Rogue Ink

April 8, 2008

The Blog Do-Over

Filed under: Blogging — Tei @ 10:17 pm
Tags: , ,

Remember the do-over? Lose a game of Rock Paper Scissors and you got to do it again, with that magic little phrase? It didn’t matter if paper covered rock. You called a do-over. Because the sun was in your eyes and a caterpillar crawled over your bare foot and you were distracted by a shiny piece of tinfoil on the ground. And you got that do-over, didn’t you, every time. Because five-year-olds understand what is just and righteous. Man, I miss being five years old.

I’m doing over my blog. I’ve learned a few things, which I’m going to list here, and I’m about to take my own advice. If you come back in and some old posts are missing and there are new categories and everything is strange, bear with me. I am trying to do this up right this time. Because scissors cuts paper, damnit.

Here’s what I should have done. Learn from my mistakes, people.

Browse first, blog later. I started browsing after I’d already begun blogging, and that was a horrible mistake. Go to blogs that are similar to what you hope your blog will be. Look around. Look at all the archives you can find. Link to the people who leave comments, and go check out their blogs. When I first started looking around, I thought I was only looking for other writers. If I hadn’t been browsing the comments at Men with Pens, I would never have found IttyBiz, and if I hadn’t found her, I wouldn’t have found Shane & Peter, Dosh Dosh, and Skelliewag (the latter of which has an incredibly relevant post on how to increase your blog’s popularity, but I’m not there yet. I’m just going for ‘good.’ ‘Popular’ I will aspire to later. Like, next week.) Observe these blogs. They are doing everything right. You will learn from them.

Write a plan. Nothing too fancy. If you want to write on a few different topics, or if you have ideas for a good feature, write those down. If you’re going to be blogging on recipes and you want to include one post a day on an unusual use for chocolate, write that down. And then post it. And tell me about it. Because I want to know about unusual uses for chocolate. Decide what you are going to talk about, and what you are not going to talk about, and how you are going to be interesting. Because boring blogs suck. This is the number one rule, in fact. Do not be boring. It applies everywhere in your life.

Start writing. Do not be boring. Try to be clever, try to be interesting, try to stay on topic, whatever that topic may be. If your topic is your long-standing love affair with your OCD disorder, then so be it. Tell me all about how many times you waxed the floor. Tell me about the best kind of wax. Tell me to stir it counter-clockwise instead of clockwise. Do not tell me any of this if your blog is on executive media relations, because I do not care. Try to spell correctly and form coherent sentences. It bothers everyone when you don’t. I’m not talking about a random typo, just as a general rule. Or I might have to get all ranty on you.

Write one post a day. Or close to it, especially if you’re trying to build traffic. People who are momentarily amused by you will expect to be momentarily amused again the next day. And the next. And the next. If you do not amuse them, they will move on. It’s a long, slow slog into the territory of ProBlogger, where if there were no posts for a day, people would rend their garments and keen. Which brings me to . . .

Be prepared to stick it out for the long haul. You are not your readers’ reason for living yet. You are only the guy at the bus stop that they chatted to one day. A very nice guy, personable, funny, entertaining. If that guy is there the next day, the reader might chat with him again, and eventually that guy and the reader might become buddies, and then they might go out, and then he might be the reader’s reason for living. Way, way down the line. That guy is YOU. Moral: do not think that the readers have fallen in love with you just yet. You have to stick it out. Unless the reader in question is your mother. She already loves you. You don’t have to worry about her.

Unless she’s about to marry some shady guy she just met on a cruise. Then you should worry. Otherwise, you’re good.

Blogging is not one-sided. Blogging is just as much about reading as writing. You could write the most brilliant commentary in the world, and you would be very, very lucky to get a good readership. Go to other people’s blogs (you remember, the ones you researched? Go to those. You already like them). Comment on things you think are interesting. Click on the links to other commenters if you think they’re funny or you like what they have to say. Bookmark those blogs if you think they’re brilliant. You won’t be able to find them later. Seriously. It’ll be like your keys.

