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January 07, 2005

Comments

rob

Great tips. I linked to this from my eMinsitryNotes blog: http://eministrynotes.blogspot.com/2005/01/building-better-blog.html

Brian Bailey

As much as I wanted to leave your comment all alone just to be ironic, I wanted to thank you for visiting!

Your site has a lot of great information on it and I'll definitely be following along. It sounds like you're in a great position that allows you to use your skills for the Kingdom.

haacked

Great tips. I wrote a post a while back that I think is a great complement to yours.

http://haacked.com/archive/2004/10/08/1322.aspx

It's a primer on how to be a vain blogger.

Jamfris

I think they in general are very good points, some of them I'm doing them before reading this... but I'll keep a pair of ideas to start doing them as well...

Sure it's a good job!

Des Paroz

Excellent info and some good ideas. I'll let you know if they help!

amit agarwal

You top idea is "Use Categories" but it's really unfortunate that Blogger doesn't support categories yet.

I wrote on adding categories in blogger here http://labnol.blogspot.com/2004/10/how-to-add-categories-to-your-blog.html but it's just a bad way to get things done.

The Indian Blogger
http://labnol.blogspot.com

Lisa Haneberg

Thanks for this. I had not thought about the time of day thing before. I always set my posts to go at 1am PST to ensure it is there before most people rise. Perhaps I will try shifting to 4am PST and see if I notice a difference.

Zes

What do you mean, exactly, when you say categories? If I use the category "Apple", at first glance, will a visitor to my site know if I'm talking about fruit, a computer company, or the apple of my eye? I think there's too much ambiguity with user-defined categories for them to be considered remotely useful.

I liked your other ideas, though.

Aristotle

Interesting read, thanks. Some of these should be no-brainers. The proposition to mind posting times is sort of silly, it neglects the fact that the Web is international and spans all timezones… Some I could extrapolate. Some were suggestions genuinely new to me.

In courtesy towards readers, I “only” run afoul of… the most basic rules: titles and categories. The lack of categories is something that has been bugging myself as well for a while and will be thoroughly fixed by the design of the new backend I wrote about on my log.

The other rule, however, is something I have been quite conflicted about ever since I started logging my thoughts. I didn't do titles when I started and I still don't want them — at least not titles in the traditional fashion. My initial aversion toward titles stemmed from the fact that they're really a form of metadata and must not be necessary to understand a piece of writing, even though a title is beneficial for a long article where it can summarize the content, tantalize the reader, and provide an anchor in memory which it is easily remembered by. Short entries, inconclusive entries, meandering entries, single link entries, site change notification entries, however: they all defy the attempt to be titled clearly, uniquely, concisely, informatively.

I actually briefly tried titles, including restrospective titling of all my existing entries, because I wanted to permalink by title. Unfortunately, I had to back out immediately because titling had an instant and very sharp stunting effect on my logging. Titles don't easily work for me. Since I don't do incoherence, it often took far more effort to title an entry than to write it. And since I was looking for a permalink scheme, only titling selectively was not an option.

Looking at the opaque number sequence my feed presents itself as in my aggregator, though, I can well see the utility titles would provide.

I'm still unsure about what I'll do, but I think I have a working plan on how I will title my entries. Here's the trick: I won't use titles.

My “categories” are really going to be keywords or tags, so /programming/seen will bring up my commentary on thoughts about programming seen elsewhere. You'll also be able to subscribe to a feed for just that keyword combination. Flickr and del.icio.us have demonstrated the principle.

How does this tie into the titling quandary? Well, it solves it. There's no need to title entries: the title will derive from the combination of tags, so a title might be something like “seen functional programming obfuscated unlambda”. Or if you arrived at the entry by visiting /seen/programming (obviously, the order of tags in the URL doesn't matter), the title will instead be “functional obfuscated unlamda”. If you visit /seen/functional/programming/obfuscated/unlambda, well, then the entry won't have a title. But does it matter? There might be a total of two of such entries during all of the log's existence. If you picked that URL you knew what you were looking for anyway, so you don't need a title to help you find the relevant content.

That's my take on titles.

Aristotle

Zes: Flickr and del.icio.us prove that user-defined categories definitely are far more than remotely useful.

Dan

Zes: User-defined categories, when used in concert with each other, can remove much of the ambiguity. That's why tagging blog posts (and pictures and bookmarks and every other kind of data you have) with as much metadata as possible is such a good idea. Sure, 'Apple' could mean lots of things. But my post about a new Apple product might be tagged with 'Apple,' 'tech,' 'news,' 'geek,' 'eyecandy,' and so on. The more, the merrier.

Plus, many blogs concentrate on a specific genre. For instance, your blog might deal with discussions of fruit exclusively, and may be called, for example, 'Zes' Fruit Review Blog.' In this case, you could pretty reasonably assume that even a first-time visitor to your site would know an entry tagged with 'Apple' would be talking about the fruit.

pam

I appreciate your tips very much. All other how-to-promote tips try and dictate what kind of content a blogger should (and should never) write. That's pointless and insulting, given that there are half a gazillion bloggers out there, running the gamut of topics, and we'll talk about our kid's soccer games if we darned well want to.

