Some random crap I’ve learned about blogging

Phoenixism turned 7 months old yesterday.
Awwww.
Isn’t he cute?
Doesn’t he just look like his dad?

Yes. That might be a problem.
Too much like the old man.

Blogging.
Before Phoenixism, there was another.

That’s right. Before Phoenixism.
From October, 2008 until my Dreamhost contract ran out 1 year later, in 2009, I ran a blog called Moments for Nothing, based on a phrase I borrowed from Samuel Beckett’s play, Endgame.

The blog consisted mostly of political commentary (left-wing) which I interspersed with other assorted random tidbits, usually based on news items culled from news sites, large and small, local and national.

A real learning experience.

I knew nothing about blogging prior to October, 2008. Nothing. I had a very vague idea of what a blog was and what it did. I remember the date…October 13, 2008, a friend told me I should start one. She noticed something in my emails, my notes, a cynical sense of expression, whatever; that my sense of humor and irony might translate well to this medium.

Intrigued, I investigated. I embarked on a crash course to learn more about this nefarious art of blogging. Overestimated my comprehension and ambitiously kicked off Moments for Nothing.

Let’s just say it had its moments.

I blogged rabidly, for almost a year. With 3 or 4 months left in my contract, I decided not to renew. I outgrew Moments for Nothing.

I lost my way.
Writing about politics and stupid-ass news items I frankly didn’t care about for left me artistically and creatively empty. This was not how I envisioned my penultimate mode of expression. I could have struck around and continued to push Moments for Nothing like a half-hearted whore. I could have changed the name, the image…but that would only have served to further subdue any expression of a new blog personality, which is what I sought. I sought a new beginning.

A rebirth.

At the end of August, with 2 months left on the contract, I started Phoenixism. I let Moments for Nothing run itself out like you would happily let a wind-up toy run out as soon as its sound became too loud and grating. Let it run its course, for by then, I had begun Phoenixism.

Most of what I learned of blogging was through trial and error. Mostly error.

And so I bring you some random things I wish I would have known in October, 2008.

What do I call this mess?

What do you want your blog to be?
To do?
To say?

That will dictate its name.

You really must have a direction.  
Even if it’s the laziest and most absurd self-defined blog goal, just have one.  Without direction you have a mess.  You’re stuck with a blank aimless slate on which you can inscribe your most random thoughts without a cohesive and unifying thread to bring them together.  I suspect that happened with Moments for Nothing.  Initially I was going to write about politics but it turned to a mish-mash of conflicting and unsustainable philosophical twists and dips.  I couldn’t entertain even myself. If you can’t entertain yourself, or even amuse yourself, you have lost the battle.  Your blog should energize you, enlighten you, make you smile or think even, and if your blog meanders you will lose the consistency of theme which will leave you wandering a dark forest without any sense of direction.

Once you have internalized and settled upon a direction, the name should come quite naturally.

When I pondered Phoenixism back in August, 2009, I knew my new blog would encircle the concepts of rebirth, renewal and reform.  On a personal level.  I sorted through the ideas and decided upon the character of the new blog, which though unborn, was slowly forming in my mind.  Its aim, its ideology, its philosophy.  Having an integrated knowledge of the blog’s fetal personality, one night I was walking, listening to my Ipod, thinking about the blog-to-be, and suddenly the name simply dropped unannounced into my mind.  Phoenixism it would be.  

Don’t think about it too much.  Concentrate on what your blog will be and all else will follow.

That damned blogroll

The concept of a blogroll is difficult for an asocial miscreant like me to swallow. And keep down.  

A blogroll brings to mind Myspace or Facebook and its easy “friendship” culture where you can count someone who you’ve never met nor spoken with as a friend;  and each new friend is like a notch on your bedpost as the count continues to rise and rise and is announced quite publicly on your profile. Never mind that many of these people are not your friends.  You don’t even know if they are real.

Your blogroll is but a tool in the grand scheme of building public rapport within the blogosphere.   Placing a blog on your blogroll fools no one, of course.  Blogs I list on Phoenixism’s blogroll are obviously not going to become inundated with hits from the world over by virtue of me adding them.  No delusions!  No, the blogroll is a symbolic tip of the hat to those blogs who you enjoy reading.  Those blogs you find yourself reading at least a couple times each week.