Show some love for others. One of the best things you can do to increase traffic to your blog is to comment on other awesome and noteworthy blogs and link them to your site. DO NOT comment on blogs if you don’t actually like them. DO NOT link to blogs just because those blogs get a lot of traffic. Do not, in short, be an ass about it. These guys are out there. They do little hit-and-run jobs, drop a comment that says ‘hey come look at my blog its coool!!!’ and then they run away again. Do not be that guy. We HATE that guy. I have only been here a few weeks, and if I saw that guy on the street, I would hit him in the nose.

Now, on the other hand, if I were to encounter any one of the lovely people who’ve been by just to post a nice comment, I would buy them a cup of coffee and ask after their children’s health. You see the difference?

Respond to your comments. All of them. Even if it’s just to say thanks for stopping by. If you really like the person and think they’re clever and funny, you should say so, and get a little bit of repartee going. Naomi at IttyBiz has agreed to be my nemesis, and I have never been so thrilled in my life.

Respect your elders. And by this, I mean elder blogs, not necessarily elder people. Though you should respect your elder people, too. Give them your seat on the train. Come on!

Some of the people out there blogging successfully for ten years are only about my age (and I am VERY young. In fact, I wet my bed last week). Thank them profusely when they show up on your blog and say kind things about you, and do not, by all that is holy, abuse their comment boards. Remember that many of these people are very intelligent and could probably kill you with the sheer power of their Digg page status. This is a mighty power indeed. It is a good thing Darth Vadar never found out about it, or that whole Dark Side issue might have ended differently. Then again, we might not have had to suffer through Episodes I-III. So it’s kind of a toss-up there. But still. The point is, it is a MIGHTY power, and though most bloggers are benevolent folk, they can bring WRATH upon you.

Don’t plagiarize. I should not have to say this, but I will anyway. Don’t plagiarize. It is just WRONG. However, one thing that is completely allowed is saying ‘DoshDosh did something brilliant today, and I’d like to riff off it for this next post.’ I wouldn’t do this all the time, or people will think that you cannot think for yourself. Yes, that is correct: the blogosphere will judge you. Sometimes they will judge you worthy, sometimes they will judge you sadly wanting, but judged you will be. Get used to it.

So this is my do-over. I’ll be posting over the next couple of days about the categories I’ve come up with that I’ll be referring to regularly, some of which will be off topic, but they will say they’re off topic in big, friendly letters so you can identify them easily and from a distance. Those are also probably the categories where all the naughty words are going to be, so if you get a kick out of that kind of thing, come on down.

What do you wish you could do over? If you have additions, I want to hear, because everyone remembers that there are infinite reasons to get a do-over, and all of them are valid.

Look! Shiny piece of foil!

Totally legit.

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37 Comments »

  1. I’ve read about ten million blog entries on how to write a blog, and this is by far the best one I’ve come across. No, really! I don’t feel talked down to, and you make a great point about fostering community and not just getting a zillion hits.

    Thank you so much for posting this; as a new blogger it is nice to know that I am probably headed in the right direction.

    Comment by jimsmuse — April 8, 2008 @ 10:44 pm | Reply

  2. […] read The Blog Do-Over and give her some support because you know the first month of blogging sucks rocks and […]

    Pingback by IttyBiz » What You Should Be Doing Instead Of Clicking Refresh On Your Google Reader — April 9, 2008 @ 1:37 am | Reply

  3. Tei: I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do with your blog, because in my honest opinion, it is already awesome. Your work here today will be very useful for someone starting out. I will be pointing people this way in future.

    To answer your question, what do I wish I could do over? Honestly, unless I could clone myself so as to send the clone to work and leave me at home to blog all the time, I don’t think there’s anything I would do over. This doesn’t mean I did everything right, far from it. For me, I set out knowing I’d be making mistakes, I’ve made a lot, and I figure I’ll make a lot more. Fail early, fail often.

    And that’s okay. The prizes go to all of those who come out and give it their best shot. And you’re doing a darned good job of it, so keep it up.

