Monday, April 12, 2010

I Believe You Are Thinking of Someone Else

The sessions at the Blogpaws conference this weekend were a little short on concrete advice. Possibly I chose poorly when deciding which ones to attend.

But one speaker was absolutely black and white about this advice:

Post something every single day.

Never go over 400 words.

I think they are thinking of something else when they use the word "blog."

If you post something every single day, when the hell are you living your life and gathering what is so smugly referred to as "content?" Editing? Thinking?

I ran the numbers on some of my more widely-read recent posts. Word counts were:

3,871 (The Emperor's Striptease)
1,165 (Missing the Lesson While Learning It)
1,175 (Double-Suspension of Disbelief)
1,591 (Seized and Saved)
1,646 (Still Life)

Some of my posts are dryly factual -- "how to" posts that get a steady stream of referral hits from message boards and teh googles.

How to Use a Martingale Collar is 2,630 words.
Paper-Plate Recall: The Basics is 2,478 words

I think I'll leave the 400-word limit to those who are interested in selling fair-trade ferret toys, or whose business cards proclaim him "typist" to a blogging cat.

I'm a writer. You there, by definition, you are a reader. I assume that you have a mind for which it is worthwhile to write. I'll keep doing so. We can both keep thinking. Maybe you think I'm full of shit. You may be right. How would you find that out if I posted a daily LOLCat and 200 words on the latest faux-journalism story about How Pets Enrich Our Lives?

The third thing the same speaker advised was to always use a photo.


  1. How would you find that out if I posted a daily LOLCat and 200 words on the latest faux-journalism story about How Pets Enrich Our Lives?

    I Can Haz Synonyms?

  2. On a somewhat more serious note -- I have observed that panel speakers in most conferences are based on who the booking agent can actually get, versus who has a Clue. This is perhaps doubly, triply, or quadruply true when dealing with things Internet. After people sussed out the overall iron pyrite levels in the first wave of swindlers (which crested in 2001, coinciding with the peak of the NASDAQ), the second wave hit in ways yet more subtle and complex.

    The "blog something every day" advice is reasonable, but it depends on your aims; if it's as an adjunct to something you're selling online, fine, but don't expect a lot of readers (unless you legitimately are, y'know, interesting to actual readers). The point of the frequency is to keep teh Googles granting high marks to your posts (relevant! fresh!) and thus your blog.

    I don't know where the hell they came up with the notion of using a photo, but I suppose it helps for reader interest. Me, I'm a big fan of the ALT and TITLE modifiers for IMG tags.

  3. ... not least because of snarky.

  4. I write out my blogs in some variant of Word before I post them to the internet.

    The average blog runs about 2-3 pages, including the spaces between paragraphs. Some run into 4.

    There's a reason we graduate from classes that impose word limits on students so the teacher doesn't have to sift through and grade novel after novel: so that we can expand and use our learned writing skills for bigger and better things.

    I'm guessing this speaker has never read a research paper under a topic in which she has a vested interest. Way over 400 words and no photos (*gasp*) BUT plenty of diagrams and graphs.

  5. It's the difference between a concept of blogs (and the internet, generally) as a place where ideas and information can grow and be cross-fertilized and a community of sorts can flourish, and a concept of the internet as a place to sell crap.

    For the record, I have absolutely no objection to anyone who makes his living with websites of funny pictures of cats. Not everything in life has to be so damned serious.

    And I buy lots of stuff on the internet.

    If some corporation that is blameless wanted to throw money at me in return for ad space, I'd take it. (Smartwool? Anyone?)

    But not everyone is shilling.

    Viatecio, where is your blogz?

    Your profile is closed, so your name link is useless.

  6. Pet people galore! That's what we have at BlogPaws 2010. They're arriving every few minutes. We spent the morning preparing the bags - oh, those of you who can't be here are missing out on some fantastic stuff! What lucky kitties and doggies we have - they will get so many neat treats from Moms and Dads, once the conference winds down.

    Like, you WENT to this? It sounds so...not like you. :-) And I mean that as a compliment.

  7. If you're trying to write piffle, that's good advice.

    If you're trying to inform, that's terrible advice.

    You're far better off writing good content and focusing on that.

    Generally when people tell you to write less, it's because they aren't very good with the Queen's English.

    Either that, or everything they write is so without controversy that it might as well not be read at all.

    I do multiple posts per day, mainly because I have time right now.

    I don't make much money doing this. I'm kind of addicted :)

    No one told me how to blog. I just started doing it.

    I get 3500-4000 page views per day.

    I think I'm doing something right.

  8. I routinely 86 all requests (and I get a handful every year, mostly from ticket brokers) to buy ad space, provide links to commercial websites, and the like. My (baseball) blog (I have others, none with any commercial potential) is my own space for irritating the easily irked, hectoring the local dimwits in the sports writing trade, and lobbing brickbats at the self-absorbed owners. It is a thankless, futile task, but somebody has to do it.

  9. You're definitely not full of shit. "Post constantly but say nothing" is lousy advice.

  10. This post got me thinking.

    Other than work/school, family, life's necessities (including time in nature), and the dog, about the only other thing I think about is the blog.

