Tuesday, April 13, 2010

On blogging: philosophy, etiquette, strategery

General intro
As I've said elsewhere, I believe in the promise and reality of blogging. The apostle Paul either would have done it, would have had his trainees do it — or both. It's a mode of outreach bristling with tantalizing potentials.

So I get glaze-eyed when people announce they're sick of it, they're giving up on it, this, that, whatever. I look for an explanation. Maybe something burned them; if so, it's wise (I opine) to recover and get back to blogging. If bad commenters/bloggers drive out good bloggers, the terrorists win.

Or maybe the retiring blogger found a more fruitful outreach, like being offered Rick Warren's pulpit while he reforms his worldview. Or something. If it's more fruitful and precludes blogging, go for it. Otherwise, if you've something worth saying, stay with it.

I have some thoughts I'd like to share on... well, see the title. Do I have the right to pontificate? Oh mercy me, no. But I think I may have accumulated the cred to offer some pointers born of experience. Apply as you see fit, remembering that your mileage may vary.

You need to decide what you intend to accomplish. If you just need an ID so you can comment on blogs, then don't bother writing any posts. If you just want to post occasional updates about your family, go for it, and be content with the 3-22 visits you get a day. (Truly, I'm not being sarcastic. There's nothing wrong with that as a goal.) If you just want to offer 2-5 very important thoughts that you can refer people to later, that's fine, too.

How do you decide?
  1. Pray for God's help in thinking it through.
  2. Invite (and listen to) counsel from wise friends with the time to give it (Proverbs 15:22; 20:18; 27:6b, 17).
  3. Consider where your passions lie.
Expanding on number three: maybe you look at some blog you admire and think, "That looks easy and fun. I want to do that!" Sure... but are you writing now? Have you always written, a lot? Have people enjoyed your writing? Have you journaled, written letters, created stories, done essays — without being forced to do it by a teacher or boss?

See, if you don't love to write, your blogging-impact will be minimal. You have to keep writing, if you want people to keep coming. If you don't love to write, then keeping writing will become a ball and chain. It won't be fun for anyone. So don't.
Having done this, then...

You need to pursue your goal. Be disciplined. Write. Keep writing. Write more.

What are some practical ways to do this?
  1. Always have some recording-device with you — pen and paper, smart-phone, PDA, something.
  2. As you read the Bible and books and papers and web sites, jot down thoughts that strike you which might become a post.
  3. Do the same as you hear sermons.
  4. Do the same as you walk, wait in line, watch TV, drive (safety first).
  5. As soon as you can, take any of these ideas and start a post. If it bubbles out full-blown, finish the post. If you only have a nub, start it and do an outline to be finished later.

Strategery and etiquette
So let's say you have your goal in mind, you have some idea what you're doing, you have something worth saying, and you have skill in saying it.

Naturally, you want people to read it. You don't want to be talking to yourself in a grand echo-chamber. You want to make a difference, have an impact — unless, as I said, you just want family and a few friends to drop by occasionally for personal updates.

How do you do that? I offer a do, a don't, and two do's.

Do read broadly. Go to a number of blogs. See how the effective writers are doing it. You probably already know who they are. Check the blogrolls at Pyro and elsewhere for ideas. See who your favorite bloggers tend to quote, and read them. Develop your own tastes. Learn from the accomplished and experienced.

The next is important, and I will shout it.

DO NOT abuse your hosts by littering their comment-threads with self-serving ads! Maybe I'm only speaking for myself — but I very much doubt it. I think few things in the world are (A) more annoying and (B) less effective than comments which read "Nice blog. Come check mine out (link)."

You've written about the deity of Christ, about the fall of America, about penal substitutionary atonement, about marriage... and someone comments, "Nice blog. Come check mine out (link)."

Do that, and three things are likely to happen.
  1. A few will indeed visit - once.
  2. The host will think dark thoughts of you.
  3. Most commenters will think the same.
You only get one shot at a first-impression, and that's a bad way to take it.

A much better idea is....

