Yesterday I had an interesting conversation with a young friend at work. He is thinking about taking up blogging and it got me to thinking about what I have learned from the blogging I have done through the years. I think most of it boils down to a lot of common sense – be nice, treat people how you would want to be treated, etc. However, there are some other things that are worth mentioning for those who are new to blogging:
1. It’s ok to blog under a made up name.
Blogging under your real name opens you up for a lot of garbage you may not want to deal with. Number one thing I can think of is that employers data mine to find out more about potential employees. If you blog under your real name and have opinions that do not mesh with a potential employer, it could cost you that job. Some people may not worry about this, and that’s ok too. Personally, I would rather keep any potential employers guessing. My business is my business, not theirs.
Also, you have family or friends that may give you problems about your opinions/ideas/etc. Sometimes it’s easier just to keep the peace by not blogging under your real name. This brings me to my next point:
2. It’s ok to be yourself.
Your blog should not be encumbered or hemmed in by what others think. You should feel completely free to talk about any subject you wish, and let your freak flag fly. You may have thoughts and feelings that nobody else knows about that will feel good to just get off of your chest, and blog can be a fabulous outlet for things you can’t tell others. One thing is guaranteed – after a time, you will meet others of like mind, and then your horizons will explode. You will meet some really great people, and run into some awful internet trolls. See Rules #4 & #5 for more about trolls.
3. Fact check before you post. And then do it some more.
I can’t stress this highly enough. Make sure you know what you are talking about before you blog about it. It’s always easy enough to shoot from the hip and just blurt out what you think you know, but check yourself. Spend some time reading up on a topic and check a couple of different sources. You don’t ever want to be caught off guard by someone who posts on your blog because you got your facts wrong. Be ready to cite reliable sources, but also don’t take criticism to heart.
Also, check the temperature on the topic. What are other people writing about, and what are some of the prevailing notions and opinions? You will know right away if someone is talking out of their ass, or if they have done their homework, if you have already done yours. It is also OK to ask for your reader’s input about a topic. It’s a good conversation starter and another interesting way to meet people of like mind. Sometimes your comments on a given blog post will get really full!
Not all posts will be totally about a factual issue. Sometimes you will write totally about your feelings and opinions. Be ready for people to push back. See Rule #6
4. Don’t sweat the trolls
Trolls are everywhere, lurking under whatever bridge you come across and are waiting to attack your blog. You can’t argue with these idiots because they live for hurting feelings and making people mad. Your best bet is to ignore them because they thrive on drama and love to stir pots. This doesn’t mean that anyone who posts contrary to what you think is a troll…most people are pretty decent. If worse comes to worse, you can always block them if you have to.
5. For the love of all that is green and holy, don’t BE a troll.
When it comes to other people’s blogs, the Golden Rule is the thing to keep in mind. I wrote a whole post about how to reply to posts that make you mad and you can find it here. If you go through and read all of the different associated blog posts and comments that are linked from that post, you can see the whole perfect troll storm that can take place. All it takes is one jackass to light a whole bunch of people’s hair on fire.
6. Use conflicting opinions to foster dialog and learn something about yourself.
When someone posts a differing opinion, do some research, ask questions, and get that dialog rolling. Visit their blogs and make thoughtful comments on their posts, unless they are trolls. An example I have to share about fostering dialog on differing opinions can be found here, and probably in the blog post following that one. Go ahead and blog about difficult topics. These are things the probably need to have a light shined on them…drag those suckers out in the open and give them some fresh air. Just be mindful that your opinion isn’t the last word on a topic…you never know what someone will be passionate about.
7. Make sure you have permission to post pictures or content if it isn’t yours.
If you copy from other places, it’s a good way to get your blog complained about or shut down altogether, unless you have permission from the artist/author, or use common domain information/ images. It’s probably the best idea to use original pictures you take, and write your own content. Make sure to give credit to someone if they give you permission, or if it comes from a common source. You can always try googling public domain sources for images as well. Just be aware than Royalty Free and free of cost are two different things.
8. Don’t just blog about one topic.
You are a complex human being with thoughts, feelings, and an innate sense of curiosity. Blog about anything that makes you question or feel something. Use this as an opportunity to learn more about something you always wondered about, or expand upon something you know a little about. Write a confession, write a review, share recipes. Whatever interests you enough to think about, is good enough to blog about.
You can always be more specific later, or in a separate blog page. I know people who have separate blogs for separate topics. Me, I throw it all together in one giant pot. Everyone has their own style and you will have to blog a while before you find out what yours is.
9. Keep it positive.
Using your blog as a place to constantly whine/complain/rant is a HUGE turn off to a reader. If you have a rant, bring it, but make sure to do your homework and provide structure to your argument in such a way that people will want to engage you in conversation. This takes practice. Don’t be afraid to leave a post sit over night and read through it again the next day so you can see it with a fresh pair of eyes.
10. Above all, don’t give up.
It takes a quite a while of writing your own blog and reading/commenting on other blogs before you will get your own following. Blog for yourself, and no one else. Those of like mind will find you, so long as you make sure to use your tags effectively, and participate in other people’s blogs.
Well, there they are – Sparrow’s Top 10 Rules for Beginner Bloggers. Please note that these are my rules for blogging…not necessarily anyone else’s. While I feel like these are pretty much common sense rules for blogging, they are not the end all – be all. Blogging is a good way to learn more about yourself and how you truly want to interact with the world around you. The blogosphere is a vast, amazing, fabulous place, and if you stick with it you will not only make some interesting friends, but learn a lot about yourself in the process.
Now go blog your heart out, and make up your own rules.