Archive for December, 2006

As I’m still in the early stages of this blog (I’ve had a couple others previously) I’ve got to thinking about how to bring more people to my site. I’m sure it’s an issue that’s come up for many of you out there who’ve wanted to enjoy the great benefits that blogging communication/relationships can bring, but are finding it hard to get noticed. I mean, it’s great knowing theoretically what a blogging community is all about, but I think a few of us need some cold, hard facts about how to get our identity noticed out there in the blogosphere. It’s a giant place; and we really only want to connect with those of similar interests, so how do we do it?

The first step of the process brought me to where? Why, other bloggers of course. At ‘Randomly Amused’s bog post ‘ Tips on getting traffic to your blog‘ I was doing some research about trackbacks and pingbacks (I’ll write more about these soon) when I found this short post, and a link to this other blog site at ‘The Blog Herald: ‘Building blog traffic for newbies’.

The first blog has a few basic principles that you might like to keep in mind if you want to attract more visitors to your online presence. ‘Regarding links, you can link to any and every site on the web, but you will score higher if the links are to sites related to your content, and – more importantly – if the site links back to you. It’s like an Internet handshake. Another important factor is linking to larger, high-profile, big-traffic sites.’

There are some good ideas here, but we do have to question them thoroughly. First of all, after further inspection I have discovered that this blog has been virtually inactive since this post which was written back in January! How much integrity does this blogger hold if they themselves haven’t stuck it out in the blogging trenches? I like the idea of an ‘Internet handshake’, but I would have to say that we should only link to those who relate to our specific content.

The question of whether or not to link to bigger sites needs asking as well. You may simply be seen as a ‘gold digger’ who wants to get free attention without working for it. Or, the so-called ‘A-list’ bloggers may be too busy with their workload and already huge link list to even bother connecting back to you. I guess there’s no hurt in trying, but I would again reiterate that taking the time and effort to search out blogs that relate to your field of interest will most probably produce more ‘real’ connections with people.

The second link to the Blog Herald has a more comprehensive list of ideas to work with. This seems to be a blog that has stuck around for awhile, and which is written in a collaborative effort by multiple authors. This point in their list of how to improve blog traffic backs up what I said earlier about linking to popular bloggers:

‘Link to other small sites without exchange, either through side bar or post: linking to big sites is great in showing what you’re reading, but does nothing to build up your readership because they nearly always never return the favour, indeed a number of them will steal your stories or ideas without any attribution at all. Smaller sites on the other hand are often stoked that you’ve linked to them and will return the favour without asking, even if they don’t, you’ve still done a good deed.’

Read through the posts. Both writers push the point that the most important factor of all is to ‘write, write, and write.’ The Blog Herald pushes the point, ‘Post regularly and post often. It not only brings readers back regularly but it means the spiders from the search engines will return more frequently indexing your entire site, and you’ll start getting hits from the search engines.’

This is another of their important points: ‘Submit your blog to ALL the search engines.’ The more you write, the more your key words will get picked up by Google and the other information-gatherers.

Jesse Somer is a blogger who wants to connect with other bloggers of similar thinking. Come on, let’s make it happen! Give me some advice ‘blogmasters’!

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There are so many people out there telling each of you why blogging is great, but what about the other side of the coin? In a paradoxical Universe, all things can be looked at from polar angles of positive and negative, not to mention the ability to perceive any one situation or concept in numerous ways. I had a look ‘out there’ to see what some people don’t like about blogs and why.

At a post from a blog called ‘Shanti’s Dispatches’ I read a post entitled, ‘Top 10 Reasons Why Blogging is Like Attending a Liberal Arts College’. This fellow literally (pardon the pun) equates blogging to all of the negative experiences he went through when visiting a liberal arts college. Here’s the list: I think all of these points are valid. There are people in all areas of life that fail to reach a standard of work that other individuals will be pleased with.)

