Friday, January 20, 2006

Blogging tips for 2006

These are my slapdash suggestions for improving the Blogosphere 2006, which I hope will evolve into the multi-media, multi-phonic, multi-functional Blogosphere 4.0

I may publish sequels to this post ("Blogosphere 2006: Phase II", etc.) if my back quits hurting so I can type out all the millions of okay ideas exploding in my head.

Suggestions for
Blogosphere 2006

(1) Blogger Dedication

I am assuming that blog pioneers, innovators, consultants, and authors truly wish to see the blogosphere refined, dignified, and blossoming into new and beneficial forms. Not "anything goes" mutation blogoids that violate user expectations and frustrate the typical reader, but real progress in blog functionality, efficiency, connectivity, syndicated delivery, and interactivity.

The lines are drawn in the sand.

Bloggers must individually decide where they stand on such matters as reblogging vs. aggregating, ghost blogging, link farms, blog advertising, RSS, blog psychosis, blog addiction, blog ethics, blog core values, blog voice, personal details in blogs, identity theft, blog licensing and blogospheric regulation, porn blogging, CEO blogs, child and teen blogs, online predators, anti-blog bloggers, MSM information hegemony, blog crediblity, dark siding, comment spam, pseudo blogs, and sleazy sponsored link blogs.

Get good at blogo-combat, or blogo-diplomacy. Blogopathic hostility will increase, and blog haters will start blogs just to ridicule bloggers and debase blog values.

(2) Importance of Blogroll Quality

Every blogroll is a new hub in the blogosphere within the web of the internet. Your blogroll acts as a transitory portal for your blog readers, a gateway to recommended blogs and web sites you feel might benefit them in some way.

Blogrolls are an indication of your blog's credibility. One way to assess, evaluate, or judge a blog that is unfamiliar to you is to check the blogroll, who is in it, and who is excluded.

For example:

If a blogologist or blog consultant's blogroll includes Doc Searls, Scripting News, Evhead, Sifry Alerts, Tom Peters, Tim Berners-Lee, Seth Godin, Naked Conversations (aka: The Red Couch), Gaping Void, Ensight, Kottke, Joi Ito, Shel Israel, Scobleizer, The Blog Herald, WebProNews, CNET, Slashdot, Shel Holz, BlogWrite for CEOs, The Big Blog Company, Peter Merholz, Crossroads Dispatches, NevOn, Tinbasher, Decent Marketing, Blogspotting, Intuitive Life Business Blog, Contentious, Blog Business Summit, Lipsticking, and other high quality blogs that focus on, or regularly discuss meta-blogging, you know the blogger at least is smart enough to know, and possibly read, some of the best blogs in the field.

But still, this could be a copy and paste type job, and mean only that the blogger knows how to *look like* he has some credibility, as though these blogs somehow "endorse" him, or make him part of their circle.

It's good to clean up your blogroll every six months or so. Delete any blogs that you never visit, and no longer are enthusiastic about directing your readers toward.

Keep a handy list of titles, blogger names, and URLs of new blogs you want to add to your blogroll. Don't worry if these blogs reciprocate by blogrolling you, because nearly none of them will.

(3) Specificity and Confirmity

Specificity (precision in all details) and Confirmity (ability to confirm, substantiate, verify, certify all information) will be two keynotes in the symphony of social media hybrids and filtered information zones.

Blogs will need to tighten their focus, while allowing occasional tangents and sidepaths, and amplify their serviceability to readers, giving them more targeted help, advice, or links.

Blog Directories, and other blog category listings, must start including "Blogology", "Web Usability", "Blog Consulting", "Interface Design", "Corporate IT", "Personal Blogging", "Meta-blog", "Social Media", "Online Community", "Web/Blog Portal", "Blogging Tools", "Blog Networking", "Information Architecture", "Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)", "Web Writing Services", "Computer Music", "Digital Art", "Web Services", and other current internet-based specialties in their lists of Categories of blogs.

These directory categories are poorly written, and guess what? The professionals with the specialized skill sets mentioned above will not be "claiming" their blog for your directory listing, because a Blogologist doesn't want to categorize himself under the label "Web Design", "Internet", "Marketing", or "Communications".

A blogologist, a blog author, a blog reader (commenter or lurker), all blog-related agents and operatives are accustomed to typos and rash declarations now and then, but not fuzzy thinking, confused formulations, imprecise descriptions, incomplete instructions, or vague or antiquated categories.

(4) Blog Post Titles, Links, and Content

Blog posts should have better, more informative titles.

Blog posts should have more substantiating hypertext links embedded within post text, deep linking to source post.

