Comments for Armchair BEA: We Blog
Armchair BEA: We Blog: 05/27/11
As Armchair BEA winds down we are supposed to turn our thoughts inwards and look at the fine art of blogging. The earliest bloggers wrote their updates on flat HTML pages. I've had this website since those early days and dabbled with book blogging although I didn't call it that back then. You can look those old pages up on the internet archive.
The modern day blog (for the most part) is a puzzle made up of a theme (style sheet), a database and xml (either as an RSS or Atom feed). Posts are done in the web browser and parsed by scripts to store the entry, to display it as HTML to a web browser and to send it out as XML to subscribers and aggregators.
My blog though is structurally old school. Yes, it has an RSS feed, a comment form and some widgets, it is still hand coded, flat HTML. By the time I decided to retool my website in 2004 to begin blogging in the modern style (at least in appearance and in content) I had so many legacy pages and little time (as I was working full time). The easiest thing to do was to hand code pages and hand roll the feed. I'm still doing that seven years later.
To blog well you should know your topic. If you're a book blogger, know your books. If you specialize in a genre, know your genre.
Know your audience. Google Analytics can help you get a better idea of who is coming to your blog and why. From Google I know that beyond book bloggers my readership includes librarians and teachers and sometimes students looking for book report ideas. Since I know I have children reading the blog, I keep the language clean and even when reviewing explicit books, I keep the details vague.
Know your voice. While writing to your audience is important, don't forget yourself in the process. Don't get so wrapped up in what others want to lose sight of what you want from blogging. Most bloggers blog as a hobby. If it's a hobby, it should be fun.
In my case, I don't want to specialize in a niche genre. Instead, I approach my blog as a library. Libraries have books for all sorts of readers of all sorts of ages. That means that sometimes I post reviews of books that parents or teachers might not approve of. I leave it up to the teachers and parents to guide their children on how to use my blog. I also expect the children to self censor. They know what they like and what they don't. It doesn't have to be everything I like.
Comment #1: Friday, May, 27, 2011 at 02:20:04
Oh wow, I admire the fact that you're hand coding all your pages! I think I'd lose patience within ten minutes if I did that myself. Well done!
Great post. Definitely agree with not getting wrapped up in what others want and losing sight of yourself. I blog because *I* want to share my thoughts. Some of my followers will like what I have to say, others won't. But I'm enjoying what I do so that's all I can ask for.
Comment #2: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 14:22:22
It doesn't take me that long to get a new post up, maybe five minutes. I write my reviews all ahead of time so it's really just a matter of cut and paste and FTP.
Comment #3: Friday, May, 27, 2011 at 02:30:12
Excellent point on knowing your audience.
Comment #4: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 14:24:23
For one of my library science classes I had to write a research paper on blogging. The one thing I noticed about the research was that no one seemed to address what blog readers want or expect from blogs.
Comment #5: Friday, May, 27, 2011 at 02:50:05
I'm still not sure Google Analytics is working right on my blog-I don't seem to get much info from it. Oh well.
Knowing your topic and audience is great advice for just about any type of writing!
Comment #6: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 14:30:25
I haven't played much with the customization options but I can see from Service Providers that the site is being looked at from schools and libraries. The keywords also shows what people are looking for via searches. My most popular search right now is for my post about Manning Coles. But there are also lots of searches for children's lit like the Mr. Men books, various Magic Treehouse books and similar.
Comment #7: Friday, May, 27, 2011 at 03:15:07
Wow, that's incredible that you make the effort to manually code your pages.
I love the name of your blog by the way!
Your tips are right on point. Being on topic, knowing your audience and writing for yourself are things that always should be kept in mind when writing your posts. It's always so easy to drift and end up in a completely different place than you wanted to be.
Keeping those three points in mind will definitely keep your focus!
I hope you had a great Armchair BEA! It's nice to meet you and your blog!
Comment #8: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 14:50:31
The funny thing is that I do it to avoid the effort of converting thousands of pages into database records. It doesn't feel like a lot of effort. A post takes me about five minutes of actual coding.
The blog name stems from my cat having rebooted many of my computers over the years. She has this thing for pushing buttons.
Nice to meet you as well.
Comment #9: Friday, May, 27, 2011 at 07:19:13
I am glad to be discovering my voice over the last months of book blogging, and definitely try to keep it fun. It has been great to get to know you and the other bloggers this week.
Comment #10: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 14:56:11
It just takes trial and error. My blog's tone and focus has evolved over time. You can go through the archives to see just how much it has changed.
Comment #11: Friday, May, 27, 2011 at 08:11:23
I think knowing your voice is important, although not so important that you have to obsess over sounding unique. Just write how you're comfortable.
Comment #12: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 14:58:21
You're absolutely right. Blogging is a hobby for most of us and as such it should be fun and stress free.
Comment #13: Friday, May, 27, 2011 at 07:32:34
I don't really understand the first part of what you wrote on HTML, but I really appreciate your advice on audience and voice. I would like to think my blog is not a niche-genre one, but it does reflect my personal taste in literature, which is to say there is very little YA or sci-fi stuff. You've given me a lot to think about. Thanks.
Thanks also for stopping by my blog and commenting. I appreciate your time.
Comment #14: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 14:59:13
I was just trying to say that I don't use any blogging software. I just write the HTML and XML code by hand. My website predates blogging software and I just don't have the time to convert the entire site so it can run on modern day software.
Comment #15: Friday, May, 27, 2011 at 08:46:06
As many have said and I agree, it has to remain fun, enjoyable, and relaxing. Once it is not, do something else.
