You don’t post? (3/5)

Thursday 16 February 2012, 6.00pm HKT


Updated 30 May 2013 (formatting fixes)

FROM PART 2

WE CONTINUE with how to refine the setting up of your brain-damaged blog so that visitors won’t laugh so hard when they see it.

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6. Set up subscription functionality

DON’T force people to travel to your blog every bleeding time. You’re not a damn newspaper.

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  • DO:— Set up both email and RSS subscription functions for your blog.

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  • DON’T:— Don’t give people a hard time signing up. People get bored if they have to jump through too many hoops. All you should ask for is their email address, but only optionally their first name and surname.

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Give readers both choices. It costs you nothing. There’s no extra workload on you. Email subscribers might not have the bandwidth to handle RSSes from many blogs. RSS subscribers might be too tetchy to face constant email bombardment.

Tumblr bloggers (‘tumbtards’) are world-renowned for their near-total absence of subscribe function for non-Tumblr users.

Blogger/Blogspot bloggers (‘blogheads’) are famous for forcing their readers to rely on RSS feeds and/or the quirky Feedburner for email distribution.

No offence to Feeddurrhurr, but one of its more irritating aspects is it often doesn’t show the originating sites of the posts when it delivers to your inbox. Which blog did this come from? It sometimes groups posts from different blogs into a digest email. Other than that, Feedburner runs a first-class service.

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  • DO:— Subscribe to your own blog via email and/or RSS so that you can see how your new posts will look when delivered to your subscribers.

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I follow 300+ blogs and mailing lists of all kinds of subjects imaginable. Given a choice, I always choose email delivery because there’s no way in heaven or hell I’ll able to click around Gmail Reader for the RSSes. Some of my ‘follows’ offer only RSS, so I end up just skipping the lot. But that’s just me. You may be the type who likes to hunt around for new posts on RSS.

Personally, I’d prefer HAL 9000 read the stuff to me, and then I beg HAL to rip the oxygen tube from my space backpack.

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5. Compose your essential pages

THE THREE most important static pages on a blog are:—

  • About (or About Me)
  • Contact
  • Blogroll (or Favourite Links)
  • Testimonials
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‘About’ page

  • FACT:— Your ‘About’ page is the one page that generates the most clicks on your blog.

Admit it, we’re all nosey parkers at heart.

Spend time composing your About. Say something about yourself. Tell us why you blog. Include at least one random ‘fact’ about yourself that could possibly excite some curiosity in the visitor. Most people put in 10 to 25 ‘random facts about me’ in their Abouts.

Example (invented):—

“Jane Bloggs here, and I am a 21-year-old blonde with long legs and short skirts studying at Deadsville University in a field that nobody wants to get into: Astronomy. This blog is where I put my romantic life on hold so I can talk about everything unrelated to boys and books. I’ll post terribly fantastic (or fantastically terrible) pictures of my daily life for everybody to laugh at, plus whatever few thoughts I have left after education has destroyed my mind.”

If you’re projecting yourself as an expert in some field, lean on the side of formality — otherwise decorous informality always sounds more welcoming to visitors.

In a strange way, writing your About often helps you come to realise the whole purpose behind your wanting to blog and the ‘angle’ you might be taking that you never thought of when you first got started.

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  • DO:— Put your blog’s mission statement in the About — let visitors know what the bloody hell your blog is all about. We are readers, not mindreaders.

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For instance, my original blog mission is still on the books. Readers of a year’s standing or so will have noticed that my current scribblings have long superseded that.

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Some bloggers like to retain their original blog mission but use a strikeout fount (like this) to indicate it’s been superseded. Others prefer to just replace the damn thing with a proper update. It’s up to you.

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  • DO:— Enable comments and pingbacks on your About page so that it doubles as a guestbook. Try not to force visitors into clicking all over the place just to put in a nice word about your blog.

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  • DO:— Put your email address in the About page. If you like, include your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Skype and stuff. Some of us are rather garrulous (like me!) so it’s a good idea to set up a separate Contact page so visitors aren’t forced to plough (AmE: plow) through a morass of insane paragraphs just to get at your contact details.

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  • DO:— Use a picture of yourself so as to humanise your About page.

I highly recommend a picture of your present-day self and a baby one to show visitors just how far brain-damaged the years (or blogging) have caused to you.

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  • DO:— Put a copyright notice and a disclaimer, if required. Make it discreet and non-threatening.

Most of the time, I rather you didn’t put in a copyright notice.

That professional blog called International Extradition Blog that I mentioned in Part 2 don’t have a copyright notice — and these guys are lawyers! IEB also uses a very basic blog design, so learn from them.

But if you have to have one, I would recommend this general-purpose copyright notice:—

“© Joe’s Stupid Blog, 2012, except as otherwise stated or indicated. You are welcome to reuse content from this website as long as you indicate the content used as being from this website. We shall do the same in return for our use of your material.”

That deliberately leaves plenty of ‘grey legal areas’ for your reblogging or use of third-party material — not such a bad thing even from a legal point of view. That notice is legal and legit, even though it’s not couched in traditional legalese.

For those who prefer a more traditional copyright notice, this one is suitable for most blogs, again leaving enough legal legroom for reblogged material:—

“© Joe’s Stupid Blog, 2012. All content of this website is copyright by Joe Bloggs except as otherwise stated or indicated. All content is purely for informational and reference purposes. Joe Bloggs makes no claims or representations as to the contents’ suitability for any use or purpose by any party. Any reference bearing similarity to any person living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional. Errors and omissions excepted. For syndication and other queries, please contact us at the address in the Contact page.”

