Ten tips on blogging from the father of all blogs

Or from Jorn Barger, as the more nerdy ones amongst you will know him.

Jorn Barger coined the term “weblog” on December 17, 1997, i.e. ten years ago this week. His original aim was to log the world wide web as he surfed. At the time of writing, 11:30 am GMT on 18th December 2007, Technorati is tracking some 113M blogs and some 250M pieces of tagged social media.

Considering the lingo in blogging – vlogging, splogging, blog pimping etc – is growing as fast as the number of blogs, perhaps it is worth considering the top tips in blogging from Barger himself.

Original link on Wired can be found here. By his logic, I really should not bother saying anything about them (see #3 below) but since that particular tip is in my I-do-not-agree list, here is a small categorisation (Barger’s tips in bold followed by my thoughts in normal font).

I agree with some of the tips:

4. Being truly yourself is always hipper than suppressing a link just because it’s not trendy enough. Your readers need to get to know you.

This is, of course, the ideal situation. However there is a journey to get to that point of equilibrium. Some readers regularly take it upon themselves to attack other readers, or harp on random points complete with unnecessary profanities which only go to show they have not much to say. Some bloggers too take it upon themselves to ascribe motives to their readers and put them off. The negotiated balance is slow to establish itself during which time both parties may need to give each other the benefit of the doubt.

5. You can always improve on the author’s own page title, when describing a link. (At least make sure your description is full enough that readers will recognize any pages they’ve already visited, without having to visit them again.)

This is useful and sometimes may even lead to the original blogger changing her post title, as Penelope did in this case.

6. Always include some adjective describing your own reaction to the linked page (great, useful, imaginative, clever, etc.)

Sorry to use Penelope’s example again. But a few days ago, she wrote a great post on linking to other blogs which I mentioned on this blog as a good read.

7. Credit the source that led you to it, so your readers have the option of “moving upstream.”

Absolutely. But it is better to be aware that there are plenty of instances of bare-faced plagiarism in the blogosphere and remember you point them out on those blogs at your own peril. Be prepared for a torrent of random abuse and recrimination hurled your way!

8. Warn about “gotchas” — weird formatting, multipage stories, extra-long files, etc. Don’t camouflage the main link among unneeded (or poorly labeled) auxiliary links.

10. Re-post your favorite links from time to time, for people who missed them the first time.

This, I think, I must practise more often. Second outings help both the blogger, especially on otherwise busy or ‘off’ days, and the readers.

And I do not agree with the others:

1. A true weblog is a log of all the URLs you want to save or share. (So del.icio.us is actually better for blogging than blogger.com.)

I do think that is his original view, but from 10 years ago. Everything evolves and so should the tools and the ‘rules’.

2. You can certainly include links to your original thoughts, posted elsewhere … but if you have more original posts than links, you probably need to learn some humility.

3. If you spend a little time searching before you post, you can probably find your idea well articulated elsewhere already.

This sounds like everything that had to be invented has been invented so we might as well just go home. Imagine if all scientists did go home one day…

All said and done, if it weren’t for pioneers like him, there would not be the blogosphere.

I wonder, however, what if after he invented the term, everybody went home and decided not to blog?

Happy Birthday, Blogs!

39 Replies to “Ten tips on blogging from the father of all blogs”

  1. on the birthday lets forget the tips and rules and do what we do best, write discuss and have fun at blogs
    what say Shefaly? πŸ™‚

    ” If you spend a little time searching before you post, you can probably find your idea well articulated elsewhere already.”

    I totally disagree, each of us have our own indes, there can be something similar never the same..

  2. on the birthday lets forget the tips and rules and do what we do best, write discuss and have fun at blogs
    what say Shefaly? πŸ™‚

    ” If you spend a little time searching before you post, you can probably find your idea well articulated elsewhere already.”

    I totally disagree, each of us have our own indes, there can be something similar never the same..

  3. Agree with this one:
    “Warn about β€œgotchas” β€” weird formatting, multipage stories, extra-long files, etc. ” END QUOTE
    I especially appreciate if a link is to a PDF file, since it causes my beloved old PC to wheeze, seize, and go into respiratory distress. Not on the laptop, though, but the warning helps, and I’ll read such files there.

  4. Agree with this one:
    “Warn about β€œgotchas” β€” weird formatting, multipage stories, extra-long files, etc. ” END QUOTE
    I especially appreciate if a link is to a PDF file, since it causes my beloved old PC to wheeze, seize, and go into respiratory distress. Not on the laptop, though, but the warning helps, and I’ll read such files there.

  5. Thanks for this post Shefaly. However I don’t quite understand what the guy meant “suppressing a link just because it’s not trendy enough.” Trendy?? In terms of ‘modern’?
    I don’t do number 8 but after reading Rambler’s comment I am going to!
    Also I tend to hide my main link in auxiliary links, which I shouldn’t.
    And ofcourse number one makes no sense today. Blogging has evolved like you said!