  • Everyone thinks they know more than the next person about whatever happens to be the subject.
  • No one’s afraid to speak their mind, even on subjects they really know very little about
  • Traditionally taboo dinner-table conversation subjects that can lead to heated debate (such as Politics, Religion, etc) are not off limits
  • In fact, taboo subjects are an encouraged topic. You’re supposed to be learning from one another, after all. But do you really? =)
  • When someone gets a factoid wrong, there’s never a shortage of asswipes around who will correct you (*ahem* fact check your ass, as they say these days)
  • College: you brag about your SAT scores, until you realize it really doesn’t f’ing matter anymore. Blogs: you brag about your traffic, # of links, or amount of ad revenue your blog generates. (only, you keep doing so because you still think it matters)
  • College: when confronted with someone who actually does know more than you, just throw out an amorphous concept like ‘post-modernism’, ‘deconstruction’ or ‘nihilism’ to pretend like you know what you’re talking about. Blogs: throw out a buzzword like Web 2.0, Ajax, User-Generated Content, RSS, Squidoo, Wikis, etc
  • College: there was always some hot new party every weekend at a new location. Last week’s has already been forgotten. Blogs: there’s always some hot new story or meme making the rounds, quickly forgotten and tossed into the dustbin of Technorati
  • You develop a huge network of ’semi-friends.’ People you kind of know and could say “What’s up?” to at a party or as you pass by in the virtual comment halls. Upon graduation (or abandoning a blog), you will never see or interact with any of these people again in your life.
  • College: there was never a shortage of cheap beer. Blogs: there’s never a shortage of cheap, one-liner comments. “Great post!”, “I agree. Blogged at: …insert-reblog-post-url-here…

So, in listening to the critical opinions of others we can hope to improve the quality and integrity of our blog writing. Listening to Shanti, I think we might need to (in order of bullet points above):

  • Be humble about what we know and write about. Realise that there are usually people out there that know as much or more about a subject as you. Saying that though, don’t be afraid to believe that you have stumbled across some new concept or idea that could help the world. All innovations come from people, often individuals.
  • Only write about what you are knowledgeable about. Ask questions about what you don’t know. Again, be humble and have integrity. Don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t. People appreciate honesty and humility.
  • Be respectful and conscious of how our words might affect others, especially when it concerns topics close to people’s hearts-like their lifestyle, religion etc.
  • This is a great medium for the sharing of thoughts and ideas. We can learn from one another, but if we are simply arguing a point without tolerantly listening to other perspectives…what are we doing on the Web?
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If someone is nice enough to correct you, take it in good stride-you’re human and it helps you learn and grow. If they criticise and put you down, you know that they’re not worth being concerned about.
  • Again, be humble. If you have a lot of traffic that’s great! (I don’t yet know what it’s like, but it must be fun!) J Still, no one ever likes the show-off who for whatever egotistical reason needs to tell everyone how great they are. Be proud you worked hard and got to where you are, but realise that you probably only got popular because you related to people in a way that they respected.
  • Using verbose language that others don’t understand doesn’t help the blogging communicative process. Keep it simple, unless your blog is for astrophysicists and no one else.
  • Don’t jump on the band wagon. Stick to talking about the content that you’re passionate about.
  • Attempt to make real connections and relationships with fellow bloggers. If someone doesn’t speak on your wavelength, they can only truly become an acquaintance. This whole business of blogging is about meeting others of like mind by sharing a part of ourselves. If you’re fortunate, you’ll make some really good friends.
  • Be specific when commenting on other’s blogs. You can’t really get much from a one-line response. Take the time to express yourself and people will appreciate it.

Jesse S. Somer is quite aware of many things that he needs to improve on. There’s a dark side to everything, but the only way to improve ourselves is to be aware of these faults. The key is to see our challenges in a constructive way and look for solutions, not putting ourselves or others down. This goes for blogging too. There’s going to be stuff that doesn’t sit well with us, that’s life, if you don’t like it-set an example and show us how it’s done properly!

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To comment or not to comment on a blog, what is its purpose? Well, lately I’ve found myself sitting on the sidelines, reading very funny forum-like dialogue between people who are simply commenting on posts from a blogger. I’ve been ‘hanging out’ at one of my favourite blog sites (‘Dilbert Blog‘) and it seems that the people who read this blog by Scott Adams are as weird as the man himself! Just looking back at the last three posts’ comments pages I was astounded to see upwards of 250 individual responses to this one person’s ‘text on a page’, some of which were as lengthy as the original post (Comments pages now seem to be a place for us to post ourselves!).