DO write brief, concise, meaty, well-phrased, relevant comments engaging the posts on your favorite blogs. What gets me to visit the blog of a complete stranger I've never heard of in my life? A great comment. I don't care who it is, I don't care if (s)he is a no-name: if (s)he posts a sharp, witty, pithy comment on my or anyone's blog, I am going to click on the name, go to the profile, and visit that blog.

Now, in this context only, it may be perfectly fine to say "I think A, B, and C about this post, and wrote a bit more about it here."

But that is the best honest way to attract readers. Go to blogs people read, read them, and interact meaningfully and (if I may say it this way) tastily. Folks will legitimately want to know more of what you think.

Do have something worth reading once they come to visit. Many times, a pithy commenter at one blog becomes a verbose rambler at his own. The comment draws visitors once, but a barrage sends them on their way. Better to write two really good concise posts than one long, rambling one.

Which seems like a good note on which to end.

Hope this helps.


Tom Chantry said...

Which seems like a good note on which to end

HA! Perfect. Well done.

Anonymous said...

I liked this so much I linked it on Twitter for Mom bloggers. (Not that I think you care much for Mom blogs, but your advice is relevant for any kind of blog.

Terry Rayburn said...

Very helpful. Thanks.

Love the reminder to keep some kind of recording device handy at all times.

And the reminder to pray.

And...well, it was all good.

Terry Rayburn said...

Oh, and check your link near the bottom marked "here".


My word verification for this post is "galmom" (man casts the lot, but the Lord determines the outcome).

Becky Schell said...

Thanks for this, Dan. I often write long posts and your last recommendation is appreciated. I tend to pour out all I want to say at once, but it is reasonable to divide it into more than one post. I believe I need to start utilizing that handy dandy delayed-publish-time feature in blogger.

Becky Schell said...

P.S. The word tastily right next to the worm one the hook made me laugh.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

I read this and instantly thought you were writing it just for my benefit. I often feel pulled in so many directions when blogging. On the one hand, I need to blog to keep the long-distant family members informed, but my heart's desire is to write posts that are so much deeper and for the glory of God. And then there's the distraction that comes from needing to have readers while at the same time not cultivating pride from being considered popular or "worth reading." (Thankfully the Lord has kept that from being a problem at the moment. LOL.) But there's that whole category of "marketing" that can also get in the way--and confuse one's motives.

At this season in my life, I think what I need is to be more regular and consistent, even if it only means posting once or twice a week.

For a stay-at-home with little ones, lay person such as myself, could you recommend a top 5 blogs that would be worth my valuable time? (Yours and TeamPyro would be the first two...)

Thanks for this post.

DJP said...

Well, you could read ours twice, and use the extra time to memorize a verse. (c;

As to the first of what you said, Merrilee, some folks have two blogs: one for the family, one for a broader audience. You might consider that, if it'd serve your purpose better.

I have two main blogs: Pyro gets a consistent flow of Biblical, theological, doctrinal posting, this one gets some of that and everything else. If it weren't for a second outlet like Pyro, it'd all be here.

As to post length, it's always music to my ears to hear, "Write more about that." Want to avoid the stuffed, glazed, HYP-mo-tized look.

CR said...

I have sensed in your comments that when people say, "I love your blog, come visit mine at....", oh, yeah, I sensed that really gets your goat, especially when people say, "Did I mention my blog...." :=), Yeaaaah, like this is your second time, care to contribute? :=)

DJP said...


Mark Patton said...

Great stuff. Saving this in case I need it in the future. However, if I ever started a blog it would only need one post entitled "Go Read DJP." I am constantly referencing this place.

PS: Picture of the baby made me laugh.

Chris Anderson said...

Nice post. For a sample of what Dan's describing, see my blog...


The Bible Christian said...

Dan this is really helpful

Thank You

DJP said...

Anderson's an example, all right.

Chris Anderson said...

Thanks, Dan. I think.

Did I mention my blog?

DJP said...

So... is it true that "Anderson" is Greek for "Martuneac"?

Game... set... match.

Chris Anderson said...

Dude, you're dead to me.

Tom Chantry said...

...but you didn't come to my blog the first time I mentioned it, so of course...

