Two of the bloggers I respect the most, Browfemipower and Nubian from blac(k)ademic, both of whom participated in the 2006 Allied Media Conference, have both moved their blogspot blogs to their own, self-hosted sites. That’s awesome.
It affirms a piece of advice I’ve shared with a couple of friends who recently started blogging: omnicrisis, and Zapagringo: start out with an independent url.
It only costs $9 from godaddy.com, which offers free redirects. That way, when you’re ready to leave your mass-host behind, you will already have a separate identity. And you won’t be advertising your host as much in the meantime.
I haven’t been blogging for very long, though I have been supporting online journalism for quite a while through Indymedia (global, US, and NYC) and such. Before this blog, I was a writer for RNCwatch and CounterRecruiter.net (thanks to Mike Burke) but those were issue blogs, which is kind of different than finding a personal voice. Nevertheless, I’ve learned a few things and the first is that you share what you know as soon as possible because if you hold onto your knowledge it will just become outdated.
In addition to those two points – independent urls and say it now – here are some other things I was told or learned myself:
- your voice is more unique than you think (Steve)
- self-promotion (it is America, after all)
- syndication (as through Indyblogs, NYC IMC, Philly IMC, and Philly Future)
- linking: give and ye shall receive (remember to link to your own previous posts)
- commenting: same thing; comments on a blog are like testimonials on Friendster
- email. Some people send out a first notice to all of their contacts right away. I would wait until you’ve been at it for a while. Then send out a link to a particularly hot post and let people find the other good stuff on your site. If there is a person or group/listserv you want to read a particular article, send it out just to them.
- regular readers will use RSS readers, so make sure your feed(s) are easy to find
- post at least once a week (Sascha); don’t be afraid to take a break, but then get back into it
- work on multiple posts at the same time, save drafts
- if you finish a post after noon, save it and publish it in the morning
- you already write more than you think; turn your IM chats or your email exchanges or your drunken rants into posts
- do something to stand out and stay on target (Jed)
- having an independent host is easier than you think (Steve)
- having a platform of any kind obligates you to speak out on the most pressing issues of the day
- don’t be afraid to say something that’s been said, especially if you were the one who said it; repetition is the lifeblood of blogging (but give credit with links, especially if you were the one who said it)
- the digitization of the public sphere is the new jim crow (Antwuan, Brownfemipower)
Building on that last point, it’s important to support other people finding their own voice and platform. If all you see around you is dudes starting up blogs, you gotta do something about that. Don’t censor yourself. As I used to say when people complained that too much of Indymedia’s content was from the US, don’t push for less of the content you don’t want, push for more of the content you do want. In the scheme of things, we’re all still censored compared to corporate media and wealthy people.
On the other hand, some people might actually have something better or just different to do, even if they’re good writers, like Kat and Hannah. (I love it when they do post, though.) If blogging doesn’t float your boat or serve your long-term interests, I understand why you wouldn’t bother. So don’t push anyone too hard to do it.
But when someone does get started, give whatever support you can. I don’t get much traffic (maybe 50 visitors a day on average and 35-40 feeds), but every bit helps. So here are some more shoutouts:
- Becca writing about her life and her work at ILSR, including our collaborations on municipal wireless
- Kate, from whom I have already learned so much about Irish American politics
- and blixx, sharing his DJ sets, recipes, and thoughts on the wars
I think all three of them started using WordPress on my recommendation and I stand behind that. I’ve used Typepad, though not as an owner or administrator. Blogspot blogs all look the same to me, with the white on black. I like WordPress. It’s the newest, seems to promote popular control of the platform (if not open source in general), and has a very friendly interface. It’s easy to find your syndication feed, and they even make it easy to have feeds for different categories. I’ve encountered some bugs, but mostly all the functions are smooth.
I saw presentations from Blogspot, Typepad, and WordPress at the Webzine 2005 conference, all of whom gave me Indymedia flashbacks by saying they wanted to make it possible for the whole world to publish to the Internet. There are also Friendster, MySpace, and LiveJournal blogs, but those platforms all seem to want to be bigger than the sum of its users.
I got the best vibe from Matt‘s presentation (Matt is the lead developer of WordPress) and they were offering beta access to their then-new hosted service, so I signed up. I didn’t do much with it until the National Summit for Community Wireless, when Steve gave me some encouragement and I realized I knew some things about Philly’s plans that no one else knew and that this very specific community was interested in.