    Comment by brettlegree — April 9, 2008 @ 2:38 am | Reply

  4. Hey, I came over cause, well, I like IttyBiz. But y’all are not my niche of blogs, that is for sure. That’s why it was so refreshing that you made me laugh (not anything out of my nose but still, good smile on face). We have approximately nothing in common but blogging, but in my limited (6 mos or so) experience that’s an ok thing. The community of bloggers is an impressive yet surprising (to me) benefit of writing one atall. So welcome! Keep being funny and real! And what are you blogging about anyways? Besides starting to blog (well)?

    Comment by MamaBird/SurelyYouNest — April 9, 2008 @ 3:04 am | Reply

  5. Tei: Stopped by after Naomi mentioned you. Great post! I look forward to reading more.

    Comment by earnestparent — April 9, 2008 @ 3:08 am | Reply

  6. I found your site a few days ago from a few clever, USEFUL comments you’d left at two favorite blogs (you’ve named them), but was reading from a comment-lame mobile device and didn’t opine. I just read this post on the mobile too (as unusual and annoying and unpleasant as reading an ebook onscreen), and came back to my office to (besides work late) add my two cents.

    WELL. DONE.

    Your learned-the-hard-way post echoes what I’ve been noting from the better bloggers we’re enjoying, and I appreciate your doing all the heavy lifting… Keep up the smart work! RSSing you now… (love the Rogue Ink name, but with your great pen image in your header, I keep wanting to call you “Rouge Ink!” HA!)

    .

    Comment by GirlPie — April 9, 2008 @ 3:10 am | Reply

  7. This ought to be on the front page of some sort of manual somewhere. The kind of book you pick up when you’ve learned enough to know that you don’t really know what you’re doing. 😀 My desire to be financially solvent through the internet is growing far faster than my ability to achieve that goal. Your post is a good, basic list to check in with along the way.

    I definitely look forward to hearing more from you. Thanks.

    Comment by Margot — April 9, 2008 @ 4:07 am | Reply

  8. Jim’s Muse: Thank you! I wandered over to your blog too, and left you some commentary over there. Teaser for all others: there is cake involved.

    Brett: I am always happy to see you. Fail early, fail often, indeed. I’m learning.

    Mama Bird: I just wrote you a whole post, all to yourself, to answer that question. It’ll be up and running in the morning. Thanks for indulging someone in a completely different realm of lifestyle, though, and for coming by!

    Earnestparent: I shall do my uttermost to be entertaining at you every time you come.

    GirlPie: You rock my little world. You wrote this whole long epic series on taglines for Naomi, and it made me inhale a dried cranberry, it was so funny. Thanks for the compliments – about the Rogue/Rouge thing, I have high schoolers who keep calling me ‘Rouge Girl’ and it because they cannot spell, and it makes me sad for them. One day I will have a blog design all my own, yes I will. One day in a distant future . . .

    Margot: Thank you thank you! I don’t know if I’ll ever be financially solvent through the internet, but if I figure out how, you may be sure I’ll spread the word over here. Come back soon!

    All of you, come back soon! I am ecstatic that you’re here!

    Comment by Tei — April 9, 2008 @ 5:56 am | Reply

  9. Oooh, thank you, now I know what I should’ve been doing over the last month! At least my do-over won’t be changing much, since I have like less that 10 posts.

    Comment by s g — April 9, 2008 @ 9:43 am | Reply

  10. Awww, I wish I read this before I started blogging, but better late than never right? Great post! Will look forward to more. No pressure. Hehehe.

    Comment by Alyson — April 9, 2008 @ 9:44 am | Reply

  11. Happened upon your blog from WP front page. Very amusing, succinct and useful. You are 100% right about never being able to find good blogs again. I’ll be back!

    Comment by Chefleur — April 9, 2008 @ 11:14 am | Reply

  12. Well, I know I’ve written about the things I’d do better if I could start all over again, but dang it, I can’t find the specific posts where I did that (disadvantage of doing this blogging stuff for ages – too many posts!).

