Tuesday 1 October 2013, 6.00am HKT
T A L K B A C K T U E S D A Y
RECENTLY, I did some whistleblowing at a world-famous site. Not quite in the stature of Eddie the Nationally Insecure Snowman (geddit?), but I did reveal my part in the rise and fall of ethics in a certain ‘wordprocessing’ practice.
Monday 17 December 2012, 3.00am HKT
FICTIONAL INTERLUDE FOR CHRISTMAS:—
THE FARAWAY MOUNTAINS decided to give Alexander the destiny he so yearned for.
Hair ruffling in the dusty morning breeze, he took just one sip from the waterbag, and matter-of-factly passed it on to the next person, a nobody among a phalanx of nobodies whose only motivation to push on was to share in Alexander’s dream.
Alexander’s eyes squinted ever so slightly at the mountains. The path beneath his boots parched under the sun and the breeze, with dust rising behind each step the men made as if to contradict them.
The waterbag came round to Alexander again. And he poured the remaining mouthfuls to the ground. He was making a choice for all to see — to be with, and for, his men.
People around UFO landing in the Caucasus Mountains.
(Image by Youry Ermoshkin via 123RF.com)
Oh, bloody hell!
I CAN’T do it.
This fiction stuff is just too bleedin’ hard to do!
How do others manage to write this
crap esteemed genre anyway?
No sooner have I got that imagery in my head, it fizzles and fritters away. Whatever few abject ideas I could generate, it just goes away completely at the sight of my lovely black-pig Iberico ham (from Andalucia, Spain), semi-hard cheese, and chilled Terra Roja white wine (also from Spain).
This IS a real distraction to my productivity
My very first job in the incestuous world of publishing was that of a ghostwriter for a London publishing house best remembered for their (trashy) romance novels. It also publishes scientific titles, but roman was the genre that made it the most money.
‘Write something readable for the sales to sell’
I got the job by accident.
The regular ghostwriter/editor went on maternity leave. I was cheap (in price, that is) and literate enough (being able to read and type addresses on envelopes). I was hired on the strength of having written some crap for my school magazine and good in layouts (a useless skill for novels, by the way).
The ‘novelist’ in question left a ‘manuscript’ (or a broad interpretation of one) with the publisher. It was just a bulletpoint plan of each chapter, actually. The editor in question was told to go crawl into a corner and “write something readable for the sales to sell.”
After two or three months of writing or typing furiously on bits of paper, index cards and probably toilet paper, my first and only romance ghostwriting effort came to a thankful end when my publisher told me I was crap at this game.
Still, the publisher thought I was good enough to keep around (especially for the envelope-writing part of the work), and transferred me to the Science Department to work on chemistry titles.
Cigarette ash and scum
The Chemistry Editor told me,
“You certainly have shown a flair for chemistry, just that it’s not the kind of chemistry they’re looking for in Romance [Department].”
The Romance and Fiction Editor was a right bitch of a Fag-Ash ’Lil sourpuss. Every day she came into the office wearing that soured-up poe-face of hers. The tea was always too hot, too cold, too bitter, too sweet, too something or other with her. She’s always making a mess of the place with her Mount Vesuvius-like cigarette ash and scum from pencil rubbers. She was around 40-ish, an ex-Beatle groupie type turned ex-punk, and was the most unnaturally unromantic — most romantically offputting? — woman ever.
I’ll give Fag Ash Lil this:— She was farkin’ brilliant churning out romantic scenes with heavy doses of sexual innuendos of the pseudo-lesbian-threesome-jackhammer-it-right-in-there genre. This woman knows how to ghostwrite shitty romance novels that SELL, baby! With her dyed jet-black hair and fairly decent cleavage, short Ra-Ra skirts, practically no underwear, fag on lips constantly, you could see why many of the publisher’s male authors were ‘in tune’ with her.
I’m sorry, peep’l, I just don’t have what it takes inside me to write fiction.
And much fun was had by all, and so to bed.
[You’re fired for not putting in more sexual innuendos.—Editor]
© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. Image by Youry Ermoshkin via 123RF.com. (B12450)
Friday 17 February 2012, 7.29pm HKT
Updated 30 May 2013 (reformatting only)
In this series’ finale, we’ll look at branding and long-term operation of your blog.
You’re gunna lurve some of the graphics in this part and give you ideas.
Unfortunately, this part is absoeffinglutely brain-damagingly long.
But it IS the finale, after all.
And pure gold, even if I do say so myself.
(There’s more?! Shome mishtake shurely.—Editor)
Get some beer and pizza. Take it one bit at a time, like two nervous virgins having sex for the first time on a freezing beach in wintertime.
* * *
Just to remind readers just what the hell this series is all about, it’s a response to a question from a newbie noobhead who wants to get into the profitless game of blogging.
Blogging is a ready way to get a web presence. It is your interactive platform to examine an issue or market niche in an fast-moving but in-depth setting, and a transparent forum to engage your audience as well.
Blogging today is very much part of the public communications front of many individuals and organisations. As a proactive and transparent medium, blogging can help build or repair your overall reputation.
Deciding the nature of your blog or your target audience will determine your blog’s topicality and your choice of blog provider. Topical blogs are well-received by readers generally. Your ability to provide visitors with timely and accurate information helps to position yourself as an expert and promote your other websites.
An attractive, memorable blog name attracts visitors. Originality and keywords are important in the blog name. A blog with a good name running on a free blog service is desirable in the beginning, and could even be better than running one on a custom domain.
A basic webpage design is easier to administer than a more ambitious design, and that is preferable in the beginning. Set your newly registered blog to ‘private access only’ until the time is right to ‘go public.’
Finalise your essential static pages before your blog goes public. Most important is the About page. Some blogs may require a mission statement. A copyright notice may be applicable.
Readers appreciate both email and RSS as subscription choices. All blogs ought to display an email address for contacting the blog owner.
A blogroll of your favourite websites helps raise your blog’s search-engine ranking and therefore generate more visits.
A Testimonials page is optional, yet it will help reinforce your online credibility.
A weekly update of around 500 words is a good starting point in developing a more frequent posting schedule and higher or lower word counts as needed. Big features should be published in multipart format.
A flexible and adaptable month-by-month posting plan set up in advance for the whole year will provide regularity and consistency of coverage in stories, thereby advancing the continued life of the blog. Running a yearly biographical sketch of yourself will remind readers of the ‘person’ behind the blog and stoke up reader interest. We showed you some simple steps to develop leads for writing interesting stories.
The quality of writing for posts should be personable and engaging, whilst paying good attention to details of the topic at hand and consideration of your readers’ perspectives. Readers always favour high editorial quality, yet a high literary tone may sometimes work against the essential attractiveness of blogs: entertaining, topical informativeness and decorous informality.
Knowing basic drafting technique helps shorten the turnaround time needed to compose posts. Allow draft posts to ‘marinate’ so as to give yourself time to mull over details, phraseology and other elements and work your stories into first-class publication quality.
Resize your artwork to fit your column width before uploading to the blog servers. Oversized illustrations prolong the loading time of your webpages, thereby losing you visitors and reader goodwill.
Ensure files for downloading by visitors from your site are in correct and safe file formats that do not cause search engines or browsers to detect your blog as a spam site.
Lack of Internet connection is no bar to blogging. Indeed, that could be rethought of as an opportunity to produce more considered, higher-quality posts.
(That’s enough recaps. Get on with it.—Editor)
* * *
10. BRAND YOUR PARTICIPATION
Most of us tend to look back at our school life with some degree of fondness, in spite of the antedeluvian attitudes or even outright detestability of those strangers with shifty eyes and funny noses who either lord over or study with us.
In many ways, blogging is a bit like school life.
Just as in doing homework and telling fibs at school, you spend an obscene amount of time and effort banging out lukewarm stories night after night, recounting the minutiae of barely imaginative exploits with over-imaginative but under-promiscuous beach bunnies on your way to and from work.
And just like your schoolmates did about your fibs, you get sussed out by other bloggers, who then proceed to practically ‘flame’ you with the grumpiest, the meanest, the most demeaning and sardonically insolent comments on your own blog.