Comment #16: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 15:49:24
I alter how I post reviews every six months or so. I'm going to start doing themed weeks of reviews to see how that works for a while. Mixing it up like that helps keep it fun for me.
Comment #17: Friday, May, 27, 2011 at 11:03:01
I'm totally with you. Blogging should be fun.
Comment #18: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 15:51:10
Yes it should (unless we're being paid for it). Then it can also be work (but it would still probably be fun).
Comment #19: Friday, May, 27, 2011 at 11:13:59
I'm like that, pussreboots! I like to think of my blog as a library with lots of different types of books.
Thanks for reminding me to look at Google Analytics (well, I have something like it). That IS a useful thing to do. I do it too little.
Comment #20: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 15:53:11
Besides Google Analytics I also run Webalizer reports which give more detailed information on how different assets are used.
Comment #21: Friday, May, 27, 2011 at 11:28:47
Very well stated and thank you for the links.
Comment #22: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 16:04:12
Thank you and you're welcome. It was a fun week!
Comment #23: Friday, May, 27, 2011 at 14:01:28
I don't have a niche either. From what I've seen this week, not having a niche is becoming a niche!
Comment #24: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 16:07:40
Maybe the non-nichers were just more vocal than usual this week. It seems that YA and paranormal are the two hottest niches still (at least in my neck of the woods).
Comment #25: Friday, May, 27, 2011 at 14:25:26
Very good tips - knowledge is power! Thanks for a visit! I love your kitty!
Comment #26: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 16:08:42
Thank you. I love her too.
Comment #27: Friday, May, 27, 2011 at 15:44:11
I have little html coding knowledge. I need to learn more. And I need to learn how to utilize my feeds more. I think it's also important to know your genre. And it's good to sometimes think out the box and surprise your readers every now and then. I blog because it's fun and it is an outlet for my creativity.
I also need to know how to get a comment box that doesn't require you to sign in. I have looked at commentluv and intense debate but neither appeal to me.
Comment #28: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 16:09:54
I just use an HTML form that's sent to a CGI script. The script then parses it into an email. The ones that aren't spam I post and the ones that are I delete. So I don't have specific advice for commenting systems that are available. What you can do is contact a blog owner who uses a commenting system you like and see what is being used.
Comment #29: Friday, May, 27, 2011 at 16:55:15
I'm old school, too. I like your idea about approaching your blog like a library - I think I do that , too. Thank you for stopping by my blog earlier today. I hope you have a restful weekend.
Comment #30: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 16:12:05
It would take so many hours to convert the blog into a database driven site that I just stick with the old school method. If were to start a new blog I'd go with a blogging platform.
Comment #31: Friday, May, 27, 2011 at 18:53:25
Oh, wow, you still hand code your site? I don't feel confident enough with html to do that, and style sheets totally confuse me! I did take a class through continuing ed to cover the basics, and that helped me understand the process behind blogs better.
I like your blog, too! I am happy that you are reading FMA, and I hope you love the series as much as I do :) I highly recommend Kekkaishi, too. And Moon Child by Reiko Shimizu if you can find it.
Comment #32: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 16:16:85
If I had the time and money I'd hire someone to convert the blog to a blogging platform. It's more than I'd like to tackle on my own.
I adore FMA but I'm the only one in my manga addicted family who is reading it. My husband did bring home the first couple of volumes of Kekkaishi. I read like ten pages of the first one but he's gone and hidden the books somewhere. I will add Moon Child to my ever growing wishlist.
Comment #33: Friday, May, 27, 2011 at 19:32:38
Lisa Almeda Sumner
Being a "niche" blogger would have its drawbacks-I like to feel free to write about a variety of books and topics. I'm still not that aware of who is visiting and when, but I did start looking to see what Google search terms people were using to get to my blog. My Sunday Coffee posts get a lot of traffic (but maybe just because *coffee* is a popular search term!)...
Comment #34: Saturday, May 28, 2011 at 09:53:33
Maybe your Sunday Coffee posts are popular because you're talking about things that interest your readers. Last week's post for example on the rapture prediction and your comparision to the end of the school year was well written and timely. Looks like you have some great reading plans ahead.
Comment #35: Saturday, May, 28, 2011 at 01:30:38
I hadn't thought of my blog as a library but that's exactly what it's like. That's a good analogy.
Comment #36: Saturday, May 28, 2011 at 09:59:13
My blog certainly reflects a good portion of what's at my library given how much I check out from there! Happy reading.
Comment #37: Saturday, May, 28, 2011 at 21:52:03
I've never heard of Adblocker before. I'll have to check it out. Thanks! Also, good advice about blogging. I completely agree.
Comment #38: Monday, May 30, 2011 at 11:11:15
Adblocker is a plug in for most browsers that removes ads and other annoyances from web pages. Once you install Adblocker you can then install scripts that have the rules to block most of the ads so that you don't have to do all that work yourself.
Comment #39: Monday, May, 30, 2011 at 09:16:29
Thanks Pussreboots, I am keeping an eye out for comment boxes that I currently like and making a pros and cons list. Hopefully, I'll decide on something soon. Thanks again for the recommendation.
Comment #40: Monday, May 30, 2011 at 11:18:31
Good luck finding a comment box that you like.
Comment #41: Monday, May, 30, 2011 at 09:33:03
Very good tips! It is definitely good to know your audience! :)
Comment #42: Monday, May 30, 2011 at 11:20:33
Thank you. Happy blogging!