Monday, August 13, 2007

More blogging pearls: Q&A

While we're on the topic of blogging, I thought I'd continue last week's conversation by answering a couple of questions from the comments last week. From Ange:
I'm brand new to blogging. I must confess I'm nervous about putting much personal details on my blog like my kids' name and ages. Until now I've just said ds 8th grade or something. With all the weirdos out there I'm imagining the more info they have the more they could track you down and do something weird to your family! I know I"m probably overly cautious but how do you feel about that?
I am not an expert at this, but certainly, this is a question of safety every blogger needs to consider. Some people, especially published authors, already have their names (and possibly their children's names) out there, and, well, it's too late. I wrestled with this myself, and blogged for over a year, referring to my children's ages only. But after a while, that became confusing and impersonal, so I recently "pseudonymed" all my kids. I chose against "cutesy" names (cute when they're two, but who wants to be 15 and be called "Firefly?") or names that stereotype them (Baseball Guy), in favor of real names.

I don't use my last name or my city, and in pictures, I block out revealing information on kids' T-shirts, posters, and sports uniforms. And I don't name my pictures with any identifying information. Some people use no pictures at all. You just have to decide what you are comfortable with.

And then from Julie, when I mentioned keeping blog posts short:
Without actually counting each word, how do I know when I've reached 500 words? Is there a word counter? I think it's going to be very difficult, it is beginning to appear to me that since I don't have any time to really, truly think during the day....I might start doing my thinking when I'm blogging. When I actually post whatever I've written, I'm blown away by how long it turns out to be. Perhaps as I improve, I'll be able to express myself (and think) more succinctly.
I don´t count little posts, but if I´m really trying to communicate a thought, I write my posts in Word, then cut and paste into my blog program (I use Blogger). That way I can do a word count, check my grammar, use the thesaurus and check spelling (Blogger now has a spell check, which is a new feature). That way I also have a copy of it on my hard drive, in case the Blogger server ever goes up in smoke, or in case I press "delete" on accident (yes, it's happened - arggh!).

Using a word count helps me stay on point and is one way I can honor my blog friends
by not forcing them to wade through a bunch of unnecessary language fluff.

Of course, I have broken my own "brevity goal" for many of my posts (my longest post is about 1100 words). But after a while, you get the hang of how much is enough. When you read other people's blogs, be thinking about the point at which you lose interest. That's probably 500 words.

The other thing that happens after you've been blogging a while is that you realize you don´t have to state everything you think and feel all at once. You develop relationships behind the scenes and it becomes more of a conversation with friends, with stops and starts.

Shannon wrote about her blogging story here, with some good tips. And here's a nice overview from my friend Jennifer Satterwhite (who uses her first name, last name, names of her kids, AND pictures of her kids) of Mommybloggers: So You Want to Start a Mom Blog? with even more food for thought about names, safety, and more.

Any more thoughts?

(By the way, including the quotes, this post has 663 words. Rules were meant to be broken, eh?)


Sandi said...

Great tips!!!

Terra@mggoslings said...

I tried to cut and paste from Word and Blogger would not let me paste it. What is the secret?

Jenn @ Knee-Deep in Munchkin Land said...

Good points, Katherine, good points. I am the same way about not posting last names or locations. I also am careful about distorting any references in pictures. But our first names are already out there. I'm ok with that as long as I can keep everything else private...

Mary@notbefore7 said...

Loving the idea of writing in Word first. Haven't tried it though, so if Terra is correct and there is a secret, I'll need it too!

Again - your thoughts are so much appreciated as I am still a 'newbie'! Of course if you don't stop this line of thought I'll have about 7 links to your various advice posts when I do my blogging story this week...ha ha!

Anonymous said...

I love to blog but I don't have a blog page. I occassionally use my real name but mostly I am angeleyes Blue and go anywhere I want. I can just pop in to other peoples blogs and respond or not.

I NEVER Blog from home only when i am at work.

So welcome mary@notbefore7

Have a delightful afternoon everyone.

Sandy said...

My philosophy is that anyone who is really determined and has a decent amount of computer savvy could track me down pretty easily. But I try not to make it too easy for run-of-the-mill scary people, use common sense and trust God for the rest.

As far as post length, I totally agree that shorter is better. I have some blogs I love to read, but when every post is soooo long, I only stop in occasionally. That being said, my own posts tend to be long at times, but my primary goal as a blogger is to keep a family journal for the future and update family and friends- not so much to cater to a blog audience. You have to consider the goals for your blog before you go on a guilt trip about post length or content. If you write long posts, use lots of paragraphs and/or bullet points, and please, please punctuate! :-)

kittyhox said...

I really need to work on brevity. I think some of my COMMENTS on other people's posts are more than 500 words sometimes. Ha ha. But seriously.

So please don't read my last post, because it's long. :)

Kristina at Learn2Luv2Run said...

I agree. I dont' use names, and when i am uploading pics and have one for online i rename it with their "online" names. I also put text on every photo to help prevent someone using it, and steer clear of city name, and stuff like you do. Even big things that could be traceable (like big things you live near, places)

Question: I don't mention my kids age in every post (like you said) but do you think I should since their photo is on the left hand sidebar labeled? My post today I thought about that prior to readin this because I was going back and forth between the two...

Lisa said...

Thanks for the great tips! Your last couple of posts have given me a lot of good information. Much appreciated!