    However, the most important thing is to separate content from presentation. I cannot tell you how much pain I went through before I learned that I *will* change the way things look and therefore it is critical to keep the content separate from the window dressing.

    Off the subject of blogging, but relevant to business is this: http://aplawrence.com/foo-self-employed/retainers.html
    That concept can’t be applied to every business, but you’d be surprised at how many can use it to advantage.. maybe even you..

    Comment by Tony Lawrence — April 9, 2008 @ 11:46 am | Reply

  13. Tei

    Thanks for making me realising just how much my blog sucks! Harsh but fair.

    I’m so impressed by your comments that I might even implement quite a few of them. So there!

    Thanks again and don’t worry about following your rule about replying to all comments because you’re going to get about a million and that would only tire you out and you’d stop writing and that would be a shame! Phew. Big sentence.

    Andrew

    Comment by Andrew — April 9, 2008 @ 12:55 pm | Reply

  14. s.g. : I had thirty posts. Now I have eighteen. I didn’t have to change that many of the posts, I just had to figure out what categories they belonged to, and get rid of the extraneous stuff. Don’t make it seem intimidating or you’ll never do it. Get yourself a rum and coke and just toy with things.

    Alyson: It is all to the good. Just call a do-over. I swear, it works just like it did back on the playground. Look around your blog, figure out the stuff you want to change, and change it quietly in the night. Then, when people give you shit, just look at them like they’re crazy and say, “Dude. I called a do-over.”

    And it will all be all right again.

    Chefleur: Thanks for bookmarking me! Look forward to seeing you again!

    Tony: Thanks for the link and for coming by so often with great advice. I’ve been browsing around through your archives – there’s some great stuff in there. You’ll be getting comments on things from back in 2006, so do not be alarmed. Tis only I, your friendly neighborhood rogue.

    Andrew: You’re sweet and it’s good of you to be concerned. But if I stop responding to comments, then the Communists win. And by ‘Communists’ I mean ‘Naomi’. And we can’t have that, can we?

    Comment by Tei — April 9, 2008 @ 2:23 pm | Reply

  15. Thanks for a great article. It made me remember that being a blogger means something like being a kid pretending to be an adult who is pretending to be a kid, or something like that. Blogging needs some kind of balance between following a serious set of rules and making up new rules as we go, with a healthy splash of learning by mistakes.
    I’ve lost track of how many do-overs I’ve called so far. The biggest thing I’ve learned in the last two years (with building, then scrapping two different personal network blogs) is an appreciation for the people who know how to do it well.
    You’re on your way. I’m still getting started.

    Comment by 1bobzilla — April 9, 2008 @ 3:09 pm | Reply

  16. 1bobzilla – Thanks for coming by. Blogging is a weird little line to walk, trying to be entertaining and useful both. The people in my blogroll are my models for this. Well, some of them are just damned useful, but most of them are also wildly funny.

    Those are probably the secrets, right there. Be entertaining. Be useful. That’s about what I’ve got so far.

    Except for the ‘useful’ part. Hm.

    Comment by Tei — April 9, 2008 @ 3:55 pm | Reply

  17. I look at blogging as my morning coffee with friends and colleagues. I do my first 1K of the day, I blog, I read my “Daily Blog Reads” and then I’m ready to tackle the rest of my writing day.

    Comment by devonellington — April 9, 2008 @ 4:05 pm | Reply

  18. I had to come back because I’m still trying to figure out how to develop a blogroll for WordPress. At the moment, I’ve bookmarked this blog in my Google bookmarks.
    The info here IS useful and entertaining.
    My current strange thought is that blogging is the most recent development of the long-standing, time-honored tradition that some people know as “cafe”: people getting together to talk about whatever they want to talk about. In that setting–and THIS setting–there’s always a combination of using humor to get a word in and then making the most of the moment when you have the podium.
    Then stepping aside to let someone else have their say.
    Speaking of which…I have you bookmarked and I’m going to go back to sipping my coffee.

