blogs

Death By Pen

I honestly can’t believe I’ve written 600 of these essays. I went from a little blog somewhere in the atmosphere to getting a nice pat-on-the-back from the hundreds of you who read me weekly. I’ve learned so much, I just had to write it down. I’m at a point where I’m bombarded with requests for advice (sure), web design help (depends), and enough spam to fill an inbox (yikes). Furthermore, this blog’s given me a platform for my ridiculous but very serious opinions, and, unlike other platforms, people can’t flag or unlike my stuff.

You either love me or hate me.

And that’s the approach I’ve taken with writing on this platform. I hope the following tips will help anyone just starting a blog or looking to revitalize their current blog.

Write For Yourself … With Others In Mind

These days, very few blogs find success, and success has so many definitions, the only one that inevitably matters is yours. While we may think blogs with 20-30 comments are successful, the bloggers themselves may not think so. I know some bloggers who don’t average high page views, but their content is so rich, they’re included in speeches, books, and videos. I know other bloggers who have tons of friends and comments, but never get considered for anything more than a blogger party. None of these make any sense if you don’t belief in the work you’re writing, or see the potential in your work. Even “entertainment” bloggers have to believe in their site’s content.

Also, feel free to set a schedule. If you can post once a day, then go for that. If you can post 3 times a week, go for that. As long as you’re consistent with your schedule, that’s what your readers will expect. If you say you’ll write daily, and you don’t, you’re losing people’s confidence in you, and that’s no bueno.

Get Your Own Site

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said this to prospective bloggers, but using Blogspot, WordPress.com, or any blogging site can help propel your writing into the blogosphere’s consciousness, but may not do you any favors in the long run. Consider the case of a Blogspot blogger, who, after offending just one person, was flagged and thus was given a screen prompt with a warning label for their site. In other words, visitors to your sites already feel strange about your material since you’re getting screened by Google, but they may leave since they don’t want to be bothered with another click. Readers’ attention span is small.

With your own site, you can hit them hard. And with speed.

Make It Reader-Friendly

Make sure that, whether you get a free site or a self-hosted site, the site looks aesthetically pleasing. Make sure images are as sharp as possible, that everything loads as it needs to, that the title actually sounds good when read aloud along with the web address, that the site has little clutter around the content, and the grammatical and spelling errors are kept to a minimum. Every title should make sense to the content, and the paragraphs don’t have to extend longer than 3 sentences. That depends on your subject. The language has to be geared towards your audience, too. If you’re aiming for college-level students, keep it at that reading level. Even if you’re writing for yourself, it’s also writing with a conscious reader who’d like to know what the hell you’re talking about.

Build Relationships With Your Readers

Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have made it too easy to think you’ve built a relationship with your readers / subscribers. Not true. People who comment should get a reply where warranted. Let the audience give you feedback, ingest it, and see if those are the types of reactions you want to your writing. If you intend to annoy the hell out of someone, see if that worked. If you intend to get people excited, see if that worked. If it confused the hell out of someone, it probably means you forced the writing when you need not to. All the social media sites help you do is get more reactions and allow people to share and converse around your piece, a plus if it’s great material, a minus if it sucks.

Don’t Get Gassed

Readers aren’t fickle per se, but your audience is a set of people. For every 100 people who pass by your blog, 5 may stay on average. So if you get 20+ commenters on one post, it won’t mean they’ll stay there waiting for you. Your favorite blogger(s) work hard to write what they do, even when they make it look easy. They’ve taken time to build what they did, and you will, too. Also of note, just because one person likes your blog doesn’t mean the others will. Don’t get discouraged, either. The fact that someone likes it means that he or she might be your audience. Take the criticism well, learn from it, and keep it moving.

(Almost) Never Apologize

I probably offended a slew of people over the last 599 posts. I wrote too long. I wrote too little. I skipped a few Thursdays. I didn’t write about them. I did write about them but not by name. I wrote about ideas in general and people thought it was about them specifically. I don’t write much about love and relationships. I write too much about education. I’m too left. I like Spongebob. I don’t want legislation controlling what women can do with their private parts.

