Friday, June 24, 2005

Learning To Blog X: 12 Steps To Better Blogging

If you've been following along my attempts to become a better blogger, you know that I've been looking at Harvey's (Bad Example) Blogging Tips. You can find them listed at the top right of the Bad Example home page. Oh, and if you didn't know ... well, you do now.

Anyway, I've reading his tips in order, and I've been taking them like they are on-line classes. And, we've had nine classes so far:
  1. How to start blogging
  2. Finding your blog voice
  3. Getting more traffic
  4. Getting more comments
  5. Free image hosting
  6. Google search code
  7. How to use TrackBacks
  8. 5 more handy searches
  9. Never lose another post
Yes, I know numbers 7 and 8 are reversed from the order Harvey has them. But it'll be okay.

Now, here's the next course: 12 Steps To Better Blogging. Now, I'm going to take excerpts from Harvey's post and comment on them. If you want to get the most benefit from Harvey's tips, read his entire post, not the abridged version here.


... There aren't any absolutely right or wrong ways to post an entry. Given the differing personalities of various bloggers and, more importantly, the constraints of time, pretty much anything goes.
Well, that means there's hope for me.
... Certain techniques work better than others. ... Most of these fall into the category of "courtesies", so they can be omitted without serious damage to your reputation if you're in a hurry. ... Doing them consistently, however, does pay dividends in reader loyalty, so take that into consideration.
To me, this is saying these tips and suggestions are just that. Which, again, is good for me.
1) Link to cited facts: For example, if you're writing about something said during a speech given at the Democratic Convention, find a link to the full text of the speech, or at least a news story containing the quote. ...
Actually, I do know to do this, and do if I write about something I find in a news story, or if I need to look up the news story for verification or additional information. Where I have the most problem with this is when I know the information already and don't need to look it up.
2) Don't link a New York Times story: Not if you can help it, anyway. ... Certain ... large newspapers, require free - and very annoying - registration to view their articles. If you MUST link the Times, consider including a link to BugMeNot, so you readers can get a functional username & password without registering. Or, even better, include a working BugMeNot username and password in your post.
This is a new one for me. I ran across this the other day at La Shawn Barber's. I understand that some people don't like providing their information, and I certainly understand that. I wish I had known about BugMeNot a long time ago. It works!

Oh, if you're a Firefox user, there is now an extension for BugMeNot that works very well. Based on my using it the last few days, I really like it. Give it a try!
3) When linking a blog post, include the site name and the blogger's name: ... You should ... consider that you have an opportunity here to help build name recognition for your link's target. ... Using "Harvey of Bad Example" instead of just "Harvey" does a better job of advertising, which is always greatly appreciated.
I'm bad about not doing this all the time. Probably the blogger I abuse the most is Beth of MY Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. Most of the time, I just put "Beth" as the source. I do this with others, too, but with her the most. I promise to do better.
4) Keep blockquotes short: Readers come to your site to read what YOU wrote, not somebody else's stuff. Keep the foreign writing to the minimum necessary to support your point, summarize the rest in your own words, and give a link to the rest of the piece. ...
I think I do okay in this respect. Of course, these "Learning To Blog" posts by their very nature require extensive blockquotes, so I think this would be an exception. Likewise, if you whole post is to "Fisk" someone else's post, you got to quote a lot.
5) Provide links for inside jokes: The blogosphere is growing constantly, and new readers are finding your site every day. They might not know, for example, why Glenn Reynolds is called "the puppy blender". Give them a link so they can figure out what's going on.
Another area where I fall short. I'm trying to do better, but I have a ways to go with this.
6) Make your site searchable: ... Most blogging software contains a native search function. ... (Also) you can get code for a site search box FREE from Google. ...
I added the Google search box a while back. It's really easy to do.
7) Make your links drive traffic: One of the best links you can give (or get) is one that actually makes the reader click through to the targeted post. My favorite technique works best on list-type entries, but it can be adapted to other posts, too:

a) state your enthusiasm for the post
b) quote your favorite part
c) close with a teasing reference to another part

Other good techniques are stating that a "drink alert is in effect" ... or simply the words "go read the whole thing."

