Letter to a Friend Who Wants to Start Up a Blog

Here’s an email I sent a friend this weekend. Not sure why I’m feeling like reproducing it here, but I do.

Dear XXXX,

You asked about getting into blogging.

As far as front end goes, I recommend blogspot over the others. Seems relatively straightforward and reliable. And it doesn’t come with a “rep” like livejournal (though livejournal is perfectly fine as a system and the rep is undeserved).

You should think of it a pseudonymous instead of anonymous, since you’ll be writing about real people including yourself. Come up with consistent names for your “characters” that are easy for you to remember (e.g., change all first names by one letter — Jon becomes Ken, for instance, though I would never want to be a Ken).

You also need to think about how anonymous you want to be. For instance, if you want your friends to read it, that’s relatively anonymous (see, e.g., http://gonecompletelyferal.blogspot.com/ for an example) but you will need to avoid self incrimination because unless you swear each one to secrecy, it could eventually come out that “Blog Y” is really “XXXX’s blog.” Still, you have plausible deniability.

The other option is to go completely “dark” and just have one or two confidantes or none at all. In this case, your set of readers will come as you comment on other blogs and link back to your own (people will follow).

You need to also think about tone and personality. A blog, like any other autobiographical writing, basically creates you as a “character.” Since my blog is under my own name, my character is perhaps more consistently positive about all matters than I might be in person. I also can’t write about certain really funny things that happen while I’m at work because they involve others whom I may not wish to discuss in public.

Finally, either way, you may want to do a short test run before going public. See if you like it. Like restaurants, most new blogs fail within a few months.

That’s all I can think of for now.



5 replies on “Letter to a Friend Who Wants to Start Up a Blog”

  1. You knew someone would ask this … so it might as well be me.

    You tout the glories of blogspot — and yet you do so while proudly using WordPress. [OK, maybe you’re not really proud, but the boilerplate at the bottom of the page says you are.] Whassup with that?

  2. Good question, Gil. WordPress is proud, not me. It’s in their template.

    I’m a “power user.” The blog is integrated into a personal website with many other pages which have their own look and feel. WordPress is great for that. For a first-timer without a larger personal site and their own hosting, WordPress is less practical because it requires more up front investment in time and money (the software is free, but you need a host), and I found that it took some work to customize.

    If you’re a beginning and wish to remain pseudonymous, then it’s better to hide among the masses at blogspot or livejournal than to set up your own site right away. And you get to try it out without much personal investment.

    At least that was my thinking. That said, once the formatting issues were resolved, I’m quite happy with the WordPress interface for writing, responding and security. It’s quite nice. So maybe I’m a little proud?

  3. Makes sense — and it matches my own (admittedly far less experienced) sense of WordPress’s user-friendliness. The customizing stuff is work … but it’s also fun. At least for those of us inclined to geekdom.

    Of course now I hafta wonder: wasn’t your summer regime supposed to keep you away from online communication before noon?

  4. Clearly, I’m naughty.

    Actually, if you look at the original post, it’s about email only. Admin doesn’t find me on the web. At least not yet.

  5. Just a little note to say that this letter seemed a sign the other day when I was thinking about starting the whole blog thing. I like signs and portents. They’re spooky.

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