9 plus 9 Lessons for Would-be Bloggers

Discovered this nice pair of posts (here's the follow up) via a question on LinkedIn. Since I'm four months off my fourth anniversary I felt like this is an opportune moment for some self assessment. I thought I'd have a look at each of his 18 lessons in turn (you're going to have to read Joshua's posts to get the full description), see how I measure up, and then decide whether or not I care &#59;) Besides, numbered lists are all the rage in blog posts these days...

1) It’s only an initial fear
This probably relates to my last post - you're not going to be a great and famous blogger unless you're willing to take a leap into the unknown. All right, it's unlikely you'll be a great and famous blogger anyway, but you've got to try. Of course, there are levels of leaping, but it's true enough that my last 44 months of blog posts have been largely uncontroversial. This is an area where I should improve, I think.

2) You have something valuable to say
Hmm, it's true that by the time I've got around to commenting on anything there's already plenty of other folk who both know much more about it than I do and have said it at least as eloquently as I ever could, but I think in sheer quantity of verbiage I'm measuring up OK.

3) When in doubt, post.
I don't think I've got any problems in this category either, though maybe I should have a little backlog of half finished articles to which I could refer for inspiration.

4) Use the comments for refining your point
Since I've commented on my own posts about ten times as much as anyone else (though several hundred times fewer than the spammers) I think I'm doing OK in this category too.

5) Everything is beta
Lol! My whole website is beta, generally I re-design it before I've even got around to doing templates for most of it. To address the main gist of his comments under this item though, it's very true that striving for something big can actually lead to inaction. For most of this month I've been piling up screens of references and quotes in Google Notebook for a couple of large, related posts I want to write. The more time I spent researching, the longer the posts got in my imagination, and the less inclined I was to start writing. I think now I'll try and cover the general issues in four or five posts, this might also help me with lesson 3.

6) Have a schtick
This is a blog about Web Development and Web Design and Linux, which I suppose is pretty broad, and I also have urges to veer off into general development from time to time - enough that I considered starting a separate blog about it - but then I wouldn't have time to do any of the actual stuff I'm blogging about. I think that, yes, this blog could definitely do with a bit more focus, but I'll see how my plans for lesson 5 turn out before making up my mind.

7) Correct English be-damned
Pet peeve time - people do care when you don't use correct English and complete sentences, and I think Joshua even admits this indirectly when he says to make sure that every word is understandable and your ideas are clear. One of the key ways that you make sure your writing is understandable is to use correct English. It doesn't have to be formal English, but mistakes in grammar and spelling tend to lead to ambiguous sentences. From a personal point of view, if you don't know the difference between "there", "they're" and "their" (among others) I'm probably going to devote as much brain time to being annoyed about your English as I am to taking in whatever you may be writing about. And I have a sore point with "soar points", but I like to know whether there's going to be weather. But that could just be me &#59;) If you'd like to care about this sort of thing (homonyms), here's a great resource, see also Five Grammatical Errors That Make You Look Dumb. So I'm purposely failing this one, though I may be achieving success accidentally from time to time.

8) Show your greatest hits
Good idea. Don't do it, will try to.

9) People are listening
According to MyBlogLog I had 16 readers on 29th March. I suspect that three of them were me on different PCs, but I'm in double figures!

10) Write Follow-up Posts
I've managed to do this from time to time. I think in part this relates back to lesson 5 - if you're always trying to produce 'complete' posts then there's not going to be so much obvious opportunity to follow up. A bit more of the posting fast and loose, perhaps?

11) When you screw up, say so immediately
Of course I've never screwed up. Apart from that one time. And the time before that. A short review of posts on this blog will demonstrate that I have quite a lot of experience with admitting to idiocy. It's good for you, you know.

12) Know when to take it offline
I've never had a problem in this regard as generally I've been the most abusive commenter on my posts (see lesson 4).

13) Link back to your good stuff
I think lessons 13, 14 and 15 are quite strongly linked, and perhaps are the result of a bit of padding out to make the second post have nine lessons in it. Certainly I'd have a hard time discerning between my past posts which are good and those which are just popular. Probably what I need to do is...

14) Reread to yourself
...read through my old posts from time to time. Certainly then I'd be in a...

15) Treat every post as a possible later reference
...better position to refer to them more regularly. See what I mean? Just because it's three points doesn't mean it's not good advice, though. Usually when I read old posts of mine the things that really stand out are the spelling mistakes :roll: I'm going to start looking at them with a view to providing starting points for future posts (which will help with lesson 10).

16) Keep updating your best posts
This is something I'm really loath to do - I frequently correct spelling and grammatical mistakes when I see them in old posts, but I rarely add additional commentary or ideas. After I've got into lessons 13, 14 and 15 I will consider this more.

17) Name things (e.g. The Del.icio.us Lesson, The Chanel No. 5 Lesson)
This is something I could do a better job with, I've been reading things like "10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work" and "Do You Digg This Headline?", but I tend to pull back at the last minute. I'm not sure why, perhaps secretly I'm just a little uncomfortable with the whole brazen self promotion thing. I do notice that one way to get lots of hits from Google is to put an error message as the post title (I'm assuming the post will discuss solving the error, of course). One of my most popular posts of all time is "MySQL 4: Specified key was too long; max key length is 1000 bytes", which will be obvious when I get around to implementing lesson 8, but see how I'm already implementing lesson 13 :)

18) Link to the quiet, unknown ones
That's me! I'm a quiet, unknown one. Improve your karma by linking to me now! :D