On Posting Practices

By Deane Barker

Aaron Mentele is asking about posting practices for people who blog a lot.

But while the first part of my prediction seems to be true, I can’t say the same about posting getting any easier. Deane Barker tells me he spends 15 minutes on each post with the exception of an occasional chapter on cms practice/theory. I spend an hour.

I know this probably isn’t the most intriguing topic if you aren’t a blogger yourself, but, hopefully, soliciting some thoughts on the matter will improve my posting and make this blog a better place to troll.

Here’s the thing: most of the posts on Gadgetopia are regurgitated crap. To explain, here’s my theory that there are fundamentally three types of blog posts:

  1. A link to something with no commentary of any value. This is 80% of the posts on this site. There is really no reason for anyone to link to this – they should just link to the source. If the target URL is A, and Gadgetopia links to it as B, then C should just link directly to A, bypassing me at B since I didn’t provide any value at all. A “Via Gadgetopia” might be nice, but I shouldn’t be the actual target of the primary link.

  2. A link to something with enough commentary to provide a value-add. An example is that rant on outsourcing I went on last week. It started as a link to a news story, but there’s enough substance of opinion there that it might be worthing linking to it, rather than the source I’m talking about. (This post, incidentally, is another good example of this type.) I like these posts – they’re a good mix of speed and value.

  3. An actual, honest-to-God, original blog post. I’ve done a fair amount of these, some of which I’m really proud of. I’ve spent three to four hours on some of them, and they’re rare for precisely this reason. (Not surprisingly, they’re all related to content management.)

That last one is where the work is, and it’s what I see mostly coming out of Aaron’s blog, which explains why he spends a lot of time on posts. I commend him – it’s hard to keep pushing out original content, and it’s easy to fall into the “hit and run” style that we do here so often.

I should really split this blog up, like Kottke does. He has his actual blog, full of original posts, then his Remaindered Links, which are examples of the first and second types I discuss above.

We’ve talked about this quite a bit as well in the context of “posts vs. pages.” About three years ago, I asked this:

What’s the difference between a blog post and an “article” or a “story”? By those terms, I mean content that isn’t as ephemeral as posts that hit the site every 15 minutes.

Blogs are, by definition, transient – they’re time-based, and items get essentially dropped into a stampede that tramples down the front page. What if you want something to rise above the stampede?

Still struggling with an answer to that one. But, in the interested of coming up with some answer to Aaron’s original question, here are two thoughts on posting:

  • Post for yourself only, no one else. Blogs are a reflection of your own personality, and that’s what makes them interesting. If you start trying to post for some amorphous community of readers instead of yourself, then you lose interest in what you’re writing about, and then what’s the point?

  • Never be afraid to insert yourself in a post. Blogging is narcissistic by nature – let’s face it, we all like to hear ourselves talk (and, frankly, I love to hear myself talk). If you “genericize” every post and strip the personality out of it, then what do you have? Journalism.

Now, journalism is cool and all, but there’s enough of that around, and you’re not a journalist (repeat that: “I am not a journalist.”). People read blogs because there’s a human element – someone expresses an opinion or relates a story. Don’t ignore that.

(Want proof? Go read some of the traditional media blog efforts, like On Deadline at USA Today or Anderson Cooper’s blog at CNN. They talk about the same news the “real” news sections do, they’re just more informal and you can “hear” the writer in the text.)

Related to this, I think more blogs have died because someone was pretending to be a serious journalist than for any other reason.

This happened to me once: I started a Sioux Falls blog called “Celebrate Sioux Falls.” I started off with some nice little posts about stuff I saw around town, and then I suddenly got it in my head that I was a semi-serious journalist, and I started planning stories, and lining up interviews, and researching topics, and all that.

The sad fact is that I wasn’t a journalist, and I didn’t have time for this, and I set up an expectation (with myself and my readers, if I had any) that I couldn’t follow through on. One day I realized it just wasn’t that fun anymore, and I stopped.

This brings me to a third point:

  • It’s gotta be fun.

If it’s not fun, you won’t do it, so if it’s not, ask yourself why. Maybe original posts aren’t for you and you’re just doing them because you feel like you have to. Maybe you’re more suited for hit-and-run. If so, don’t hide from that – embrace it. (I give you, Fark.)

I should conclude by mentioning that Aaron is a principal at Electric Pulp, who are a direct (and the main) competitor to my company, Blend Interactive. Aaron was also one of the three people (with myself and Nathan) behind the Sioux Falls Blogger Meetup which happened last week and was pretty fun.

(Postscript: When I stopped doing “Celebrate Sioux Falls,” I let the domain lapse. Some squatter sat on it for a year. I just looked it up and found it was available again, so I re-bought it.

Aaron, Nathan, Corey, Todd – I have an idea for a project we should talk about…)

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