...maybe you could do a whole post on how my blog is so great and everyone who reads your blog should stop and read mine instead, because...


Actually, I haven't updated my blog in too long. Don't bother clicking over.

Solameanie said...

I wonder if banned stalker troll OSO has a blog?


Seriously, some wonderful advice. I often wonder how many of us have blogs as a mere hobby, and how many of us have them for ministry purposes, or a combination of both. The more and more I think about these wonderful tools that the Lord gives us, I realize all the more how accountable we will be to Him for how we use them. "Making the most of every opportunity."

A lesson I need to relearn every day.

DJP said...

It's "obsessive banned stalkertroll," if you please.

JackW said...

I had no thoughts of creating a blog, but then my worship team wanted to study a book together without using up too much of our practice time. So I came up with the idea our using a blog for that purpose and as a place for them to find worship resources.

I owe Dan thanks for being an important source of inspiration for me on what can be done at a blog.

Thanks Dan!

Rachael Starke said...

Well, add me to the list of people for whom this post is perfect timing. For a while I thought blogging would become my other ministry once my kids were a little bigger. Then I was daunted by how much work it is (to do it well; it's distressingly easy to do it badly, judging by....well, a lot of places :) ).

But just last night I did have kind of an epiphany that it can be in itself a discipline - to commit to studying and then writing, and not giving up until you've both internalized and then expressed what God is teaching you.

So thanks for the extra dose of encouragement and advice.

And a very hearty "Amen" on the link trolling thing.

Kim said...

Oh sure... now you tell me I should e leaving meaty comments! Just when I have decided that I should actually practice the art of silence more!

Aaron said...

"Now, in this context only, it may be perfectly fine to say "I think A, B, and C about this post, and wrote a bit more about it here."

I really hate that, myself. Usually such a person says very little about A,B, and C in such instances.

It also helps to have Phil Johnson anchoring one of your blogs. ;)

threegirldad said...

However, if I ever started a blog it would only need one post entitled "Go Read DJP."

Exactly. This is what helps me resist when the silly urge comes over me. Far too many people already say anything I might have to say, and say it much better. Might as well funnel any such passion I have toward pointing people in the direction of Dan, Phil, Frank, Mike Riccardi, Rachael, and plenty of others (no offense meant to any "regular" that I haven't mentioned).

So... is it true that "Anderson" is Greek for "Martuneac"?

Yes, and I said it first; I demand proper attribution! The proof is at my blog...

Pierre Saikaley said...

I was thinking about blogging just before this post came up.

Another rule of thumb, which I'm sure will come up, is to blog what you know. Now, that's self-evident, but here the thing...a lot of Christans fancy themselves R.C Sproul with a keyboard.

I know that my ego was writing cheques that my body couldn't cash in terms of having a substantive theological preparation. I mean who did I think I was-YOU? lol

Nope, not you by a long stretch. So, I changed my approach to more experience and devotional type articles, with some basic doctrinal content commensurate with my level of understanding.

The result was that my writing felt less pretentious, and more inspring. I got more hits too.

There are no shortage of theology & apologia type blogs, so people shouldn't rush to be the next Alpha & Omega Ministries on the internet.

Just blog from the heart and stay within your pay grade. :-)


Herding Grasshoppers said...

Spot on, Dan.

Chuck said...

I definitely fit into the 'ID into order to comment' category- at least by default.

REM said...

My thoughts exactly. Precisely why I stopped (possibly paused) blogging.

Ched said...


I see that you've posted some sharp, witty, pithy comments on your blog.

Annemarie said...

Thanks for this post. I mean, many, sincere thanks for this post.


Unknown said...

I appreciate the wisdom you share here. Blogging, and writing in general, are not easy. Your post gives the impression, rightly so, that writing is a discipline similar to long-distance running. I could rest up for the next two years before the Boston Marathon, but wouldn't do very well without continued, persistent, sometimes painful training.

If you want to blog well, then you must blog. Good writing will not fall out of the sky and land on your keyboard, at least for us cessationists.


Thank you for the good advice and your continuing efforts here and at Pyro. I'm looking forward to your analog production (i.e. book) when it becomes available.