HOW TO START BLOGGING - UPDATED 1-16-06
Jay Tea of Wizbang recently had a woman ask for help on how to start blogging. Brilliant though Jay is, he had no help to offer. Even the commenters were a little sparse on advice, which was both surprising and disappointing. So, for the sake of this unnamed reader, I'm going to toss out my thoughts on starting blogging.
YOUR NAME: Surprising as it may seem, the first step is NOT "run over to Blogger and sign up". The first and most important step in blogging is to choose a name for your blog. Although it seems like such a small task, it's actually the hardest part. Once you choose your name, you're pretty much stuck with it for your blogging career. It's possible to change names later on, but it means throwing away the name-recognition you worked so hard to build up over the course of the previous months.
Take your time with this step. Think carefully about the name you want. Sleep on it. Mull it over. When you finally come up with the right name for you, you'll know it. There'll be an almost-audible "click" in your head. Write that name down, then set it aside for a while. When you come back and read it again, if that click is still there, that's the name for you.
YOUR TAGLINE: This should expand on or explain your blog's name or your blog's general theme. It can be something witty that you create yourself, or even a quote that you find to be particularly appropriate. You don't have to be quite as selective as when choosing your blog's name, since taglines are easily changeable, but do give it some thought, as it will be the second thing your new visitors see, and it will, to some degree, affect how they interpret what you've written.
START WITH BLOGGER & BLOGSPOT: There are lots of blogging software options to choose from, but for your first blog, I recommend signing up with Blogger and being hosted at Blogspot. Why? Because it's free. If you decide later that blogging just isn't for you, you can quit and be out not a single penny. Also, it's user-friendly and has extensive help/FAQ resources
YOUR FIRST POST: Should suck. It's a tradition. Something like "Hey! Look! I have a blog now!" is a good way to test your posting ability.
YOUR SECOND POST: Should be a paragraph or two, introducing yourself to the world at large. Your name/pseudonym, where you're from, why you started blogging, and an overview of what you'd like your blog to be about. It's not your whole life story, just a good, solid "Howdy".
YOUR THIRD POST: And every post after that - whatever you want. It's your blog, and you can do with it as you please. Don't let anyone ever tell you different.
BELLS & WHISTLES: There are three things that Blogger does poorly or not at all, and I recommend that you use third party services to handle these things.
1) COMMENTS: Although Blogger DOES offer a comment feature, I personally find it slow, clumsy, awkward, and unreliable. I suggest using Haloscan. Not only are they faster and more trustworthy, they also give you trackback capability. All it costs you is the time to sign up, and using it is as simple as copying and pasting a single line of code. You can even use the "Autoinstall" option and not have to do any template-tweaking at all.
UPDATE: 1-16-06 - Since this entry was first posted, Blogger has improved their comment system - by allowing people without Blogger accounts to leave comments and by offering a word-verification spam filter - to the point where you probably don't NEED to use Haloscan unless you want to. Over at Alliance HQ, Basil makes a good case for using Blogger for comments and Haloscan only for trackbacks, and explains how.
2) PAGE VIEW COUNTER: Blogger doesn't offer one. Sitemeter does. It lets you know how many people have visited your site & how they got there. Free for the sign-up. Serves no practical purpose, other than allowing you to obsess about how many people are or aren't visiting your site. By which I mean it's the most important line of code you'll ever copy & paste.
3) IMAGE HOSTING: Eventually, you will feel an irresistable urge to post a picture of something. Probably your cat. Don't worry, it's normal. But how do you get that image from your computer to your blog? Blogger doesn't offer image hosting, and the service they recommend - "Hello" - is a cumbersome, unwieldy, user-antagonistic piece of crap. Don't bother. Keep it simple. Use ImageShack. Very simple, very free. You can even use it without registering if you want, but I recommend registering, since it's simple, non-invasive, and makes it a LOT easier to manage your images.
UPDATE 8-10-05: Blogger now offers image hosting, which I review briefly in this post.
That should be enough to get you started. Once you've got a few posts under your belt, then it's time to get yourself noticed, tips for doing which can be found in my "Fighting Invisibility" post.
The thought I'll leave you with is the thought I started with. Before you take the plunge, spend some time thinking about your blog's name and theme, and what you want it to be about.
In tribal cultures, young teenagers are often put through a rite of passage, after which they are given adult names. A blog is like that. Forget what your parents call you. Forget the names you were called in school. Forget the names your family & friends call you now.
This time, you name yourself. Listen to your soul's whisper, and become who you already know you are.
UPDATE 5-24-05: [If you've found this post useful enough to blog about, send a trackback or e-mail the permalink to me at harvolson-at-gmail.com and I'll add you to my Bad Example Groupies blogroll. See this post for details]
posted by Harvey
on October 2, 2004 at 10:04 PM
More Blog Basics from a major blogger.......
