold's brother; or porn. Otherwise face facts: you've got an awfully big hill to climb.
Boy, is this ever true. When I first began blogging in August of 2003—btw, QandO's blogiversary is next week!—I hoped to someday have 100 (100!) readers a day. Boy, that'd be amazing!

Well, we've been very lucky, and—per the usual sitemeter metrics—we average around 2500-3000 a day. (though it varies) All told, we've had around 1.3 million visits since beginning. That's gratifying, but it's not enough. It's never enough. Frankly, I think we do some damned good work at QandO and deserve to be ranked higher. I think we're a Top 50 blog. I think some of our writing should be given wider media distribution. I think QandO explores serious issues in a unique way, and I think that, given time, some of our work (neolibertarianism) has the potential to have an effect on the political scene.

Hell, I think some of our stuff could be syndicated in papers...but then, I am a bit, ah, biased. Every serious blogger thinks they deserve more. Every blogger has delusions of grandeur. If you're going to blog, get used to the frustrations expressed above, as Simon observes with Observation #4: "Prepare for the reality that the rest of the world may not share your high opinion of yourself and your site."
5. You know that movie where the guy built a baseball field and waited for some dead folks to turn up and play ball? Blogging's like that. Prepare to slog at putting up brilliantly crafted, accurate and to-the-point insights that will proceed to make no difference to anything at all.
That's one of the more frustrating, confusing aspects of blogging. Throwaway posts get 80 comments, while Very Important Posts—stuff into which the blogger puts serious time, energy and thought—get 11 comments. You never can tell. Really, I thought this post about Al Gore's 1992 criticism of the previous Bush administration's "blatant disregard for brutal terrorism, a dangerous blindness to the murderous ambitions of a despot", and their general unwillingness to confront Iraq before something bad happened would be a real barnburner. Figured it was a real find. I was wrong. Go figure.

That's something you'll quickly learn about blogging: you just never know what will grab attention and what won't. Prepare to seethe a lot. (see: Observation #4)
Blogs live for two things: readers and links (not in order). There is no blogger alive who does not religiously follow Trackbacks - if you don't have trackbacks (that's especially for you Blogger folks) then use Kevin's manual Trackback pinger. Link liberally and eventually someone might notice you. You can even said emails to bloggers telling them about your new site or post.
Yep. Bloggers love to get email (generally) and trackbacks (always). But there are a couple caveats to this:

(1) don't send an email about every piddling post. Send links for really good stuff...unique information, good "finds", something groundbreaking. "Here's what I think about X" is rarely very interesting. Opinions are like...things that everybody has.

(2) Trackbacks are great. They're flattering. Bloggers always read posts that track back to them. But bloggers hate posts that track back without including a link to the post they ping. That's always rude. Speaking for myself, I really hate the posts that simply mass-link everybody commenting on a topic. You know, the "Also Commenting: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, etc" link-dumps. Those are just excuses to send trackbacks. If you're not going to comment on, or excerpt from, the post, it's hardly worth linking.
9. Join the Bear's Ecosystem and learn about Technorati.
And use Blogrolling.com. It lets other blogrolling users know that you've updated your blog. Unfortunately, as with Technorati and TTLB, it's not foolproof. QandO often doesn't ping successfully, so we don't appear as "Updated" as often as we post. Blogging technology and services have yet to be perfected.
10. Bloggers aren't just lonely nerds typing furiously to no avail. They are people. You can even meet some of them. Just ask. Many turn out to actually be nice people. Plenty of nerds too, if that's your thing.
That's true. I wish I knew some Richmond area bloggers. There are a lot of other bloggers I do know (or at least read) that I would certainly like to meet.

In fact, I'm going to have a chance to do that tomorrow, as I'm attending the UVA Sorenson Institute Virginia Blogging Summit tomorrow in Charlottesville, and I hope to confirm that many Virginia bloggers are, in fact, people. (here's the roster of attendees)
12. If you think this blogging caper is a path to fame and fortune, give up now.
Indeed. (see: Observation #4)
13. It's not fair. It never was and never will be. Deal with it.
Indeed. Reference my earlier comments about the attention given the Al Gore/Iraq post.
20. Follow this handy rule-of-thumb: start a blog using Blogger. If you are still at it after 3 months, get off Blogger immediately. It is not as daunting as you think and there are plenty of hosting companies offering cheap plans and differing software packages like Movable Type or Wordpress. Make the move.
This is the advice I always given fairly new bloggers. Learn on Blogger/Blogspot, then bail. How many serious bloggers are still on blogspot? It's the Tonka of blogging. (My First Blog!)
29. Forget what your schoolteachers told you. Form matters more than substance. If your blog is a hideous pink colour the best content in the world won't get people coming back. Invest effort in your design, or get a pro to do it for you.
Note that the prominent bloggers usually have a fairly spartan design. Their blogs focus on the text, and not on neat design elements that distract from the text. There's a reason for that.
31. A good way to publicise your blog is tell people about it. A good rule here is to ask yourself if you'd be embarrassed if that person could read what you write. If not, tell them about it. Just once, though. No need to turn into a stalker.
That's true. Few bloggers ever mind a polite email. Striking up relationships with other bloggers is a part of the real joy of blogging.
42. The stupidest, most off-the-cuff posts tend to get the most comments.
And conversely...

