20 Years of Blogging: What I’ve Learned

“…always write with the idea that what you’re sharing will live for months and years and decades.

I also do still strongly believe that someone who really has a strong point of view, and substantive insights into their area of interest, can have huge impact just by consistently blogging about that topic. It’s not currently the fashionable way to participate in social media, but the opportunity is still wide open.”

—Anil Dash, “20 Years of Blogging: What I’ve Learned.” AnilDash.com. July 22, 2019.

The post is a little heavy on “I told you so,” but there’s interesting nuggets if you want to dig for them. I particularly liked this from his fifteenth year anniversary post:

Meta-writing about a blog is generally super boring.”

45 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Blog

“Always be networking. Always.”

—”45 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Blog – Which You Can Use to Grow Yours to 225,000 Visits / Month, Like We Eventually Did.” CodeInWP.com. April 27, 2019.

Good advice if you want to drive traffic to your site, become an “influencer,” make money off your blog, or be Internet famous.

Or, if you are like me, use it as a guide of things to avoid doing. Except have great content, that’s good advice for everyone.

OpenBSD’s Guide to Netiquette

The OpenBSD’s mailing list page netiquette section is excellent. It is a distillation of how to communicate online, i.e.:

  • Plain text, 72 characters per line [or simplest formatting available]
  • Do your homework before writing
  • Include a useful subject line [or headline]
  • Trim your signature
  • Stay on topic
  • Include important information
  • Respect differences in opinion and philosophy

Using only plain text is extreme outside of email. But, the idea that formatting should not get in the way of content is good. Know what you are talking about. Help others to understand. Give them all the relevant information. Trim out anything that does not move the discussion forward or is confusing. Treat everyone with respect.

It’s good advice for any kind of communication and for life. It’s relevant to writing an email, a newsletter, a blog post, an article or anything else you may do.

The Minto Pyramid Principle for Writing

Barbara Minto‘s “The Minto Pyramid Principle” is a how-to guide for writing concise reports in a management consulting firm that has been around for years. I wrote a one sheet summary of her book over a decade ago that I still sometimes find to be a useful aid for writing. While it might be overkill for most writing we do, it is still a useful reference.

First Things First, Subject/Predicate

  1. What is the subject you are writing about?
  2. What is the question you are answering in the reader’s mind about the subject?
  3. What is the answer?

Make It a Story

  1. What is a situation where the Subject/Predicate can be illustrated?
  2. What problems complicate the situation?
  3. Do the question and answer still follow?

Find The Key Line or Take-Away

  1. What new question is raised by the answer?
  2. Will you answer it, inductively or deductively?
  3. If you answer inductively, what is your plural noun?

Always Do

  1. Dramatize the main idea using imagery.
  2. Imagine a doer – for analysis and writing.
  3. List all the points you want to make, then find relationships.

Rules

  1. Ideas at any level must always be summaries of the ideas below.
  2. Ideas in each grouping must always be the same kind of idea.
  3. Ideas in each grouping must always be logically ordered.

For Beginners

  1. Always try top down first.
  2. Use the Situation for thinking through the introduction.
  3. Don’t omit to think through the introduction.
  4. Always put historical chronology in the introduction.
  5. Limit the introduction to what the reader will agree is true.
  6. Be sure to support all key line points.

Initial Questions

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Where does it lie?
  3. Why does it exist?
  4. What could we do about it?
  5. What should we do about it?

Introductions/Openings

  1. Introductions are meant to remind not inform.
  2. They should contain the three story elements.
  3. Length of introduction depends on reader and subject.

Headings

  1. Never use only one element for a heading.
  2. Show parallel ideas in parallel form.
  3. Limit to the essence of thought.
  4. Don’t regard headings as part of the text
  5. Introduce each group of headings.
  6. Don’t overdo.

Critical Focus

  1. Question the order in a grouping – time, structure, or ranking.
  2. Question source(s) used in the problem solving process.
  3. Question the summary statement.
  4. Question your expression.

Structures for Evaluation

  1. Financial structure – consider strictly financial issues.
  2. Task structure – focus on how work gets done.
  3. Activity structure – focus on what needs to happen to create problem.
  4. Choice structure – bifurcate choices.
  5. Sequential structure – combination choice and activity structure.

cafebedouin.org: 2017 Year in Review and Looking Ahead to 2018

I started blogging on January 1, 2017. I was inspired by Don Joyce of Negativland and Over the Edge to “start your own show”, to have a creative outlet where it becomes possible to explore ideas and different creative directions. I was also coming across other posts like “Everyone Should Blog” that helped reenforce the thought.

Originally, my idea was to try to write one quality essay a week. But, I ended up wanting to explore ideas in lengths and with references that was difficult to do week in and week out. Also, my writing felt stilted, academic and lifeless. I need more practice.

By the third week of February, I had decided to close my Facebook account and to limit, to the degree possible, my reliance on the companies of the feudal internet, i.e., Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. After deleting Facebook, the next step meant taking a hard look at my use of Google, which included looking to migrate my new blog off blogger.com.

It was easy to migrate to WordPress.com. It just took awhile because I was looking for a new email provider, installing Linux and later OpenBSD on my PCs, evaluating new services like NextCloud to replace Google, etc. It took a lot of time and energy, but I am very happy now I made this transition to a slightly more free, but also slightly more costly, relationship with technology.

I started blogging again in June, and I decided to try one post a day, partly so I would be forced to keep it shorter. As of this post, I’ve made 262 posts.

I like the commonplace book style of the blog, and I think there are some good bits that get sprinkled in. I used to write quotes of this sort in a physical book, and it may be worthwhile to post the best of them here in the coming year.

In 2018, I would also like to get back to more original content. I’m thinking it would be good to post something original once a week, but spread it across different forms: poetry, essays, drawing, photography and so forth. Maybe also do more brief commentary of 250 words or less, sketches of story ideas or fragments, aphorisms, book reviews and the like. The goal still being to post something everyday, something that seems weird or interesting, just with some more originals. Let’s see how it goes.