This is the eighteenth post in our “How I Blog” series. To read the rest, visit the archives. Interested in participating? Drop us a note about ‘How I Blog’ along with a photo or yourself or your blogging space at tips [at] blogmedia [dot] biz.
I’m John from Freshblog, where we focus on adding features and functions to Blogger, as well as developing tools to make the blogosphere more integrated. Most of the original tools have been developed by my co-contributor, Greg Hill, & include recursive backlinks, the Freshtags system of tag display, and a tag overlay hack that allows you to overlay tags onto a site to detect confluences of interest. I repurposed my blog a little over a year ago with a detailed how-to post about adding categories to blogger using del.icio.us. >From there, things have moved quickly, and now Freshblog is a pretty narrowly focussed blog with three contributors and (I hope) a wide appeal to many bloggers!
For me, the heart of the “how I blog” question is “what do I blog about?”… What sources inspire a post? In the early days, I read blogs by clicking through my blogroll one site at a time, which was time consuming and less-than-effective. RSS has revolutionised this piece of the puzzle, and made it very easy to read a large number of blogs quickly. I use Kinja to read subscriptions, because the navigation is easy and you can see enough of the post to realise whether you want to get into the whole thing or not. I’m active about maintaining a sub list… adding sites that look interesting and removing the odd one that hasn’t provoked me to respond in a while. Having a selection of source material that is relevant to my focus, and of a high quality, is an essential ingredient for me. There are a half-dozen other Blog-Hacks sites which form the kernel of my sub list, & frequently inspire a post or provoke a thought.
In addition to existing posts that are out there, I’m also prompted to write posts by reader e-mails and comments. Freshblog includes Blogger Hacks: The Series, a list of all the hacks & add-ons for Blogger that I can find. Bloggers frequently submit their hacks to be added to the list, or e-mail to ask for help in implementing a hack. It’s great to open Gmail and find some comments, and the occasional “hey, did you see this & will you write about it….” Blogging is a little easier when the content (even some of the content) comes to you, instead of requiring you to go to it.
The other key is focus. In the beginning, I blogged as a virtual scrapbook, and “collected” stuff from around the web that I was interested in. Now, I’m still interested in pop-culture and all that other good stuff, but the expectations of my readers shape what makes it onto the blog. I’m much more selective about what I read, comment on, & respond to with a post. Freshblog is about something, & so I’m careful to only write about that!
I’m a two-window blogger. I write most of my posts on public PC’s, so no bookmarklets allowed. This means BlogThis! is out, and there’s a good bit of cutting & pasting going on.
What else? Used to be that I thought of the blogosphere as an instant / immediate sort of a place, and I raced to slap stuff up. Now I’m learning to love draft posts. Some of the better, longer posts at Freshblog have been saved and reworked a number of times until they say what they’re supposed to say, or until the right post out in the blogosphere sharpens my thoughts and gives a rambling draft some bite.
I think when you’re in control of your content, adding value to the material that you post, and staying focussed on a topic, pace (and even immediacy) is less important, and your perspective is what makes the post worthwhile.
The one critical thing happening at Freshblog is tagging. At Freshblog all posts are tagged with tags that point to my account on del.icio.us but can also be seen by Technorati and other tag search services. This adds an extra step in the posting process, adding tags with one of the tools that have been developed by the “tags for categories” community. It is worth the extra effort in terms of exposure and the additional level of organisation that is added to the blog. We have lots of tools to share if you’re reading this and what to try it out….
John is an editor and one of the two principal bloggers at Freshblog.
Matt Craven is the former editor & publisher of The Blog Herald. Currently, Matt is the co-founder of Bryghtpath LLC, a consulting practice located in Woodbury, Minnesota. Matt's presently looking for new blogging gigs. Ping him at matt (at) bryghtpath dot com. You can follow him on Twitter.