Realise you cannot be too fastidious about copyright over your own self-created blog material, considering you might have to reblog or use other people’s creations.

Insisting that others “ask for my permission first to use any material from this blog” will bring you enormous legal trouble when you’ve got third-party material floating somewhere in your blog.

Try this quid pro quo provision:—

“Joe Bloggs appreciates your reuse of content or material from this website as long as the source of the content or material is suitably accredited to this website or to Joe Bloggs. In return, Joe Bloggs will do the same for content or material used from your website.”

Sometimes it is better to leave things in grey areas than be black and white about them.

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‘Contact’ page

SOME people never learn.

There’s a surprisingly large number of blogs or websites with absoeffinglutely no contact information anywhere on them. And I’m not talking about spam sites.

Even more astonishingly, some of those contactless blogs also deactivated their comment functions — so there’s just no humanly possible way to interact with them or contact their blog owners.

You’d be surprised just how many linguistics, sociology and grammar-related blogs are like that. The mind boggles at their antics.

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  • DO:— Include your email address, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Skype or whatever else in your Contact page.

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  • DO:— Set up a fill-in-the-box contact form (if your blog provider allows) just to simplify matters for people to contact you.

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  • DO:— Set up a dedicated webmail account for each of your blogs. I recommend this over using your regular email. Set each webmail account to forward incoming mail to your regular email address. Easy peasy, lemony squeasy.

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  • DON’T:— Unless your is a company or institutional blog, don’t put your street address or phone number anywhere in the blog. You’re asking for trouble from burglars, spammers and financial touts. No one is going to ring up or write snailmail to you when you’ve already got an email contact somewhere.

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“But I don’t want to be disturbed!”

Why in shweet heavens then do you want to have a blog? How the hell is an email going to ‘disturb’ you? I think you are pretty ‘disturbed.’

This is the same kind of brainless f@cktardism I see frequently on Facebook.

Many people set up their Facebook, do up all sorts of whatnots, add in plenty of laughable information about themselves — but no contact details. If their Facebook gets wiped or if Facebook is blocked in their country, there’s no way of contacting them outside of Facebook.

No man is an island … but some people come pretty close.

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‘Blogroll’ page

‘BLOGROLL’ is the static page where you put hyperlinks of your favourite websites, blogs and whatnot.

Some bloggers like to write a short opinion piece summarising each of the sites included, while others just list them in some kind of order.

The blogroll is important because it improves your blog’s search-engine ranking. Search webcrawlers index your site according to weblinks (among other things) that point to other sites, and vice versa.

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‘Testimonials’ page

THE ‘Testimonials’ page can be set up later.

It just looks odd and fatheaded to have it at the outset, bereft of content, unless you have testimonials already from work or someplace else.

The Testimonials page is where you put in recommendations and praises (or even criticisms) from other websites, blogs or people about your blog (or you own self).

Testimonials for blogs are similar to those you’ll find on marketed products or résumés. They are very short paragraphs (usually as short as one or two lines) written by somebody (usually well-known) who’ve read your blog, or a person whom you’ve worked with before, or someone willing to vouch for your credibility as a expert in your subject area.

For instance, if you know the vice president of a company you once worked for, he might write a couple of sentences touting your level of experience in the subject area.  This helps to toot your horn as an ‘expert’ without your having to do the work yourself.

As to criticisms, I say put those in too. Their very presence can usefully highlight your evenhandedness in dealing with negative judgments (and possibly also death threats generated by your insane and biased blogging).

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In Part 4 next, how to run a blog to make it last

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© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. Updated 30 May 2013 (formatting fixes).

Images: Subscribe? via Jason Rose ♦ Who am I? via Invisible Doctor ♦ Copyright in words via Thailand Law ♦ Copyright Is Killing Music via Pirate Party UK ♦ Airmail label via The Graphics Fairy ♦ Dislike button via Digital Trends ♦ Blogroll chick via KickKickSnare ♦ Excellent, Good, Average, Poor via Career Rocketeer ♦ All other images by me.

4 Responses to “You don’t post? (3/5)”

  1. This was a great series of posts. Great advice from a giant of the blogging world. You have made me aware that I have to rethink and reorganize my own blog. Thanks for the tips- 100% on the money as usual mate.

    Like

  2. Rob, mate, I follow dozens of blogs and I still rate yours at the top of the heap. You do all of the things that a good blogger does. You post things without to much fussing over them, you keep your stuff topical, great writing style- so in your face. If someone was to ask me what a blog should look like I would send them here.

    Still my favorite blog- that makes you a giant in the cyberworld in my books. Keep givin’ ’em shit and keep on blogging.

    Like

    • I’m flushed with blush at the praise. I just do whatever needs to be done to make things an easy read for the readers. That’s all I’m doing. In lots of ways, my readers/subscribers/followers are my ‘customers’ (even if theirs is unpaid patronage). They (like yourself) took the time and the effort (and often the patience) to come to the blog and read my insane scribbles. Just because they don’t pay me doesn’t mean I’m let off giving them a good effort. It might not be my best effort, but I wouldn’t like to insult followers with a shoddier shade of crap. I’d rather post fewer of good (or good enough) quality than do constant bombardment with shite. But maybe that’s just me.

      Like

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