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Starting a blog

Blog categories:

The dos and don'ts of starting a blog.

First off, you should realize that it takes takes time and energy to write quality posts.

If you don't take the time and energy to write good posts, you won't get an audience to begin with. "Today, my navel lint was red" is not a quality blog post, nevermind what lots of pre-adolescents and adolescents think.

And if you don't take the time or energy to keep writing good blog posts, your audience will stop coming to your blog site fairly soon.

Next, feedback is nonexistent when you first start writing.

Keep things up and more and more people will find you - and give you feedback in the form of comments.

Some will even find your contact form (or email address, or whatever) and write you just to tell you that you have a very good blog.

And some will write on their site about your blog, telling their readership about this gem which they found on the wild wild web.

Next, when you set up a blog, don't expect others to write your quality blog posts for you.

There are quite a few blogs out there with one article - the one that says "Welcome! Please write lots of blog posts here!".

See, nobody but you can actually write blog posts. If you were to release the authoring rights to world and dog, world and dog (that is, spammers) would all too soon find your site, and your blog posts would be all about various things of interest to the uninformed consumer. Or your whole site would just redirect all comers to a site of the spammers' choice ... because authoring rights, given out without caution, might just make your site completely insecure.

And because you're smarter than that, you don't give authoring rights to anybody at all, so your shiny new blog is abandoned rather soon, with at most five (count'em, 5) blog posts.

Next, start one blog.

Don't start a lot of small interconnected blogs. Instead, use categories, or tags (or whatever your blogging software calls them), and write everything in one spot. That way, you can write a few quality blog posts in a timely fashion, which means that you will get an audience - and you will get feedback.

And people can read all your writings in one spot without the confusion of "whu? Another blog to go clicky on?".

And if they're only interested in your writings about, say, left pinkies, they can go clicky on the category (or tag) link that says, oh, say, "left pinkies", in your category lineup.

Because you were of course smart enough to create a tag (or category) that says "left pinkies", and to add that tag to your article.

I'm looking at you, "Westminster Healing Herb Garden". And partially at the weird web of various wise woman weblogs.

Finally, some terminology:

Your blog site is your blog. For me that's henriettesherbal.com/blog.

What you write on your blog, as blog owner (or author), are blog posts, that is, articles on one or the other topic. Like the one you're reading right now.

And what your readers write on your blog are blog comments, adding their point of view to one of your blog posts. That is, if you have allowed comments. That is, if your comment spammer blocks are good enough. Without those blocks your blog will be swamped with tedious links to various inappropriate consumer goods.

I allow comments, I even encourage them, as I like feedback: I have a "click here to comment" link below almost all of my blog posts.

Hope that clears up some confusion.

Comments

Great advice, Henriette, especially the part about how much time and energy it takes to write good posts. I would also add that to write good posts, you have to be comfortable editing yourself. No one wants to read your whole jumbled thought process, just the interesting results.

Hi Henriette

Good to see some blog schooling taking place. I'm not far off starting a herbal podcast. I'll let you know when it's off the ground.

I saw a post of yours (which subsequently dissapeared) mentioning that you've been comparing Joomla to Drupal. I've built sites with both and whilst Joomla is a vast improvement over its parent open source code base, Mambo, and has, arguably, better pre-packaged themes from which to draw, I must say that Drupal is very impressive. Drupal handles RSS feeds (incoming and outbound) like a super-star. I built HerbalScienceResearch.com on Drupal 4.6 as a way of automatically extracting and filtering complex PubMed MeSH string results (too much data v. too little time). The days of copying and pasting MeSH strings into PubMed or HubMed everytime you want to search the NLM database are now gone.

The new 5.1 release is really nice too. Lots of AJAXie-like thingy-bobs to play with. Friendly URLs generated by Drupal are better for SEO results too.

Anyway, enough geek chatter from me (sorry the post's a bit long).

Thanks for the orginal herbal blog Ms. H! You and MM have inspired many of us.

Thanks for that, Shayne! I ditched that post as it wasn't herbal, thinking that I'd do a herbal post right away, instead. Alas, I've been too busy for that. Lovely pics of hare droppings (err, honey pills) are waiting, as is a post on a journal I got in the mail ...

Part of the "too busy" is that my PC crashed, fatally so, but it took me a while to get that and move things to the laptop.

Another part of the "too busy" is that I'm moving the site to drupal. 4.7 for the import, 5.1 for production. Drupal is lovely: among other goodies, it automatically generates tables of content (for book/category type posts). It does the usual navigation breadcrumbs ("Home > Classic Texts > King's"), but you can add other breadcrumbs as well. Mmm. Plant name breadcrumbs. Preparation breadcrumbs. And even problem breadcrumbs.
Very nice, but while the site import module is very good, cleaning things up will take a few weeks ... putting things into the right slots, checking that pics are where they should be, etc. The utf-8 vs. latin-1 thingy is raising its ugly head there, too.

Joomla looks good on the surface, but. And that's a very big but. I wasted a full two weeks of trying it out before giving up on it: there's no possibility at all to crosslink things, output URLs are non-informative, you can't keep the old site URLs intact, and if you have two menus pointing at the same content they're now found under two URLs. Bloody annoying, as that means you get either a sidebar menu, a top menu, or breadcrumbs (which is a menu, sort of). If you want to do things the SEO way, that is.
Lastly, joomla's backend is too complex, which means that themes, modules and similar add-ons are mostly commercial: "buy our stuff", "no, buy ours", "no, ours is the bestest and shiniest" ... no thanks.

I'm glad you like Drupal Henriette. And, I definitely agree with what you said about Joomla. I must admit though, it took me a while to really wrap my mind around the Drupal 'node' concept. Once I got it though, I totally got the analogy of digital plumbing.

I like being able to attach taxonomy terms to any node...and since any taxonomy term created in Drupal can automatically generate an RSS feed (combining terms generates a combined feed. yep, quite nice.), it becomes pretty interesting what you can start to do.

I think there's some real benefit to a few of us herb geeks starting to develop an open and evolving taxonomy for our field of study. Of course, MeSH terms are next to useless and as we get more content in binary form, it will become increasingly useful to have a basic skeleton of terms to guide ourselves. I sent a draft taxonomy to Jonno a year and a half back, but I never did get that back from him. JT seems mostly preoccupied these days with bringing down the good people at Sloane Kettering ;-). So, perhaps he'll have time for an old mate when he's done.

Henriette, if we had a core taxonomy that people could use and extend, I'd be very interested in creating a Drupal distribution for herb folks, with appropriate modules, custom content fields, and taxonomy already loaded. With a few of us using Drupal, we could really get our herb geek on.

BTW, I've had that problem with the utf-8 vs. latin-1 thing. I've also had the same problem with Moodle. Anyway, I seem to recall it was one particular release of MySQL. The next MySQL release specifically addressed this problem.

Anyway, as always, thanks for the digital digression...

Sure, we can do various herb-related taxonomies, no problem.
The UTF8 problem is solved: phpMyAdmin got it right, mysqldump (command line, > file) didn't. The utf8 vs. latin1 mysql export/import solution is found here.
Lovely - I'm all set, and can do the necessary bulk edits in my text editor of choice.
Which happes to be kwrite ... if somebody is swearing over utf8 vs latin1 while using that, they need to set KDE to utf8, too. Control panel, search for fonts, there's a default encoding somewhere.



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