Blog post about blogging - I know it sounds stupid (yet it’s extremely popular) and I promise, this article is exceptional meaning that I won’t write more articles about it (except some technical tutorials and how-tos). I make other topic-specific websites, here I share my experience. And by writing this text I discuss why I finally decided to blog and what arguments against doing so I thought through.
Firstly, the clarification. I will be considering all the pros and cons of setting up and running a personal website (or blog - you name it). I won’t cover the case of enterprise-level websites - the need of maintaining an up-to-date blog is obvious, it’s SEO - proved. So no talking about corporations, but persons.
The primary problem that I faced writing this text is the overwhelming feeling that everything worth to mention has already been told. But then again, it has been happening for centuries with books (reciting each other) and yet people can still find a fresh point of view. So I decided to speak out on it as well. Besides, I will quote whenever I can therefore reusing some thoughts.
Let’s start then. For me, it’s all down to answering two questions: Why should I start writing and about what - in other words, how my readers would benefit from it. Here are some possible answers that I will cover in detail later:
WHY? What it will give me?
WHAT FOR? Is your content useful to anyone?
- Niche topics
- Expert advice
- Knowledge sharing
- Amusing content, audience-catching
Pros - why would you like to start writing?
Those who write, not only small-scale bloggers, but professional journalists and book writers as well couldn’t argue that being read and heard is something ego-feeding. Those who deny it, lie. Count me in - I wouldn’t written any text voluntarily (and for free) if not for the chill of being appreciated. It’s all down to satisfaction and the dopamine boost rushing through your limbic system. You either have to or want to do it (preferably both, of course).
If you do it the right way, i.e. care about quality, you do some research before. Usually web search is enough, but if you don’t want the outcome of your writing to be superficial you may dig more and spend some time with books, field-study or interviewing people, depending on the topic.
Practice makes perfect - the more you write trying to get better each time, the higher the chances you be better. Worst thing that could happen is writing without the intention of making progress, therefore littering up the Web with mediocre content.
Writing is like mind gymnastics - you train giving arguments and standing up for them. Funny thing is, I hated writing essays in ground school, now I’m doing something alike on weekly basis. Another thing is, if you write for a foreign audience (like me), you practise language, which is a remarkable stand-alone argument for writing.
Riaz Sidi admits on his blog that making yourself to write finally pays off with skill development:
The reason is that procrastination always occurs because people are afraid of what they produce not being as good as they believe their potential to be.
When that happens on a consistent basis, your tools will start to rust.
So I would rather create something which puts my idea into fruition, while improving my writing, and allowing me to share my views on different things – even if it’s not a masterpiece.
What you write is acknowledged as valuable. People share your text and comment it. You like what they write under your text, their point of view and those ideas are a contribution to more articles and projects. Some of your audience ask you questions seeking advice. Some of them want to team up with you and soon you become a part of a bigger entity.
Job CV / Self promoting
You probably have heard many successful stories of people suddenly becoming popular and rich thanks to the Internet. It shouldn’t be No.1 reason you start doing something on the Web, otherwise you’ll lost it. Here you have interesting confession from Kashmir Hill from forbes.com he made about how successful maintaining a blog was for him:
It’s your new resume. I had a recruiter call me once out of the blue. She said, “Hi Dan, this is Emily from a recruiting firm. I just finished reading your blog and I don’t really have any questions for you. I just wanted to let you know that you are perfect for a job I’m trying to fill and I wanted to see if you would be interested.” Wait, what? I was stunned. I had never met this woman before in my life and she already knew that I was a great fit for the job she was trying to fill. It was actually a very good position at a great firm. Make your resume dynamic. We are no longer in the world of 1 page resumes.
Cons - why you don’t want to publish
Dilemma: enlarging the rubbish pile vs the right to open discussion
Here is an important thing - what happens when you’re in doubt and think that you don’t have anything interesting to write about? Well, if you look at the Internet from a wider angle, you’ll easily admit that it’s just filled up with uninteresting, unnecessary rubbish. Most of it is usually advertisement spam, trolling and hateful comments or “articles” about celebrities and their hollow activities. On the other hand, there is you with a plan for, let’s say, a blog about cats. Now you may think - why should anyone care why you are interested in cats? Well, provided that it’s not only filled with “How I love kitties” entries, it may matter for someone. A Fillipino cat owner writing about best diet for a Cornish Rex? Hell, why not! Read by: Brazilian mother of two kids who want to have one, or single businesswoman from New York searching for information if she can afford having a special-breed cat. Internet is not about just your classmates or work colleagues - no matter about what you write, there sure will be someone in need for that information - but only if it’s somehow original and valuable.
