23
Mar
08

Ten Tips for Blogging, Bonk-Bonk Style

This post could be alternatively titled, “Hunter Thompson would just shit razor blades…”

The phenomenon of internet blogging seems to have ushered in the era of “Top Ten Whatever,” i.e., ranked lists of things. You can find lists of almost anything out there in the static-filled depths of cyberspace, including lists of lists, and even blogs devoted to nothing but lists, or lists of lists.

The top-ten list isn’t a new phenomenon, but on the Web it has “come of age.” Something like a fine, ripe piece of Limburger.

“Beware the list!” says I, holding you with my glittering eye. For therein lies a stench, like the dead albatross hanging off the neck of the Ancient Mariner. Read those lists and repeat them enough, and you’ll start to believe what you read, and you’ll carry the stench of illusion and ignorance wherever you go.

One variety of list(s) which has circulated through umpteen blogs, whose authors would aspire to odious conformity and sell same to us, is the homegrown list of “top ten blogging tips.” Having read a lot of these lists, I find most of them trite, misguided, and quite simply bullshit. (They’re all more or less composed in the same spirit of catering to the unwashed masses/dumbing down to which the American news media has subscribed).

Here, I take on one of these “Top Ten Blogging Tips” lists that is more or less representative of the collective, and rewrite it to my specifications.

1. Make your opinion known Only make your opinion known if you want to. Also keep in mind that you can’t have an opinion about whether solid, established facts are true; you can’t say, “it is my opinion that we never visited the moon” (well, you can, but you’ll look like a dumbass to the smart people). Also, when choosing to make your opinion known, having an opinion not founded on bullshit and hearsay is always a good idea. Unless you’re a bullshitter.

2. Link like crazy Link as much as want to, or need to, and no more. If you’re linking to support a position you have advanced, read what you’re linking to, and choose reputable sources. Referring to other bloggers who have acquired the information elsewhere is secondary sourcing, which in turn becomes tertiary, quaternary, etc., because all those bloggers are referring to other bloggers, etc. At its worst, this process leads to the obfuscation or loss of the original source. The problem is exacerbated with images, which are often watermarked en masse by whichever sites they end up on first (plagiarism), or cropped and re-watermarked by successive sites, etc. (more plagiarism). Get as close to the source as possible.

3. Write less This is rich. Take a college-level writing class, and ask the prof if writing less is going to help you hone your writing abilities. I thought that perhaps our list-maker was extolling the benefits of concision, but his explanatory blurb said “a long post is easier to forget and harder to get into. A short post is the opposite.” This position is highly vulnerable on both the theoretical and practical planes, but I’m not going to get into the specifics. Suffice it for me to say, “If you want to become an accomplished writer, write, write, write, and then revise, revise, revise.” Otherwise, when explaining something, write as much as you need to, so as to make what you’re talking about concise and distortion free. The kind of posting advocated by the list-maker is a recipe for writing trite, superficial crap.

4. 250 Words is enough Oh, please. We had to write essays twice that length in primary school. In general terms, 250 words is enough for Reader’s Digest “Humor in Uniform” or a comic book page. As I noted in tip number three, write as much as you need to make what you’re talking about concise and distortion free. Habitually linking out to Wikipedia, or wherever, and letting someone else explain it for you is a tacky cop-out, especially if what you link to is technical jargon. Since the whole idea is to dumb the subject down, the kind of readers you’re attracting will be of the type what spreads it around without reading the supporting material, which is how cyber-urban myths get started. Since you’ve already practically guaranteed with list-points four and five that much of your writing will be superficial , you…oh, wait. We’ve got ourselves into a Catch-22, here.

5. Make Headlines snappy My first reaction is “it’s not a damned red-top, and be glad of that.” Dream on. My second reaction is that if you like the headline you’ve chosen, but you fear that its eloquence may be lost on half-wits, go ahead and run it, anyway. The half-wits can type define:whatever into Google and learn something, instead of being spoon-fed grade school pap.

6. Write with passion Our list-poster skipped right over this in his blurb section, without a single comment, possibly because he doesn’t know what it means. And therein lies the problem: this is an example of a trite, meaningless statement. Without elucidating the nature of the subject and the personality/writing style of the author, “write with passion” is just…uh, poopie.

7.) Include bullet point lists We all love lists, <–run-on–>it structures the info in an easily digestible format. More pablum for the ADD masses. Use bullets where they are necessary and appropriate to clarify the subject. Don’t make the inclusion of bulleted lists a guiding principle, unless you’re trying to be stupid.

8. Edit your post Well, duh. Editing is always wise. Our list-maker tries to stress that this needs to be done before the post is published, and that’s always a good idea, but if you should note glitches or inaccuracies after the fact, go ahead and correct them; that’s better than leaving the pig swill to simmer in the trough. It’s another blogging “rule” that you should never change anything you’ve written in a blog post, but instead strike it (WordPress even gives us a strike button, the logic of which I didn’t understand for the longest time). I leave it to your good discretion, noting that striking a misused bit of grammar or punctuation is just asinine clutter, and that errors of fact or omission may be corrected by prefacing them with the word ADDENDUM, or EDIT. That’s what those words mean.

9. Make your posts easy to scan The idea here is to cater to manic cybersurfers looking for golden nuggets, or the hypothetical “busy people” who read blogs by choice for their polite brevity. This is more the recipe for a tech manual or a bathroom reader than a general rule for prose, but whatever. Obviously, if you’re a poetry blogger (they do exist), you’re not going to punctuate stanzas with subheadings. On the other hand, almost no one is going to read your poetry, anyway, even if it’s world class; poetry is a dying art form, the result of decades of passive entertainment and the dumbing-down ethic that top-ten blogging tip lists advocate.

10. Be consistent with your style I think our list poster is referring to the way you insert bulleted lists and callouts, here, rather than “voice.” Which almost goes without saying, since 250 word posts which serve bulleted lists, subheadings, and mandatory keyword combinations (see below) are not the best recipe for developing a strong writing style of your own.

11. Litter the post with keywords (Jeez – 11 points in a ten point list, which has already omitted one point from the blurbs, making it a 12-point ten-point list). Eat me. This is the epitome of disingenuous. What our friend is telling us is to deliberately insert words and phrases which will catch the all-seeing-yet-insentient eye of the Google algorithm(s). In short: fornicate with robots. This only makes sense if you’re a corporate blogger (strange new animals in this cyber-bestiary, who are in large part behind “top ten blogging lists), if you’re trying to suck up Google love and generate ad revenue to support your Starbucks habit, or if you’re an attention whore. Otherwise, write naturally, and put keywords in the tags.

Yes, I know all of this goes against “conventional” advice, but hey – I’m just making my opinion known (see list point number one).

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