How to blog

The BBC in Manchester is holding a seminar in how to blog. OK, withhold your snark. Yes, blogging’s so easy you don’t need instruction; that’s why everyone is doing it. But you can bet that many are curious but intimidated and so this is a good idea and an important contribution: If you want to be part of the conversation, sometimes you have to help get that conversation going. I was talking with some newspaper folks last week and t old them they could be a catalyst: If they start linking to people’s blogged restaurant reviews, maybe more people will write them and then they’ll have more to link to. Blessed by the virtuous circle.

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society Robert Feinman

    The blog model is failing, just when everyone is getting on board. I offer the following cautionary tale (dailykos):

    DailyKos is probably the biggest blog with a single proprietor. There are a handful of featured contributors who appear on the front page and a slightly larger number who are recognized by fans and show up in the “recommended” list for a few hours. Then there are the hundreds of regular diarists, and the larger numbers of commentators and lurkers.

    For the popular diaries the comments can reach into the hundreds. This makes it impossible for anyone to read and follow a discussion. So most people who comment are talking to themselves. This is not a dialogue, it is like cheering (or booing) at a sports event.

    For unpopular diaries the chances of being read by more than a handful of people are slight. There are too many diaries posted each day and they slide from view in an hour or so. Again nobody can keep track of them all; in fact there are volunteers who try to find overlooked ones of special merit and call attention to them.

    If the major media starts to participate interactively online the same thing will happen once they become popular. Interactivity implies a manageable size group, mass media has just the opposite model. Blogging is not scalable.

  • http://caffeinesoldier.blogspot.com Gray

    “Yes, blogging’s so easy you don’t need instruction; that’s why everyone is doing it.”

    Sure. But good blogging is much more difficult (I guess, judging from my experience as a reader and commenter). Imho one of the most important rules is to avoid presenting yourself to your readers as a cold-hearted blogging freak, who’s ignorant to the problems and hardships of ordinary people.

    Son’t you think maybe it would be a good idea to join that BBC seminar, Jeff? After all, it’s not as if you are already perfect in avoiding the rocks and cliffs of blogging…

  • http://cafzal.blogspot.com/ clearthought

    I maintain a blog, In Perspective, which is two and a half months old, and find the various facets of successful blogging mirror on what various people want to read. Yes, the process of blogging is quite simple, but churning out the right content — well, that’s another story. I read that one should blog about stories not covered too much by others; I also read that one should blog about things that are popular at the moment. I try to keep a balance between unique and popular, but it is hard to know how good of a job I am doing. I get 30-50 unique visitors a day (more on a good day, well over a hundred around election time) but there is no scale telling bloggers how well they are doing — I do not even know if such a scale would be feasible. I have read guides and tips from sites such as Copy Blogger and Pro Blogger which, IMO, have helped me. Also, for social circles to work requires a bit of luck and time, plus often some popular subject matter (e.g. Tom Cruise-Katey Holmes, etc.).

    Any blog feedback is welcome.

  • http://cafzal.blogspot.com/ clearthought

    I maintain a blog, In Perspective, which is two and a half months old, and find the various facets of successful blogging mirror on what various people want to read. Yes, the process of blogging is quite simple, but churning out the right content — well, that’s another story. I read that one should blog about stories not covered too much by others; I also read that one should blog about things that are popular at the moment. I try to keep a balance between unique and popular, but it is hard to know how good of a job I am doing. I get 30-50 unique visitors a day (more on a good day, well over a hundred around election time) but there is no scale telling bloggers how well they are doing — I do not even know if such a scale would be feasible. I have read guides and tips from sites such as Copy Blogger and Pro Blogger which, IMO, have helped me. Also, for social circles to work requires a bit of luck and time, plus often some popular subject matter (e.g. Tom Cruise-Katey Holmes, etc.).

    Any blog feedback is welcome.

  • http://cafzal.blogspot.com/ clearthought

    Oops, sorry about the double post.

  • Delia

    Robert,

    Sounds more like growing pains to me than falling apart; I agree that it doesn’t seem to be scalable (in the sense of having a huge number of people participating in the same discussion — at some point it just breaks down) but isn’t there an easy fix for that? it seems to me that limiting the number of participants to whatever is deemed to be the optimum would solve that problem…

    Delia

    P.S. And yes, you can’t keep track of them all… but is that necessary?

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society Robert Feinman

    Delia:
    I look at every story each morning in my daily NY Times even if I don’t read them all the way through, I can’t do this with dailyKos unless I want to make a career out of it. I can’t even scan the titles of all diaries posted each day unless I want to check in every hour or so.

    I also doubt any blog wants to limit the amount of traffic it gets, although there are many blogs that restrict people based upon ideology. If blogs are to become a viable business then they need the traffic to generate income.

    I do find the sites that use forum types of software a little easier to navigate. The forums allow postings in a specific topic category and thus make it easy to ignore those one is not interested in. The topics also are easier to scan as they tend not to get pushed into oblivion as quickly. A new comment will elevate even an old thread.

    They still suffer from getting too many comments in a popular thread. Interactivity implies a two way conversation and the more people that participate the less likely this becomes. Dailykos gets almost 500,000 visits per day, if even 1% of those resulted in comments it would be unmanageable.

  • http://cafzal.blogspot.com/ clearthought

    Robert, filtering by tags and searching for such tags on Daily Kos may help you manage your filtering of reading material. Tags are like forum categories, but more flexible and versatile.

  • Delia

    Robert,

    Of course you can’t do that (it’s a very different medium); you can use filtering tools the type clearthought mentioned but you are still not going to be able to “keep track of them all”… I don’t think that’s the goal. It’s more like, you want to get as much of what you regard to be “the good stuff” as you can within the time you have available.

    re: “I also doubt any blog wants to limit the amount of traffic it gets”

    well, if they *keep* getting the level of traffic they need with truck loads of people just mumbling to themselves instead to talking to each other…. they are probably not going to change… but I suspect at some point people are going to drift off to more hospitable (better set-up) places.

    I wouldn’t expect it to decrease traffic — on the contrary, the idea would be to just *split* the large number of interested people in group sizes that make sense… so they can talk with each other and enjoy the interaction — the resultant traffic should *increase* (something tells me that the thrill of talking to oneself wares off fast but I could be wrong…)

    Delia

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  • http://multimediameetsradio.typepad.com/ Mike Mullane

    Sorry, I disagree – blogging is scalable. The mistake that many of us make is to think about conversation in the singular. For example, every post on the Italian version of Beppe Grillo’s blog attracts more than a thousand comments. But far from killing conversation, there is a genuine exchange of ideas. Grillo’s blog is a success and people keep going back because it generates multiple conversations around each topic. You don’t need to be aware of what everyone has said to join in. Yes, there may be some repetition, but so what?

  • Delia

    Mike,

    It all depends on what you want to get out of it and how it will hold up for the long run. I think the involved one on one conversation ceases to work when you have a huge number of people. For *me*, that is an essential ingredient. Otherwise, it’s just information (which can be really good and useful in itself) but I think that *in the long run* people will gravitate towards venues that offer more than that. That’s why I agree with Robert that very popular blogs have a problem in their hands — not an “unfixable” one, but a real problem that they need to address.

    Delia