They steal the thunder from right under your feet — and yet you’re still enduringly grateful to these ingrates for their doing so out of desperation and forlorn hope that your blog actually gets ‘read’ by somebody ever since your blog started 21 years 7 months 15 days 9 hours 22 minutes ago.
You can advance your sorry little bucketslopof a blogging life with the following new and improved protips from The Naked Listener.
You are par-ti-ci-pating!
- DO:— Invite other bloggers to guestblog (or ‘guest-bog’) on your little online kingdom — and offer to do the same on theirs. Keep it simple — file your stories by email instead of opening up new user accounts in your blog.
- DO:— Submit stories to other blogs, websites, newsletters and print publications. If you do get published, this will generate credibility (even fame) for you, your ‘expertise’ and your blog. If not those, then at least ‘excerptise’ (ek-serp-tees: excerpt expertise) for you.
For that, you might get a ‘southern death threat’ (which, coincidentally, is also the name of a really nice American rock band). At least you’ll know somebody somewhere considers you’re not totally ‘not worth the beating.’
Guestblogging is a two-way street. It gives variety to your blogging routine and theirs. It gives you and them a practical change of perspective. You can create a compelling online portfolio by guestblogging.
It’s also an opportunity for others to ‘blog and flog’: blog lurkers or non-bloggers to blog on your turf without the hassle or long-term commitment of setting up their own miserable blogs.
- DO:— Attend blogcons (blog conventions). Blogcons are just like any other regular trade event. They are networking events for fun and profit, and sometimes you end up landing a real-life job from the networking. Bring your employer along.
Blogcons aren’t some hippie groupie sessions organised by arty-farty illiterates for the ‘counterliterates’ wearing cosplay outfits. Blogcons are big business and big money.
A blogcon is just like any other trade fair. Indeed, they are usually organised by the same event-planning companies that organise industrial trade fairs, military armament expositions, car roadshows, music festivals and cosplay conventions.
Visitors pay good money for tickets — and their spends at the event bring good revenue for the hotels, convention centre and the shops that supply the food, the drinks, the shopping and other sellables to these ‘pretend writers’ that you denigrate them as. Bloggers are just normal consumers and blogcons are consumer-driven fairs. The networking done at blogcons (and especially at cosplay- and comic-cons) rakes in the cash on the spot.
You need to make your employer understand this.
For instance, the memorably named Clockenflap 2011 music and arts festival I went to was profitable just on sales of food and drink alone, never mind the ticketing revenue.
Just because the attendees there were young(ish) and have shifty eyes and funny noses and wear outlandish garb don’t mean they have no money to blow in pursuit of their own brand of happiness.
Another example: Social Media Week is a major international event held simultaneously across several different continents. Venues are hotels, convention centres, nightclubs, restaurants and other high-class joints. I’ve been to some SMW events. The booze, the grub, the souvenirs and whatnot might come free for guests, but imagine the revenue for the suppliers.
You need to edjumacate your employers about blogcons.
[You’re fired for attending parties during work hours.—Editor]
- DO:— Learn things (and about people!) at blogcons. Some things you get to see or hear about blogging, you’d never even thought of before. It’s good experience for newbies and oldtimers alike.
- DON’T:— Don’t brag about your blog or show off your pseudo-intellectual literary skills or journalistic capabilities at blogcons or similar gatherings.
FACT:— You’d be surprised how many bloggers at blogcons used to be (or still are) senior staff journalists, prizewinning book writers and editors, and famous celebrities in the media business. These are people who make money from their blogs, so you shouldn’t embarrass yourself (or them!).
I once met a nondescript blogger who 20 years before won the Pulitzer prize for some kind of journalism. I didn’t believe him at first, but after I checked him out, he really was what he claimed. Thank god I didn’t insult him or anything.
Another ordinary-looking blogger I met at a mini-blogcon turned out to work for a merchant bank (‘investment bank’ to our American cousins). That blogger eventually gave me a printing order. The price of the order wasn’t thrilling but it was good for six months of office rent — not something to thumb at.
Corporatistical branding made simple
Once you’ve been blogging for some length of time, eventually you’ll have to go on ‘field assignments’ and follow up leads like a ‘pretend foreign correspondent.’
But without some kind of visible identification or credential, a blogger will have a tough time getting access to events and people — indeed often summarily denied it.
But how do you get blogging credentials? It’s not like there’s a Press Pass system for us that journalists have.
You have to make do with some home-brewed workarounds.
- ESSENTIAL:— Print your blog’s very own business card. Blog name, your name, phone number, email and blog URL. Include Facebook and Twitter as desired. Use a proper printing firm for this.
The absolute minimum — and likely to be the only corporate branding technique most of you will ever need. It obviates the necessity of you explaining yourself when you could flash a BIZNAZ CAAAERD that shows you run a blog.
Why else would you get cards printed like that if you’re not a blogger? Right?
Aside: A word about printing
The whole purpose of getting cards printed is to give them away like mad. If they’re expensive to print, you’re going to look VISIBLE DISTRESSED giving them away.
PROTIPS ON PAPER:—
Print standard-sized cards only
Use only uncoated paperstock of 120–150 gsm (grammes per square metre) weight
Uncoated cards can double as memo cards in front of your ‘interviewees’
PROTIPS ON INKS:—
Print single colour (“1C spot colour” in printing parlance).
Single-sided is “1C” and double-sided is “1C + 1C”.
Warm black is usually cheapest, but I recommend Pantone U-288 (PHOTO) for ‘authenticity’ effect. U-288 is usually dark enough to look goodly conservative, but bright enough to stand out.
Frankly, no one needs anything more than single-colour, single-sided printing.
DON’T:— Don’t use costly fancy techniques like:—
- coated paperstock
- single-sided full colour inks (“4C”)
- worse, double-sided full colour inks (4C + 4C)
- lamination (glossy or plasticised surfacing)
- rounded corners or bevelled edges
- gilt edges
- and so on
The job printer invariably recommends those exact things (“they make your cards look distinctive”) because they bump up your printing bill, okay?
[You’re fired for giving away your tradecraft for free.—Editor]
LESSONS TO LEARN
I once know a person who ran a bitty setup selling something and had cards done in—
- 4C + 4C (double-sided full colour)
- ivory white 150 gsm cardstock
- matte laminate both sides
- rounded corners
- a diecut of a star in the left-centre field
Each card costs a cool HK$7 (or 90¢ US or 57p British money)!
DON’T BE A BLITHERING FOOL LIKE THAT.
Many retail shops also go overboard with card printing. Here in Hong Kong, matte laminated cards are the favourite, which I tell you is the depth of brain-damagedness — because you cannot write price quotes on them for customers.
DON’T BE A FOOL LIKE THEM.
Granted that I’m a printer by trade and can get away scotfree on costs, my own cards still cost me a bloody expensive 17¢ Hong Kong a shot (or 2¢ US or 1p UK). Mine are 4C + 1C (full colour one side, single colour the other) on uncoated woodfree 120 gsm.
Your cards (for whatever earthly purpose) should cost no more than half-cent apiece.
And, no, I don’t print my own cards. I farm this out to a job printer for cost efficiency’s sake.
LESSONS YOU WANT TO AVOID
- DON’T:— Don’t make fake ID badges or cards even if it’s for your blog. If you flash one in public, you are arrestable for impersonation (yeah, impersonating yourself!) and/or prima facie evidence of your intent to defraud.
- DON’T:— If you put the word “Press” on your fake ID badge, that alone will SECURE your conviction on both counts (impersonation, intent to defraud).
- DON’T:— If you did your ID badge online, you’ll additionally be charged and convicted for wire fraud. If you did it offline, that’ll be counterfeiting or forgery.
YOU JUST WON’T WIN.
Impersonation and intent to defraud EACH carry a fine and 1 to 3 years in the slammer in most jurisdictions around the world.
Wire fraud is at least one more year in the slammer.
Forgery carries 5 to 10 years. Forgery or counterfeiting usually supersede copyright infringement even if you’ve actually used (say) Coca-Cola’s logo on a physical item.
