Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Writer's Blog: A Newbie's Primer on Blogging (Part 2)

To Blog or Not To Blog

The popularity of the blog is undeniable. As of April 2007, Technorati's David Sifry through the State of the Blogosphere report estimates over 70 million blogs in existence today. As you are reading this, at least one new blog site is being created per second and more than one thousand blog entries are being posted every minute.

If you are already part of the 70 million, good for you - for as long as you do not operate a "splog" (i.e. spam blog; if you do, shame on you!). For those who have not taken the blog plunge, perhaps you are asking yourself, "Why should I?" Indeed this is a valid question now more than ever before.

Blogging benefits and disadvantages vary from blogger to blogger due to the highly personal nature of the medium. The following is essentially non-exhaustive but serves as a starting point for checking one's motives for becoming a blog author.

Let us start with the drawbacks.

Blogging Disadvantages

Everybody is a critic. If you are a very sensitive individual, you probably should just keep your writings to yourself. As they say, "if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." The Internet is one hell of a hot kitchen with critics and bigots and flamers of all sorts and sizes, each claiming authority and monopoly for the right kind of knowledge or viewpoint. Indeed, the Internet is a bastion of freedom but there are people who cannot stand the fact that others are also free to think, act and say things differently. In all likelihood, they will take you on a veritable war of words. On the other hand, if you can manage to be tolerant of opposing views then there is room for you to share on this otherwise limitless web-publishing frontier, despite the critics.

Spam comments. Comments on blog postings are at the cornerstone of the medium's popularity. Blogs ought to be interactive. You are sharing your thoughts to the world; might as well have a share of what the world thinks of you. While interactivity should otherwise be an advantage, with the proliferation of unsolicited commercial laden comments on blogs it has somewhat turned into a disadvantage for blog operators. Hence, it has become best-practice policy to moderate comments to filter out spams. (Incidentally, comment moderation can also inhibit flaming posts but watch out. This act treads closely to censorship, which is also a looming issue on the Internet nowadays.)

Spam Blogs. In contrast to spam comments, "splogs" are entire blog sites of keyword gibberish designed to veer search engine attention to their keyword-laden sites instead of indexing your legitimate blog. A Wired article cited that in May 2006 some 56% of active English-language blogs are actually splogs. Now, either that can tick you off as undue competition or you can make it a benevolent mission to contribute valid blogs to the blogosphere, before it goes the way of the dodo because of spam.

High Maintenance. Writing a blog is definitely time-consuming. Most blogs lay idle for weeks or even months at a time, while others simply are forgotten altogether. A truly informative article might take at least a day or two to complete, while a simple trip to the countryside story will take up a minimum of thirty minutes to blurt out. Blogging requires commitment. Your audience expects you to respond to comments and provide regular updates on your blog. You have to commit to rid spam comments from moderation so it will not ever be published. In addition, just like getting into a weight-loss program, you have to make a commitment to a blogging regimen to keep your grey-matter juices flowing. If you can post an entry on a daily basis, well and good. Others can maintain 2 to 3 posts a day, while others post 2 to 3 write-ups on a weekly basis. Remember that while your blog site may be free of charge it consumes disk space and bandwidth, and like other idle assets it becomes more of a liability overall. So make the most of your free blog site and post as often as you can.

Private Information and Security Matters. Personal information is always at risk when you go online. Be aware that whatever you share on your blog is made available to every webizen from Abkhazia to Zimbabwe. Many people use their blogs as virtual bartenders, spilling out all kinds of ranting, backbiting and foul mouthing on anything and anyone. Unfortunately, these blog attacks have been used against their respective bloggers resulting in defamation cases, being fired, and even being imprisoned for treason. As in all freedoms, blogging necessarily carries with it some degree of accountability. Many organizations go to the Internet to check just how much the people they interact with have been responsible to themselves and to the people or things that they write about. Take care of what you blog on, as you would not want it to whiplash against you later on when you are trying to close a deal or pursuing a job.


(This is the second part of a series. Part 3 of "Writer's Blog: A Newbie's Primer on Blogging" follows next.)

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