CAUTION: Don't use these words unless they're true. Crying wolf to pimp your friends will adversely affect your reputation. ...
l try to do this with the "mealtime link dumps." Sometimes, I try too hard to be cute or funny when I do it, and it falls flat.
8) Don't post that blogging will be light or non-existant: ... Your readers will figure out that you're not posting when they come by and see you haven't updated since their last visit. ... Posting about it just tells people not to visit your site, which is the LAST impression you ever want to give.
This has been something that I've always hated. And I don't think I'll do this. When the situation has been where I've been unavailable for a period of time, I've sometimes prepared posts ahead of time and scheduled them to appear later. TypePad allows that, and I like it. It hasn't blown up on my yet.

But, when I have needed to be away for an extended period, I've been fortunate to have friends who have agreed to fill in.
... (however,) if you're going to be gone for more than 48 hours and you don't want your readers to worry about you, then go ahead and say something. ...
Like I said, friends have filled in. And given a little class to this operation. Thanks phin, moehawk, and Joe.
9) If you enter a link-fest, link the fest AND another person's entry: ... Giving a courtesy link to the host of a link-fest is just good manners. ... Anything you do to promote a link-fest will encourage future readership of the fest, and, consequently, your entries in it.
I link the link-fest when I enter. But I am falling short on giving another link to an entrant. Need to work on that. However, I do check out other entrants and usually find a post or two of interest that I'll include in the next "mealtime link dump."
10) "If you're going to shoot... SHOOT! Don't talk!": ... don't ... (tell) your readers what you'll be blogging about later. Spend the time writing about the topic instead. Make it part one of a series if you have to ....
I'm thinking I'm doing okay here. I will sometimes tease a future post, but only as part of a post I'm already doing.
11) One link per entry: This one is probably just a personal issue, but, especially when I was just starting, I liked to stop by and thank people for linking to me. But sometimes when I hit the original post, I was just one of several links, and I felt... well... not special, I guess. And a little embarrassed about leaving a comment, especially if my link was just a throwaway line, and not related to the main bulk of the post. Since then, my philosophy has become, "if it's good enough to link, it's good enough to deserve its own post."
Oh, boy. I'm guilty and awaiting sentencing here. Not often do I post about another post. I do on occasion, but it's rare. Most of the links to others' posts (apart from the link dumps) are usually supporting or referring information, and I'll refer or try for more than one source. So, yes, I'm guilty. And I expect to be turned into a newt or something for my crimes.
... I do NOT intend by this statement to denigrate or disparge the fine blogging tradition of the link-fest. If you've got a dozen good posts you want to give kudos to, and you're short on time, there's NOTHING wrong with doing a list of links with short intros.
Oh. Well then. "I got better."
But if it's only 2 or 3 links, consider breaking them up into separate posts as an extra bit of warm fuzzy to the target.

12) No lists: There's nothing more eye-glazingly, mind-bogglingly dull than a numbered list of ostensibly connected thoughts. ... Can't you handle the simple task of connecting your paragraphs together? It's SO agonizingly unoriginal. ... Why don't you just tell your readers to go f*** themselves in so many words, instead? It's practically the same thing, and...


Nevermind ;-)
Ha! Good one. But I don't think I'm bad about doing lists. Now, I might quote someone's list (like this entire post), but original posts with lists? I haven't done it. Have I?

Well, it turns out that I've been doing some of these items already, either out of my own reasoning, my seeing it somewhere else, or plain dumb luck. And there are some areas I need to improve.

Oh, Harvey added a postscript:
UPDATE 5-24-05: [If you've found this post useful enough to blog about, send a trackback or e-mail the permalink to me at and I'll add you to my Bad Example Groupies blogroll. See this post for details]
Harvey's already aware that I'm doing his with his posts ... and hasn't asked me to stop yet! I appreciate his work and continue to benefit from his work. If you also find them useful, do let him know. He has put a lot of time and effort into this.


  1. 12-2, 12-2, one more time, 12-2

    A truly wonderful series of articles in the Tribune about the Sox-Cubs series going on at Comisky this weekend.

  2. Great post by Harvey...going over to tell him so.

  3. Basil - Flattered & honored, as always :-)

    For the record, point 12 is ENTIRELY in jest. There's nothing wrong with lists at all, and they're actually one of the more readable forms of blog posts. I encourage their use.

  4. Harvey:
    Thanks. I appreciate your tips and suggestions more than you will ever know.


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