  6. Thanks for this post Shefaly. However I don’t quite understand what the guy meant “suppressing a link just because it’s not trendy enough.” Trendy?? In terms of ‘modern’?
    I don’t do number 8 but after reading Rambler’s comment I am going to!
    Also I tend to hide my main link in auxiliary links, which I shouldn’t.
    And ofcourse number one makes no sense today. Blogging has evolved like you said!

  7. Great post, as a relative “newbie” blogger I appreciate information like this. I’d like to echo the sentiments against the “if you have to search…..” comment, as I typically have to search for all kinds of data in my horse racing posts. I can remember a lot of things, but fractional splits in horse races is something you just have to grab from a reputable source rather than relying on memory.

  8. Great post, as a relative “newbie” blogger I appreciate information like this. I’d like to echo the sentiments against the “if you have to search…..” comment, as I typically have to search for all kinds of data in my horse racing posts. I can remember a lot of things, but fractional splits in horse races is something you just have to grab from a reputable source rather than relying on memory.

  9. @ All: I got back from lunch only to notice the blog traffic has exploded. I soon found out that this post is Hawt Post on the WordPress home page (1345 GMT on 18-Dec-07).

    Truly a case of something that happens to others and not to my blog! Thanks to you all for supporting and reading this blog!

    @ Rambler: Thanks and I agree with you (as you can see I have that tip in the list of tips with which I disagree). πŸ™‚

    @ Jackie: Thanks. I do try my best to warn-off but more, admittedly, on the Obesity blog than here. There I often review gated versions of papers and try to link to ungated summaries and when I can find whole papers, I try to upload them in PDF formats.

    But I should do the warn-off here too, with more focus.

    @ Nita: Thanks and I think that is roughly what he means, i.e. one must be wary of touting a view just because it is fashionable. You will remember an earlier conversation here where you said that authenticity was paramount and I think that is his message too. I definitely agree that some of the tips are anachronistic.

    @ Kstafford: Welcome to my blog and thanks for your note.

    I think researching one’s data before stating an opinion, even on blogs, is in general a good practice as is sharing other links which support or oppose a point. Researching is even more important when one is writing about exact things such as you do.

    @ Muhammad Zulfikar: Thanks for your note and for reading. You have some interesting commentary on the Middle East to which I shall return a bit later. Thanks.

    @ Canadada: Thanks for your note. Your blog is very interesting. I think most people who paid attention in geography class know of Canada quite well. I have visited, I have friends and family who live/ work/ study there, and of course, I have been taught by people from Canada. My PhD supervisor is from Montreal and is a rare bilingually publishing academic and a rising star in his field of climate change. So I found your ‘About’ page a bit tongue-in-cheek! πŸ™‚

  10. @ All: I got back from lunch only to notice the blog traffic has exploded. I soon found out that this post is Hawt Post on the WordPress home page (1345 GMT on 18-Dec-07).

    Truly a case of something that happens to others and not to my blog! Thanks to you all for supporting and reading this blog!

    @ Rambler: Thanks and I agree with you (as you can see I have that tip in the list of tips with which I disagree). πŸ™‚

    @ Jackie: Thanks. I do try my best to warn-off but more, admittedly, on the Obesity blog than here. There I often review gated versions of papers and try to link to ungated summaries and when I can find whole papers, I try to upload them in PDF formats.

    But I should do the warn-off here too, with more focus.

    @ Nita: Thanks and I think that is roughly what he means, i.e. one must be wary of touting a view just because it is fashionable. You will remember an earlier conversation here where you said that authenticity was paramount and I think that is his message too. I definitely agree that some of the tips are anachronistic.

    @ Kstafford: Welcome to my blog and thanks for your note.

    I think researching one’s data before stating an opinion, even on blogs, is in general a good practice as is sharing other links which support or oppose a point. Researching is even more important when one is writing about exact things such as you do.

    @ Muhammad Zulfikar: Thanks for your note and for reading. You have some interesting commentary on the Middle East to which I shall return a bit later. Thanks.

    @ Canadada: Thanks for your note. Your blog is very interesting. I think most people who paid attention in geography class know of Canada quite well. I have visited, I have friends and family who live/ work/ study there, and of course, I have been taught by people from Canada. My PhD supervisor is from Montreal and is a rare bilingually publishing academic and a rising star in his field of climate change. So I found your ‘About’ page a bit tongue-in-cheek! πŸ™‚

  11. Congrats! I haven’t been around here for a while, have I now? πŸ™‚
    Tough life, day laborer that I am! And no MBA to boot!
    Anyways, I haven’t yet read the original post, but I say screw all rules. It’s blogging. It’s your time and effort. You make your own rules. If they are rational and valid, the world will find your blog. Or else, you are not noticed. But who can’t live without that, I wonder?