You can’t plead ignorance or insanity as defence because the act of designing your own ID is evidence of your sound capacity of mind and premeditation.
Flashing an official-looking but unlawful ID is also arguably a form of criminal intimidation — another year of ‘porridge.’
But, alas, some of you faggots out there still prefer to have an ID card. One possible workaround is to print your blog’s business card in the form of an ID card, which at least arguably is less illegal.
Make your own ID cards with Big Huge Labs’ Badge Maker, and live dangerously then.
- DO:— Prepare standing ‘shirttails.’ A shirttail is newspaperspeak (and an americanism) for the brief clause that’s added at the end of a story. Necessary, if your blog is a collaborative effort or if it uses a fair number of guestposts.
A shirttail is not a footnote, as many people seem to mistaken it for.
For example, a screenshot of a compilation shirttail used in my bio:—
The shirttail is usually set in italics
But the italics for this blog isn’t so hot, so it’s in roman instead
A shirttail may be biographical, a kind of ‘about the author’ for the post writer:—
This article is reproduced by kind permission of the estate of Obi-Wan Kenobi, a Jedi master who played a significant role in the fate of the galaxy during the waning days of the Galactic Republic. Later known as Ben Kenobi during his exile, Gen. Kenobi was born in 57 BBY on the planet Stewjon, the first son of a moderately wealthy family. In French Internet subculture, Gen. Kenobi’s name has given birth to the expression ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ meaning ‘your question does not make sense.’ Gen. Kenobi was killed in action aged 60 and is survived by Mildred, his watercolourist wife, on the planet Coruscant.
Usually it’s a straightforward factual ‘after-byline’ for the post:—
This exclusive article to The Naked Listener’s Weblog was written by Sith Lord Darth Vader in Bangkok, with contributions from his Zabrack Sith apprentice Darth Maul in London and The Naked Listener in Hong Kong.
For a guestpost shirttail, it’s usually semi-biographical and semi-plug:—
The Naked Listener is the pseudonym of Robert Lee and runs The Naked Listener’s Weblog (https://thenakedlistener.wordpress.com) since around 1995/97. During office hours, he moonlights as a printer in Hong Kong and is legally trained but is not a practising lawyer, thankfully.
- PROTIP:— Use the word ‘written’ (not ‘authored’) in a shirttail. Stop being pretentious.
- PROTIP:— Italicise your shirttails. (I tend to do it in roman because the italic fount appearance on this blog design isn’t so hot.)
Srsly, if you are a professional and blog on professional matters, shirttails add to the overall credibility of your blog.
A very short shirttail in every post is highly beneficial in marketing your services, such as:—
“Marianne Dubois is author of this post and an attorney-at-law. She may be contacted at Sue, Runn & Grabbit LLP at the address given in the Contact page of this website.”
Just don’t be long and full of platitudes. Remember, playing softball wins more than hardball.
- DO:— Prepare a ‘biobox’ jpg file for use as in-text illustration.
A blogger inviting you to guestblog usually asks for your bio and a mugshot. A biobox combines the two in one. Look at the Jane Bloggs spoof biobox (RIGHT) and mine (below).
Shameless prostitution: I’ll be more than happy to produce a biobox jpeg for your blog if you supply me with your copy and a picture. It only takes me minutes to make one.
[You’re fired for prostituting for free.—Editor]
Branding: the optional stuff
A ‘corporate’ image may be relevant for advanced bloggers. The below are optional.
INDENT CARDS are postcards bearing your blog name or logo — just like those held on air by TV show hosts. They can double for notetaking use in front of interviewees, or have them held up by people in photo ops. Also useful for communicating with people still on snailmail mode. They give off a professional image and help in the pretense that you’re not a fly-by-night cowboy operator who might do a D.B. Cooper.
My own indent cards (PHOTO) are 4C + 1C, that is, full colour on one side and one black ink the other.
Each costs me around 3¢ US (or 2p British), which is comparable to the cost of a packet of 100 index cards.
But then again, I’m a printer and I’m pretentious and need the ‘corporate image.’
POCKET NOTEBOOKS with your blog name or logo on the cover. Clearly costly to custom-make but they evince a professional if somewhat journalistic image.
LETTERHEADS specially designed for your blog probably takes it right into the corporate realm, especially if you’re hoping (or imagining) your blogging could lead to paid work.
STICKERS or BANNERS with your blog name or logo are perhaps the cheapest way to corporatise your blog. Stick them on your notebooks, photobag, property, etc. The major newspapers and news agencies have their gear emblazoned with corporate ID stickers. Make your stickers in square shape (rather than a strip) so they’ll fit any item.
T-SHIRTS with your blog logo or name is something you wear ‘on assignment’ as if you’re some kind of freelance journo. I have two tees like that which I wear on those occasions where I wish to be clearly identified as a ‘staff member’ of my blog.
[That’s enough expensive recommendations.—Editor]
* * *
11. PROTECT YOUR BLOG
Your blog can get hacked or wiped just like any other website. Your blog provider can suspend or delete it for BOTOS (breach of terms of service) because of something defamatory or outright unlawful you wrote.
Alternatively, some unknown mean arsehole out there can report your blog as pornographic or spammy to your blog provider just for laughs because:—
- didn’t like your vocabulary or phraseology (foul words or not)
- didn’t like you for not writing in Chinese (and I get this complaint a lot)
- didn’t like you can write better than they could
- didn’t like your coverage is better than theirs
- didn’t like your insistence that the expression ‘being that’ is grammatical (which it actually is)
- didn’t like your atheistic or religious views on furry little animals
- didn’t like your refusal to post your private sex pictures
There are lots of people out in the blogosphere who would report you just out of spite, to troll you, just for the lulz.
- DO:— Back up your entire blog every month. Choose 10th of every month or some other date so you have a fixed date for making backups.
- DO:— Create a secondary user account for your blog for ‘backdoor access’ in case your primary login is in trouble or locked out.
I have a secondary user account for my blog, and I display my secondary login openly at work so that anybody could access the blog in case of emergency. I have never needed to use my secondary user account.
Of course, that also means any rogue user-luser could also access my blog, but only on that secondary user account. If ever that rogue pretends to be me and posts something on the blog, the rogue will be easily identifiable by the secondary username, therefore indicating the post hadn’t been posted by me.
- OPTIONAL:— A Dead Man’s Switch (DMS) post that you continually reschedule forward to act as a public alert in case something untoward or abrupt happened to you.
Your blog and the law
You can blog your insane opinions however much you want, and 99% of the time nobody cares to sue you because 99% of the time nobody reads it. True fact.
- DO:— Take screenshots of your more sensitive posts. If your blog gets wiped or hacked, or your arse hauled into court, you’ll have those screenshots as evidence.
Trouble is, there’s the 1% of individuals out there as insane as you are who will take umbrage at your nearly illiterate scribblings and have the wherewithal to haul your goddamn arse in court for a goddamn thorough drubbing.
I have seen this happen to other people and the sight is not very lovely.
- DO:— Read up about what constitutes defamation, political and criminal incitement, criminal intimidation and sedition because they have particular importance to blogging. If possible, show your draft post to a lawyer.
Many bloggers don’t realise just how much of their writings could be construed as defamatory, inciting, intimidatory, threatening or seditious (or even all of them together).
Likewise, many commenters don’t realise their comments could be legally considered as inflammatory (termed ‘incendiary’ in some jurisdictions).
- DO:— Get to know one or two lawyers who specialise in defamation, copyright and online contractual disputes. Write a letter to introduce yourself to them and ask to have their business cards “should I ever have need of your services.”
- DON’T:— Never ask for lawyers’ fee schedules because it’s impossible in absence of a case before them.
- DO:— Retain a lawyer and negotiate for a nominal (low) fee from him for ‘lawyering’ your posts. This is especially useful for blogs that cover news, politics or industry developments.
Retaining a lawyer for a blog sounds like overkill, but not when your blog covers potentially suable stuff like politics or industry ‘insider’ gossip.
