The Ten Biggest Mistakes New Bloggers Make

blogmanAs usual, the sassy, self-referential and sometimes solipsistic world of blogging is chattering about how to be a blogger, as if all readers of blogs are writers of blogs, which may be mostly true but certainly must bug the bejesus out of folks who prefer reading news and commentary online but still think blog is a type of peat moss found in Scotland.

Furthermore, bloggers are starting to nudge out print journalists and are becoming really quite cocky about the whole ordeal. Or maybe print journalists, who have always been fabulously narcissistic, are getting laid off and turning into bloggers, bringing their lovable egocentricities into the world of social media.

Since I’m failing miserably at this year’s Blogathon challenge and since my wife says I love giving unsolicited advice, I’d like to take this opportunity to tell all of you how not to blog, something I know very well.

Naturally, because bloggers are numerical fetishists, here’s the advice in numbered list format:

1. Don’t choose a niche. I recommend calling your blog something like “Blog Salad” and giving lame excuses about why you can’t be categorized.  Guaranteed to attract those Google searches for “general interest” blogs.

2. Don’t deliver on your title’s promise. I recommend using titles like “Tax time tips for Freelancers” or “How to find true love in one week” when blogging about toddler bowel movements or your pet poodle’s latest haircut.

3. Don’t link to anything. Especially not other posts in your blog or posts from famous bloggers—you wouldn’t want folks to keep reading your material or associate you with success, would you?

4. Don’t use images, photos, video, numbered lists or bullet points. Everyone loves a website full of unadulterated text, text, text.  Style is for sissies.  If you do, however, be sure to use copyrighted material without permission.  That’s the good stuff.

3. Publish your posts at random, arbitrary times. One day post at 6:00am, the next at 7:00pm.  People love when postal workers, newspaper delivery folks, and cable television shows do this, so I’m sure they’ll love when your blog does the same.

4. Publish identical content on multiple sites at once. Just like a college professor who gets seven identical essays from one class, this rookie maneuver will be lovingly welcomed by the crawler-bots that work for Google.

(UPDATE: Actually, this might not be such a bad idea, if done well. The Happiness Project’s Gretchen Rubin does it.)

5. Fill 78% of your site with advertising space, especially ads for items that are entirely unrelated to your blog post. You never want to miss out on the opportunity to capitalize on someone’s spontaneous, inexplicable urge to buy heartburn medicine.

6. Don’t edit anything. People want the raw unfiltered you—just as much as they want raw, unfiltered tap water in Malaysia.  If your writing looks polished, well-structured or (gasp!) edited, you’ll be shunned as a member of the evil literati.

7. Don’t use keywords, meta descriptions or any search engine optimization techniques. Because it’s not your fault that you’re fabulous and no one knows it. They should look harder—you’re a diamond in the ruff.  And besides, SEO sounds so, I don’t know, corporate.

8. Never give useful advice and always blog about current events, especially momentary pop culture trends. Nothing irks readers more than a timeless piece of good writing or advice.  Oh, I almost forgot: Happy Mother’s Day Weekend 2011, everybody!

9. Never talk about yourself and never be funny. Maintaining a stolid third-person journalistic tone is working out great for mainstream newspapers. You should definitely follow in their footsteps.

10. Never take advice from more experienced bloggers or attempt to emulate their actions. Except for me, because I totally know what I’m doing.  Definitely don’t pay any attention to ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse, Authority Blogger’s Chris Garrett, WordCount’s Michelle Rafter, CopyBlogger’s Brian Clark, BikeSnobNYC, Heather B. Armstrong, Seth Godin, or Gary Vaynerchuk.  Those folks don’t even have day jobs—they just write and blog for a living.  What are you going to learn from them?


I thought I’d hop on for a minute and add my solo to the chorus.

I’m in New York for the 40th Annual American Society of Journalists and Authors conference, staying with dear Brooklynite friends who graciously offered their hospitality (and couches!) to me while I’m in town.

One of my hosts moved to New York only two weeks before September 11—and lived a few blocks from the World Trade Center. Therefore, last night should have been a triumphant occasion for him, the symbolic resolution of a terrible tragedy. He and I gathered around the television with his younger Bohemian loft mates while images of Osama bin Laden flashed before us. We listened as President Obama spoke of justice being served.

While teens and drunk twentysomethings amassed at Times Square to chant and celebrate, we discussed NYC landmarks to avoid for the rest of the summer. The best strategies for coping with a dirty bomb. And the blue emergency backpack—filled with first aid supplies and food rations—that eternally hangs, untouched for years, upon their wall.