    Comment by 1bobzilla — April 9, 2008 @ 4:50 pm | Reply

  19. @tei: Comments from 2006 don’t alarm me.. I go back to 1997 on that site and actually that was migrated from a site I started in 92 or 93 (hard to remember that far back).

    Another thing you need is navigation links to take us from post to post (you only have pillar to post now). In other words, I’m reading this and I want to go to the next previous.. and get to read all thirty posts, see?

    Comment by Tony Lawrence — April 9, 2008 @ 5:45 pm | Reply

  20. Hi. Thanks very much for this. My blog needs a do-over too. I feel like I now have permission to do one (over) and some guidelines to boot!

    You’ve also made my day with your blog name. I’ve been back to this post a couple times today and sometimes I pronounce it Rogue and sometimes Rouge. By using rouge ink to write Rogue Ink you’ve given me a dose of comedic infinity. Thank you for that too.

    Comment by Mark Dyck — April 9, 2008 @ 5:57 pm | Reply

  21. devonellington: Yeah, it’s starting to be an all-morning thing with me. I am going to have to moderate.

    1bobzilla: Very true, I find that some of my favorite places to go for writing advice are online.

    Tony: Ooh, I don’t know how to do that, but I’ll see what I can do. I think if you click on the archives button you can see everything, but I know that’s a more annoying way to go about it. I’ll try to set aside some time to figure that out. Keep the suggestions coming, I always like to know what you’re looking for.

    Mark: Blame WordPress for not having a green ink pen in their templates. Though you’re not the first to make the Rouge/Rogue connection – I may have to leave it red when I get a proper web design. just because it’s tickling you all so. Go do the do-over! It’ll make you feel sparkly.

    Comment by Tei — April 9, 2008 @ 6:03 pm | Reply

  22. Great comments–very helpful. I’m still rather new at this and enjoyed reading your post. Thanks.

    http://www.jonesview.wordpress.com

    Comment by Jones — April 9, 2008 @ 6:10 pm | Reply

  23. Hey, glad you liked it. Little tip it took me about a week to figure out: if you go to your profile in WP, (up in the right-hand corner where it probably says, “Howdy, Jones”). Click on ‘Jones.’ It’ll give you a bunch of stuff for your profile. Scroll down to contact info and enter your blog’s URL in the ‘website’ category, and it’ll automatically link to your blog every time you post a comment. Then you won’t have to post it separately within the comment box like that.

    Hope that’s something you’ve been looking for. I know it drove me batty for awhile.

    Comment by Tei — April 9, 2008 @ 6:49 pm | Reply

  24. Wonderful insight and advice for new bloggers. I recently lost my blog due to letting someone else set it up for me. When we parted ways my blog was erased. Mandatory do-over.

    Comment by blackramfarm — April 9, 2008 @ 8:29 pm | Reply

  25. Re: navigation links

    I don’t use WordPress so do not know how you put these in, but MWP surely does know.

    On the other hand, the more you learn yourself, the more you can do with your blog. A quick Google search turned up this: http://codex.wordpress.org/Template_Tags/posts_nav_link (and that came from http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2005/08/18/navigating-your-wordpress-site/ which also looks useful).

    Other friends may let you down, but Google is your BFF.

    Comment by Tony Lawrence — April 9, 2008 @ 9:10 pm | Reply

  26. I liked your blog. I thought it was funny & appropriate. I especially liked the bit about waxing the floor.

    Comment by Jesse — April 9, 2008 @ 10:32 pm | Reply

  27. Some great tips here…I did the “blog do-over” thing in January, and I have to say, really sitting down and thinking: “what do I want to say?”, the “plan” if you will, the “topic”…that made a huge difference!

    And I love your tip on the replying-to-comments thing…I read on another blog once: “not replying to comments is like not saying a word when someone you know says hi to you on the street”…I like that analogy, and I think it rings true!

    And of course since your new blog is in the works, I’ll have to bookmark you so I can come back to see how it’s going!

