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Nine Lessons for Would-be Bloggers -- Great Advice from Josh Porter on Overcoming Blogging Hangups

by Tom Johnson on Mar 12, 2007
categories: blogging technical-writing

Joshua Porter's 9 Lessons for Would-be Bloggers gives some of the best advice about blogging I've ever read. Porter says people hesitate to blog because they're afraid of putting themselves on public display, or of not having anything interesting to say. He encourages you to lose your fear of criticism, and to recognize you do have valuable ideas to contribute.

He also says your blog should have a "schtick." It helps you focus on finding things to say. Porter explains:

I write about lots of things here on Bokardo, but my schtick is that I write about social design. I even have the words explained on every page on this site. Why is this? Well, it helps me keep a focus for the blog…to keep the posts moving in a general direction. This vastly improves my ability to figure out what to write about, because I've got a flag to fly. Before I had a clear focus I used to flounder when I couldn't decide what to write about…I ended up with a much less focused blog and poorer posts because of it.

One caveat, though. You have to really believe in your schtick…you have to think that the topic is important and have to have passion for it. You can still deviate from the topic, as I'm doing with this post, and that's OK. It's a lot easier to write exceptions to the rule than it is to not have a rule in the first place. So plant your flag…have a schtick…it not only makes writing easier but you'll also get other people thinking about your blog in terms of it. It's kind of like a brand in this way.

Blogs that cover anything and everything aren't that appealing to me. When I first started blogging, Scott Abel advised me that blogging itself isn't very attractive, but blogging about a specific topic is attractive. He encouraged me to not to archive my categories by date, but to select categories that my blog would be about, and then let me archives by driven by category. It's proven to be useful advice.

Essentially my schtick is technical writing, and how the emerging tools of blogs, podcasts, wikis, web 2.0, and other new media can be integrated into the way we deliver help content.

Porter also says you shouldn't worry too much about grammar and correctness. People are more interested in ideas, and they read your blog quickly. Porter says to focus instead on clarity:

If you spend a lot of time blogging, make sure that you spend it on clarity…that every word is understandable and your ideas are clear. Notice that in this post I'm being very-straightforward…it's clear what I'm talking about. This isn't always easy…and it takes practice and time. Don't let the simple posts fool you…that's the goal.

He expresses himself with a clear, authentic voice. That's sometimes hard because I often don't have a clear picture of exactly what I think about a topic. Clarifying my thoughts is challenging but critical for the appeal of any blog.

Porter says if you aren't getting the comments you want, remember that one comment probably represents 10 readers who didn't comment. He also recommends adding a greatest hits section, and to funnel new readers to it.

Overall, his post gives the best blogging advice I've read yet. Thanks Josh.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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