My friend suggested a headline for an upcoming issue of the satirical newspaper, The Onion: “Obama says two wrongs really do make a right.”

I now sit alone, with the humdrum of the city outside, dreaming of a world where none of this is necessary—where peace and unity are the status quo, not a fanciful notion for idealists. I believe that world is an evolutionary inevitability, like a child reaching adulthood, but this evening’s events remind me of how far we have yet to go.

But enough of my yakking; it’s time for some fun.

Today marks the beginning of the 2011 WordCount Blogathon, an annual community blogging event where writers from around the world commit to blogging 31 days in a row, the entire month of May. WordCount’s Michelle Rafter just sent an email to me saying that nearly 200 bloggers registered for the event, with the registrants ranging from green mommy bloggers to ABC News journalists to, well, little old me. I’m daunted by the task, but honored by the opportunity to play along.

Google +1: Facebook’s Like shouldn’t worry, but Evernote should

The search giant hasn’t created the next “Like” button. It’s created the world’s simplest (and most powerful?) research bookmarking tool.

Google introduced +1 to the world on Wednesday, an experimental tool that adds a feature similar to Facebook’s Like button to Google searches. Because the snazzy new button is so, well, Like-like, everyone’s talking about how +1 symbolizes yet another attack from Google against the Social Network.

Personally, I think Mark Zuckerberg is Facebook’s single greatest threat and the +1 button will only bolster the big social timesuck. After all, if the experiment is a success, Google will develop an API that will allow developers to merge +1 with Like, just as they’ve done with Google Buzz and Twitter, Twitter and Facebook, etc. etc. etc. Neither service will starve, because one will feed the other.

In other words, Facebook needn’t worry a bit about +1.

But, imagine, if you will, that I decided to write the world’s greatest book about bananas. Okay, I would never do that (it’s already been written by the formidable and funny Dan Koeppel) but let’s pretend that I’m doing my first day’s research on the topic. I go to Google and I type “bananas.”  Here’s what I see:

Google search results for bananasThere they are, those sexy, newly-activated +1 buttons. I see something I like, I click +1.

I’ve just bookmarked something directly from search. I do it again. And again. Suddenly digging through pages and pages of search results feels less overwhelming—if I see something of promise, I click +1 and move on. All my one-ups (that’s what I’m calling them—that’s the proper gamer geek term and “Plus Ones” sounds silly) are saved on my Google profile, either for public or private review.

Big deal, right? For notebook services like Evernote or OneNote, this is a huge blow. Many users of these notebooking services use them to archive URLs for later review—exactly what +1 does,  but faster. Add the resulting social data to your search (how many folks in my contact list or industry one-upped this page?) and you have something truly magical.

Of course, this entirely depends on public adoption of the new tool—and the warmth of Google’s own embrace. Anyone remember Google Wave?

What do you think? Has Google one-upped social bookmarking tools? Does Google have its sights on Facebook? Leave a comment below.

Happy birthday, Madeleine.

People don’t believe me, but there was a pop
No kidding, like a champagne cork
And suddenly burst forth baby.
Two words—paradigm shift.
And I lashed myself forty times for every impure thing I’ve ever done
For every hateful word I’ve ever spoke
And for every time I said “I don’t want children.”

We made you—and then you made me.
Four years later, I am not who I was.
I’m better. And I owe that to you.
Today may be your birthday, but you will always be my gift.

(adapted from a long, too-deep-and-metaphorical spoken word poem entitled “Building Madeleine”)

A little mathematical perspective

I thought I had a terrible day, but then I added things up:

-1 = Pulling onto a road shoulder that doesn’t exist and getting car stuck
-1 = Completely blowing my stack
+1 = My wife giving me a reason to calm down
+1 = The charity of strangers with a towing strap
-1 = Hiking up Berthoud Pass when out of shape
+1 = The breathtaking majesty of nature
-1 = Breaking the bindings on a pair of borrowed skis
+1 = The generosity of the lender
-1 = A terrible, slow run down Hell’s Half Acre
+1 = The patience of good friends
-1 = Missing a second run because I got such a late start
+1 = The ridiculously deep and delicious snow
-1 = 20lbs of snow and ice sliding off a restaurant roof onto me
+1 = Sumptuous Italian wedding soup, pizza and greek salad inside
+1 = The squeals of my daughters on sleds
+1 = Being in the mountains, under any circumstances
+1 = Being with my family and friends, under any circumstances

+3 = I had a good day after all.

Snowbeard the Pirate

Photo by Kyle Hubbard