Ok, I have been talking a bit about the ‘Dilbertblog’ lately, but that’s not what I’m focussing on here. What’s remarkable is the fact that a small community is forming solely around one person’s ideas in their blog (many of the names commenting after each post are the same). After looking at several of the newest posts I noticed that chronologically, comments are like blog posts themselves, being displayed from newest to oldest. This I find a little disconcerting, as each comment is usually related to the one before it, so if you want to get the whole gist of a situation, really you have to go to the bottom of the list and work your way back up to the top (Unfortunately I haven’t done this, so I’ve learnt the strange art of discerning a topic of conversation by going backwards in time…) J

Check out these fairly recent Dilbert Blog comments.

This was supposedly one of the only times that Scott Adams blogged on a Sunday (normally he takes a well-earned break), and so he decided to try and write something fairly serious, as opposed to his normal humorous content. The main idea was, ‘Media never gives me the context I want.’, and he drew upon many different ideas and topics ranging from the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust, to nuclear power vs. fossil fuels in Iran, to the treatment of Jews in there…You should see how many opinions, ideas, and facts sprouted up from his loyal, and some obviously newly-inspired readers! Little mini-conversations come out between people who’ve read other’s responses and who greatly disagree or agree with each other.

The comments are not all positive of course. A lot of what Adams blogs about is contentious (one of the reasons he’s become so popular!?-take a note), as was found in this Dilbert Blog comments page from an older post that has produced a recurring theme based around whether or not freewill exists. People seem very passionate about this subject, and it showed that when the writer took on a difficult topic, every Tom, Dick, and Harry wanted to get their word in, whether it was emerging from intellectual discourse, fundamentalist religion, or the usual lowest-common-denominator slinging of abuse. These nearly 400 comments caused Adams to write several more posts about the subject, like this Dilbert Blog article which again received 350 responses. The readers thus took on an interactive role in what was to be produced in the blog. It was really great to hear all of the different and widely varied perspectives on a subject (even though some are more than a little bit on the comical side-some purposeful in intent, others unaware of their own ridiculousness). Get commenting people!

Jesse S. Somer believes that if we all write from our heart about what’s important to us, and others relate through comments, trackbacks, and emails; intelligence, wisdom, creativity, and even love will be transferred throughout the world like never before.

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There are over 50 million blogs in the world, and this is only the beginning of the ‘Communicative revolution’. I got thinking recently about Blogrolls (those lists of links to other people’s blogs often found in a side column next to people’s journals). I was thinking about how if you took a look at my Blogroll, you’d get a little snapshot at what kind of person I am, by seeing what topics and styles of blog writing that I like to read. I decided to do a little experiment.

I went to Technorati’s (those people who try to track all the blogs in the world-sounds like a challenge doesn’t it?) Popular blog section (‘Top 100 Blogs’)  and I thought I’d pick a few random blogs out to see what, if anything, I could discover about their creators. I don’t want to come across as a typical brown-nose who wants to be noticed by the so-called ‘a-listers’, therefore improving my global ranking (something I’ve read is quite common, but not necessarily altruistic in intention that people do to get noticed). Not many people know about me now, but I hope to connect with others through honest and focussed content that people can relate to.

So, I took it upon myself to have a look at a couple blogs further down the list, still popular, but not ‘Superbloggers’…There are two ways in which Technorati rank the popularity of blogs, one is by how many other blogs have linked to the blog in question, and the other is by how many others have named that blog in their ‘Favourites’ section.

First randomly chosen Human blog: Xia Xue, ranked 97 in the world (with 5,063 links from 3,437 blogs). Ok, not a good choice…How does some ex-magazine columnist girl from Singapore get over 10,000 visits a day when she just talks about herself and the fashion products she’s been paid to try? She’s either sexy and all the guys like her, or she’s got some genuine connection to many young women out there in the Blogosphere…You’ve got me!? Her Blogroll is quite short compared to many I’ve seen, and it looks to be mainly filled with links to her close friends.

Second randomly chosen Human blog: Buzz Machine, ranked 122 in the world (with 10,229 links from 3,059 blogs). This is a blog written by a Professor Jeff Jarvis who heads a graduate program in Interactive Journalism. Ok, if anyone knows about blogging it would be this guy. He’s got a very long list of archived posts on a wide range of subjects, mainly dealing with News and media. However, I could be wrong about this whole Blogroll thing, because he only has one link (I’ve seen other blogs with a hundred or more!) and it’s to his son’s blog at Wire Catcher. Is this strange, or a deliberate choice to prove something about his blog’s identity? His son has a longer Blogroll, generally linking to technological blogs (a very popular subject in the Blogosphere, could it be because computer geeks-I say this word in the nicest of ways-make up a huge majority of bloggers as they are already always sitting in front of their computers?)

