Sunday, February 27, 2005

Learning To Blog

A few weeks back, Right Wing Duck asked me a question. It was in response to a post where I expressed surprise at how this little blog had quickly risen in the TTLB EcoSystem. His question was simple: Why do I blog?

Well, here's the answer: I don't know.

I guess I should know why I blog, but I don't. And that's bothered me. But it got me to thinking: Am I doing it right?

I mean, is it really necessary to know why you do something to do it right? You can know why you do something and do it wrong, so why not the opposite. It's like the urban legend about the lady who always cut the ends of the roast off because her mother always did. Asking her mother, she found out that her mother had a small roast pan and had to cut the ends off to make it fit. So, she was a good cook, but didn't know why she was cooking like she did. Of course, that legend isn't true, but it's a good story anyway.

Anyway, while I'm not sure why I'm blogging, I decided to see if I'm doing it right. And, I'm going to do a little experiment while I find out. I noticed on Bad Example that Harvey had a series of posts listed under his Blogging category. A quick glance appears to indicate he has taken some of those and arranged them under the heading "Blogging Tips." So, since they are arranged in a manner helpful for a new blogger, I'll read them in that order and see how I'm doing -- and what I need to do. I won't list the entire contents of Harvey's tips and suggestions, but I will repeat enough of it so we can see how I'm doing. Here's what Harvey says, along with my comments on how I think I'm doing. Feel free to correct me if my analysis fails.
How To Start Blogging

YOUR NAME: Surprising as it may seem, the first step is NOT "run over to Blogger and sign up". The first and most important step in blogging is to choose a name for your blog. Although it seems like such a small task, it's actually the hardest part. ... Take your time with this step. Think carefully about the name you want. ... When you finally come up with the right name for you, you'll know it. ... Write that name down, then set it aside for a while. When you come back and read it again, if that click is still there, that's the name for you.

I got this part backwards. I DID run over to Blogger and signed up before I had settled on the name "basil's blog." In fact, I set up a blog under a different name, published it, and saw the little "B" they use as an icon and thought, "Hmmm. 'B' could also stand for 'Basil.' So, I started over with the name "Basil's Blog" but then thought to use all lower-case just to be different. So it became "basil's blog."

I wonder if I would have used the name "basil's blog" if I had followed Harvery's advice. Heck, I might have come up with a good name if I had. I would have seen the other "Basil's Blogs" that are out there and might have decided to use something original.

I'm 0-1.
YOUR TAGLINE: This should expand on or explain your blog's name or your blog's general theme. It can be something witty that you create yourself, or even a quote that you find to be particularly appropriate. ... (Taglines) are easily changeable, but do give it some thought, as it will be the second thing your new visitors see, and it will, to some degree, affect how they interpret what you've written.

I consider myself a Southerner, what with being from Georgia and having the accent and all. And, I've been called a "son of a bitch" more than once. So, I combined the two and just wrote the "insane ramblings" part because I've been told I ramble. And that I'm insane (but never by a doctor or a judge).

I have thought about dropping the "insane" part, but Harvey used that very word to describe a recent post. I'm going to say I got it more right than wrong. I'm 1-1.
START WITH BLOGGER & BLOGSPOT: There are lots of blogging software options to choose from, but for your first blog, I recommend signing up with Blogger and being hosted at Blogspot. Why? Because it's free. If you decide later that blogging just isn't for you, you can quit and be out not a single penny. Also, it's user-friendly and has extensive help/FAQ resources

Got this part right. And for the right reasons. 2-1.
YOUR FIRST POST: Should suck. It's a tradition. Something like "Hey! Look! I have a blog now!" is a good way to test your posting ability.

I did a little more than did that, but my first post did suck. 3-1.
YOUR SECOND POST: Should be a paragraph or two, introducing yourself to the world at large. Your name/pseudonym, where you're from, why you started blogging, and an overview of what you'd like your blog to be about. It's not your whole life story, just a good, solid "Howdy".