  12. Congrats! I haven’t been around here for a while, have I now? πŸ™‚
    Tough life, day laborer that I am! And no MBA to boot!
    Anyways, I haven’t yet read the original post, but I say screw all rules. It’s blogging. It’s your time and effort. You make your own rules. If they are rational and valid, the world will find your blog. Or else, you are not noticed. But who can’t live without that, I wonder?

  13. I think his original intent of creating a “web log” 10 years ago may not have evolved much for HIM, hence his 10 Tips and their slant towards merely sharing interesting URLs and their contents with others (maybe something like StumbleUpon would be more akin to his original intent?). But the term “blog” has most definitely evolved into something else entirely, more focused at first on individuals editorializing/riffing on things written by others, and now simply on whatever inspires them no matter where it is found. “Blogging” today is more of an online op/ed movement with reader feedback forums than true “weblogging” as set forth by Mr. Barger in 1997, isn’t it?

  14. I think his original intent of creating a “web log” 10 years ago may not have evolved much for HIM, hence his 10 Tips and their slant towards merely sharing interesting URLs and their contents with others (maybe something like StumbleUpon would be more akin to his original intent?). But the term “blog” has most definitely evolved into something else entirely, more focused at first on individuals editorializing/riffing on things written by others, and now simply on whatever inspires them no matter where it is found. “Blogging” today is more of an online op/ed movement with reader feedback forums than true “weblogging” as set forth by Mr. Barger in 1997, isn’t it?

  15. I mostly like the final throw away of the scientists all going home. Nice image. If only…

    Even thought of a title — The Scientists Went Home. Kinda like The Sheep Look Up, but different.

    And I think there should be an eleventh blog rule (you know, in the same sense as there’s a fifth element…Ah, quintessence!):

    11. Stop posting lists.

    Alas, though mine was short, I just broke my own stupid rule. πŸ˜‰

  16. I mostly like the final throw away of the scientists all going home. Nice image. If only…

    Even thought of a title — The Scientists Went Home. Kinda like The Sheep Look Up, but different.

    And I think there should be an eleventh blog rule (you know, in the same sense as there’s a fifth element…Ah, quintessence!):

    11. Stop posting lists.

    Alas, though mine was short, I just broke my own stupid rule. πŸ˜‰

  17. @ oAnergos: Thanks for your note. Your blog is all Greek to me πŸ™‚

    @ Nita: Thank you!

    @ Rambodoc: Thank you! Yes you have not been around a while. I am day labourer too but I labour for myself and not for an employer so I am more flexible. Being an MBA makes no difference; if anything, it makes sure that people are in highly paid (and highly time consuming) corporate jobs where most likely their personal web use is being monitored closely πŸ˜‰

    @ Worth: You are right, of course. The term has evolved to mean other things but I found it surprising that Barger appears to refuse to accept the change for what it is. After all on internet time, things do happen double – or septuple – quick, don’t they?

    @ Canadada: It indeed is. Merry Christmas to you too! For me, it is just free holiday time when the pleasure of giving and receiving presents is all mine without needing to cook turkey (although with our bird flu scare, I wonder if many in the UK are choosing to cook a thing-with-wings this year after all…).

    @ The Necromancer: Welcome to my blog! Good image indeed, scientists going home like Snowhite’s dwarfs walking in a queue, but what will they do after they go home?

    And instead of the 11th, why not a Zeroth? πŸ™‚ That is a perfectly valid construct too, isn’t it?

    PS: I make lists for their motivational use. Do it, tick it off – in red, move to the next one. I even wrote one when I was tagged for a writing meme once. Complete with a Zeroth Law.

  18. @ oAnergos: Thanks for your note. Your blog is all Greek to me πŸ™‚

    @ Nita: Thank you!

    @ Rambodoc: Thank you! Yes you have not been around a while. I am day labourer too but I labour for myself and not for an employer so I am more flexible. Being an MBA makes no difference; if anything, it makes sure that people are in highly paid (and highly time consuming) corporate jobs where most likely their personal web use is being monitored closely πŸ˜‰

    @ Worth: You are right, of course. The term has evolved to mean other things but I found it surprising that Barger appears to refuse to accept the change for what it is. After all on internet time, things do happen double – or septuple – quick, don’t they?

    @ Canadada: It indeed is. Merry Christmas to you too! For me, it is just free holiday time when the pleasure of giving and receiving presents is all mine without needing to cook turkey (although with our bird flu scare, I wonder if many in the UK are choosing to cook a thing-with-wings this year after all…).

    @ The Necromancer: Welcome to my blog! Good image indeed, scientists going home like Snowhite’s dwarfs walking in a queue, but what will they do after they go home?