Comments, criticisms and other thoughts are welcome. And since this is just a stupid, off-the-cuff post, I suspect it will get them...
 
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Comments
I printed and framed the Al Gore/Iraq post as I too thought it was destined for the Blog Piece Hall of Fame....
 
Written By: mark m
URL: http://
I’m going to second that, and as one of the resident "liberals". It made me realize that W isn’t a conservative in foreign policy either and just how much Dems punted on what used to be a major tenet (spreading democracy and freedom) for political reasons.

Seriously, don’t think just because it didn’t get many comments that it didn’t have as much effect or impact as a 100 comment post. It was so solid of a case, and the "punch line" was so well done, that I really couldn’t comment. There was nothing to refute or add to.
 
Written By: Tito
URL: http://
Jon,

That post about Al Gore’s 1992 criticism was a real barnburner. I loved it. I sent links to it to a couple friends. You were wrong to say you were wrong!!!

Here’s a tip about interpreting your readers’ likes and dislikes. Comment quantity isn’t necessarily a good indicator of whether readers enjoy the post. Some posts are so well written, so clear and complete, and have such impact, there is nothing left for the reader to say.

When you see my comments, it’s usually because I either disagree with you, or I have more bits to add that will strengthen your points. Neither was the case in yesterday’s Gore post. It really was outstanding! Thanks.

I guess I should add more comments that just say things like, "Good job" or "Great piece" or "Spot-on!" because QandO is my first stop every morning. It is my favorite blog. Believe it or not, my daily visit to Captain’s Quarters has to wait until I’m done with you guys.

 
Written By: Doug Purdie
URL: http://www.onlybaseballmatters.com
OK, ok, ok ... look guys, your comments are great, but you’re gonna swell Jon’s head to hither too unknown proportions if you keep this up.

Hey, Jon ... the piece? It was ok. ;)
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/
Ditto to comments != quality. Most of the comments I get on my blog are not to the deep, well though posts. Generally most people read and feel out of their league to comment. They are to posts like "I like cheese, do you like cheese?" at which point all five of my readers will pipe in with "Yes, gouda is wonderful" or "They all stink, not just limberger."
 
Written By: Jeff the Baptist
URL: http://jeffthebaptist.blogspot.com
I comment when I have something constructive to add.

Would it have helped the dialog along on that thread, if I had said, "yeah, I posted about these quotes in the run up to the war, and leftist/liberal/Democrats ignored them as irrelevant." I don’t mind tooting my own horn, or yours, but "me too" isn’t that constructive.
 
Written By: Keith, Indy
URL: http://
That’s true. I wish I knew some Richmond area bloggers. There are a lot of other bloggers I do know (or at least read) that I would certainly like to meet.

Ross, one of the folks we’ll both meet at the Summit on Blogging and Democracy in the Commonwealth, recently established a Richmond blog aggregator. It doesn’t include QandO, though—presumably, he doesn’t know you’re local. Make sure you introduce yourself and get yourself listed. I think regional blog aggregators have a great future in aiding in building community off-line.
 
Written By: Waldo Jaquith
URL: http://waldo.jaquith.org/
Whats wrong with blogspot? What does "Tonka of blogging" mean?
 
Written By: Toasty
URL: http://toastymoe.blogspot.com
"Tonka" is a maker of kid’s toys... the kind with big, hard to swallow, un-sharp pieces.
-=-=-=-=-=-
The Al Gore thing was hilarious. I read that out loud to my family. They were gettinga bit impatient with the harping on Cheney that seems to be going nowhere besides fmiliar ground.

Then the punchline.

"Oooooooh. Ouch."

I had nothing to add. Precious.
But don’t let your head get too big now :). Hurling down thunderbolts and all...
 
Written By: OrneryWP
URL: http://
I read through it going Cheney, Cheney, Cheney ... Gore?
Hmm.. A politician who changes his principals when they’re no longer politically convienent. Gasp... shocking
 
Written By: Joe Canadian
URL: http://
Jon,


I thought the piece was great, but I had a pretty good idea that the punchline was coming. There were so many of those stories before the war and during the election campaign (Kerry, Edwards, Clinton, Kennedy, other Gore bites, Boxer, Daschle, etc., etc., ad nausea ;) ) that they don’t shock me anymore. On the other hand, I never look the gift horse of the left’s hypocracy in the mouth...
 
Written By: s.
URL: http://
Boy does this ring true. We write a story on the Questionable LA County Homeless Count and it is essentially ignored.

Then we do a throw-away story on Man Gets Butt Implants and it’s written up everywhere.

Too bad we couldn’t find homeless people with butt implants to tie the two together.
 
Written By: Insider
URL: http://independentsources.com
That’s true. I wish I knew some Richmond area bloggers.
Hey! I live in Norfolk!
 
Written By: Stoop Davy Dave
URL: http://

 
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