    Maybe it's time for me to get a girlfriend.

    Or maybe I'm married to the blog.

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  12. I'll vote for long and profound over short piffle, considering Chan and I just tried the paper plate recall this week. I'm also guilty of sending people to read blog posts like that one; is there any chance that you will post your housetraining FAQs someday? There are days when I wish I could throw them at people.

  13. Dear Reader/writers,
    As a writer approaching his alloted span, I am grateful to not blog. I believe these blogs are gradually replacing print news/opinion and the most popular will provide livings for the bloggers and, in the end, pay for necessary research.

    Right now, they are at the stage of early 19th century papers: "Our Boston correspondent reports . . ." or "A friend recently in Pittsburgh notes: . . ." and commercial they will become daily.

    They haven't quite sorted themselves out - although that there was a conference indicates that some general rules are already in place.

    Readers will check the blogs of those who don't blog every day - but once a week? Once a month?

    I like to recall the motto of one early newspaper:

    "News fortnightly - Unless there be an exceptional press of events."

  14. I wish I had the time to write every day. Somehow the pesky, actual training of dogs prevents it. I have a lot of material I can mine from these experiences, but by the time my day is done, it's the following Thursday and I can't even get Mondays off anymore.

    I went to the website and I, like Doutful, wonder if perhaps you were commandeered by a pod person?

    All in all, perhaps there was some value to having gone, but I think what you are doing so far is envious to the lot of folks who wish they could do the same.

    So anyway, keep it up and don't change a thing.

  15. Blogs are not going to replace primary news reporting; nobody has that kind of time. But it will be interesting to see what does.

  16. What will replace news reporting?

    News blogs that are run by journalism foundations.

    It's likely that the main journalism functions will be highly ideological (more so than they are now), simply because only believers can cobble together enough resources to have journalism foundations and hire pro-bloggers.

  17. Not only do I not have time to write every day, it's not like I always have a topic about which to write every day! I really respect people who can do a good blog (no matter the length, I like QUALITY!) every day and make it count. If I was forced by virtue of readership to do a post every day, I'd crash and burn quicker than I already do when attempting to "jog" more than a half mile.

    Heather, check your email.

  18. I won't subscribe to a blog with daily posts. Too much information. Or too little in most cases.

    The difference for me is between a thirst for good writing and compelling content, and the compulsive need to feed an addiction.

  19. News blogs that are run by journalism foundations.

    Okay, two of this year's Pulitzers went to web-only entities (Investigative Reporting and Editorial Cartooning). That to me signals a belated recognition of the death rales of the regional newspaper rather than an actual "you like us! You really, really like us!" moment of acceptance. And besides, where are these money spigots going to come from? I certainly don't see them here in El Lay, and if they don't exist in the nation's True Second City, I would like to know where they're ultimately going to materialize, not just in this burg but in the other, smaller places that either have already or are about to lose their daily fishwrap.

  20. I think there is a fundamental difference, depending on what you are trying to accomplish with your blog. If you are trying to build daily readership of people who drop in just to waste a bit of time and escape for a bit, for the purpose of increasing your hits and thus your ad revenue, then the speaker's advice is spot on. If, however, you actually have some information to impart in a thought-provoking manner, then the advice is completely non-applicable (with the exception of large media outlets, I suppose). I have to wonder if it wouldn't have been a much more helpful presentation to get people thinking about blog purpose instead...

    Have to say that I loved your take on it, as always.

  21. I'm a writer too and to me the joy of blogging is that I can write without an assignment or an editor on any subject that interests or amuses me at the moment. And those come up about every day.

    I had a blog evaluator tell me that I lacked "a voice" and "focus." I seem to be all over the place.

    Yeah, that's kind of what i was going for.

    Anyone who gives one size fits all advice has missed the spirit of blogging.

  22. If I totally focused my blog, I wouldn't have half the readers I do.

    I guarantee it!

    There are only so many people who want to treatises on golden retriever history.

  23. I had a blog evaluator tell me that I lacked "a voice" and "focus." I seem to be all over the place. Yeah, that's kind of what i was going for...Anyone who gives one size fits all advice has missed the spirit of blogging.

    This is great. I am glad I'm not alone. My blog is a place for me to share things I think about, share knowledge that I have, and just explore what's in my head.

    If people read it, fantastic. If not, I am not selling anything on it, so no harm done.

    I am lucky to post once a week. I try to have more psts in the can, but the problem with that is that I start tweaking them just before I post, and then I finally post 3 hours later.

  24. I think I have enjoyed the comments on this subject as much as the original post. My blog has always been a "I am, therefore I blog" sort of enterprise. I am going to celebrate it's lack of focus from now on, instead of bemoaning it. Clearly I am in too good company not to.

  25. Interesting comments. I periodically purchase a copy of "The Budget" a weekly regional newspaper by and for the plain people, Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites, etc; where the reporters are called 'scribes' and report local news of interest to their readers in seveeral states. Makes me think of the days when libraries had card files and the '
    Dewey Decimal System' of filing and newspapers had some good commentators and a few who were and still are trying to impress with the quality of their literary excellence.



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