Legal services don’t come cheap, so retaining a lawyer is a major long-term financial undertaking.
You might be luckier if you’re still in college or university — a good idea is to ‘retain’ your law-school pals. You get some kind of protection, and they get some kind of experience.
- Write to the law school explaining you wish to have someone with knowledge of the law to lawyer your blog articles before publication.
- Schedule an appointment with a law professor to help draw up a lawyering checklist.
Having posts for a personal blog ‘lawyered’ sounds like an helluva bigger overkill. But you can sell the idea to the law professor on this sales pitch:—
- it’s an opportunity for his law students to get some supervised hands-on practice in media and defamation law
- it’s an opportunity for legal and non-legal types to learn to work with each other (in short, to appreciate each other’s perspectives and constraints) as it will imminently be like THAT in the real world after graduation
- express that if the law professor is agreeable to the arrangement, you will be more than happy to be used in PR materials of the law school because the undertaking underscores the law school’s or the professor’s innovative and pragmatic approach to the training of future lawyers
- persuade the professor to assign students on a rotating basis for the lawyering
- the professor will be the tiebreaker and final arbiter in event of disagreements between you and the ‘lawyer’ assigned
- that your blog will credit the lawyering to the law school itself in the early stages and,
- if things go smoothly and really well, the law professor’s own name would then be added ‘prominently’ in recognition of his esteem and farsightedness
* * *
12. REFINE AS YOU GO ALONG
Some people (usually perfectionists) can’t stand being told this advice. To them, this piece of eminently sensible advice is like blowing smoke up their arse and ruin their autopsy.
- DO:— Write pre-prepared floaters suitable for running at any old time to meet your posting deadline in case you have nothing topical to write about.
Good floater topics would be small lifehacks like what kind of corkscrews are suitable for opening six bottles of wine in under 10 seconds (PHOTO RIGHT), or ‘notes’ on your ephemeral remembrances (such as mine on an ex-colleague).
- DO:— Make a style manual for your blog. This is your own usage guide to provide uniformity in the writing and design formatting of posts and downloadable documents. Use an alphabetically indexed pocketbook for this purpose.
Write in your favourite HTML codes, shirttails, decklines, boilerplate phrases, preferred nomenclature, second references, in-line jokes, etc, so you won’t have to hunt around the Internet or rack your brains for them.
No need to make a big hash of it like the Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law (a.k.a. the “AP Stylebook”). Your own stylebooks is just a MEMORY AID for your blog. You already know your own spelling and usage preferences — or should.
My blog has its own stylebook, but I almost never use it — mainly because I’ve completely internalised my stuff by dint of long working in printing and publishing.
Excerpts from my stylebook:—
Aliases (by alias). DW is _____. Mr Wankmatic is _____.
Aliases (by real name). _____ is Skinny-D. _____ is Råtta.
Biobox. Slugged ‘biobox tnl grey dark 233×528’ in Media.
Blog icon. Slugged ‘tnl blog icon’ in Media. 195 × 195 pixels.
Column width. 500 pixels.
DMS/Dead Man’s Switch post. Slugged ‘dms’ in Draft. Reset every 21 days. Include last update date.
Gravatar. Slugged ‘tnl gravatar’ in Media. 250 × 250
Header image. 500 × 225 pixels.
HTML for big fount. <big> … </big>
Japan. “The Land That Gave Us ‘Weird’ Since 1957” (when it should’ve been 1952).
Login (secondary). Username ‘______’. Password ‘__________’. Email ‘______’.
Placeholder photo. Slugged ‘placeholder thumbnail’ under Media.
Solid linespace. Shift + Enter.
Table, 2-column. See draft slugged ‘B09032 2col table’ for HTML code.
That’s the kind of oh-so-entertaining, readable stuff you should put into your blog stylebook so you won’t have to memorise them and fill up your brain drive capacity.
Search-engine optimisation (SEO)
Blogging increases your communications. Sooner or later, you’ll end up getting involved in this maddening craze called SEO.
Most of us don’t really care about this thing. In fact, I don’t give a flying f@#k (or any other kind of f@#k) about SEO — and haven’t reached the stage yet to even pay lip service to SEO.
Search engines (like Google, Bing, etc) love websites with relevant, frequently updated content. Search ranking goes up for your blog if your content is always fresh and relevant.
High ranking (especially on Google) largely rests on the number of incoming links — links from another website that points to your website.
For example, if your website has 10 static pages but no blog, the search engine will index only those 10 static pages and be limited to the amount of keywords found there. However, if your website also has a blog, the search engine will index each blogpost (plus their keywords) and that increases your SEO ranking.
The idea behind SEO is simple enough:— If you post stories of high relevance to your subject area, other websites in your subject area will link to your related articles. The more relevant (i.e. on-topic) your articles are, the higher chance that search-engine webcrawlers will find keywords and search terms on your website. That builds up your link structure and bumps up your search ranking, resulting in a higher profile for your blog. There’s no mystery to this SEO business — you just need to use keywords throughout your posts.
Well, that’s effing dynamite on paper IF your blog is heavily focused on one subject or is business-related. But what if yours is a personal blog, for which you write the first thing thta comes into your head? There’s not a whole lot of keywords to index on. Savvy?
The oddest thing is that many SEO websites themselves don’t rank high in search-engine positions. Or maybe I’m missing something, no?
The Naked Listener’s Weblog is a personal lark. I write about a whole lot of things in the most brain-damaged was conceivable. There aren’t many ‘relevant’ keywords to feed the webcrawlers — the reason why the blog has low muscle ranking. But I’m pretty sure you’ll agree this blog is nicely done all round and ‘relevant’ to many people — just that it’s not necessarily by the numbers.
SEO. It’s dynamite. It blows you away. Permanently.
* * *
Some more protips that got left behind in the earlier parts.
Some further coverage ideas:—
Prepare advance posts on neighbourhood or school events but run them at a date to coincide with their opening. Pretty soon you’ll be famous for “having ears on the ground.”
Music festivals with whacky pictures of whacky people doing whacky things.
Maxims to live by. Or not.
Obituaries prepared in advance of famous people or just your teachers, school bullies, etc, who’s quite likely to kick the bucket any moment now that you’re all grown up.
Interview friends (or their friends) who do something well or interesting. For example, I have a coincidentally female friend who is a self-taught electric guitarist with virtually a crush on American guitarist Joe Satriani. I’m planning on interviewing her about how she got turned on to the electric guitar, making her one in a million in Hong Kong where the preferred hobby of 90% of Hongkongers is property or forex speculation.
This is a static page to show blog stats so visitors may have an idea of how your blog is faring. Add to month-by-month figures as they come round. Different blog providers provide different stats. See the bottom of my January recap for an idea.
A widget (or software widget) is a small application that is installable and runnable within a webpage. See my widgets at the bottom of every page on my blog. A couple of them point to third-party sites and use their external services:—
- Date at my location
- Unique visitors
- Locations of visitors to this page
- Follow on Facebook
Learn some of these extra copydesk skills:—
Like I said, lack of Internet connection is no bar to blogging. When you draft in longhand hardcopy, leave a wide margin for edits and additions. Helpful for those who still draft in paragraphs — a way not particularly amenable to amendments later (which is exactly why drafting by paragraphs is demoralisingly still taught in academic writing.
‘Slug’ is the short filename you give to your posts.
Name your slugs properly. Eight characters or under is perfect, though not always possible.
Prefix ‘adv’ (e.g. advsmith) means an advertorial paid for by your client Smith & Co.
Prefix ‘am’ (amfestival) means a post that must run in the morning. Remove the ‘am’ on actual posting. Same deal with ‘pm.’
Prefix ‘cx’ (cxjohnsmith) means a correction to an already published post slugged ‘johnsmith.’
A dated slug (feb21bongo) must run on a specified date (e.g. 21st February). A story slugged ‘feb21paxleocenturion’ while in draft status is a guestpost from ‘leo’ on the movie ‘Centurion’ that must run on that date. Remove the ‘feb21’ at posting time.
Prefix ‘flot’ (flotwinecork) means floater while still in draft status. Remove the ‘flot’ on actual posting.