Blog posts should be written with "How will this information, presented in this style, and at this length, help my readers?" as the top of mind goal.

(5) Sidebar Enhancements

What are you doing with your sidebar these days?

YOur sidebar is where you can identify yourself, display your photo, orient readers to your topic or theme, and display information that you want to be permanent, always visible to all visitors.

Badges: If you have graphic tools, create various sidebar badges, promoting your blog, your company, your sports team, your political party, whatever you are passionate about. Or visit other blogs and see what badges they have. Political blogs often have cool badges, for example, see my sidebar with Iran Democracy, Iraq Democracy, Friend of Israel, Firefox, Digg, etc. badges.

Blog sidebars should contain more functions and activities for readers. Consider polls, reader photo galleries, podcast links, music mp3 links, video, audio (speech, excerpts from lectures), digital art, links to external services and surveys, update text.

You should also include "Sidebar Updates", i.e., sidebar paragraphs, ideally with a graphic icon or photo, containing messages of timely significance, from you to your blog readers, with large headlines stating the benefit or category of information. Special communications you want all readers to see, thus you don't put in only in a post that will start sliding down the scroll sequence as new posts are added on top of it. Time-sensitive announcements, deadlines.

I continue to maintain, albeit cryptically, that the sidebar movie is a viable device, a film you scroll.

Is your sidebar full of dead space, padding, white noise?

Put that sidebar to work for you and your causes. Use it to promote and explain yourself, your organization, your beliefs, your blog allies, links to your most controversial posts, links to your most helpful posts, links to posts to educate newbies and computer nincompoops, and functions your readers need or might enjoy.

I link, for example, to free legal music mp3 download sites, in my sidebar. You will think of how you can apply this suggestion to your industry, audience, or personal goals.

What do your kind of people or customers want to know all the time, but it's not easy to find it? For farmers, it might be weather reports or commodity prices. Whatever it is, put it, or a link to it, in your sidebar.

(6) Archive Categories

Blogs, including my own, must solve the problem of archive navigation and information search. This is the biggest usability problem with blogs that I see in my practice and analysis of other sites. I very much admire blogs that have good archive categories, category titles that make sense to the user, titles that clearly identify user concerns, interests, needs.

Good, meaningful, clearly labeled archive categories enable you and your readers to quickly access posts on different topics of interest.

Blog site search is another functionality that offers data mining, post explorations, but few blog readers are skilled in site searching, what keywords to use, nor can they guess what titles or terms your post might have used for that topic.

(7) Comment Spam Preventives

I have now completely defeated comment spammers.

Thanks to Blogger offering: (1) email notification of comments submitted, (2) comment moderation with delayed posting, and (3) word verification captchas.

Find out what your blog software provides, then implement, activate, use it.

Letting comment spam sit in your blog is disgusting, irresponsible, and potentially dangerous and harmful to your audience. Spam comments often link to con artist, spyware-attaching, Trojan, adware-attaching, virus infecting, or otherwise malicious sites. Stop it and get rid of it.

(8) Comment Philosophy

Comments should be understood as opportunities to interact with readers, learn from readers, and help readers, NOT as proof of your blog's popularity, success, or effectiveness.

Comments should be enabled, else your blog is NOT a blog.

A blog that doesn't allow readers to post comments?

Aside from link logs that simply provide recommended sites, like Robot Wisdom, a blog without commentability is:

a blogoid object, a pseudo blog, a unilateral, one-way message delivery platform, a preaching pulpit, a propaganda machine readers must submit to, a soapbox that says "shut up and passively absorb, without questioning, this communication from me to you."

Encourage, invite, command, shame, antagonize, shock, astonish your readers into responding to your posts with a comment.

If you don't get any comments, it's your fault, not the audience or "blogging". You figure out how to be more interesting, more controversial, more helpful, more funny, more reader-conversation focused, more intelligent, more casual...whatever it seems you need to do. What do your readers request you do?

Have someone look at your blog, even someone who knows nothing about computers, blogs, or the internet. Ask them, "What's wrong?"

They may say, "It's ugly. I don't like the colors, and the design is too cluttered, too busy, too many distractions. It drives me crazy. I want to go do something, anything, else." So now you've got some good marketing intelligence, some free diagnostics, to guide your blog make-over.

Want more comments? Improve your blog and your posts. Visit other blogs and post comments, relevant, enriching comments that provide free content to the blogs. Do bloggers realize this? Comments, when good and intelligent, are free content that increase the value and popularity of your blog. Thus, be nice to your readers, both commenters and lurkers.

