So much to read. So little time. Crabby Old Lady is bitching about her time problems again. She knows she is stepping on some toes as her complaints today apply to blogs and bloggers are among her readers. But Crabby will be, well – crabby about these things and it’s time to get them off her chest. Feel free to rip on her if you have a different point of view.
Bloggers, in general, are not seeking the numbers of readers who visit, for example, The New York Times Website, but it is nice to know there are people who enjoy your blog and that you are not writing in a vacuum. Some bloggers, however, seem bent keeping readers away not by what they write, which may be compelling, but with how they present their material. There are some blogs Crabby reads despite how difficult their owners make it, but in the long run she will leave, as will others. So listen up.
Text Styling. It may be coincidence, but recently Crabby has run into an increasing number of blogs posted in italic, which is hard to read on a screen. It can't be seen, but the screen constantly flickers and that tires eyes, especially Crabby’s old eyes, so don’t make it any harder on her. Save italic for emphasis of a word or two; title of books, magazines, Websites and newspapers; and material that is not part of the main body of the post. Also, using the Verdana font in worth considering. It was invented for ease of reading online which it does nicely.
Background Color. Crabby doesn't care what color the text is, reading on a black background makes her squint, so she doesn't bother anymore, ever, with dark backgrounded sites. Besides, as a style, dark backgrounds are so 20th century.
Posting Dates. A few bloggers use no dates at all. A larger number hide the date at the bottom of the posts. This makes it difficult for Crabby to know if she has read that particular entry or not. She may not visit a blog every day, but if she is a regular, she has a general idea of how recently she was there, and would like to know how fresh the post is without wasting her time re-reading the first paragraph or two before she realizes it’s old. For the same reason, time of day is important to post with the date when a blogger publishes throughout the day.
Blogrolls. These are the life blood of blogging. We find one another through investigating links on the blogs we like under the assumption that a good blogger will link to others who have a similar sensibility. Those links are recommendations. For that reason, Crabby finds long blogrolls of 100, 200, 300 links suspect. Nobody reads that many blogs and Crabby doesn’t believe they are all worth her time, so some paring is in order. Give readers a short list of excellent blog links that deserve a wider audience.
And alphabetize them, please. Sometimes Crabby goes to a blog because she knows there is a link to a site she wants to see again and did not bookmark. Help her out. Gordon.Coale, although his blogroll is endless, separates his into categories and that helps a lot.
Link Rot. It is disappointing when a link that appears to be interesting turns out to be dead and it makes a site appear to be out of date. Check your links regularly. There are free spiders that will easily do that for you. Here is one.
Read More. It is relatively common for bloggers to post the beginning of an entry – five or six lines or so – with a “Read More” link to the entire story. Crabby understands this is a traditional option of blogging software, but the reason eludes her. It interrupts the flow of the story and she has no way to know if the post is a couple of paragraphs in length or six pages. She might not have time right now to read 5,000 words. The Web is all about choice, so make it easy for readers to enjoy your site on their terms.
Link Blogs. Some bloggers who write little themselves, scour the Web for interesting material. Crabby likes discovering new information this way, but too many make the page or story title the link without explaining why it is worth a reader’s time. It only takes a sentence to explain why readers should visit that place on the Web.
Fair Use and Source Your Quotes. There is a copyright doctrine in the U.S. called “fair use.” It allows quotation from other peoples’ works without payment, but in small amounts. Crabby has noticed some bloggers who not only quote entire articles (from other blogs and from books, newspapers and magazines), they post the material without quotes or without citing the original. Or, if they do, it is hidden in a tiny font at the bottom of the story, easy to miss.
It does not appear to Crabby that bloggers who do this intend to present the material as their own. She believes that because most bloggers are not professional writers, they don’t realize the harm to those who are. In addition, the English language has a handy little device called quotation marks which is an instant alert to readers that the material is from another source. Surrounding others' written works with them is the right thing to do.
Aside from these Web best practices, some of which are particularly useful for older folks, Crabby finds remarkable the generally excellent and sometimes inventive use of the English language - compared to the population at large - in the blogs she reads. It is heartening, in the face of decades of failing test scores and failing schools, that English is not only alive and well, but flourishing - at least in the blog universe.
Crabby Old Lady understands she is behaving like a schoolmarm today. She can't be sure, but sometimes believes she was a teacher in another life.