Excerpt: Harvey from Bad Example has advice on starting a blog. While I agree with most everything, I think Blog-City is a good place to start. In this post I talk about both. I have added Harvey's post to this Blog Basic's entry.
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I have been helped a lot by other sites that p...
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stellar work there Harv *claps*. This should be stored by the powers that be for access by all potential bloggers.
Now I'm off to post another image of my pussy ... erm... cat.
.. I chose the name for my blog in 5 minutes.. it was a total accident... but, great post Harvey.. a lot of good information here...
Choosing the name for my blog was easy, but remember how I made myself sick over the tagline? I kept e-mailing you stuff, bouncing it all off you? Then I decided 'screw it' and opted to have none. It worked. I may change it one day, but for now, it is what it is.
Great advice Harvey! I kind of did half of that ass backwards, but I'm the kind of guy who would have rather been out the cash than have to deal with Blogspot at all (so I bought hosting immediately). Then again, I'm also the kind of guy who thought teaching myself HTML and how to modify MT templates from the ground up was "fun".
My blog name took about 10 minutes, the tagline
about another 5. Sometimes it just all clicks.
GREAT ADVISE Harvey!! But you already know how much stock I put in your points here. I have to admit I didn't put much thought into my Name - I sometimes wish I would have gone with something shorter, catchier. But...it's also pretty damn accurate and now feels like a good pair of button fly jeans - comfortable and only a bit cumbersome.
As for the tagline - I started out with a stupid blib that tried to describe what I was trying to do, then just went with a quote that defines my point of life pretty well.
It's funny how important those "about me" and introductory posts are. When I discover a new blog, the first thing I do is go to the first few entries, looking for WHY they started to blog, what they hoped to do and a bit about who the writer is. If I can't figure that out in the first months worth of posts, I usually don't go back. I like variety, but still want to know what to expect (for the most part) when I visit.
I had the name of my blog figured out before I had even made the decision to create it. If I remember correctly, I was at Grau's house and he was attempting to pursuade me to start (for the 10th time).
Hmmm, seems I am a bit ass backwards as well..The bit about the first post being lame as a tradition...crap...MOST of my posts are lame (when I bother posting at ALL).
Anyway, I wanted to say great advice for the "how-to" because I will definately be checking out Haloscan and ImageShack. Thanks!!
Shut your friggin pie-hole...
ROFL!!! Harvey I remember when you were ummm insisting that I blog instead of merely comment. It took me forever to think up a name - that was actually the hardest part. It seemed to me all the really good ones were taken *grin*.
As I recall, you were more impatient for me to think up a name than I was... but yes, you are absolutely right - the name is extremely important. And those of us not so blessed with great naming thought processes have the worst time with that bit.
I'm the woman and I am going to thank you for this help. Appreciate it. Printing it out, too.
Once again, I fail to see Gun Pr0n mentioned. Sheesh, fellas and fellahin, Google hits on Gun Pr0n generate 20% of my 40K! Feel free to steal some of mine.
Excellent advice, Harv... I would add just one more:
Just because you're a programmer, don't be lulled into thinking you can take some unfinished, unsupported, free blogware and get it working (there's more of this out there than you might imagine).
If you spend all your time fixing broken code, you have little time left over for actual blogging. Unless, of course, you prefer coding over blogging. And if that's the case, what the hell you want with a blog, anyway? Plenty of broken code out there if all you want to do is tinker. (If this sounds like the voice of experience from a blogger n00bie, that's because it IS. Grrrrrr....
Great tips. I've never felt the blog name "click." When I was still using Blogger I changed names three times. My worst mistake was when I decided to switch I decided on my domain name in about 2 minutes after I found out the one I really wanted was taken. I've been dissatisfied with it from the beginning and I want to change it but there are all those links out there.... ~sigh~
You "Shirley" followed your own advice in the naming of blogs. You have indeed set a bad example. :) 'Reminds me of T.S. Eliot's "The Naming of Cats," where he begins:
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
The third name is the one of which you speak for blogs:
The name that no human research can discover --
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess . . .
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.
That's the difference between them and us, of course. We can't WAIT to blab our secret name out there for all to see.
Sissy - One of my favorite poems, that I first came across at about age 11.
The pointless musical "Cats" almost ruined it for me, though :-)
Anyway, VERY apt point.
Harvey is like ham and eggs or BEER
"Not just for breakfast anymore"
Thanks for the advice.
Where Haggis Ain't Cake!
Robert - my pleasure :-)
Oh, and beer used to be JUST for breakfast? ;-)
The right side of your center blue border is cut-off in my browser, making your the last character butt up right next to the right frame. Looks sloppy, I thought the expert would want to know.