Saturday, November 08, 2008

On Blogging, Part I

I've been writing this blog for a fair while now, and I'd like to offer some thoughts and observations for new bloggers or interested readers.

Platform

The first decision you need to make is to self-host, or use a hosting provider such as Blogger. The advantage of self-hosting is that you can control everything, down to the exact detail. The disadvantage of self-hosting is that you have to control everything. Self-hosting is also a bit more expensive money-wise, but web space is not very expensive these days. The time costs in setting up everything are a more important consideration.

Obviously, I've opted for using a hosting provider. I picked a template at the beginning and have not really changed it. Maybe the site is not the best looking in the world, or the flashiest, but it's clean and does what I want with a minimum of effort on my part. I don't have to worry about databases, or hand-tuning HTML or CSS or similar silliness.

But there are drawbacks. For example, Blogger doesn't really do trackbacks very well. I've seen other sites have neat little tricks like adding the the person's last blog post to a comment. Or allow you to edit your comment for a few minutes after posting. If you self-host, you can do pretty much anything you can imagine, but it can take a fair bit of work.

If you can live within the confines of a hosted blog, I recommend using a service like Blogger. It's quick and easy, and allows you spend less time working on your website, and more time on writing content. If you ever have a choice between getting a new website feature to work, or writing another post, I recommend writing the post. Content is what will make your site. New, flashy features are nice, but you really have to beware of neglecting your content to work on your presentation.

Focus

The second decision you need to make is focus. For example, this is a World of Warcraft Paladin blog. The name in particular, Blessing of Kings, identifies the focus squarely.

Focus is a double-edged sword. On one hand, having direction makes it a lot easier in the early days. It gives you something specific to write about, making it easier to generate ideas for posts, making it more likely you will continue writing. You belong to the community that shares your focus, and that often makes it easier to get inspiration, links and traffic.

On the other hand, sometimes your interests will wander away from the focus. A more generic name and focus allows you to write about anything without being confined. Sometimes I wonder if I am still playing my paladin because of this blog. If I wasn't writing this, would I have switched to another class, or even another game? If I had chosen a different name, would that have made it easier to switch?

I think having a focus is very useful, especially in the early days. It helps establish your identity. But that identity can and will be confining, so consider how you present your focus.

Content

The single biggest thing you can do to improve your blog is to write more. A steady stream of new content is the best way to get more visitors. Ideally, you should aim for one post a day. Of course, that's an ideal. I almost never make that, and I think I average something like one post every two or three days. But I can see the difference in traffic for months where I had a steady schedule of posts versus months with more erratic schedules.

Other than that, my advice is to write what you want to write about. Don't write something thinking that it is what your audience wants to see. If you don't like role-playing, don't write about role-playing. If you don't theorycraft, don't force yourself to write posts with lots of numbers. Write for yourself, and the audience will come in time.

Finally, the one recommendation I will make regarding content is not to use expletives or put up anything that is Not Safe For Work. The vast majority of readers will read your site from work during the hours of 9-5, Monday to Friday. While I weep for the lost productivity of our economy, you should generally avoid posting anything that would cause your site to be blocked by workplace firewalls, as that will prevent most people from reading your site.

Upcoming in a later post

Getting Traffic, Commenting, Advertising, and anything else I can think of.

See Part II.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I host at home and have hoped that you at least have seen my site. I honestly prefer the host at home option as it gives many more options for config. Excuse errors. Posting from phone.

Brandon said...

I don't know why it didn't take my comment but my blog is http://www.whatisboom.com - midas

Rohan said...

On the other hand, Brandon, does this sound familar?

"l2backup noob! Computer crash, database lost. Luckily I hadn’t written THAT much."

;)

Larísa said...

Oh I love your simple down-to-earth philosophy of blogging. It makes me feel less bad about using one of the simplest pre-made layouts from Blogger without any fancy stuff and not self-hosting.

I tell myself: "Well, since it's good enough for the wonderful and very appreciated veteran blogger Rohan, it should be good enough for me too.

Content is what counts. It really is. And christmas tree decorations look best on the christmas trees.

Galoheart said...

I guess a person can use either Wordpress or Blogger platform to blog easily.

I started with Blogger because I wanted something simple to use without having to spend a whole lot of time doing everything else maintaining it. Time has always been a big factor for me. So less time fixing blog platform details and more time blogging and on the game was the focus. It worked out. Controlling every detail of how my blog ran wasn't something I wanted to have to spend endless amount of time on.

I guess for a blogger blog about what makes you happy or passionate to write about and at your ow blogging speed but somewhat consistently. Makes it much easier.

Peregrine said...

hehe, when I DID blog my blogging was completely random - could go days without any posts, then BAM three or four posts in a day.

I'd also remind you to say, for publicizing the blog, check around for related blogs and ask them to add you to your blogroll. =)

Klepsacovic said...

Good stuff you have here. I agree with the NSFW part, even if I randomly don't follow it. Perhaps NSFW tags would help, or just not blogging when under the influence of arena.

If you find yourself with too much off-topic, just start a second blog to put it on. In your case the warhammer stuff isn't too far off topic since it's a bit relevant. In my case, I put all my crazy stuff in my other block and also don't link it so I don't taint my WoW blog.

For the topic, I was lucky in that I chose basically just a WoW joke, so it works equally well for any class or race.

Maybe in advertising you could mention sig links. For frequent forum posters it's like spam advertising, but without the ban.

gnomeaggedon.net said...

Remember that blogging can be quite draining... time and energy sometimes.

That blog post that took 30 seconds to read, may have taken an hour to compose

Aim for 1 post a day, settle for 1 every 2 to 3 days, but whatever you do, don't stop...

Scheduling helps a ton. Have 3-4 brainwaves... great post 1, schedule the other 3... then sit back, breath, relax, and when the inspiration strikes, throw up another... maybe changing schedule as required...

Of course I guess 50 GoogledGnome scheduled posts should be an exception rather than a rule.

gnomeaggedon.net said...

Oh, one more thought.
2x posts doesn't equal 2x view (or 3x,4x etc).
At lot of readers seem to be bookmarkers, so they look at the newest post only.

Sometimes you just have to post more than once per day... but don't be disappointed when you do