The implicit understanding is that adding a blog to your blogroll will not shift the scales of internet traffic in their direction in the least.  However, in the blogosphere, where popularity is tenuous, the importance of every little “bit” cannot be emphasized enough.  Appearing on someone’s blogroll may very well send you a regular reader who you might not have had otherwise.  In the freewheeling and anarchistic world of blogging, readership is key.  It’s what we all strive for.  Once again, depending on your blog goals, you may value the concept more or less than other bloggers.  Some bloggers are shameless self-marketers and will stop at nothing to rile up visitor traffic to their blog.  At the other end of the spectrum, some bloggers don’t have the slightest concern about viewership and seem to get off on the pure act of public self-expression whether anyone reads or not.

I got your comments right here!

Speaking of tools, commenting is an art and your greatest source of bloggish self-advertisement. You should comment, and comment freely. Comment everywhere you can and as much as you can on blogs you are interested in. Commenting on other blogs is like using their space to publish your own miniblogs as well and expose hundreds and thousands of readers who don’t know you from a hole in the wall to your grand and exquisite wisdom and humor.  Commenting on other blogs is like free advertisement.  If you can share witty and insightful comments, you will capture the eye of people who may be interested enough to check out the blog your username links to.  If you’re commenting on blog A that has a theme B, by default you are accessing that blog’s filtering mechanism which allows you to direct your blog’s worldview at other similar-minded readers.

Speaking of comments, they are one of the clearest measurements we have of just how “hot” a blog is.  WE blog because of the public nature of the blog.  The ability of a failed writer to finally makes his masterful manipulation of the language accessible to all is the greatest advancement afforded by the blogosphere.  And once your precious writings filter into the public pool of perception, the next step is recognition and feedback. Bloggers, by admission or not, enjoy and relish the idea of their thoughts exposed directly and immediately to a global audience.  

And any commenting that you attract to your blog is inevitably satisfying.   Conversely, it is quite easy to fixate on the lack of comments.  At its incarnation, your blog is likely to find itself in the unenviable state of lonely comment starvation.  The best quantitative measure of your young blog’s vibrancy and pool of readers is the statistics available which tally hits or views of your blog.  Google Analytics is a well-known subscription tool available for this analysis.  I use WordPress stats which performs the same function.  Whereas I used to fixate on comments, I now began to keep track of views. It’s a well-known fact that most readers do not comment. What you should be concerned with are views. By tracking this statistic, you can get a very good idea of how many people are looking at your words. And understand most of those people won’t take the time to comment for a multitude of reasons. Even blogs which get hundreds of hits each day will only see a fraction of those convert to comments.

Postscript.
Ultimately, your blog will be you.
It will wear your persona.
If you were magically transformed into billions of bodiless bytes and allowed to roam the electrical pathways of cyberspace, you would resemble your blog.  The longer you continue your blog and the more often you post to it, the eerier its resemblance to you, in mind and spirit.

Until you are inseparable and indistinguishable from whatever it is you call your morass or words and sentences.

8 Replies to “Some random crap I’ve learned about blogging”

  1. ha, ha, good post. I’ve learned some lessons the hard way too. :) I also stay on theme by not having a theme. I’ll cover any damn thing I please, ha! of course, I generally stay near the love, sex, art, and music themes and leave the politics to you boys.

  2. Hmm, do not see a site-meter on here. It helps to see who is reading and from where. Why in the hell am I trying to keep this trainwreck going?! Out of most of what I link, this is one blog that really has no point. Hey, I like current events and it is a way I find to educate people that may not look and mainstream sources. AKA, the OBAMAWHORE media. BTW, did you turn into some kind of communist or something? Maybe you need another crack on the noggin. Just sayin’!

  3. The only thing I would add is something an agent told me a while back that has always stuck with me. Your readers are more likely to enjoy your writing if you do. Writing something with the express intention of trying to make it enjoyable for the reader usually falls flat for everyone.

  4. I think one of the harder things in blogging is staying on your primary theme. It’s okay to stray off once in a while, but you do have to stay basically on point. If you don’t know what that point is, you will eventually wander off track and cul-de-sac yourself somewhere minus your readership.

    The other thing is the blogs are a little too easy to turn into a personal mouth piece for how crappy your day was, what you felt about something, oh I’m so tired…. I already have a wife lol and she puts out and whiny blogs don’t. Too many of these posts and it’s off the feedreader you go.

    Have a readable font and appearance.

    Don’t suddenly stop blogging for more than a 4-5 days.

    Google is forever. It all goes on your permanent record.

    The first year is just ground work. There is a fine line between readership stunts and good writing.

    Very much agree with commenting and your postscript.

    #1 You have to like writing.

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