The final randomly chosen blog was: Flagrant Disregard, ranked 120 on the planet with (6,287 links from 3,108 blogs). This is an interesting one. It’s a blog by a guy who mainly talks about and takes photos of his family. Why is it so popular? After reading a few posts I can see why. He’s an honest guy who’s talking about his life, and life is weird and fun if viewed from the right perspective. With the last few posts entitled, ‘The best deal in Lego’, ‘Does homework suck?’, and ‘Cell phones and customer service: it doesn’t have to be this difficult’, you can catch my drift about the general life topics that are attracting readers’ attention. Now, time to see his Blogroll. The only link list he has is called, ‘People who I actually know in Real Life actually weird enough to have blogs’, and it’s a short list.

Where does all this leave me? Are Blogrolls as important as I once believed? It seems that many popular bloggers don’t partake in this form of link exchange/favourites list. This experiment has somewhat dubiously shifted into why blogs are popular, without producing much of a Blogroll theory or hypothesis. Looking at this tiny subsection of popular bloggers, it’s not who you read that tells us who you are; it’s what you say…You are what you write! Right?!

Jesse S. Somer is a man with a new blog and a relatively short Blogroll. He’s hoping to read and write so that the words and links on the page represent him. Isn’t that the name of the game?

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As you probably already know there are thousands of sites on the Internet that tell you how to create a good blog, but how many of them tell you how to find connections and form relationships with other bloggers out in the Blogosphere? Have you ever written a blog only to sit waiting for someone to visit and comment, and they never came?

I checked out the popular blog-hosting site WordPress’s ‘Introduction to Blogging‘ page. They gave this short list on ‘Hints for writing a great blog’. I elaborated on what they had to say.

Ok. Some may feel that this is all common sense but you’d be surprised at what kind of content many of the blogs out there are trying to pass off as being worthwhile. What we write is who we are so if we want to put the best foot forward these ideas could help you to relate to others better.

  1. ‘Post regularly, but don’t post if you have nothing worth posting about.’

This is important. Posting regularly shows visiting readers and bloggers that you are someone who is going to stick around. It’s no fun reading something cool on someone’s blog and then going back again and again only to find that they’ve seemingly been imprisoned on charges of laziness.

However, your content is a reflection of your identity so make sure you’re only writing when you’ve really got some relevant facts, opinions, and ideas to share with the community. If your blog is about science, telling people about your new car is going to tell real science buffs that you’re not focused enough on the topic at hand.

  1. Stick with only a few specific genres to talk about.’

This relates to what I was saying above. Bloggers are attempting to find and communicate with others of like mind. If you’re all over the place writing stream-of-consciousness text about your whole life, the only people who will care will be you and a few stream-of-consciousness-loving weirdos (I’m sure there’s some!).

No seriously, stick to the content that you’ve professed to be your area of expertise or interest. This is how ‘blogrings’ (groups of people interested in similar content) are created. Everyone who loves classical guitar and who blogs about it are getting together, commenting on each other’s ideas, sending each other links to cool sites etc. Don’t be left out because you gave a detailed analysis on your guitar blog about how you brushed your dog’s teeth focussing mainly on the gums and tongue!

  1. Don’t put ‘subscribe’ and ‘vote me’ links all over the front page until you have people that like your blog enough to ignore them (they’re usually just in the way).’

Integrity means being authentic, so too much advertising or literally asking others to come and see you is kind of like asking kids to be your friends back at primary (elementary) school. It’s not cool. Let your words be what attracts others. If what you’re writing is honest and interesting, bloggers will find you.

  1. Use a clean and simple theme if at all possible.

Don’t write huge taglines or ubiquitous-sounding phrases like, ‘A day in the life of me.’ If we all did that, by the year 3,000 there would be whole lot of blogs and nothing to show that we are individuals. Use your imagination but keep it simple and to the point. Using local slang terminology can and will confuse readers. People mightn’t necessarily be able to tell you’ve got a fried chicken blog if your tagline is, ‘Crispy, sticky cluck-clucks.’ Then again, who knows?

