Often, while sifting through the mountain of daily Gothamist correspondence, we come across emails asking for advice about starting a blog. Why anyone would consider Gothamist an authority on the sweet, intricate science of blogging is beyond us – but we are loathe to sidestep our obligation to respond. Here then, based on our blog-exploration and the evolution that is Gothamist, the first in a series of Gothamist Notes On Blogging, entitled "What not to do when you blog."
1. Don't use the word blog without realizing what it means. Blog blog blog - our ears are bleeding from it. Using Meg's definition as a guide, blogs are made up of posts that have "links + commentary." Commentary, not Joyce-ian stream-of-consciousness. They can be personal, but more in terms of point of view, versus a webcam of yourself. It's more fiting to call your website a website. Call yourself a journalist, or a writer. Having special names for everything smacks of 1999 newspeak. Sure- it's sad that the word blog has gotten all used up but c'est la vie, time to move on. "Bloggers" have come to be irrevocably associated with 16 year old girls, writing in bad grammar on LiveJournal, the label has become inappropriate for the rest of us.
2. Therefore, for the love of God, do not write about yourself. Do not write about your friends. Do not write about your family. Do not write about your pets. Or airport travels. Do not write about that girl at the bodega on 4th avenue and how she's giving you the eye. Do not write about your dates. Pick a real subject or series of subjects and stick to it – if you have to use the word "I" more than once a week, you are doing something very, very wrong. No one cares about you or the things you do (unless you are Paris Hilton, Bazima, or Bennifer – don't believe the weary, B.Lo, keep it comin' strong!), keep it to yourself. And if that's not enough to stop you from writing about yourself, just remember these words of advice from Meg: "A cardinal rule of blogging is this: Post as if everyone you know will read your weblog because chances are very good that they will. If you don't want your boss, religious leader, or your parents to read what you're writing, you might want to think twice about posting it." And if you're on that first date where he/she knows everything about you, it's your own fault.
3. Do not blog unless you plan to take it seriously. Nothing looks worse than a blog where the latest entry is from last month. Do not forget the commitment you make to your readers. You provide content and they consume it on a regular basis. If you post every single day, you need to keep that up. Have a goal of posting a certain number of times a week and try to stick with it. Do not bitch and moan about how little traffic you get when the last time you posted was two weeks ago, and that post was about your freaking cat. By the same token, do not go for the easy posts. If all you are doing is passing on a link, use a sidebar- or go the Kottke/Dashes route and balance linkage with real posts in the main column. If you do a post and it takes only 5 minutes you are doing something wrong. You probably haven't thought about it enough. You've probably missed some typos. Laziness is not a nice quality in bloggers.
4. Do not write to other bloggers and ask for links. No not expect to make someone's permanent link list just because you linked to them. Links are like relationships – they take work. Asking for a link is like taking "it" out on the first date – it might work with some girls, but most of the time it makes you look desperate. Very very desperate. How do you get a link? Produce high quality content for months on end- link to other people in those high quality posts, drop them a line (but don't harrass) about your site. Eventually you'll get the love you so desperately need.
5. Do not steal. A Creative Commons license is not permission to rip someone off. If you take an idea or a link, make sure you credit it to the appropriate person. If you borrow an image, make sure the attribution is present and correct. If you steal someone's design, at least have the decency to change the colors. Do not steal a design and then ask for a link. That's like stealing someone's watch and then asking them if they know how to change the battery.
6. Do not consider your blog a free ride to slander, promote gross inaccuracies, or pass along "facts" that are rumors. Sure, you are not writing for the New York Times, but you should keep in mind the basic rules of journalism and ideas of fairness. If you are sarcastic and have a snarky tone with your site, that's fine, but realize that a lot of literal thinkers out there are going to make assumptions that you'll have to deal with. And, associated with that, do not allow your blog to become a vehicle for slander. Do not neglect to moderate your blog. Some son–of–a–bitch is going to start using your comments section as a personal platform for hating or whatnot, and if you don't slap him down, that nonsense might as well be coming out of your mouth. You are responsible for every word that appears on your website – and don't use free speech or bullshit like that to sidestep the issue. So if someone is using your blog to call someone else a whore, that person better be a whore – or it's your ass on the line.
7. Do not overreact when you get dissed by your readers. While it's your blood, sweat, and tears that you're putting up there, it's myopic to think that everyone will have the same opinions as you. If people are calling you out, just learn to take it and move on. If they start to attack you, again, you can close comments, delete comments, and block IP addresses. When someone decides to launch a personal vendetta against you, using five different pseudonyms and ten different websites, enjoy the ride! No one becomes successful without acquiring some enemies – and the more devoted your enemies, the more successful you are. At least, that's what we keep telling ourselves.
8. Do not forget to be polite. If someone links to one of your posts, say thank you. If you see a picture on a photoblog that you like, tell the photographer that you appreciate their work. If someone points out a typo, let them know you appreciate their vigilance and insanity. Courtesy is the grease that lubricates the wheels of society. And as Kramer would say, if you don't want to be part of society, maybe you should move to the Upper East Side.
That is all – feel free to add your own advice in the comments section. We remain, as ever, your loyal readers.