I was going to title this post "Blog-a-lama-ding-dong" but I read somewhere that the title should be very descriptive (for better search optimization). So, my brother decided to start a blog. He was looking for some direction. I am by no means an expert blogger, but I do have some ideas about blogging. But remember - not an expert. If you are serious, seek professional advice.
Below are some random thoughts, and observations from my slightly more than 1 year of blogging.
Oh - here is my brother's blog (lifeofajenius.blogspot.com). I am still not sure what it is about, but his post on science podcasts was somewhat informative and entertaining.
What do you write about?
I think the real answer here is - whatever you want to blog about. But, it depends on the goal of your blog. My goal is to become popular enough that I can sell out the The Man (as described in Cosmic Variance). In that case, I would like to increase my readership. To do this, I decided to blog about something that I know some stuff about (physics) in an area that is not over represented. Suppose I was an expert in video games and I wanted to blog about that. That would be great, but I would just be a face in the crowd. If that is your idea, you can still go with it but it may not be popular enough to sell out. So maybe this leads to the next question.
Other blogs have different focus. Actually it seems like the majority of blogs have posts about other blogs. Basically, a way of sharing stuff you find on the internet and maybe adding your take on the content. These can be very useful given the vastness of the internet. I typically don't post about other blogs (but sometimes I do).
This is a tougher question. People can blog for all sorts of reasons: self fulfillment, as a hobby, as a career, or even for revenge. There is nothing more satisfying than revenge-blogging.
I started blogging really as a way to "put out there" small little projects I had completed as an example for students to follow. I enjoyed it quite a bit and could not stop. At one point I had also thought about writing a textbook, but now I am not sure how textbooks are going to go. Here is my new outlet for this stuff - my blog. So, really I blog as a way of teaching.
I think if you blog just to do it, that is also great. One idea I have in my mind is that I will post something in the event that someone will find it useful. Basically, I am trying to make the internet a better place. How many times have you had some specific problem and you found the solution to that problem on someone's blog? I have been really saved by other blogs before. That is why I will post some stuff (for example - how to fix a Kenmore 44072 Washer with a F03 error).
How do you get started?
Clearly, I am a newbie in this area. However, I will tell you what I did. First, I made a blog using some software (RapidWeaver). Rapidweaver is a program for Mac OS X that takes care of all the menus and stuff on a webpage. Good idea, and good for some stuff - but not that great for blogging. I eventually switched to something more standard - WordPress. You need some place to put your blog. I purchased server space from LunarPages - but there are tons of these out there. Here is a post from LifeHacker on Reliable and Affordable Hosts. There are also some free options - blogger.com and WordPress.com are two that come to mind. You don't have as many options with these two as you would with your own paid for hosting, but they are infinitely more free.
Once I started writing, I wanted people to read my stuff. How do they even know it is there? I have a couple of strategies.
- Be a spammer. At first, this was my only strategy. Every time I wrote something, I submitted the link to social sites like digg, reddit.com and some others that I even forget now. This sort of works. I never made any headway with digg, but one nice thing it did was to make the post more findable on search engines.
- Join the blogging community. There is no membership form, just start reading other blogs like yours. Contribute useful comments. Add some good blogs to your Blog roll (list of blog links). When you comment, be sure to include your URL for your site - but don't be a spammer in the comments (unless it is completely warranted).
- Use some search engine optimization plugins. I really have no idea if this helps or not - but I did it.
Another strategy I have found to work is speed. Suppose something is popular on reddit or digg. If I can be quick and do an analysis and post it, I can catch the popularity wave from that post. You have to be quick though. This is sort of like eating sugar, it gives a good quick boost but it doesn't keep you going for long.
One last thing
The last thing to remember is to just write stuff. I wouldn't recommend writing all the time and putting out garbage just to put out something. You can even post just once a month. However, when you get an idea, just start. This is not a peer-reviewed publication. It can have errors (for example see every one of my posts). I find that sometimes a post will seem like it will take a long time to complete. This intimidation sometimes delays my start. If I just get to it, it usually is not too bad.
I think the most important part of the entire process (save actually deciding that you want to blog) is "What do I blog about?". And the answer is "Whatever you're interested in". The best blogs are about stuff that the writers really care about. And there's an audience, maybe not a big one, for just about anything.
I agree...I have a blog..NO ONE HAS EVER READ IT...but who cares!!