    And, have fun of course, so I hope you do! 😉

    Comment by romi41 — April 9, 2008 @ 10:40 pm | Reply

  28. Tei – I wandered over on Naomi’s recommendation. I don’t really have anything new to say that hasn’t been commented (roughly 27 times) before me, but I thought I’d still let you know that this is a great “first” post. I’m looking forward to see what else you have in the pipeline.

    Comment by David @ PostcardPerfect — April 10, 2008 @ 3:45 am | Reply

  29. Well done Tei, love the list. Especially “write a plan”. It can be kind of annoying when Naomi says to me something like “Remember last year when I said I might write a post about that thing that that store was doing something with? What was that about again?”. Write it down, and you won’t forget. BTW, you are so right- five year olds are the epitome of justice and righteousness.

    Comment by Jamie — April 10, 2008 @ 4:13 am | Reply

  30. blackramfarm: Ooh, that sucks. I’d’ve been pissed about that. I still kept my old posts, you just can’t see them anymore. They’re all for me.

    Tony: It’s true. Google is my friend. Until my father starts using Google Earth to stalk my new house. ::ring, ring:: Is your house the green one? . . . Uh. Yes. Daddy? Are you stalking me? . . . Yeah! It’s so COOL!

    Jesse: Well, who doesn’t like a freshly waxed floor? Especially if you’re wearing socks?

    romi41: True that. Come back anytime.

    David: Thankee muchly indeed, come back tomorrow. We’re talking about bunny rabbits and economics and Mini Coopers. Good times.

    Comment by Tei — April 10, 2008 @ 4:15 am | Reply

  31. Dang it, Jamie, you were my new favorite person over there in Naomi land, and then you went and posted while I was replying to all these people. Now I have to do a whole other one for you. ::sheesh::

    But you have the extraordinarily redeeming quality of agreeing with the silly things I say. Which must be why Naomi loves you.

    Come back soon.

    Comment by Tei — April 10, 2008 @ 4:17 am | Reply

  32. Thought I’d drop by to say hi and that you’ve got great tips, as a new blogger. You seem to be having it altogether. A wonderful beginning!

    To your online success!
    Evelyn

    Comment by Evelyn — April 11, 2008 @ 3:53 pm | Reply

  33. This has to be the best article about how to write a blog I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of them. Concise, funny, and helpful – you rock!

    I stopped by thanks to Naomi’s recommendation and I’ve subscribed to your blog so I won’t lose you later. If only I could subscribe to my car keys so I wouldn’t lose them so often. 😉

    Comment by Sandie — April 11, 2008 @ 4:50 pm | Reply

  34. Followed over from IttyBiz. Reinventing your blog; that is so brave. And I know about this because I have been planning for a couple of months now but I’m moving from Blogger and there are so many decisions like do I close it altogether, or leave the family friends stuff? It can be suffocating. Good luck.

    Comment by Deb — April 25, 2008 @ 2:35 pm | Reply

  35. Hey Taylor,

    So I am fundamentally honored and embarrassed at once. I kind of let our blog go to pot. Think I ran out of things to say for a little while and needed to stare at my own navel. I here you about the do over. The crazy part is that I’ve had plenty of do overs in my life. And they often work out.

    So rock on!

    Comment by shane — April 26, 2008 @ 6:28 pm | Reply

  36. […] If I worried about having the exact relevant experience necessary for each job as it presented itself to me, I’d never write again. But I don’t. I’m versatile. I’ll write about chocolate, and then I’ll write about electronic resumes, and then I’ll write about modern art. Different voices, different backgrounds, different set of facts. One of the great things about being versatile is that you’re never bored, and you’re never boring. And as we’ve established over here in Rogueville, being bored sucks, and being boring sucks more. […]

    Pingback by Versatility, Hats, and the Happy Man « Rogue Ink — May 7, 2008 @ 6:42 am | Reply

  37. […] didn’t have one when I started, it didn’t have one when I did the do-over, and it doesn’t have one now. But it will. Oh, it will. As assuredly as Nathan Fillion holds […]

    Pingback by Houston, We Shall Have Relaunch. « Rogue Ink — October 1, 2008 @ 3:40 am | Reply


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