Lurkers are those who read but do not comment. Lurkers are good. They may be passing on your URL and your genius ideas to their friends, family, co-workers, and potential clients for you.

Lurkers may be doing battle for your ideas, but not in the blogosphere, or at least not in comments on your blog. Don't underestimate the power of lurkers. One may suddenly jump out of the shadows and post an astonishing comment, then you never hear from them again.

Comment should be enabled and enthusiastically accumulated, but do you really want 600 per post like Pete Townsend?

Respond swiftly, politely, and completely to every comment, as much as possible. Some comments need no reply. Most do. Don't leave your commenters hanging, wondering if you even care or pay any attention to other people's opinions and insights.

[signed] steven edward streight aka vaspers the grate



Kami Huyse, APR said...

Steven, I am especially interested right now in the archiving issue. Since Blogger doesn't have categories I am looking into other options. I was told by Technorati that they are working on enabling their new personal tag cloud with RSS. That might be an interesting way to let people dig in to older posts.

I also think the overall archive issue (ot per blog but of all blogs) is a problem becuase it denies newcomers from seeing what was said before on a given topic. For instance, the common "pr is dead" meme that seems to pop up every few months.

I guess that those who don't know the past are condemned to repeat it. This is especially true in the Blogosphere.

steven edward streight said...

Kami: I'm not too thrilled with myself for letting my blog go so long without solving the archive and info search problems of my blogs.

Monthly archives are utterly meaningless except in some blog that is logging a time-sequential entity or date-relevant series of events, and even then, just "March 2004" will not mean much to most, I would imagine.

I can offer two solutions to your problem, solutions I myself must decide upon quickly:

1. A quick fix is to go into your template, go to the sidebar and insert a linked list of categories, with each category link (i.e., "CEO Blogs", "Damage Control Blogging", "Podcasts as PR Tools", with the most differentiating information weighted to the beginning of the phrase) going to a post that acts as a directory listing those posts that fall under that category.

So you're creating new posts, which you will want to fudge the date on, change it to an early period of your blogging, in my case, May 2004, just to relegate it away from main page of blog.

These posts will consist of a title "CEO Blogs posts" perhaps, then the textual content will be a hyper linked list of those relevant posts, what you choose to select from all your monthly archives.

I suspect grimly that this will be time-consuming and wearisome, but we should do it for our audience to date mine us. Otherwise, they have to just click on months and go down the scroll or post titles, and may still miss some relevant posts.

The other Blogger solution is to upgrade to Blogger Premium, if I recall correctly, to get the archiving by categories functionality. I believe I'm correct about needing to upgrade. I'll have to double check that.

2. Start a free WordPress blog, hosted at WordPress for free if you wish, and start experimenting. That's what I'm sporadically doing. The archive categorization function is easy, per post, just an added feature of post composition, like date, title, comments moderated, etc.

WordPress blogs are very easy and offer far more administrative powers, more webmaster-ish gizmos.

carrie said...

you may have already checked these, but in the blogger help section there is a list of blogger hacks... i seem to recall seeing some that involve archive categories or something similar.

steven edward streight said...

Carrie: but do you use the hacks to implement meaningful post categories and is it easy to label and lump them?

Kami Huyse, APR said...

Thaks Steven for giving me all your thoughts on this.

FYI. It's a negative on upgrading blogger, I checked. From Blogger Help:

Can I order Blog*Spot Plus?

"We've stopped taking orders for this product, though Blog*Spot Plus features are still fully supported for users who had previously upgraded. But don't worry- we're working as hard as we can to build fun, new stuff into Blogger for everyone to use!"

You can archive your posts by title with this work around:

It's better than nothing but doesn't solve the problem of organization by month, which is as you say, usless.

I agree that we need to do something, but it needs to be something automated, or I already know I won't do it.

I am also a little dissapointed that Blogger doesn't support automated trakbacks. I have been using HaloScan, which also gives me a great interface to track comments in one place. But it doesn't autofind posts like Typepad and WordPress.

As for WordPress, that may indeed be the solution, but I would hate to have to build all new stats and get my current readers over there.

steven edward streight said...

I don't care for Haloscan.

I'm investigating my options. The manual builiding of post category directory posts is exhausting to even describe or think about.

I hate this quandry I'm in. I don't know if high traffic A listers worry about such things.

I have this strange feeling that blogs are more ongoing episodes, like a soap opera, than libraries or filing cabinets.

So blogs are a flow, not a set of static web text objects.

This is not readily admitted, and I still need to investigate this esoteric aspect of deep blogology.

Blog flow vs. blog info is the case here, do you just keep pace with postings, or do you dive into archival mysteries?

blog stats should tell the tale