Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The art of a well kept blog.

I don't know how other people do it. Among the many things I don't do well is keep a writing schedule. I am a "writer" in the sense that I write, not in the sense that I get published. I write nearly every day, though much of it is tabletop RPG stuff. Writing is largely easy for me. Ironically, keeping a regular personal blog is not.

Now, this is not to say that I can't keep blogs. I have two others:

The Rosy Rod of Wonder is a tabletop RPG blog focusing on magic items, that I update at least twice a week, barring catastrophic writing delays.

The Good Reads Blog is a review and library resources blog that I keep on behalf of the library that I work for. That gets updated bi-weekly, usually. I see a day in the near future when it won't be, largely because I am running out of submissions.

Both blogs have been relatively successful for me, however, in terms of regularity. There are two reasons for this: one is material. The Rosy Rod is actually a by blow of the extensive amount of thinking I do about my games and paracosms. I could probably come up with ideas to update that with from now until I die. The only time it takes is in editing, which is no small time requirement, but easier to find if you have the material come crawling from a crack in your skull as fully formed as Athena crawled from Zeus'.

The material for Good Reads comes from by browsing and thinking at work, if not directly from my co-workers.

The other reason they've been successful for me is that I pre-load my articles, sometimes months in advance. Neither subject is perishable: people will be playing dungeons and dragons and reading till long after I die, so I can kind of parcel out posts over time.

My personal blog gives me some problems for just these same reasons. Material is harder to come by in my personal life because:

I'm not that interested in myself.

I am often unsure of the wider validity of my opinions (though like most, I hold them dear).

It takes more time to fuss with your day and turn it into a readable post than it does to turn how-to instructions into something clear and readable.

The most interesting thing in my life right now is my daughter. There are several problems with this: Audiences have a variable interest in kid and pet stories, I spend the least part of my day with my daughter which means that the lion's share of her awesomeness passes me by, and I have a terrible memory for non-proceedural real world stuff (which technically, makes me an terrible person).

The only other interesting things that happen to me involve the foolishness of people I meet at work. And frankly, it would be bad for my continued employment to talk much about that.

Regularity is further hampered by the fact that banking a diary would seem like having a 90 second taped delay on the news: It would give you time to get it right, but is a newscaster's reaction really news after 90 seconds?

I think the most successful personal blog would actually treat life as a broadcast commodity. Probably the ones that have resulted in book deals have done so. The real problem with reading blogs is making the time: there are lots of good ones. I don't have time to remember to go back to them again and again. You need a reason: the continuing story of a life you're interested in is compelling in the same way that a soap opera or TV show is.

So good personal blogging probably requires that you a) know your niche, and b) have a commitment to biographical writing.

There are some format issues here that may be largely overcome by the new version of windows. It's supposed to have an feed reader in it. What's a feed reader? It's a piece of software that makes your computer look at each blog address you have entered into it, and check to see if they have a new post.

This means, theoretically, that you could be a lousy poster: every second week, and every third every few months. But if someone liked your "voice", or subject, they could stick your blog's address into their feed reader, and only check your site when their reader tells them you've posted.

Quantity of writing will always mean something: not everybody will want to keep fallow blogs on their feeders. Though many people will chunk feeds into their reader, and forget about them until the next post comes by, I can imagine some users simply not wanting to clutter up their readers with irregularly updated blogs.

Feed Readers aren't particularly new. When I was fooling around with a feed reader last year, it looked like a cool toy. But it was a pain to page through feeds and add them, one by one, AFTER finding the blog feeds. Also, I was suffering information overload, which is something that you will have to deal with if you feed a lot of prolific bloggers.

If Vista has a feed reader, then they will be common. Microsoft is "the" operating system, and unless Vista is as bad as ME, then everybody will have Vista. Feed readers will be mentioned in books about Vista, classes about Vista, and people will figure out how easy it is to get info from the blogosphere.

In the meantime, however, you can find a lot of other feed readers by googling "RSS Feed Reader". RSS stands for really simple syndication, and is one of the formats of software that feed readers "read." I'm fiddling with Google Reader right now, though, and it's hella easy. A little slow, but all you need to do to add a feed is add the host site's URL. You don't even need to add the RSS or Atom address. Plus, you can divide your reading interface into subjects with folders and stuff. It's obvious that feed readers have come a long time in just a year.

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