  1. Enjoy, blog for fun, comment on other peoples’ blogs (as they normally visit back).

These are imperatives. Enjoy yourself and relate to others. If you’re not having fun you won’t stick with it when times are tough. If you’re not commenting, linking-to (trackbacks, pingbacks), and visiting/reading other’s blogs-how will we know you exist? The best way to meet other people who love making hats is to search for blogs about hat making and connect. You can even often send personal emails to the blogger.

It’s common sense isn’t it? If common sense were more common, what then would we be lacking?

Jesse S. Somer is about to partake on a mission to relate to as many bloggers as possible. How many will he connect with?

This kid is a future Fishing Blogger.

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I heard about well-established blogging organization Xanga a long time ago, but their concept of ‘Blogrings’ has only just recently entered into my field of vision. What is a Blogring? By design, it is an attempt to bring people who have specific interests together into groups where they can write about their chosen fields. OK, let me give you an example. There are many categories that your blog could fit into, anything from ‘Family and Home’, to ‘Religion and Beliefs’, or ‘Business and Finance’ could be where you decide to classify your writing. For some, I guess this kind of grouping could even help you to keep your blog more singly focused (people appreciate someone who sticks to one topic).

For the purpose of this review I decided to check out some of the blogs in an area that interests me, ‘Arts and Humanities’. The next step was to hone in even further by choosing a subcategory from such titles as ‘Architecture’, ‘Dancing’, or ‘Photography’, to name but a few. I chose ‘Writing’ for obvious reasons-I love reading and writing! So, what happened next? I was taken to a page with a list of Blogrings, their titles, information on how long they’d existed for, and on how many individual bloggers belonged to each. In the ‘Writing’ section some of the 7,187 Blogrings had over 2,000 active blogging members in each group, pretty impressive stuff! My dream of being able to connect with other people who love words and their often-secretive meanings was slowly becoming more of a reality.

Let me give you an idea of how the Blogring groups are presented. Some are very basic in their description like ‘Imagination unlimited’ (757 members) which simply states, ‘Join here if you have unlimited imagination.’ Whereas others are more elaborate and animated in their focus like ‘A perfect Ending’ (240 bloggers) whose Blogring creator candidly informs, ‘Do you like happy endings? I do. I think that everyone should live happily ever after, but the problem is that most don’t. So what’s the solution? Got any ideas? Let’s get together and solve all this. We want a Happy Ending to everyone’s problems, and By GOD – We’re gonna have it.’

Some Blogring creators obviously take an active role in deciding whether or not you are deemed fit enough to belong in their group. Hmmm. is this elitism? Quality control? Is this fair? Do they alone judge you, or is it the whole group? The ‘Spontaneous Writer’ group (303 people) creator says, ‘For the people whose xangas are of short stories, poems, articles, theories… I’m filtering applicants/members who do not belong in this blogring so if your xanga is mostly about your day, I will NOT accept you. If you actually write, but of silly love poems about why this boy does not love you or that you’re “just another girl”… Please. But other than that, I’m open to all applicants, so don’t feel intimidated, really!’ Are you intimidated?

I liked the sound of the Blogring called, ‘Writing reality’ (761 members). Their motto is, ‘We weave reality into words through our writing of it. If you love the art of writing in any way, shape, or form… you’re home.’ After reading a few blogs I decided to sign up to see what else the Blogring construct can offer. Well, they ask you for your Instant Messenger and email addresses so I assume that you can communicate directly with people in your Blogring, which is an automatic plus for those of you who’ve been writing but haven’t had many comments or interactions with other people.

I also found that there are some safety measures put into place, as I was unable to view some of the blogs. They were ‘locked’. I expect this is because some bloggers don’t want just any person on the Internet to read their content, possibly saving it solely for their friends or the members of their Blogring.

So, if you’re into blogging about animal rights, building model cars, small businesses, or marital relationships, it might be time to join a group of your fellow humans who are ready and willing to share and learn from one another.

Jesse S. Somer wonders if there could be a ‘Lord of the Blogrings’, and if so, are they short and hairy, spending much of their time blogging about sitting out in the fields peacefully smoking a pipe and drinking an ale?

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