22 August 2008

What Makes for a Good Blog?

Written by Merlin Mann of 43 Folders edited a bit.

As I think about the blogs I’ve returned to over the years — and the increasingly few new ones that really grab my attention — I want to start with, ironically enough, a list. Here’s what I think helps make for a good blog.

1. Good blogs have a voice. Who wrote this? What is their name? What can I figure out about who they are that they have never overtly told me? What’s their personality like and what do they have to contribute — even when it’s “just” curation. What tics and foibles fascinate make me about this blog and the person who makes it? Most importantly: what obsesses this person?

2. Good blogs reflect focused obsessions. People start real blogs because they think about something a lot. Maybe even five things. But, their brain so overflows with curiosity about a family of topics that they can’t stop reading and writing about it. So: where do this person’s obsessions take them?

3. Good blogs are the product of “Attention times Interest.” A blog shows me where someone’s attention tends to go. Then, on some level, they encourage me to follow the evolution of their interest through a day or a year. There’s a story here. Ethical “via” links make it easy for me to follow their specific trail of attention, then join them for a walk made out of words.

4. Good blog posts are made of paragraphs. Blog posts are written, not spewed. They show some level of craft, thinking, and continuity beyond the word count mandated . . . If a blog has fixed limits on post minimums and maximums? It’s not a blog: it’s a website that hires writers. Which is fine. But, it’s not really a blog.

5. Good “non-post” blogs have style and curation. Some of the best blogs use unusual formats, employ only photos and video, or utilize the list format to artistic effect. I regret there are not more blogs that see format as the container for creativity — rather than an excuse to write less or link without context more.

6. Good blogs are weird. Blogs make rude noises and occasionally vex readers with the degree to which the blogger’s obsession will inevitably diverge from the reader’s. If this isn’t happening every few weeks, the blogger is either bored or taking new medication.

7. Good blogs make you want to start your own blog. This is good. It means you care.

8. Good blogs try. I’ve come to believe that creative life in the first-world comes down to those who try just a little bit harder. Then, there’s the other 98%. They’re still eating the free continental breakfast over at FriendFeed. A good blog is written by a blogger who thinks longer, works harder, and obsesses more. Ultimately, a good blogger tries. That’s why “good” is getting rare.

9. Good blogs know when to break their own rules.

And, yeah, you should disagree with potentially all of this. It’s because I have an opinion, and so do you. It’s why you probably have a blog. See? The system works.

43 Folders is a family of websites about stuff like personal productivity, life hacks, and simple ways to make your life a little better.


AHS Our Gang said...

Hi Jill..

This is Jay, Debbie Foust's fiance,
(although I really wish there was a less pretentious word for a "spouse on deck"). Nevertheless, she speaks very fondly of you, and referred me to your blog, which I have been enjoying immensely. Although, I'm a bit envious.

I toss some thoughts down in a blog-wannabee occasionally, and I also maintain contact with an email list of 100+ old Anderson HS friends, and I hope you don't mind that I forwarded out your blogsite to that group yesterday, especially highlighting your Neglect post.

thanks, and keep us all posted....jay

AHS Our Gang said...

oops...the point I meant to make, was that I told those with whom I shared your blog, that your's was the blog I actually aspired to be able to write.....jbh

Jill said...

Thanks Jay! I'll formerly welcome your friends tomorrow! I rarely make personal Shout Outs, but I appreciate your confidence and hope your friends will be comfortable here.
Feel free to comment and to make suggestions, fill in the gaps in my knowledge to help our readers get a clear and good picture of whatever is under discussion. Come over with Deb for a cuppa sometime.