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Blog tips : One of best guides out there

Every blogger, lawyer and non-lawyer alike, should read Evan Schaeffer’s blog tips. Evan Schaeffer is an Illinois injury lawyer, publisher of Legal Underground and an all around good guy. Evan’s post came in the form of new year’s resolutions for bloggers published as part of the Blawg Review series. (blawg is what ‘some lawyers’ call their blog)

I’m amazed this post did not generate more buzz when it was published a couple weeks ago. It’s the type of one you print, highlight and study. Do half the stuff the guy recommends and you’ll have a hell of a blog. Evan’s was one of the blogs I used as a role model when I first started blogging. Now I know why.

I’m providing the highlights here both for the benefit of my users and to force me to outline his advice for my education. You need to read the whole blog tips post to get it all, including a ton of examples, but here’s the highlights.

  1. Mix It Up
  • Think of your weblog as a magazine. Rolling Stone gives its readers more than music. It also serves up politics, tech news, and movie reviews. Most magazines follow a similar mix-it-up philosophy. Why can’t weblog authors do the same?
  • Provide both information and opinion. Some lawyer-webloggers seem afraid their opinions will offend readers or generate unwanted controversy. But if you can say it on an Op-Ed page, you can say it in a weblog. Besides, in the blogging business, controversy is good.
  • Link freely to other weblogs. Many weblog authors criticize the type of post that does nothing but provide links to other sources. But if you have a sense of what your readers want, you are providing an editorial service by choosing and selecting posts you think will interest them. As Dave Winer wrote recently, ‘the fundamental law of the Internet seems to be the more you send them away the more they come back. It’s why link-filled blogs do better than introverts.’
  • Prove You Have a Personality
    • Reveal something about yourself. It often feels uncomfortable to provide personal details on a professionally-oriented weblogs, but you’ll gain a lot if you do. Readers are more likely to return if they feel like they know something about the weblog’s author. Think of yourself not as a reporter but as a columnist.
    • Don’t fear the first person. While we were told in high school that the first person has no place in ‘real’ writing, don’t believe it for a second. The occasional use of the first person can add a touch of pleasing informality to even the most institutional-feeling weblogs.
    • Don’t neglect your about page. Provide biographical details about yourself. It’s the best way to provide basic information readers can use to judge the reliability of the information being provided in a weblog.
  • Be a Better Writer
    • Get rid of the clichés. Rather than saying something in an original way, the cliché-loving writer merely apes phrases found on a thousand other weblogs. Teach yourself to spot and recognize your own clichés.
    • Omit needless words. It’s an injunction we all know from Strunk & White: ‘Omit needless words.’ It’s so important that it should be tattooed on our writing hand.
    • Seek out models. If you want to spiff up your writing style, seek out writers you admire and study the way they make their writing work.
  • Write for the Computer Screen
    • Use short paragraphs and bullets. Make your writing easy to scan by breaking up your posts into short paragraphs. Use bullets as a way to present related information.
    • Stick to one topic per post. The hyperlinking that forms the warp and woof of the Internet just wouldn’t work if links terminated in ambiguous locales. Plus sticking to a single topic allows your readers to choose to skip a post based on its title and first few lines alone.
    • Work on your titles. The best titles work like newspaper headlines to announce the topic of the post that follows.
  • Use Photos.
  • Don’t Be Obscure
    • Don’t run a private club. Provide context for new readers who come to your site through Google, perhaps not even realizing that they’re reading a ‘weblog’? Don’t refer to your weblogging pals by their first names without providing their last. Avoid weblogging jargon. What in the hell is a ‘blawg,’ anyway? (emphasis added)
    • Provide context for your links. Tell readers where they’ll end up so they can decide whether or not to click. The alternative is to risk irritating your readers by unnecessarily wasting their time.
    • Make your site easy to navigate. Create a simple layout that can be understood and absorbed by new readers. If your software provides categories, use them. If you take up a topic in a new post that you’ve written about in the past, provide links to the old posts for new readers who want to catch up. Create a list of favorite posts for readers who want to explore your archives.
  • Build a Community
    • Get a blogroll. A blogroll is one of those important social-networking mechanisms that helps to distinguish a weblog from other sorts of less dynamic websites. A blogroll defines your weblogging community for your readers in a public way that sends a positive message to those weblogs you’ve included. There’s more. If you remember to read the weblogs in your blogroll by clicking through from your own site, the other weblog authors will see your own weblog’s url in their referral logs. It’s a clever way of advertising your weblog that Evan learned from Rebecca Blood in her Weblog Handbook.
    • Encourage comments. Comments don’t work on every weblog. If your readers are willing, however, there’s no better way of giving your readers an ownership interest in your weblog than to allow them to post comments.
    • Be generous to other weblogs. Are you one of those competitive webloggers who thinks that linking to other weblogs foolishly drives your readers away? If so, you may not understand weblogs. They are part of a worldwide social network in which the generous thrive and the isolated die on the vine.
  • Experiment with New Weblogging Ideas. What’s the fun of a weblog if you don’t spend a little time experimenting with the form? Evan’s taken his weblog through a number of experiments including podcasting, paying proofreaders, turning over the weblog to a fictional guest author, regular real-life guest posters, a very popular (lucky for me) correspondent, long comic essays, the law-school roundup (now returning as a joint project with Energy Spatula), a week-long Central European travel series, fictional advice columns, short stories, and more.
  • Don’t Let Your Weblog Make You Crazy. If you get burned out, you’re probably just posting too much. Take a break. The world won’t end if it doesn’t hear from you for a couple of days, and neither will your weblog.
  • Learn from Other Weblogs. Every new weblogger has to make scores of decisions about his or her weblog. Blogging isn’t as easy as it looks, and the choices can seem overwhelming: How frequently should I post? Can I make a joke if I’m trying to project the image of a bigshot lawyer? How much personality can I reveal? Even the most popular webloggers had similar questions when they started their weblogs.
  • Great stuff. You guys with blogs, tell your readers about Evan’s post. There’s an awful lot of newcomers and experienced bloggers who could benefit from the advice.

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