I’ve never apologized.

I learned not to apologize six years ago when another blogger thought my ramblings on my site would never be validated, as his were read by his college professors. My writing would never be taken seriously, according to him, and he never had to thank his readers because they were going to read anyways. Years later, I’m still writing on mine, and he’s still waiting for a comeback. It’s not personal, but everything we write, if it makes sense to you, if we’re passionate about it, if we do it with purpose, then why apologize?

Apologize only if the message wasn’t clear. If the message is clear, then you’ve written well.

Jose, who still has a long way to go …

Bonus:

In order to become a better writer, become a prolific reader. Read as many blogs as possible, comment on those, ask them for help or advice, and take it from there.

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Background

The 2008 JLV Blogger of the Year Award came about as a result of my desire to acknowledge the best and brightest bloggers around my side of the blogosphere. There are plenty of spaces that acknowledge the same bloggers, most of whom deserve the praise. Blogs like TechCrunch, Deadspin, and Huffington Post will always get props because they’ve set the trends and have a whole staff that can crank out hundreds of posts a week. Others get praise simply because they have connections here and there, so they get accolades (for some, I can’t tell why they’re so lauded). Where does that leave the other bloggers, those who work for a living, those who don’t have corporate sponsorship or those whose life work comes from serving their constituents, and writing from their souls rather than just re-upping what the next man said. With that said …

The Process

I went through the 100 or so blogs I have in my Google Reader, picked out 5, and then thought about which of those made the greatest impact on others’ writing, their own writing, and more importantly, my thought process. There’s no real way to judge subjectivity.

The Nominees

Props to all the nominees.

Clay Burell

NYC Educator

A Slant Truth

The Unapologetic Mexican

GothamSchools

The Winner: The Unapologetic Mexican

Believe it or not, this was a really rough decision. Clay Burell’s writing ranks right up there with almost any contemporary author I’ve read. NYC Educator, as most of you know, is like the education Godfather (without the kissing of the ring, and all that nonsense). A Slant Truth tends to fill in the gaps in the news or any current event when he writes. The ladies at GothamSchools do great work at their blog, focusing on NYC education, and trying to be as objective as possible (plus, I love their blog’s design).

Yet, when it came down to it, I know in my heart of hearts, he was my blogger of the year. As far as I’m concerned, he’s been the premier Latino blogger on the Internet. Nevermind Perez Hilton and anyone else who may be secretly Latino; The Unapologetic Mexican represents his constituency so hard and with little contrition (hence the name). The writing itself makes you have to sit down and take time, and after reading it, you’re all the better for it. He speaks to the indignation of millions in this country, and picks apart arguments cogently, and so eloquently, you get the whole picture right then and there. Whether it’s his much needed work on immigration issues or his essays on life and fatherhood, his blog emanates a certain authenticity that welcomes you each and every time. His documentaries on the Democratic National Convention were particularly poignant.

Besides that, he’s got an awesome site, one he continuously works hard at (though he makes it look far too easy), and with all the praises he does receive, he stays utterly humble. While this blogging thing is still relatively young, I also still see a lack of Latino bloggers getting the proper accolade they deserve. Here’s a Corona to UMX.

The JLV's Blogger of the Year: The Unapologetic Mexican

The JLV's Blogger of the Year: The Unapologetic Mexican

Jose, who is himself an unapologetic blogger …

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A Writer’s Make

September 14, 2008

Question: What’s the difference between a blogger and a writer?

Yesterday, a friend of mine decided she’d abandoned blogging for a myriad of reasons, all of them viable and understandable in the eyes of the reader and the writer alike. It hurt me to read because I honestly believe in her ability to convey her deepest emotions and ideas. Even when she extended the post, she never bored people with the writing, eliciting expanded responses from her more devoted fans. Yet, because it was so personal, she didn’t write consistently. When she did, the “numbers” went up, but when she didn’t, well, only her most loyal fans stuck around.

