Not too long ago, an Objectivist e-mailed me to ask for my advice about blogging. I wrote the following comments with the intention of blogging them, as I thought they might be of interest to present and future bloggers. I’d like to particularly highlight my advice on running a queue, as that’s been invaluable to me. So without further ado, the e-mail:
I have a few recommendations based upon my own experience. They’ll be more or less applicable to you, so take what you like and leave the rest.
- It’s critical that you blog on topics of interest to you. Don’t censor yourself based upon what you think your audience wants to read. Don’t force yourself to write what you think your audience needs to read. To be sustained over time, blogging has to be totally self-motivated. For me, that means only occasionally blogging on politics. Because the basic Objectivist perspective on contemporary political debates is generally quite straightforward, it’s just too easy to repeat well-worn Objectivist platitudes in blogging on daily political events. So I try to only comment when some unusually interesting event catches my attention. Perhaps you’ll have something more insightful to say on politics than me though!
- Don’t set your standards too high in blogging by requiring every post to be some well-developed argument. It’s just not that formal of a medium. Not every post even needs to be philosophically important. Some posts can just be funny. Others might be strangely interesting. And some might be small revelations about you as a person.
- It’s hard to sustain blogging over time. To do so, you need to thoroughly automatize a standing order to your subconscious: Be on the lookout for stuff worth blogging! Don’t limit that search to articles that you read on the internet; that’s too narrow. Tell your subconscious to alert your to anything of interest to your blog, then allow your conscious mind to veto the material that’s too personal, complicated, boring, or whatnot. Without that blogging habit, you’ll quickly run out of ideas for posts. Also, I write down general ideas for posts in a central location, so that I can work on those posts when I’m otherwise bereft of ideas. I also have a central repository of half-finished posts to finish as time permits.
- If you blog at fairly regular intervals — whether a few posts an hour or a day or a week — you’ll keep your readers coming back, as they’ll know how often they should check your site for new posts. Personally, I aim to post twice per day, although sometimes I post just once, whereas other days I’ll post three or four times. My blogging used to be more irregular: I’d post a bunch one day, then not at all for the next few days. It just wasn’t possible for me to actually write blog posts on a terribly regular basis. I fixed that difficulty with the queue — the next point.
- To ensure regular blogging, I use a queue. Basically, I keep a queue of 5 to 15 completed but not yet published blog posts. (Blogger isn’t set up to manage a queue well, but I’ve made it work by saving the queued posts as drafts, with the date set to 2006. That keeps them in the order of writing but at the top of the list of existing posts. Then I just have to change the date and time when I post them.) If a post is time sensitive in some fashion, I’ll post it right away. Otherwise, I’ll post something from the queue once or twice a day. The queue allows me to post regularly even though I might not write any blog posts for a few days, then write a bunch of posts in a single day, and so on. I can also space out the longer and/or weightier posts, so as not to overload my readers. I often find that I’ll edit a post to my greater satisfaction while it’s waiting in the queue.
- Be careful of when you post, in that weekend are slow times on the internet compared to weekdays. I delay important posts written over the weekend, even if I’m eager to get them out, for Sunday night or Monday morning.
- Don’t just be an idea factory: Let your readers get to know you as a person. Blogging is an excellent way to meet new people, particularly those that comment in response to your posts. That preliminary contact often eliminates the need for the pointless chit-chat between strangers that I find so difficult. Allowing your personality to show through helps that process. However, I must admit that I often have trouble knowing what to say when someone I don’t know at all says that they read NoodleFood. They have such an advantage: They know tons about me but I know nothing about them! Still, that’s better than nothing.
- Be aware that some people will be downright alarmed to be mentioned on your blog. With the exception of hate mail, I don’t reprint e-mails without permission. I also don’t mention names in a post unless I know with reasonable certainty that the person won’t mind being identified. Remember that anyone can read your blog at any time. So don’t make snarky comments about particular people unless you really don’t care that they might hate you forever after that. Personally, I could say much more than I do about graduate school, but I’d hate to commit professional suicide in such a pointless manner.
- E-mail your better blog posts to people who are likely to be interested in reading them, particularly other bloggers. (Be sure to include both the text of and the link to the post.) That’s a great way to promote your blog, particularly when just starting out. I appreciate those announcements, even if I don’t end up blogging that post.
That’s probably much more detail than you were expecting. In the course of writing it, I decided that I would blog it, so I thought I’d throw in as much as I could think of! I hope that it’s helpful, even if a bit delayed.