Prefix ‘pax’ or ‘gp’ means incoming guestpost. A story slugged ‘paxtnlcenturion’ is a guestpost from blogger ‘tnl’ on the movie ‘Centurion.’
Prefix ‘rando’ (rando22) means ‘R and O’ (review and outlook), which is a review of the stories you read during Week 22 plus your predictions — if you’re in the habit of writing reviews + predictions, then forget about ’roundup’ (below).
Prefix ‘recap’ (recap22, recapaug) is a recap or roundup of your own posts for Week 22 or the month of August. Learn English: you ‘recap’ your own stories but ‘review’ those written by others.
Prefix ’roundup’ (roundup32) is a roundup or review of events or stories you read for Week 32.
Prefix‘site’ (siteblogroll) is a site update post on your Blogroll page. If your site update is about About, Blogroll and Testimonial pages, use the first named (e.g. siteabout) or something descriptive (e.g. site3pages).
Suffix ‘side’ or ‘sidebar’ (greenside or green-sidebar) is a sidebar to the main story slugged ‘green.’ A sidebar is textual information placed next to an article, graphically separate but with contextual connection. Not generally relevant in a blogging situation (since blogposts are individually posted) but some designs may allow text-in-text insertions.
Prefix ‘xp’ (xpleoscomma) is a crosspost from your other blog named ‘leos’ on the comma.
Learn some of the copyeditor’s language. Know terms like a/w, biobox, blurb, byline, bybox, chart, correx, dateline, deckhed, deckline, flot, folo (not to be confused with ‘folio’), a two-deck hed, lede, obit, quotebox, recap, rando, roundup, shirttail, sidebar, slug, slugline, subbing, subhed, tagline, wirecopy, and when copy is in ‘slot.’
Know the difference between draft vs. manuscript too — for suffer in Draft Hell.
Whatever you do, don’t embarrass your friends, guestbloggers or yourself by saying naff things like ‘polishing up’ the text.
Know your shit, or know you’re shit.
[Thank god it’s done! You’re fired for wasting webspace.—Editor]
Update 25 FEB 2012
© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. Updated 13 May 2013 (reformatting).
Images: “MasterLedZ’s Avatar” by itemforty via tvreeh via Wikipedia ♦ Guest pass via Freelance Folder ♦ Convention goers via Jewellery Net Asia ♦ Pulitzer Prize gold medals by Daniel Erath of The Times-Picayune via Nola.com ♦ Pantone U-288 by Markus GmbH ♦ Gavel via Wooden Toys UK ♦ SEO image via clipclic ♦ Lawyered via Survivor Sucks ♦ Red pen and words via Heriot-Watt University Library (link lost) ♦ Linotype slug via Circuitous Root ♦ All other images by the author.
Thursday 16 February 2012, 11.59pm HKT
Updated 30 May 2013 (formatting fixes)
HAVING SUFFERED THROUGH three previous takes of this boring, longwinded feature, you’d be pleased to know this is NOT the finale.
(Shweet fancy Moses, just WHEN is this guy gonna write something SHORTER?!? Jeezoz!)
Let’s tuck in into the juicy bits of running a blog.
Get some coffee — it long (again). Don’t bail out yet. It’s f@#king worth your read.
* * *
6. How often to update your blog
DECIDE straight off how frequently you want to post.
“Failure in a long-term project isn’t just a work issue; it’s an identity issue. Is it any wonder that we procrastinate?”
—Peter Bregman, American strategic management and leadership adviser (via)
‘Poasting’* is the name of the game in blogging.
(* A word from the good ole’ bad days of the Usenet messageboards remembered with tearful nostalgia for those born before 1990.)
Say it well.
Say it sensible.
Say it sensibly.
And say it often.
You’re not just broadcasting information. Engage your readers. You par-bloody-ti-ci-pate. Face the fear.
A reality check:—
Ditch the post-a-day nonsense. Even staff journalists working for newspapers couldn’t achieve that. You’d only be setting yourself up for early burnout. Lots of blogs that go on this post-a-day spree end up being abandoned after two or three months.
Some bloggers can do that, but I can’t and I reckon you couldn’t either.
My batting average is 23 posts a month. Each post is on average 1,300 words long, plus illustration. Out of those 23, reckon on six of them being part of some multipart feature, and each feature running at 5,000 words or more, again plus illustration.
23 posts × 12 months
= 276 posts a year × 1,300 words
= 358,800 words a year on average
That average puts me right up in the rarified tier normally reserved for professional paid writers or senior field journalists or feature writers. In actuality, my word count goes higher than that.
And I couldn’t handle turning out one post a day, I don’t think…
- DO:— One post a week during your first year until you get the hang of it. That’ll be 52 posts a year — plenty enough. If something interesting arises between the regularly scheduled posts, POAST! Yours is a blog, not a magazine or TV show with fixed time slots.
“This site updates every Tuesday”
- DO:— Fix a weekly posting time during your first year, such as 8pm every Tuesday or something. Puts you in a proper frame of mind to keep rolling out new posts. It’s a routine so you won’t ditch your blog after two sordid months. It makes it possible for you to say, “This blog updates every Tuesday” and therefore gives your visitors ‘expectation.’
- DO:— Limit your first year’s weekly output to 500 words each (see below). Five hundred words is just a guideline, not a fixed rule. Go over or under according to the topic.
[Stop recommending this yet constantly write mega-features. You’re fired.—Editor]
- DON’T:— It’s a bad idea to just post on a whim. I always say this to blogging first-timers. Truth is, you won’t feel anything for weeks on end. Having said that, don’t let a routine stop you from posting about ‘things arising.’
Blogging causes feelings of trepidation even to the experienced. As the subscriber base grows, that trepidation grows with each new subscriber coming on board.
- DON’T:— Even if there’s nothing to write about, don’t skip the weekly posting. Tell us why there’s nothing to write about. Truth is, a whole week’s worth of living always, always contains something to write about.
* * *
7. You need a monthly theme plan
Otherwise called ‘flavour of the month.’
This is so easy even for the newbie blogger and well worth the effort — especially if you happen to be one of those uninspired (or uninspirable) souls who can’t seem to find anything worth blogging about.
“Planning is everything; the plan is nothing.”
— General Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1940s
Sit down and develop a monthly theme plan. Magazines do it. Newspapers do it. Television does it. Sorry, you never noticed?
- DO:— Invent a majority writing theme for each month. Twelve months, so that’s 4 posts × 500 words = 2,000 words a month (or 24,000 words a year). That’s like one school essay a month. Dead’o easy’o.
For instance, you could ‘decide’ that:—
January will be about Japanese dolls — figure on doing three posts on that plus the obligatory one on New Year’s Day
February, and there’s an art exhibition opening — one on that, two on some other artists who you dig, and one obligatory one on Valentine’s Day
March is faggoty springtime (in the Northern Hemisphere at any rate) — do some photo posts with minimal writing
April (unimaginatively) is April Fool’s Day or tax-form submission time — one on April Fool’s, one on the f@cktardism of making tax returns, one on how to design a prank, and one on a noteworthy prank you got hit with
And so on and so forth
With a plan like that, you’re already stacked with writing ideas for the entire year. Forget the ‘writing prompt’ websites. A little common sense and a little sit-down planning will be more than enough — and it will be so ‘you,’ if you see what I mean.
- DO:— Do modify the editorial themes for future months, but stick to the one for the current month. Be flexible and adaptable about your plan — change it, because the plan itself is nothing. No plan is set in stone (ever) so don’t be straitjacketed by one.
- DO:— Go out! Experience! And write about it! You cannot get inspiration or get blogging fodder when stuck indoors or have conversations with just a couple of family members or close friends.
Use the experiences and context that you have (or can capture) and share in your posts — things that you find interesting and which you think can add value to people.
If you’re passionate about cars, talk about cars. If yours is an on-topic kind of blog, keep in mind that it’s important to stay on your overall subject matter.
- DON’T:— Don’t confuse your readers by writing all sorts of different stuff that doesn’t match your blog name or mission.
