The 12 biggest problems with your blog

Wednesday, 11 February 2004

12) The banner graphic. Regular visitors don’t need 18% of the page space taken up by “MY NAME IS MUDD” or whatever clever bit sums you up as a person. They’d rather have the room to read. And one-time visitors don’t need what is essentially a botched banner ad to sell them on a site they’ll never visit again; like this one—a surfeit of illusion is not among my personal flaws.

Try something smaller. For template system designers, make sure it’s an option—maybe make it the default. Taking up so much room for no reason is proof that your site is more about your banal vanity than you having anything worthwhile to say.

11) Bad opinions. I am a fan of opinions wherever original thought lurks behind them. No one is a fan of the political opinions of a 22-year-old who doesn’t know who was President before Clinton, that we have an electoral college, and that both parties live off of corporate quid pro quo and filthy Political Action Committee money. Every writing guide in the world will tell you this too gently: Don’t write about something you don’t know shit about because it makes you look like a moron.

10) Cognitive dissonance. If you find the terms “paradox” and “contradiction” creeping into your own self-analysis, take a clue from it. This is not what “balanced” means as a personality trait.

9) Proofing you’re grammer spelling. I know “its” and “their” and “comprise” and such are not always automatically typed correctly or used where they belong. Make an effort. It makes you look smart. Wouldn’t that be nice!

8) Lack of organization. If your thoughts are serious, treat them so with headlines, bold text, spelt out acronyms, abbreviated sections, cross-links and so on for the serious reader. Don’t make your pages hard to read or hard to find. If on the other hand your thoughts are random bits of upchuck meant for overly forgiving friends, spew away.

7) Wishy-washy hyperbole. If your writing is full of “in my opinion,” “probably,” “it seems to me,” and “it just might turn out,” then you are clearly unconvinced of your own ideas. Don’t waste everyone else’s time with your stream of consciousness angst. If you mean what you say, speak up—if not, shut up till you work it out. Even if you’re wrong, speaking with conviction is a better read.

If you are always writing things like the world has never been worse off or that Bush is destroying America, it’s hyperbole and you’re either deluded or melodramatic. Learn some history if you want to be taken seriously. Eg, we have had 20 or so terrible presidents who were unable to destroy America—odds are we can survive one more. Any wins you score with histrionics won’t last.

6) Identical designs on 32,527 sites. I know you’re not an HTML wiz, but all of those lovely templating and publishing systems come with settings. Try them out. You could also spend a day learning CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) instead of writing about your roommate’s cat. Again.

When you do experiment, for the love of myopia don’t add another gray page with gray fonts to the dung heap. Do you want your site to be read? Make it easy to read.

5) Comments. I didn’t come to your site to see how many friends you have who don’t know what a spellchecker is. The percentage of comments worth reading is a generous 4%. So if I suffer through 24 “Don’t you know Jesus died for you, asshole” and “That’s a good one, let me bore you for 8 paragraphs with how I would’ve done it,” I might get to one comment worth reading. I wish the best commentators would just write it in their own journals instead so I can read good writing that isn’t flecked with chatroom excreta.

4) Lack of documentation. Don’t make points that require or quote evidence without the proper citations. No one knows if you’re correct or lying or deluded.

I know I’m guilty of this but it’s because I won’t lie, I’m usually right, and when I’m wrong I admit it because that’s all it takes to be right again—I am perhaps too willing to believe that you will accept that there is an element called Hydrogen without posting 4 links to scientific experiments you can do at home to prove it for yourself.

3) Frequency over quality. No one needs to be told it’s Christmas or that you’re on vacation or that the bar was smoky. And while we’re at it, if you need an icon to show what mood you’re in, your writing might not be ready to share with the world.

If you’re posting something “just to post” something, think it over. The chalkboard doesn’t get more fun to read just because it has more marks on it. It only gets harder to find the good bits.

2) Repetitious redundancy. If it’s been linked at 100 other sites and discussed by writers you know have better points to make than you do, don’t clog up Google’s caches with one more page saying, “Look what I just read on the Drudge Report along with 2 million other people today.”

1) The term blog. Besides sounding stupid, it’s innaccurate.

It’s short for weblog. The weblog is the log that your webserver keeps, not the one a writer does. In English those are called journals. This is what a real blog reads like: - - [08/Feb/2004:02:08:49 -0700] “GET /ddx/ddx.xml HTTP/1.1” 304 - “-” “NetNewsWire/1.0.8 (Mac OS X;” - - [08/Feb/2004:02:09:46 -0700] “GET /search.cgi?mode=home&_x=_m&name=Live+in+Paris&asin=B00006J9OT HTTP/1.0” 200 29745 “-” “YahooSeeker/1.0 (compatible; Mozilla 4.0; MSIE 5.5;”

I’m willing to admit the fight is over, and my team lost. The word is vernacular. I’ll never like it though.

“Where are you going?”

“To the bathroom. I’ve really gotta drop a blog.”

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