    And instead of the 11th, why not a Zeroth? πŸ™‚ That is a perfectly valid construct too, isn’t it?

    PS: I make lists for their motivational use. Do it, tick it off – in red, move to the next one. I even wrote one when I was tagged for a writing meme once. Complete with a Zeroth Law.

  19. As a newby blogger, trying to maintain a business blog without ruthlessly dissing some of my more acerbic (or hysterical) readers, I find it sometimes hard to restrain myself – it’s sometimes very hard to give the benefit of the doubt, and remain true to the spirit of the blog and at the same time not upset any potential business. Blogging today certainly means more than links to URL’s. I would hope that our business blog (my business blog?) is in some way enlightening and provides a resource for people to find more information on the archaeology, environment and history of Ireland in a less formal and staid manner than a history book.

  20. As a newby blogger, trying to maintain a business blog without ruthlessly dissing some of my more acerbic (or hysterical) readers, I find it sometimes hard to restrain myself – it’s sometimes very hard to give the benefit of the doubt, and remain true to the spirit of the blog and at the same time not upset any potential business. Blogging today certainly means more than links to URL’s. I would hope that our business blog (my business blog?) is in some way enlightening and provides a resource for people to find more information on the archaeology, environment and history of Ireland in a less formal and staid manner than a history book.

  21. What an interesting post and discussion. I agree with the same points you do. His point about being able to find the same point articulated better seems quite extraordinary, almost from another age- these days who would say anything other than “so what?” to that. It’s all about us now, saying things the way we want to, in our unique human ways, not about trying to be objectively the best at doing a thing, isn’t it.

  22. What an interesting post and discussion. I agree with the same points you do. His point about being able to find the same point articulated better seems quite extraordinary, almost from another age- these days who would say anything other than “so what?” to that. It’s all about us now, saying things the way we want to, in our unique human ways, not about trying to be objectively the best at doing a thing, isn’t it.

  23. @ Mooregroup: It sounds difficult but I think there is only a little bit of difference between personal blogs and business blogs. A business blog attracts people interested in the particular business or the broader industry. Rude comments will come from some who are trolls but some who are genuinely upset about something and want to air or share their experience. The two can be told apart easily. I would engage with the latter – it is a chance to deliver better service; I would largely ignore the former.

    As for precedence, even Guy Kawasaki gets rude comments and he is a seasoned and largely popular chap! I got a lot of rude comments from both pro-fat and anti-fat activists on my Obesity blog in early days; but when it became clear to them that I was not promoting an agenda, just sharing research and commenting on it in the broader context, they died down. If you are, as you say, a newbie blogger, then you will find you also settle into an equilibrium over a few months. Until then one has to take the rough with the smooth. No? πŸ™‚

    @ Alice: Thanks. I think his view in tip 3 is a bit old-fashioned. Blogging does involve a degree of narcissism I believe (I am surprised social psychologists are not all over bloggers like a rash inviting us to become their research guinea-pigs because narcissism is seen as one of what Daniel Goleman calles the ‘Dark Triad’ in his book on social intelligence, anyway…). But I have found enough evidence that it is not always written anywhere articulately. It may be because people frame issues differently, or they have different ontological positions. Much discussion is possible due to differences in perspectives. But then his sense of blogging is more del.icio.us than Blogger so what can we say except that we differ in our views? πŸ™‚

  24. @ Mooregroup: It sounds difficult but I think there is only a little bit of difference between personal blogs and business blogs. A business blog attracts people interested in the particular business or the broader industry. Rude comments will come from some who are trolls but some who are genuinely upset about something and want to air or share their experience. The two can be told apart easily. I would engage with the latter – it is a chance to deliver better service; I would largely ignore the former.

    As for precedence, even Guy Kawasaki gets rude comments and he is a seasoned and largely popular chap! I got a lot of rude comments from both pro-fat and anti-fat activists on my Obesity blog in early days; but when it became clear to them that I was not promoting an agenda, just sharing research and commenting on it in the broader context, they died down. If you are, as you say, a newbie blogger, then you will find you also settle into an equilibrium over a few months. Until then one has to take the rough with the smooth. No? πŸ™‚

    @ Alice: Thanks. I think his view in tip 3 is a bit old-fashioned. Blogging does involve a degree of narcissism I believe (I am surprised social psychologists are not all over bloggers like a rash inviting us to become their research guinea-pigs because narcissism is seen as one of what Daniel Goleman calles the ‘Dark Triad’ in his book on social intelligence, anyway…). But I have found enough evidence that it is not always written anywhere articulately. It may be because people frame issues differently, or they have different ontological positions. Much discussion is possible due to differences in perspectives. But then his sense of blogging is more del.icio.us than Blogger so what can we say except that we differ in our views? πŸ™‚

What do YOU think?