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Crabby's Principles of Blogging

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.

Comments

The "read more" feature must be used carefully, but it is very useful. It can set up the drama of the post beautifully, rather like having to turn a page, and it can alert readers to a topic that they may not be interested in reading more about. For example, I used it very consciously in my "sex and the single mom" post because I know some of my readers aren't interested, and it makes it easier for them to skip to the next one. I also am very conscious of how I want my "front page" to look. If I know I'm going to write a long post, I don't want it to be the only thing that shows up when readers first visit--I want them to see at least a post or two, and I always want a foto visible. That's why I use the "read more" feature occasionally. As for my blogroll, well, I really would like to keep it more organized, and up to date and all of that, but there's only so much of my life I can steal away for blogging (note that it's 5:30 am here in Seattle), and I choose to use it on my content and am more haphazard with other stuff.

Crabby rocks even when she is slapping us with that school house ruler!
Say it like it is.
You may only get one chance.

I do use LiveJournal's "cut" feature (which is the same as "read more" basically) sometimes, but only if (a) the material is extremely long or (b) it is likely to be uninteresting to many people. And I make sure the text of the link says what's there and why it's cut, so you know if it's a six-page commentary or just a set of quiz graphics I figured most people would rather skip!

As far as blogrolls, LJ doesn't have them - it's a pity; I may have to create my own list of "recommended" reads and link to it - but they do have friends lists. This shows you everyone I read, whether I think they'll be of interest to others or not, and is on my user info page. Looking at it now, I see 112 people with LiveJournals, 23 LJ "communities" where multiple people post, and 56 feeds syndicated from outside the LiveJournal site (which include news about topics I'm interested in, comics, and blogs that are not on LiveJournal but I enjoy reading).

I actually read those. Unless I'm on vacation, I read them every day. I do skim some, but only a few - the vast majority I read, or I remove them. (Some of the LiveJournal personal accounts never have any new posts, or very rarely, though. I keep them listed because it gives them access to my locked posts, which I want them to have. Those are not accounts I would recommend for others, since they hardly ever update!)

Useful post, and thanks for the link checker -- that will come in very handy.

I laughed when I got to the bottom of your post and saw the term "schoolmarm". Exactly the word I had in my head while reading a most excellent mini English class refresher. My 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Furr, was a fiery red-headed woman of indeterminate age. Mentally, I thank her often while writing. She has passed away and I wished I had expressed my gratitude personally while I had the chance.

Well, it may be crabby but it's good. A few of them bother me, too. And a few of them made me wonder if I'm getting a "D" on my essay. Um, I better go back and review my answers...

Ronni, you are so right about the black background! I find it is also very difficult to look at with pictures. (And all-red lettering, too.) The italics comment made me laugh! (I worked for a chemist one summer who INSISTED that I type his monographs in all italics (!) so "the type would 'pull' the reader through" his dull, dull, dull rhetoric!@!)
-- It didn't!

Agree with you all the way, Ronni, to the extent that I shall now hop on over and alphabetize my blogroll, which is currently in 'most recently updated order'. Not all the blogs I have on my roll are hooked into pings, however, so it's not a terribly useful sequence.

I would add a dislike of my own to the list -- blogs that keep too many entries on the front page, making for interminable load times, looking at a blank screen, especially when accessing the Internet through a slow dial-up modem. I hate it when I sit twiddling my thumbs to find I've read all the material except for a line or two at the top telling me the writer is too busy to blog... on a really crabby day my reaction is to say, yes, and I'm too busy to read, and strike the blog from my list.

Good point, John Bailey, and so timely for Crabby who has been thinking recently that she should cut the number of entries on the TGB home page, which gets entirely too long when she is overly wordy.

Having switched to broadband about three years ago - and what a pleasure it is to have such speed - Crabby forgets that high-speed connections are not available to everyone.

She might add that it is particularly important for those who post a lot of photos to limit the number on the Home page to keep the weight low enough to load quickly.

Thanks for the important reminder, Mr. Bailey.

Thanks for the tips! Another fantastic offering from you!

I used your link check and I passed the test. Non of my links were bad. I do need to fix my categories list, though. I made a list of categories I want my entries filed in and I haven't used them all yet. It's not fair for me to have them on my site going nowhere.

I have lots of website tweaks yet to make before my site even anywhere near the greatness of what you have created with yours.

I had not realized that the italics were so bothersome. I have used them for several years as a means of denoting that the text is quoted and not original material by me. I'll need to find another way to make that clear.

I, too, have difficulty reading blogs on black backgrounds. Likewise, I have difficulty with the light gray text on white that so many blogs use. I find, however, the text size adjustment on my browser to be helpful.

As for link rot... well, I accept this as part of the nature of the web. There is no way I can keep track of every single link in my archives, and if I could I still wouldn't. Guilty as charged. Also for posting links without much explanation -- though I tend to post an excerpt from the page in case a reader wants to see the entire piece.

And excellent post, and one that I'll be referring to!

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