Like The Naked Listener’s Weblog you’re reading!
- DON’T:— Whatever you do, please don’t start a blog that talks about grammar or one that corrects other people’s grammar!
We’re filled to the brim with those already!
I don’t question those bloggers’ passion for grammar, but many of those blogs just end up recycling everybody else’s same-old-same-old and just circle-jerking among themselves!
- DO:— Use a writing structure if your blog is a collaborative effort especially between several people in different geographical locations. Document this structure (the usual who, what, when, where, how and why) in your collaboration guide. This helps to clear your mind and not leave anything important behind.
- PROTIP:— Forget books about blogging. You’re not that advanced yet. Pointless too, unless you blog for money or professional purposes, in which case you don’t need my stinkin’ input here anyway.
* * *
8. Copydesk operations:
how to post, what to post
PEOPLE who write for fun or profit are literary faggots at heart. Admit it, you’re one if you want to get into the blogging game. I know for sure I’m one.
Trouble is, people don’t read much. Or for long.
Better write short texts. If the topic is large, split it into parts (‘takes’) and publish them on different dates.
[You’re fired since no one’s reading.—Editor]
- DO:— Blog sensibly, consistently, frequently and engagingly. Engage your readers because you’re not an info broadcaster. Leave comments on other blogs and share your blog content on social networking sites.
Be personable in style. Be sociable in tone. Be good-natured and forgiving with commenters. Your comment responses show your aplomb and tactfulness.
- DO:— Write about 250 to 500 words per post during the first year. There’s no point doing more because you’re still learning the ropes. Again, be flexible and adaptable about it.
If the subject matter calls for a higher word count, then write more. But your overall aim is 500 words max.
- DO:— The “Salami Technique” for massive writeups — slice biggies into smaller, more digestible sizes. Run big features in multiple parts (‘takes’) on different dates.
Clearly, I don’t do the Salami Technique too well, you suspect.
For this entire four-part feature, the overall word count is around 5,500 words (jeez!).
I know nearly all the tricks to make a boring, longwinded and brain-damaged story more readable.
And I learnt those tricks well before blogging or the Internet were ever invented.
And STILL I did less* than 500 words a post during my first year of blogging and also whenever I’m on a new blog service.
(* The the grammarfags:— Use of ‘less’ is grammatically and historically correct in this context, as is also the use of ‘fewer’ in this context. Naturalness counts. ‘Fewer’ is correct in a periodic sentence, but ‘less’ is more appropriate (and equally correct) in a loose sentence (like the one above). Grammarfags, learn English properly, or starve. The ‘500 words’ IS being used as a contextual mass noun, even though words objectively are countable (just as sand grains are too). The less vs. fewer is a f@#king guideline, not a ‘rule.’ In any case, ‘fewer’ just sounds wrong in a sentence like that. Get a life or get laid to expend your excess grammatical sexual-frustration energy. Stop being so hypercorrect. You win no friends.)
[That’s enough grammarshite. You’re rehired.—Editor]
- DO:— Pay attention to the details. If you don’t know how to explain an issue, then you should document the details. Documenting the details is valuable, though few people do it. Write in Q&A or FAQ format if the details are convoluted.
Write out all your questions first and set them in order suitable for the topic. Answer your questions on your own without looking at the ‘set answers.’ That will show you how in tune (or out of tune) you yourself are with the topic. Then fill in the blanks.
- DO:— Consider your readers’ perspective — a simple way to find a writeable topic. Thinking about what your readers need will help your generate ideas for stories and therefore generate value for your blog.
- DO:— Run a yearly biographical piece about yourself to remind everyone just who the hell is behind your blog. I run mine [link] on New Year’s Day every year. Consider getting someone else to interview you and write up the piece.
- DO:— Index your posts with a monthly or weekly recap — one more post!
- DO:— A weekly post of top articles you’ve read during the week — another post!
- DON’T:— Avoid using your free time to blog. Instead set a time and duration to blog and flog.
One of the greatest writing techniques from the greatest [paid] writers is to set a time duration for writing. Use a kitchen timer. Ding! Ding! Ding! and you just leave the story in draft and come back to it later at the next writing time slot.
If you set just one hour a day for writing, you’ll find (as I did) you can cover a lot of ground even for just one story.
Free time is for living and experiencing Life. Use that to generate fodder for your blog.
[You’re fired for having too much free time.—Editor]
- DON’T:— Don’t format as you write. Write first, then format. Get in the words and details down pat first.
- DON’T:— Don’t f@#k around too long writing or editing. Your blog ain’t a book or a thesis.
Movie scripts get changed constantly on set all the time. Good enough is already perfect. Published and be damned for your trivial typos, obscure grammaticality or tortuous (and torturous) opinions.
- DO:— Learn proper DRAFTING technique:—
One sentence per line — learn not to draft in paragraphs.
20 to 25 words per sentence.
One sentence per paragraph (for academic works, 3 sentences per paragraph)
One character space (not two) between sentences (read the sidebar)
Save your draft.
Go back, rearrange, edit, and combine sentences into final paragraphs.
Be surprised that many people who write for a living (or those who have something riding on the final writeup, for example, Ph.D.’s doing their theses) are completely ignorant of this commonsensical way of doing things.
Read my post on draft vs. manuscript.
- DO:— Draw up ‘flat plans’ for big, multipart stories.
Photo explains everything
Blog articles have an easy format: it’s just one long vertical column
- DO:— Label each of your stories with a “slug.” A slug is a short name given to an article during production.
Be nice to readers and don’t force them to handwrite out lengthy URLs of your posts if they sometimes have to.
For example, your post titled “How I Went to Hell and Back And Got Nothing In Return for The Effort” will have a blimmin’ long URL like—
Give it a slug like ‘hellback’ so the URL becomes—
- DON’T:— Don’t keep charging at your stories until they get finished no matter what the hell. If you’re stuck and couldn’t get through, leave it. Come back to it again in five minutes’ time. Oftentimes, the very moment you set it aside is the moment something brilliant comes to mind.
- DO:— Put in many draft posts and leave it there to ‘marinate.’
Break away and give yourself time to ‘gel’ and ruminate on them. Setting aside some time to think about how to finish your stories helps make great posts.
- DON’T:— Avoid uploading pictures in massive sizes, unless yours is a photo blog. Resize your pictures to fit your column width.
- FACT:— Uploading big pictures won’t improve on their resolution on the page. Downsized photos also saves you online storage space given by your blog service.
Your original pictures are each 3000 × 2400 pixels (2.5 MB or more).
Your blog column size is 500 pixels wide.
Duplicate your originals.
Resize and upload the dupes at 600 × 800 pixels (around 55 kB to 250 kB each).
Uploading high-res pictures of 3000 × 2400 (2.5 MB or more) photo will only lengthen the page-loading time.
By the time your browser finished 45 minutes loading two dozen 2.5 MB photos of your debauched weekend beach party, everyone’s sick of your blog and wished you had drowned at the beach or died from extreme fellatio.
I have literally seen stupid bloggers on non-photo blogs upload two or three 9.8 MB photos for a column width of 600 pixels. Took ages for the bleedin’ thing to load. I still couldn’t see the chick in the half-bikini revealing her god-given assets. Why bother?
[You’re fired for watching porn at work.—Editor. PS. She’s ugly too.]
- DO:— Convert your long or important articles into PDF files for download by readers. Some browsers never seem to print correctly. Illustrations might be too much of a distraction for some readers.
- DO:— Set up a Downloads page and gather up those PDFs of your important posts there. Be kind to readers and not let them go on a deathquest to search for your important posts.
- DON’T:— Never make MS Office/Word files for download from your website. They are often cause your blog or website to be branded a spam site.
MS Office files usually contain macros (computer input rule patterns or sequences). Search engines and most browsers can detect them but will mistake these types of files for computer viruses. And that causes your site to be mistakenly branded as a spam site.
- DO:— Only have .pdf, .jpg, .gif and .png files as downloadables. Files that cannot be converted to PDF etc (such as Excel files, .wav and .bmp) must be archived (‘zipped’) in .zip format for uploading and downloading.
