The OF Blog: Food for thought for those who care about their blogs

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Food for thought for those who care about their blogs

Interesting bit from ESPN.com's TrueHoop blog:

A surprising amount of the e-mail I get is not about basketball at all. It's about blogging.

(If you're here for basketball talk, move along. I promise I won't hide some hot trade rumor five paragraphs down.)

I'm happy to get those e-mails, because I think about blogging more than is healthy. When people e-mail about blogging, my answers tend to fit into one of these three categories:

  • If you want to break into sportswriting, the best thing to do is start a blog. Newspapers are firing more than they're hiring, and even when they were hiring it seemed to me they were mostly hiring people who knew people. Blogging is open to all, and will not only give you a shot at getting noticed by those who hire, but it is also one of the most dogged writing teachers anywhere. If there is stuff you need to work on, your readers will tell you, one way or another. There is nothing like constant instant feedback to inspire improvement. And if you're really good, and keep at it day and day out for, say, 18 months or so, your blog will get noticed, and you will start getting really exciting feedback.
  • There is a lot of debate about blog ethics. Many of the big questions that apply to publishing in all media -- from radio reporting to book publishing -- apply here, and there are often not easy answers to the questions like "is it responsible to publish this?" I wrestle with that all the time. Please, though, for the sake of bloggers everywhere, try to be responsible. Understand that megaphone in your hand can be used for good or evil. Just because it's your blog doesn't mean it's cool to hurt people with incorrect information. Also, there are blog ethics, and they matter. No one is perfect, but, you if you're a blogger, you ought to at least know the basic tenets of your medium. You might decide to break them -- that's on you -- but it's uncool to be clueless.
  • If you're starting a blog now, you're late to the party. That's fine. But at this stage, it's hard to get a good audience without bringing something unique to the party. If you're just reacting to the sports news of the day then you are racing a hundred thousand competitors some of whom have a five-year head start. Hope you've been eating your Wheaties, you know? If you want your blog to be read, however, and to be a little special, do something new. Have an idea what other good blogs are around like yours, and figure out something that you are passionate about that they are not doing. It might be as simple as your hours, your subject matter, or your writing style. Extra cool would be some inventive use of the medium, like with photography, artwork, video, etc.

I got thinking about this today thanks to one of my favorite bloggers, Jason Kottke. On his blog, I just read a list by Merlin Mann of 43 Folders, about what makes a good blog. (This is pretty much the fifth paragraph down, right? Good time for me to tell you that I just heard Zach Randolph is going to be traded to the Heat and Stephon Marbury is being traded to Bulgaria as part of a rare international three-team deal. Just kidding. Thanks for reading closely.) Some items cherry-picked from Mann's list:

  • Good blogs have a voice. Who wrote this? What is their name? What can I figure out about who they are that they have never overtly told me? What's their personality like and what do they have to contribute -- even when it's "just" curation. What tics and foibles fascinate make me about this blog and the person who makes it? Most importantly: what obsesses this person?
  • Good blogs reflect focused obsessions. People start real blogs because they think about something a lot. Maybe even five things. But, their brain so overflows with curiosity about a family of topics that they can't stop reading and writing about it. They make and consume smart forebrain porn. So: where do this person's obsessions take them?
  • Good blogs try. I've come to believe that creative life in the first-world comes down to those who try just a little bit harder. Then, there's the other 98%. They're still eating the free continental breakfast over at FriendFeed. A good blog is written by a blogger who thinks longer, works harder, and obsesses more. Ultimately, a good blogger tries. That's why "good" is getting rare.
All I have to say to this is "Amen."

6 comments:

Dark Wolf said...

Well, Ghita Muresan will come back from retirment and will play for Miami Heat this season. Just kidding, sorry :)
By the way, if I'm not mistaken, Lakers is your favorite team, right?

Anyway, Larry, once again you came up with an article that throws me on thinking, because even though my blog is just a hobby I stiil want to improve my work. And such articles as this ones come quite handy. Thank you :)

Tia Nevitt said...

I think "focused obsession" describes my blog fairly well!

Larry said...

Muresan! I remember highlights of his, jumping two inches to dunk! :P And yes, I've been a Lakers fan ever since Magic's rookie season of 1979-1980.

But Mihai, I didn't write the article; a talented sports blogger for ESPN did. But he certainly nailed it, didn't he?

Tia,

I'd certainly say so, which probably explains why your blog is fairly popular, no? :D

Dark Wolf said...

I know you didn't write this article, but it is very nice that you ponited us to it. Thanks again :)

Dark Wolf said...

Speaking of basketball, congrats on the golden Olympics medal :)

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for the link to Blood's blog ethics. I would add one point to hers, namely that, whenever possible, you let other bloggers know when you have read -- not just skimmed -- and especially referenced, their work. (I can't comment on Blood, as far as I know.)

 
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