Seth

Thanks for the information. I've added two additional ideas for building traffic that I think are key. Check them out here: http://www.mostlymuppet.com/archives/2005/01/10/building-a-better-blog/

Winnetta

As a brand new blogger of 2 days, I have to say that this is one of the most informative articles I have read. It speaks to the novice as much as to the expert. Thanks, Brian! I did link to this in my post today.

lis

nice post! I translate it into Chinese.

http://lis186.4dwebhosting.com/index.php?p=1227

Carmen Holotescu

Hi,

Very good points, thanks.

Please let me comment on:

1. Use Categories

If your system ( as Blogger ) doesn't allow to categorize the posts, here is my proposal: use del.icio.us - already implemented on my weblog ( http://www.weblog.ro/timsoft ).

Each category of messages is represented by a tag in my del.icio.us account.

After writing each blog, I post it to del.icio.us, using the corresponding tag ( or tags for multiple categories ).

My weblog displays the links to del.icio.us tags implementing the categories, and also the corresponding RSSs.

The visitors have the possibility of browsing the blogs using the categories and also to subscribe, if they want, only to a few categories, using the RSSs provided by del.icio.us.

It's very simple, and it's a mechanism which can be used under each weblog system without categories.

4. Syndicate Your Entire Post

An important reason to syndicate the entire post ( thus your system should build a quality RSS: the corresponding item in the RSS file to contain the entire post ) is the fact that the aggregators and search engines for weblogs ( Bloglines, Feedster, Technorati, Blogdigger, etc ) collect and search only the RSS feeds.

I would add also to periodically send pings to these systems ( if your weblog system doesn't do it automatically ) - you can use http://pingomatic.com or http://pings.ws.

Thanks,
Carmen

Brian

Do you have specific times of day when you suggest posting during "high traffic times"? I assume you're referring to regular weekday business hours in the US (Easter Time - Pacific Time). Is there a specific time that you see traffic peaking? In my experience, the traffic for most all website I've worked with follows a bell curve, ramping up around 8:00 AM ET, peaking around noon, and dropping off by 7 or 8 PM.

Richard

The best time to post is when you've throught through what you want to write, are satisfied that you've made all the edits necessary. I don't think a lot of people actually look at weblogs.com or any of the ping services anymore, because there are so many weblogs and other types of sites that ping it now. Those services are used mostly by machines such as Blogrolling.com, PubSub.com and Technorati.com and the like to determine what is fresh and to index that post so that it can display data.

Also, if most of your readers are reading via RSS feeds (the vast majority of mine are), it won't matter too much when you post, because your readers will get to it eventually. (Also: they may sort their weblogs alphabetically or according to subject criteria or according to what colour your stylesheet has as the background.) With RSS, there is no "prime time" for blogs. Prime time is whenever people load up their aggregator or whenever the content is syndicated, which is usually every hour or so, more so for the latter.

MikeK

Dont' be afraid to e-mail me (it's on my site) or use trackbacks to get my attention.

BTW, I did notice you. ;-)

- Mike
[email protected]

Amyo

Completely agree with everything you said. I value categories so highly that I put them at the bottom of my index page so that people might be tempted to delve further in to the site and archives in the hopes that they became a regular reader.

People shouldn't forget to check their own logs as well.

May I also say that your suggestions must be working as it prompted me to comment here!

Jeroen

Is you see, I followed your advise ;-)

808blogger

Very Nice

Mister Tut

Wow, a really valuable article. I couldn't agree more about categories. Thank you for the resource!

-Tut
www.health-hack.com

Robert Waugh

Some good stuff there... BUT...

In reference to point #4, Syndicate Your Entire Post... I can support that only if you never, never, never use the "description" field to post content, not never. (Pet peeve.) Some people may use feeds to circumvent their web browsers, but other people (like me) prefer to use them to *choose* what they want to read. I like lists I can scan quickly, and I wish they weren't so rare.

Bloggers who syndicate their posts in their entirety, or use auto-generated excerpts in the description field seem very unprofessional to me when compared to other bloggers who explicitly write short, concise descriptions for each entry... one to three sentences, and more only if necessary. Such a description is more informative than a title, and more concise than an entry's first few sentences or paragraphs. These descriptive feeds *add information* rather than repeat it in a slightly different format.

Those more sophisticated bloggers will have that extra information available to them to help improve site navigation down the road. As an example, soon I'll be using the descriptions I wrote for the images on my blog for the ALT tags of those images. I didn't plan to use them this way in the beginning, but the option is there because I made it a habit to describe everything.

But most of all... okay, the last thing I thought of... a good decription is proof positive that the blogger does have some sort of point, and they know what it is.

Something like the RSS 1.0 content module which adds a field for posting content, I can support that somewhat. A system where I could choose to read descriptions for some sites, but choose to download content for my favorite sites, that would be nice. But I would still rather full content be kept seperate from the news feed. Seperate but accessible; printer-friendly pages would make an ideal candidate for that kind of document. It's stripped of navigational elements, but still has style.

So, I'm not necessarily against posting content through syndication files, but I happen to think it's more important to use them for describing content. That IS what they were created to do. That's what metadata is. In the short term, I would consider using the content:extended field for RSS 1.0 if I were more interested in promoting my site, but I will never use the description tag for anything other than it's intended purpose.

bcblog

Good tips, translated titles to Chinese http://blog.bcchinese.net/bcblog/archive/2005/01/13/7686.aspx

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