Here is a good summary of this quandary (BTW: written in comment section) posted by Alasdair Murray:
I think far too many people have been given a voice. I’d vote for fewer blogs rather than more. I only blog, or comment, when I feel passionately about something or that I can add something to the debate, yet many set themselves a target of 3 or 4 blogs a week just to keep the traffic ticking over The result? A web full of dull, uninteresting opinions and stating the obvious tips about stuff that my 9 year old could write better. The only good thing about it is that because it’s online you don’t have to hear it. Imagine if you will that when you stepped out the door, all the content that had been written and published online by the people you pass was shouted at you in the street or a bar. Perish the thought. My rule is, have something informative or intelligently provocative to say, otherwise don’t say anything at all. Or as Steve Martin once said
For me, the fear of losing one’s privacy is probably the most important argument counter to publishing. You never know what could be used against us and when. Extreme political opinion? Vulgar and offensive language? Well, say goodbye to your employer. You post pictures from vacations in The Bahamas on your blog, but forgot about dinner with your aunt? Ooopsie! You have a crush on this hippie girl, sign to PETA and after some weeks of hanging out she finds out your old article about how to spice and roast a piglet? Sorry, you’ve lost!
But those are just trifles. Imagine a burglar reading about your plans to conquer Mont Blanc next week. Oh, so you’re gone? Hey, from the pictures of your garage showing your equipment one can also see that you have a simple lock from the inside of the door… Writing to many anti-establishment posts? How about NSA will take a closer look on your bank accounts?
Those are real fears and I respect them - anyone should have a right for privacy. But now answer these questions:
- Do you use Facebook, Twitter or other social media portals?
- Do you post comments or forum posts?
- Do you have an internet bank account?
- Do you use Google, Bing or Yahoo?
- Do you use proxy forwarding or other ways to conceal your IP address?
If you answered yes to any of the first four questions or “no” to last two, then you are not browsing the web privately. If you use Facebook, even with the option “Available only for friends”, there is a way to see your profile. Heck, even if you have an empty profile and don’t post anything, one can guess where you live, work and studied just judging from the friends you have! Google or Bing? They store all the queries you type. So if you ask “best restaurant in Paris”, then it’s no brainer to guess where are you planning to go.
So, guarding your privacy is important, but don’t be a hypocrite.
Fear of being laugh out that you blog? Linking blogging with the image of a hipster with Macbook, Rayban glasses and a colourful scarf sitting all day in Starbucks? Well, remember - it’s up to you what and how you write. Change that image, share your knowledge and experience with others and you’ll be appreciated. Respected shall be earned.
Why not social media?
So, you have some precious thoughts, genuine and interesting opinions. Why not just stick to Facebook or other social media system? Well, yes and no. If you tend to post short aphorisms or simple ideas, then it’s okay to follow you on Twitter and have a “Thought of the day” thing on the wall. But I’ve seen many people wasting their potential by posting long thoughts that just don’t belong to social media system.
Here is why I think Facebook / social media oversimplifies your posts:
- Social media are in favour of short text.
- There is absolutely no punctuation / paragraph / styling available in your text which is crammed with letters
- Many users don’t pay attention to proofreading, so the quality of text is low (I’m aware it’s not Facebook-specific, but if everyone does it, you loose the motivation to keep good standards).
- You have no control over your text - if you ever publish something you have no legal rights to withdraw and unpublish it. Of course, when you blog, it’s desired to be shared but if you ever plan to delete your website, you can always claim the right to your intellectual property if someone uses your work.
- If you publish one awesome thought on your wall it soon is flooded by others’ posts and easily vanish unnoticed.
Working for others’ benefit
If you publish on popular sites you usually agree to the Terms and Conditions according to which you make your work available to others, even for commercial reuse. Take Flickr’s example as a warning. Other services may sell your work if there is no option for preventing it. And even if it is, in the end, they earn from ads an eager reader see. So if you want to work, work on your own.
How to do it?
So, you’re convinced. You want to write about breeding rare species of domestic animals. Or canoeing. Or you think you have interesting thoughts to share. What should you do?
Well, assuming that you’re not too tech savvy and have no experience in building websites whatsoever, you should start with easy solutions. You probably heard of Wordpress? It’s a Open Source, free blogging software that is really easy to use, yet extremely flexible and powerful. It can be used by people with no technical knowledge (with a little help during installation process) and professional web developers. According to w3techs it’s used by ca. 23% of all Internet websites. Minderag.net is based on other software, Jekyll, but I will cover that some other day.
There are lots of sites with tutorials about building your new website. Go on and start searching. Here is just a sketch of what you should do:
- Read tutorials on how to make a website using Wordpress.
- Find a host provider and a domain (i.e. your Internet address).
- Download and install Wordpress on your site.
- Choose and change the template - how your site looks.
- Start writing!
I will live a final thought to Joshua Becker quoting form his article that also deals with the topic - “15 Reasons I Think You Should Blog”:
Remember, you don’t need to blog as a means to get rich or as a means to gather a huge following. You don’t even need to blog as a means to change the Internet… the change that a blog will cause in your life is reason enough.