Stowe Boyd, who I don’t know, but who (a) wears a cool hat and (b) must be an authority to be reckoned with since he’s a member of the Web 2.0 Work Group (I want to be a part of the Web 2.0 Play Group, so will someone please found that and invite me), says that Scoble’s directions to the top of bloggers hill were a little lacking in substance.
Stowe gives 10 rules of his own. Since I’m always looking for a better route to the summit, let’s see how I can use Stowe’s rules to my blogging advantage.
1) True Voice
This means write well and passionately. The phrase seems to come from some seminar Stowe puts on, so I’ll overlook the “pre-owned cars” phraseology and agree that writing well and with passsion will help make your blog better. The earth isn’t shaking, but it’s good advice.
2) Throw Yourself Into Dialog
I think this means comment on topics you’re interested in and engage others in dialog. OK, I agree with that. I feel compelled to point out, however, that if the person you are trying to engage in a dialog with doesn’t respond, it’s not dialog- you’re just talking to someone who has already turned away.
Nevertheless, this is still good advice.
3) Draw The Line, Over And Over Again
Now we’re getting somewhere. I actually teach seminars too, and in my negotiation strategy speech one of my themes is that you need to decide in advance what your themes are and return to them consistently during the negotiation process. This concept is important, in negotiation, old media journalism and blog writing. If you don’t map out your themes, you may inadvertently appear inconsistent, and much of your writing will be comprised of “I agree” or “I don’t agree” with what she said about this or that. Sort of like this post, actually.
4) The Big Idea
My experience has led me to conclude that blogs get 90% of their links from 10% of their posts. The other 90% of your posts are important, but to make your bones, you need to get that 10%. I’m starting to get the hint of a pattern to this process and I’ll write more about it later.
But the point is that your lesser posts keep your readers, but your greater posts get you new ones.
5) Sharpen Your Pencil, And Then Write
This is a metaphor for practicing to get better. Just like juggling and free throws, the more you write the better writer you’ll become. But I would add my own tired metaphor to the formula: analytical thinking is at least as important as practiced writing. It’s the combination of the two, with a dose of humor, that gets you that 10%.
I would describe this more as being thick skinned. You simply can’t put yourself out there in the public eye and not face criticism, if not derision. Statistics and human nature dictate that any public or semi-public figure will have a certain number of people who disagree or even dislike him or her.
One of the (perhaps few) things I have working for me as far as the blogging thing goes is that, partially by design and partially as a result of being too hard headed, I have been somewhat of a lightning rod in my other endeavors for 20 or so years. As a result, I am very hard to offend. When (note I didn’t say if) someone calls me an idiot, I am immediately interested in why he or she feels that way. More than a few times, I have been convinced that I was being an idiot and remapped my thinking on the issue.
If you are easily offended, the top of any hill, bloggers or otherwise, will be at least somewhat unpleasant for you.
I guess Stowe ran out of metaphors by the 6’s and 7’s. I agree that we must make technology work for us. As I discussed today in the Comments here, the love of technology is what started me on my trip that ended up in the blogosphere. Certainly, technology is important for those of us who write to the tech industry. But I suppose it’s also important, though less so, for people blogging about non-tech topics.
8) Timing Matters
Momentum plays are as important to journalism as they are to the stock market. Sure, I’d love to say I only write about what I want to write about, but I’m not that existential (yet). All of us, to one degree or another, write about what we think people want to read about.
9) Human Sized Pieces
Stowe says to write like Jeff Goldblum did in The Big Chill– nothing so long it can’t be read in one bathroom trip. I probably break this rule several times a day.
I’m curious what others think about this. I don’t follow this rule very closely, but maybe I should think about it.
10) Respond to comments
This is the close cousin of rule 2 above. Maybe he needed one more for the magic ten. But clearly it is good advice. In fact, I often enjoy the comments here and on the blogs I read as much or more than the posts themselves. Blogs are all about the conversation for me, and the comments are where the conversation generally occurs. And it’s the only place those without blogs can join in.
In sum, I appreciate Stowe’s advice. But I think Scoble’s points are just as valid, even if the words aren’t as artful.
But here’s the thing, both of those guys are trying to help the “bloglorn” (to use Stowe’s slightly condescending word for his audience). And if anyone wants to tell me how to be a better writer and how to reach more people I’ll listen.
But first I’ve got to find me a cooler hat.