Of course, this can only go two ways: either people love her writing and she’s lauded as a contemporary of her time, offering her book deals and money to do her thing on paperback, or she quits blogging as a whole, leaving her talent abandoned and unexposed to a greater community that may eventually appreciate it. Unfortunately for this heroine, the latter happened. And again, her reasons for leaving get to the heart of the ugly side of blogging. She may be a great writer, but she’s not a great blogger, and despite everyone’s arguments to the contrary, there’s evidence that there’s a difference after all.

I’m not going to name names, but oftentimes, I’ll read a blog and think how, while their point of view may be interesting and sometimes entertaining, it’s not good writing. In some of these blogs (irrespective of background), I’ll find misspellings, confusing conjugations and conjunctions, and just a lack of English (or any language) mastery. These bloggers will put up a controversial picture or speak on nonsense, yet the comments, links, and page views keep coming in the hundreds and sometimes thousands. It’s an interesting cross between crass production, formulaic name-branding, and salacious marketing. I admittedly read some of these blogs, but no matter how drawn I am to the content, the less I’m drawn to the overall writing. Many writers looking to get their writing careers off, thus, have a hard time fitting in because this new medium doesn’t always fit into the mold of the blogger, and gets disheartened in the process.

Granted, many of my favorite bloggers meet at the crossroads of popularity and solid writing. People like The Unapologetic Mexican, NYC Educator, and despite our disagreements about whether or not teachers should write poems, dy/dan, and hold the vanguard down in their respective fields. They, along with a lot of the bloggers in my sidebar, attest to how one can be a good blogger AND a good writer, so it’s not contradictory. Yet, relatively speaking, these type of blogs are becoming few and far between. So either people write well and don’t have much of a following, or they write so-so but have huge followings. I don’t like making gross generalizations like that, but the examples of both cases are overwhelming.

With that said, if you’re a writer who wants to blog, go right ahead. Yet, don’t let page views, subscribers, Technorati ratings, incoming links, and every other Internet gizmo determine your worth. Some people are just better at marketing and writing good blogs, and some aren’t. You can’t correlate how good your writing is with how popular it’s going to be.

However, if you reallllllly want to write, the only person that matters is YOU. You can only write as well as you believe you can. Once that happens, then you’ve gotta decide what kind of writer you’ll become.

What’s your take on this? Maybe it might help new writers and bloggers alike.

jose, who just wanted to write this in the aftermath of my friend’s resignation …

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Pomp in Circumstance

August 28, 2008 Jose
iphone-confused

A few notes: – A few days ago, I mentioned how one of my favorite teachers / mentors / friends left my present school of employ. Today, I found out that another teacher, who was an icon in the building, passed away. It hurt my soul to see him go, because he was a staple […]

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Not About My Salary, But More About My Reality

February 2, 2008 Jose

Am I sure I want to make this kind of leap? Why leave the confined of a blog where I amassed what feels like thousands of comments (100+ comments in my “Fuck Bush” post alone)? 300+ subscribers? almost 5 years of blogging? Tons of forwards, friends, and acquaintances And I was able to start some […]

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Short Notes: Somewhere In The Middle

January 20, 2008 Short Notes

A few notes of interest: 1. Yes, I cleaned up around here. Click refresh, and tell me what happens to that header. Do it a good 7 more and you’ll get your wishes granted ;-). 2. The oddest thing happened on Friday. One minute, my Feedburner says I have 83-93 readers, and the next, I […]

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Bob and Weave

December 26, 2007

I’ve been tagged by JD to do the 7 Things Meme. I really thought I got hit with this meme, but it was really the Crazy 8s, so technically I never got hit with the 7 Things Meme. That’s weird coming from someone whose made his rounds and then some in the blogosphere, but I […]

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