I’ve been asked to talk to a high school class about fundamentals of blogging. Instead of giving out handouts, I figured the best thing to do was to write a blog post. Here’s some Blogging 101 tips:
What is a Blog. The word “blog” comes from the word web log. In the legal world, they are sometimes called “blawgs.” The wiki on blogs defines it as:
“type of website or part of a website supposed to be updated with new content from time to time. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.”
“Although not a must, but most good quality blogs are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other via widgets on the blogs and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from other static websites.”
The word blog refers to the website as a whole. If you are referring to a particular entry in a blog, you call it a “blog post” or a “blog entry” but you shouldn’t call it a blog.
Purpose of Blog. First things first. Why are you blogging? What is it that you wish to accomplish? To blog well takes a lot of time and effort, and you may not choose to take the time to do it.
To make money? For your business? To provide information about a subject that people have an interest in but there’s little information out there? For creativity? To put information you want to say but don’t have a place to say it? A place to store words and images? Some combination of that?
To do any sort of writing well, you need to know who your audience is and what they would like to read. Sometimes knowing what you wish to accomplish with your blogging can suggest whether you wish to have an independent blog or whether you wish to become a part of a blog network. What audience you want may also drive which blogging platform you wish to use as some blogging platforms support sharing better than others.
Writing Style of Blog. Blogs can be written in a formal way or informal way. Some are conversational. The style and tone of your blog may depend a lot on what your blog’s purpose and audience is. Some people who start writing for blogs copy other people’s styles. Sometimes it takes a while to develop your own blogging voice.
Take Care in Your Words. The internet is forever. Except in exceptional circumstances, it is considered very poor blogging etiquette/form to erase a blog post. Even if you erase it, a cached version of a blog post can exist on the web. So the best course of action is to never write things you may later regret.
Anything you write on the web, whether blogs or otherwise, your family, friends, future employers, etc may read. A good rule of thumb is to never post anything on the web that you would be ashamed for your pastor to read.
That is my own personal bias. There’s plenty of people who try to live their real lives in a Christian way but in their internet lives, they act sort of like web gangsters, saying snarky, nasty things. That’s always struck me as a bit hypocritical.
Some people try to avoid having things attributed to them by using a pen name. Even that isn’t without concern because sometimes pen names become public.
Ultimately, if you write enough words, you may write a few you regret. But you should try to keep those down to a minimum.
Be Link Generous. If you obtain information from another source, it is proper to link to that source and if very reliant on that source, specifically name where you got the information in your post. There’s nothing more frustrating than putting original content on the web and then discover someone else used your content without attribution.
Blogging can be a sort of community, and linking to blogs is a good way to support quality content.
Writing for Web Different Than Paper. Though there are a number of journalists who are excellent at using the blog medium, writing for newspapers is different than writing for blogs. Newspapers typically have word counts. They don’t allow for linking to related articles or including video content. The best blogs take advantage of the blogging medium by doing those things you can only do for the web.
Also be aware of the physical space of your particular blog. Sometimes with the size of the print/margins, it may dictate shorter paragraphs.
Don’t Violate Copyright. Just because you write something online, doesn’t mean you are exempt from following the law. You are not supposed to use other people’s creative content, like photos, unless permission is already granted or you get permission. The rules on this can be rather involved, and I think this Q&A from the US Copyright Office does a nice job of summarizing what is allowed.
Pictures can certainly make your blog more reader friendly. You can use your own pictures, or there are a number of sources online where you can find free or low-cost pictures you can use for blogging.
Write Regularly. To get people to visit your blog regularly, you should update your content frequently. I’m better at doing that on my Houston Chronicle Texans site than I am here. At that site, the subject matter and readership sort of dictates the frequency of posts. Because I have a bit more freedom here, I write when inspired, and lately, I must confess I just haven’t had things I feel like saying. This blog is more of a repository of writing that doesn’t fit on other platforms, like microblog site like Twitter or Facebook, or at my Texans blog.
This isn’t going to be the only things discussed in my talk to students, but I think these things are the basics.