Windows and Mac OSX have built-in unzippers to handle zips.
WordPress.com won’t allow .zip files to be uploaded, so that’s one further layer of protection.
- DO:— Back up your whole blog every month. Delete previous backups on a rolling basis to save hard drive space. It’s a small insurance policy in case your blog gets wiped or the blog provider shuts you down for breach of terms of service.
8A. Nothing int’resting to post?
There are times when you feel your mind has gone blank and you wonder what to write. It’s something that happens to the best of us, blogger or no blogger.
Suggestions for the confused or comatosed:—
Summarise your past week’s activities! Some writers consider this a cop-out. Nonetheless, pretty soon you have plenty to write about. Pretty soon too you’ll find yourself paying more attention to what’s going on around you — ergo, writing fodder. To learn to summarise your activities week by week on a regular basis also sharpens and focuses your mind on your life.
Holidays exist in every month: Valentine’s, St George’s Day, Hannuka, Ramadan, etc. Blog your ‘take.’ Even better, don’t talk about the holiday itself — we need no stinkin’ history of it. Go out and talk to somebody — get your pal’s perspective. Interview!
Your social calendar. Always a winner if you’re the sociable, socialising kind. Especially good with photos of chicks and studs doing crazy things. If you haven’t got a social calendar, you’ve got serious problems, pal. Maybe that’s why you’re cooped up in a room blogging about things with no context and no perspective.
Calendar dates and holidays are easy fodder. Dates are set for the year, so you’re already primed in advance. You know the Midautumn (or Mooncake) Festival is coming in August, and you can get your gear ready in July latest. You know your shipping containers will arrive in four weeks’ time, so you’re primed perhaps to do a how-to piece on containerisation.
How-to’s are wonderful if there’s something you do well. Share your information. Do step-by-step pictures. You’re a pretty good stay-at-home stripper with good cleavage, so why not do a photostrip with the last picture of you in a leotard instead of being buck-naked?
A social or political or some other issue you’re passionate about is good material. Blogging was invented for this crap. If you don’t have an opinion or not a very well-formed one, then give details of the issue to ‘clarify’ it for the rest of us.
Interview your friends. Do a Q&A piece like the ones you see in music or teenybopper magazines. We’re all nosey parkers at heart, so Q&As can be rivetting reads. It’s unnecessary to do a formal, 60 Minutes-esque job of it.
8B. Ain’t got no connection, baby
Lack of an Internet connection at home is no bar to blogging.
“As king, you must be able to see the good in every situation.”
— King Edward I (‘Edward Longshanks’) to his son and future king of England,
on the possibility of his son’s French wife being killed by Scottish rebels,
which could be exploited to get French alliance in fighting the Scots
Blogging is essentially spontaneous writing. Make the mental jump and turn your blogging into more considered writing. Write offline and then type it out in your favourite local cybercafe later.
This is also why I said one post per week.
In fact, many of my posts started life on record cards (AmE: index cards). Many people in the old days used to blog — ’scuse me — journalise or diarise in this way.
Know Samuel Pepys? He was a blogger too, in an analogue sort of way.
* * *
9. It ain’t literature, that’s for dang sure
You misunderstand the very nature of blogging. You do. We do.
You know the type. Some idiot who keeps writing in to those ‘Letters to the Editor’ in newspapers, day in day out for weeks on end, saying nothing in particular, prognosticating over everything. Eventually we realise this faggot letter-writer is doing nothing more than just literary onanism or just plain verbal diarrhoea.
Blogging isn’t the place for flexing your highfalutin’, browbeating literary muscularity.
The blogging world is actually full of these linguistic masturbationists.
(We can’t call them LITERARY masturbationists because that would a contradiction in terms.)
It’s easy enough to spot these monsters and debasers of good, clean, crisp language just by their writing styles and vocabulary.
They write as if they’re writing some textbook or tome on a politically correct subject using a traditional, conformist thesis-writing guidebook issued by The Establishment for its card-carrying party members.
DON’T BE A FOOL LIKE THEM. Blogging IS writing, but not perhaps in the traditional mould of writing for print media or academic writing.
You have to appreciate the fact that the great literary classics such as Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey,” the “Beowulf,” Edward Gibbon’s “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire,” etc, etc, etc, have NEVER been academic works.
Indeed, Shakespeare’s works were entirely commercial in nature, aimed at the uncouth, uneducated and brutish ‘masses’ who parted their princely penny (a day’s wages) to see his plays.
Not to put too fine a point on things, many blogs are actually far better written, far better detailed, far more evenhanded, more credible, with more veriable facts, and better informed than many mainstream media outlet or academic publications. Some of the biggest guns in mainstream media are absolute bullshit (just like many blogs are too, of course).
Blogging is primarily for enjoyment and informativeness. So ‘ideas’ and ‘the message’ and presentation are trumpcards than Literary Review-style grammar correctness. Srsly.
You might not regard bloggers as real writers, but they are writers real enough. The good ones ARE real writers, and many are also published authors.
[You’re not a real writer. You’re hired! — Editor]
Try not to be a grammarfreak or a linguanophile when you write. Don’t bristle at using prepositions at the end of sentences, or else—
A: “Where’s the library at?”
B: “You’re being ungrammatical. You shouldn’t end a sentence on a preposition.”
A: “Okay, where’s the library at, asshole?”
So, where’s your blog at?
* * *
[Oh, for god’s sakes, when’s it all gonna end?—Editor]
© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. Updated 30 May 2013 (formatting fixes only).
Images: Posting by Shutterstock via Photo-Dictionary ♦ Word count T-shirt via The Write Sisters ♦ Ice cream girl by Bryci.com via Fits News ♦ Topic, motherf@#ker via Nihilism and Cupcakes ♦ Buchette salami by the author ♦ Kitchen timer via Prepared Pantry ♦ Flat plan by the author ♦ Crossbow loading via edupics ♦ Computer Virus Spread to Humans via Skuggen ♦ Index cards and red pen by the author ♦ Index cards with handwriting by the author.
Thursday 16 February 2012, 6.00pm HKT
Updated 30 May 2013 (formatting fixes)
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.
* * *
6. Set up subscription functionality
DON’T force people to travel to your blog every bleeding time. You’re not a damn newspaper.
- DO:— Set up both email and RSS subscription functions for your blog.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
* * *
5. Compose your essential pages
THE THREE most important static pages on a blog are:—
- About (or About Me)
- Blogroll (or Favourite Links)
- 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.
“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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- DO:— Include your email address, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Skype or whatever else in your Contact page.
- DO:— Set up a fill-in-the-box contact form (if your blog provider allows) just to simplify matters for people to contact you.
- 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.
- 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.
“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.
‘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.
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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© 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.
Thursday 16 February 2012, 5.33am HKT
Updated 30 May 2013 (formatting fixes)
BLOGGING is an easy way to get a web presence, to show you CAN think, your communication front to the wider world, and helps build up or even repair your reputation.
Now let’s hit the ground running with actual steps.
This part relates to the lead-up and setting up of your blog. The parts to come later will zero in on the the actual running of the blog.
This part is long, but highly useful for personal and business blogs.
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1. What’s your blog going be?
BEFORE anything else, decide what your blog will be about.
Pointless to continue discussing unless you’ve got this one figured first.
By definition, a blog is not seriously planned or researched. But it isn’t slapshot or lackadaisical either. You still have to decide on the main ‘angle’ for your blog.
Blogging’s biggest plus point is that you get to write what you care, in the way you’d like, to the standard you like. That’s also its biggest minus point too. You are on your own making that balance.
- DO:— Focus on one issue instead of covering many topics. This is especially true if you’re going to blog about professional matters. Look around and identify a market niche or niche issue that hasn’t been addressed before or in an efficient way — specialise on it. This is more effective in creating loyalty from your visitors.
One interesting blog I follow is about booze. It’s a personal hobby blog. That writer concentrates on just one thing (alcohol in the form of wine, beer and liquor) and writes nothing else. He does one thing and one thing only, and does it really well.
