Last year, when I’d only been blogging for a few months, a friend of mine IMed me saying that he was interested in starting his own blog. I was only too happy to bombard him with handy tips and tricks I’d learned about formatting pages, organizing archives, search engine optimisation, and other tidbits, to which he replied with the textual equivalent of a one-finger salute. I told him it was his site to do with as he pleased, and he reasserted his agreement with this. Shortly thereafter, he added this text to the bottom of his site:
If you have any suggestions for my blog, please mail them to SHUT THE FUCK UP c/o GO TO HELL. I’ve had too many people tell me what I “should do.”
Little did I know at the time that this would be the best advice on blogging I’d ever receive, and the guy hadn’t even written his first entry!
I’ve been reminded of this prophetic advice a few times in the past week while reading and vehemently disagreeing with various lists defining blogs and best practices.
The first such list, entitled 10 Things Your Blogger Won’t Tell You, comes to us care of SmartMoney.com which was a hint of idiosyncrasy right off the bat. The list is comprised of outlandish generalisations, any one of which would surely turn away prospective readers after one visit. I’d like to rebut some of the more glaring beFUDdlements:
1. Hardly anybody reads me.
And? All the bloggers I read address their audiences and even answer some questions, but largely they write about themselves as they see fit. Personally, I keep an eye on my Google Analytics statistics, but I see this as a separate matter of server administration. I relish comments, but continue writing when I don’t receive any. I more often will ask myself a question than ask my readers one. Bloggers won’t tell you that no one is reading because it is a given, and is irrelevant. If you’re blogging for anyone but yourself you have already failed.
3. Did I mention I’m not a real reporter?
The text accompanying this point pigeonholes blogging as a poor man’s substitute for accredited (thus, infallible) news media. Give me a break. The gut reaction of the general populace to world-changing events IS news. Reporting from the trenches by the people themselves, not a homogenized commercial-break-friendly TV spot, is the wave of the future. Which is more poignant – the 30 second newsreel stating 100,000 people were killed in a tsunami, or the 3000 word essay written by an orphaned teen in a small affected village?
4. I might infect your computer with a virus.
Cheeses n’ rice, kindly fellate the nearest tuber or squash. I suppose what the author was trying to convey here was the fact that there are many advertisement websites hosted on blog platforms like Blogger which offer no value to readers and exist only to trick people into clicking a pay-per-click site. The only thing this has to do with blogging is the publishing platform. I don’t think I’ve seen a virus on a web page in a decade.
The rest of this list really isn’t worth glorifying with criticism. It’s reflective of the typical tiny plea coming from traditional mainstream media outlets too stubborn to change with the world they’re supposed to be the authority on.
The other list I’d like to comment on is by a hugely respected name in publishing and technical communication, Tim O’Reilly. His list is a Draft Blogger’s Code of Conduct. I suspect such a code is in response not to the needs of bloggers, but to those who criticise them. This is a wooden fire escape, in my opinion, since “blog” is a squiggly-defined term to begin with. Here are some of the points I take exception with:
2. We won’t say anything online that we wouldn’t say in person.
Why? Isn’t that kind of the point? (not to do so, but to be free to do so) I’m pretty sure the above statement is true of my blog, but I defend the freedom to do otherwise.
4. When we believe someone is unfairly attacking another, we take action.
If that action is to thrust with our pens then I agree. Otherwise, who is “we”? What is the consolidation between bloggers? I don’t think I’m in the minority of bloggers for having a self-centred blog. If a blogger I read is insulted, and this, in turn, insults me, then I will attack with my +2 verbiage of scathing. Otherwise, good luck buddy.
5. We do not allow anonymous comments.
Two words on this proposal – FUCK THAT. The real power of blogs is that they are portal to the human being who offers the content. A door is a better portal than a window. By default WordPress requires an email address from commenters, but I disabled this. The internet is all about freedom, and I want to assist people in choosing their degree of anonymity. Net neutrality encompasses more than bandwidth allotment.
Blogs are not mass-produced widgets that come in a plastic vending machine egg. Blogs are different things to different people. That’s the real power. You can make a blog designed for daily ranting, product placement, customer support, organizational planning, document storage, radio show playlists, a public calendar, communicating with employees, or whatever else you can dream up. Why limit this? Why impose guidelines? Why craft one size of reins when you don’t even know which animal will be pulling?
Thanks to James for teaching me this.
I just read this post on Matt Cutts’ blog and thought it was a great follow-up on my comments. It’s short and sweet, plus it has a picture of his cute kitty, so check it out. His is one of my favourite blogs so be sure to bookmark it!