Actually, none of my posts in December 2004 (the blog launched on December 8) mentioned my name. Except where Blogger added "posted by basil" to the end of the post. I have yet to mention the name of my hometown, although where I live now can be inferred from the third post. I've already said I don't know why I'm blogging.

Part of this tip was combined with the first post, but I still haven't done all of it. 3-2.
YOUR THIRD POST: And every post after that - whatever you want. It's your blog, and you can do with it as you please. Don't let anyone ever tell you different.

Yeah, I've followed this advice without even being told. 4-2.
BELLS & WHISTLES: There are three things that Blogger does poorly or not at all, and I recommend that you use third party services to handle these things.

1) COMMENTS: ... I suggest using Haloscan. Not only are they faster and more trustworthy, they also give you trackback capability.

Got this right, but it took me a week to do this.
2) PAGE VIEW COUNTER: ... Sitemeter ... lets you know how many people have visited your site & how they got there.

Got this right, too.
3) IMAGE HOSTING: ... Blogger doesn't offer image hosting, and the service they recommend - "Hello" - is a cumbersome, unwieldy, user-antagonistic piece of crap. Don't bother. Keep it simple. Use ImageShack. Very simple, very free.

I used "Hello" when this blog was on Blogger. It was a pain at first, then I got used to it.

I'm gonna take a win on this one. 5-2.

Okay, that was fun. Did five out of seven correct, by my scoring. Or 6 of 9 if you break the last one apart into it's three sub-parts. Anyway, here's where I fell short and what I can do about it.

Blog Name: Not much. I think I'm stuck with "basil's blog." I could bring back the capital letters. But probably won't.

Second Post: Way too late now, I could tell my hometown, but I won't. I enjoy the anonymity. I don't use my "regular" name, but will admit that "Basil" appears on my birth certificate. I still don't know why I post. Maybe I have a secret desire to be famous. Maybe I want people to tell me "Hey, dude, you're funny." Maybe I just wanted to see if I could. Maybe I really don't know.

Next topic: Finding your blog voice.


  1. The Big Sister (who's 5'4")February 27, 2005 at 2:59 AM

    Your first post did NOT suck. It was wonderful. Like I have said so many times, I love your tell a great story or anecdote. And besides, if you'd followed Harvey's advice to a "T", lots of people would not have discovered you and you would not have gotten the level of respect you have in the world of blogs. You were a perfect candidate for blogging what with your rapier wit, enormous intelligence, aptitude for using computers, dogged tenacity when persuing a personal goal, and innate talent for using words judiciously. Heck, you couldn't fail!
    I think you summed up why you blog in your last few sentences...and I think you went about it the right way. I love reading your ramblings, and I am proud of you.

  2. "innate talent for using words judiciously" ??

    First, I've never been in prision.

    Second, I'm Baptist. You know that!

    Other than that, thanks.

  3. "I have thought about dropping the "insane" part"

    Or you could at least drop the "s" :-D

    And I'll let you keep the win for using Hello. I'm mostly concerned that you have SOME way of displaying pictures (because sometimes 1000 words just don't cut it :-)

  4. I share your surprise at how well your blog has done.

    Not that it's bad, mind you. It's not. It's just not any different from all the blogs that aren't doing as well.

    Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Must be the paid advertising...

  5. Perhaps so. I've had 1,442 hits from the ads since the first one appeared on January 26, averaging 45 per day.

  6. I'm not surprised. I find something fun everyday. Keep up the good work!

  7. I'm not surprised either, the cream rises to the top. It is cream that floats right? Anyhoo, I normally find something that amuses me everyday.

  8. I amuse you? I make you laugh? I'm here to freakin' amuse you?!

  9. how did i know that was coming?

  10. Why blog?

    Christina from Feisty Repartee asked "Why we do this blogging thing?" I've also been kinda wondering the same thing after reading basil's post about learning to blog earlier this week. Truth of the matter is I'm really not sure why I do it.

  11. Cream, scum, marshmallows, dead bodies... Lotsa floaty stuff out there.

    I'm thinking Basil's more in the cream category :-)


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