Mar 6, 2011

Hammer time for Fatty Bumchops: how to blog properly

The best developed, most cohesive, and most robust blogging scene in the UK.

These were the words, carefully prefixed with 'arguably', scribbled by the Manchester Blog Awards last year. With the next Manchester Blogmeet nearly upon us (this Tuesday!), I thought I'd give a few wibblings about my little corner of the blogging scene in 2011.

I find myself in a very different position from this time last year. I always saw myself on the edges of blogging in the same way I played around on the edges of DJing. A few blogmeets and awards later, I'm somewhere near the somewhat crowded centre. Of one of the many centres.

What started as a way of plugging my DJing activities became, well, a scene in which I hang out with bloggers (retro gaming the other night), perform with bloggers (at the Bad Language events), get consulted about blogging (websitey people asking for advice) and help other bloggers connect (having a hand in the Manchester Blogmeet, for example).

Part of this is graft: I gave up my telly for these paragraph's you're currently smooching with your eyes. Part of this is also my belief that blogging has to be about connection in this proper physical world of real things. It has to make a difference, even if it's just someone in a shed in Preston giving encouragement to a struggling writer sweating it out in a birdhouse in Portsmouth.

What I love about Manchester's blogging scene is the rag-tag jumble of blogs of different shapes and sizes: the SEO-heads, the musicistas, the foodies, the hyperlocals, the poets or the whimsical neither-here-nor-theres.

And everyone's so busy all of the time. It's a well-developed and professional scene that is strong enough to say to companies wanting to capitalize on our content or ideas: "thanks for your interest, now give us some money."

The nice thing about the Manchester Blogmeet is it brings everyone down the same level and it humanises what is often a solitary pursuit. I'm not going to spool off a rollcall of recommended blogs here, although this post has inspired me to ditch and re-start my Fat Friends in the right-hand column of this site.

What I would say is if you run a blog and you're in Manchester, be encouraged. You're part of a bustling scene of tapped-in letters in darkened rooms, whatever the focus of your blog.

I thought I'd finish with some advice. People often ask me about blogging because they think I know stuff. It always goes like this:

- Hey Fatso, should I publish my blog in 150 different languages and reduce the text to six-point?
- Don't do that. People might not read your blog.

- Hey Fats, should I smear my blog page in crusty lobster paste?
- Don't do that. People might not read your blog.

- Hey Fatty Bumchops, should I ditch the tired old media of computers and fire my blog out of a tube instead?
- Yes, definitely do that, then everyone will read your blog.

I like being asked, so here are few basic pointers about running a blog the Fat Roland way, concentrating mainly on sins I myself have committed on these very pages.

Fat Roland's ten blog tips

1. If you want a wider readership, make your blog about something. I deliberately put 'Electronica' into my title to Ronseal this whole dang operation. I hope I've proved you can be specialist and still be accessible.

2. Most of your hits are probably very casual browsers. You want them to stick around, right? Then don't splash eye-pain all over your blog. Start by getting rid of that black background.

3. As for your content, edit, edit, edit. Write a sentence then halve it. Use short paragraphs. Short sentences and not ones that go on so long you've lost track of how the sentence started in the first place because you didn't read my advice about writing a sentence then halving it which is what I just wrote in a previous sentence which, entirely non-ironically, was twice the length before I edited it down unlike this one which has gone one so long you've lost track of how the sentence started in the first place because I didn't read my advice [breathe!] are definitely better than long ones. See?

4. Check your facts. Pressing 'publish' and hoping you're right is not good enough. And reading something on one website is not fact-checking. Learn to do proper Google research.

5. Collaborate. Don't type in a vacuum. Contribute to other people's blogs, leave comments, link generously and meet other bloggers (starting with the blogmeet this Tuesday).

6. Post regularly. I've really struggled this past month to keep up with my blogging  and I think my sites have suffered as a result. Set yourself a target and stick to it (mine is 120 posts a year).

7. A bit of design wouldn't go amiss. My blog is a pretty recognisable Blogger template, but I've added a bit of extra visual goodness. All of my design, apart from my masthead, is done using Microsoft Paint and a crappy picture editing programme called Piknik. Even a five-year-old sandwich could use those programs.

8. Give up your telly. No, really. If you're watching Corrie when you know you should be blogging, then you have decided that watching Corrie is more important than your blogging. Smash it in with a hammer. The only danger then is, if you are smashing in your television with a hammer instead of blogging, you have decided that smashing things in with hammers is more important than blogging. That is not necessarily a bad thing.

9. It's not about the stats. People should be able to find your blog in any way they see how, and if that means parallel Facebook posts and letting people read the full text on Google Reader, both of which I would assume takes away clicks from your actual site itself, then so be it.

10. It's only a blog. Lighten up. Jeez. Why are you even reading this? Turn off the computer. Get out. Go for a walk. Let the wind furrow into your brain-hair. You'll be a better blogger producing better content with a mind clear of cobwebs.


Anonymous said...

Good advice Mister Fats sir! Although, on point number 10, I was quite scared you were going to break out in a rendition of 'Why Don't You', thankfully you didn't. For this I thank you. I shall sleep now!

Fat Roland said...

Not many people know this, but the full title of Why Don't You was Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set and Go Out and Do Something Less Boring Instead like Stick Your Willy Into Smartie Tubes.