Wednesday, 23 August 2006
The Art of Blogging
The other day, Crabby Old Lady asked for some help in reorganizing Time Goes By’s Elderbloggers List – the blogroll – because it has become unwieldy in its length. Tabor of One Day at a Time thinks Crabby may be overly optimistic in taking on such a sizeable project and she could be right. But it will be done eventually; when I’m eager for the outcome, I have a high tolerance for tedium.
Relatedly, I get a lot of requests from novice elderbloggers for advice on how to get started. They tend to arrive in rashes and there have been a bunch in the past couple of weeks. I’m always happy to help because blogging has many high-end benefits for elders which I wrote about here last year, and I want to do all the evangelizing I can.
Once a new elderblogger is up and running, I check in regularly and if they stick with it and if their posts are consistently compelling, I add them to the blogroll.
With all this thinking about beginning bloggers and blogroll links lately, I was interested to read Doc Searl’s refutation of this guy who wrote:
“...in the end, that's what the A-list is all about: directing traffic. They are the traffic cops of the blogosphere and they are not as easily replaced as some would like to make us believe. They are brand names and we tend to trust them, even if they let us down sometimes.”
To which Doc replies in part:
“As often happens, I'm listed among the [A]'listers. “For what it's worth, I don't consider my readers ‘traffic’. Nor do I consider my links to other blogs or sites a way of ‘directing’ anything other than a reader's interest.
“If I thought of myself as a ‘traffic cop’ of anything, much less the blogosphere, I'd hang it up.”
And then, in response to this other guy’s characterization of all us non-A-listers as “blog peasants” and “the great unread,” Doc gets to his really good part:
“Want to succeed in the blogosphere, or the Web in general? Easy. Do search engine optimization. Here's how:
- Write quotable stuff about a lot of different subjects.
- Do it consistently, for months if not years.
- Link a lot, as a way of giving credit and of sending readers to other sources of whatever it is you write about.”
Right on, as we used to say in the 60s. The only quibble I have with Doc’s list is No. 1 since Time Goes By, while far from even approaching A-list status, does quite nicely with the single subject of aging. But this blog covers dozens of sub-topics to aging, and I’m pretty sure that fits with what Doc means.
Now I don’t want to hear from any of you elderbloggers that you don’t care if only a few people read yours. Only a saint takes on something as time-consuming (to do well) as blogging and publishes in a space where the world can read it without desiring some feedback and acknowledgement. (And I’m not so sure about saints.) But certainly, every blogger needs a better reason that high readership numbers to do it.
When, years ago, I first ran across E.M. Forster’s line, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say,” it was an instance of "I’ve always known that, why didn’t I know that before." I write to figure out what I think about things and it is astonishing how many times I start a blog post and wind up in an entirely different place at the end than I thought I intended. Writing is a joy for me because it organizes my thoughts, forces me toward clarity and often leads to discovering what I didn’t know before.
Today’s post is a case in point. I thought I was going to tell you about how, when I first began Time Goes By in late 2003, and stumbled around trying to find my voice and point of view for several months before I started publishing daily, it was disheartening to see the visitor stats flatlining. And I thought I’d tell you too about the thrill at seeing the surge in reader numbers when Typepad featured TGB on its landing page.
And maybe I’m not so far off from that point after all. Whenever the topic of his A-List status comes up, Doc is self-deprecating about it and I mentally shout, “Hey Doc, it’s okay to be an A-lister.” And for the rest of us, it is okay to not be. The Technorati Top 100 should not be the goal; there are better ones to aim for.
In addition to my enjoyment of writing and having a place to put all the research I do about aging, my main blogging interests are aging itself, blogging’s benefits to elders and building the community of elderbloggers and their readers. The more of us there are, the wider the range of voices, the better the discussion and the opportunities for friendship, learning and support among us. It thrills me every time I receive an email asking for help in getting started because it means one more elderblogger who will add to the store of knowledge we are accumulating.
So, follow Doc’s three rules of blogging and you will succeed as long as you don’t measure success by rank in the blogosphere. Doc said it best at the end of his post I’ve been quoting:
“I can't promise royalty, because there isn't any. But I can promise a rewarding relationship with the readers you'll get, regardless of how many there are.”