Another blog I follow is the International Extradition Blog, written by a practising American lawyer under the aegis of his law firm. It is a professional blog written by professionals for professionals. IEB concentrates only on extradition matters so that it has immense world standing in the field of law.
By contrast, my blog completely goes against the grain of that advice, as you’ve no doubt noticed by now. But it’s safe to generalise that I put out hopefully high-quality, reasonably entertaining, almost humorous articles on a fairly consistent basis. Some of you just wished the stories weren’t so bloody long.
- FACT:— A blog indirectly helps the marketing focus of your main website.
That’s the overall message to you about blogging.
Blogs are by definition not seriously planned or researched, so their ability to convince or persuade visitors to buy is limited.
But not absent.
You’re playing softball, not hardball — a blog is there to persuade and to help drive traffic to your main website.
That being said, a blog isn’t really a marketing too either, even if you treat the article-writing as a marketing tool.
In a sense, that holds true even for a personal blog. Your ‘persona’ that comes through in a blog is very much your personality’s marketing focus. If your personal blog consistently comes across as crappy or mindless, what does that say about you?
From both personal and business standpoints, the best blogs are topical blogs. Service businesses particularly benefit from running a blog. A consultant who counsels small businesses might have a blog that covers only small business. A life coach’s blog includes entries about life-coaching issues. A bankruptcy lawyer only writes about personal bankruptcy issues.
Such topical blogs help boost traffic at their main websites. They also help build credibility for their services. If their blogs are on-topic and have accurate and timely content, then the bloggers might possibly be seen as experts, even if they haven’t gone through the hassle of getting a book published or even professionally licensed.
- DON’T:— The only proviso is that you mustn’t be defamatory, hateful, violently obscene or violently biased — otherwise your blog provider will shut you down for BOTOS (breach of terms of service). I don’t think most people are going to be THAT stupid anyway.
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2. Use a blog provider that meets
your abilities and needs
THERE are loads of blog providers, and each to their own. Most are free, but some are paid services.
- DO:— USE A FREE BLOGGING SERVICE FIRST. Walk before you run. Some people think a ‘good’ blog must start from the ground up and have to be set up on a custom URL. Unless you have some technical proficiency (and time!) in running domains and blog software, stick to a turnkey blog service until you get better. Otherwise it’s pointless and too much hard work and costly to design, code and whack out your blog on a custom URL.
I won’t recommend an all-round good service — and can’t.
But I will say WordPress.com (which hosts this blog) is in my experience and general estimation one of the better services around and a good balance between ease of use and features. WordPress has been good for me — and for me. Your mileage may vary. Take that for reference purpose only. Only you know what’s best for your blog.
(WordPress: Do I get a cheque for that plug now? Please?)
- DO:— Use a blog provider that fits in with the nature of your audience as much as the GEOGRAPHICAL TARGET AREA of the audience. Check out what kind of bloggers and readers populate the service before signing on.
For instance (and I make no representations here), Blogger (a.k.a. Blogspot) tends to be blocked in China, so that service might be unsuitable if you’re based in China or aimed at readers there. Tumblr tends to be photo-heavy, so a wordy blog isn’t going to be massive there. Xanga is favoured by teens, so any writing remotely serious in tone won’t gel there.
Of course, all the other blog providers get blocked by and in other countries too, so it all depends. The subject matter of your blog can get you blocked too, obviously.
- DON’T:— Don’t run a blog on a custom URL just because you could or it’s for snob appeal. A custom URL is sometimes actually counterproductive. Your blog name or URL clould cause it to be filtered out by search engines.
Sure, myownblog.blogservice.com doesn’t quite have that ‘je ne sais quoi’ cachet that myownblog.com has.
THIS blog is at thenakedlistener.wordpress.com — I could very well buy an upgrade and turn it into thenakedlistener.com. So why didn’t I? Because anti-porn filters would have blocked it. Catch my drift now?
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3. Invent a good blog name
YOU don’t have to, but it would be nice to have a good blog name.
It all depends. A good blog name doesn’t have to be ‘flash’ or ‘glam’ or cutsie or ‘wow-wee!’ It is a name that’s good for you. You might be self-effacing and be content with a nondescript name like ‘xiisoid’ or ‘Mary Lamb’s Blog’ — that’s 100% fine.
- DO:— Use a short, easy-to-remember name. Best if it’s written the same as it’s pronounced. Use a name that’s easy to say because that’s how the mind reads it too. If people could know what your blog is about just by its the name, the more visits you’ll get. An attractive name will spark more curiosity to visit it.
.It’s one reason I chose “The Naked Listener’s Weblog” instead of “Small Fried Fry.”
- DON’T:— Avoid using hyphens, apostrophes and other punctuation marks. Definitely avoid special characters or symbols. They cause problems for visitors trying to locate your blog.
- DO:— Use keywords in your blog name to help search-engine indexing. If your blog is about cars, the title should refer to cars.
A good name shows who or what you are — the image or idea that visitors will have before entering the blog.
Originality of your blog name is important, although it might be difficult to be both original and have the keyword in the name.
Learn from others. Look at other successful blogs — many of them have an easy and generic subject theme, and are strong and profitable.
The name “The Naked Listener’s Weblog” originally started as a posting category on bobbylee.spaces.live.com when Microshaft was still in the blogging business. When transfer time came, my two favourite category labels have been “The Naked Listener” and “small fried fry.” I went with The Naked Listener, but I could’ve just named my newly hosted blog F@#ker’s Paradise for all I cared.
- DO:— Get the opinions of others before finalising on your blog name. Once decided, stick with it (and buy the domain name ASAP if yours is a self-hosted blog).
- DO:— Equalise your domain name to the blog name if yours is a self-hosted blog. We expect to see “Joe’s Stupid Blog” at joesstupidblog.com rather than at icannotfigurethisout.com. This rule is often ignored for various technical reasons because some domain names just aren’t available. A domain name unmatched to the blog name might lose you readers along the way.
- DO:— Register all possible variations of the blog name (.com, .net, .org, .es, etc) if yours is a self-hosted blog on a custom URL. This frustrates plagiarism of your content and helps avoid future conflicts with other pages.
- DON’T:— Don’t constantly change your domains. That causes you to lose page rank and sink down in search positions. This might be important if you’re into that maddening craze called search engine optimisation (SEO) — in which case, why do you even need my input here?
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4. Start as a ‘private’ blog with a no-frills blog design
Activate your blog as private access only immediately after registering it.
That way, it remains invisible to the public until you make it ‘public.’
Design is a lot like a girlfriend. (Sorry, ladies, just making a point here.) The good-looking ones are usually a bitch to handle: lots of features equal lots of ‘drama’, plus constant servicing to stay in tiptop form. The ‘ordinaries’ are steady, have predictable drama, and pretty much self-servicing.
- DON’T:— Newbies (and old hands too) frequently make this key mistake: using an ambitious blog design (theme) at the outset. Mucking around with an ambitious blog design — on top of the writing, going to work, having sex (or being denied sex), paying the bills, etc — will grind you down like sandpaper.
- DO:— Operate on a basic design at the outset. Write up the static pages (About, Contact, etc) on that basic theme first during the ‘private’ stage. Do a trial run to see if posts come out right. If good enough, run some real posts after going public also on that basic design. Run the blog for a few months and build up some experience.
Be sensible — you’ve not even started making your first public post (or even run a blog at all before) and already you’re messing around with complicated web design elements. Prime recipe for failing.
- DON’T:— Don’t spend too much time tweaking. Try to ‘go public’ as soon as things are good enough. Refine as you go along. Yours is a blog, not TV. Things don’t have to be perfect the first time — you’ll only eat up time and your blog never gets released.
For example, my blog runs on Ambiru theme. When I first registered with WordPress, I opted for the default theme (Kubrick) and straight away worked on the ‘About’ and other pages, ran some test posts, etc. A few days in, I felt WordPress was right for me and went public. About a month in, I switched to Ambiru. Appreciate that I did all this even when I’ve had previous experience in mainstream publishing and also running a blog.
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© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. Updated 30 May 2013 (formatting fixes).