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Five More Common Blogging Myths

Last updated Oct 17, 2003.

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Last time I talked about what I consider the five most common myths of blogging, which are:

  • blogging's just a fad
  • fast is better than right
  • don't ever admit you did something wrong
  • blogging's just a PR channel
  • don't have a personality if you're blogging for business.

You can read about those at Top Five Myths of Blogging.

I got lots of feedback on that top five list, as you might imagine, including many people suggesting additional myths or misconceptions about blogging, and I'd like to tackle five more of them in this article. As Rod Serling might have said, "Submitted for your approval..."

Myth 6: I Can't Blog Because I Can't Write

I'm surprised how often I hear this one from people who are otherwise splendid communicators. Put them in front of a word processor screen, however, and suddenly they freeze up, or, worse, go into what I call Perfectionist Author Mode. What's PAM? It's when you edit, and edit, and edit, and tweak, and fiddle ad infinitum, never actually releasing or publishing anything.

This is common in the world of fiction authors, of course, with the mythic Great American Novel that people work on for decades and never get published, but even the small audience of a typical weblog can engender the same response too. My belief is that it's because people don't recognize that online publications are more fluid and dynamic than print, and because they've been told that writing a blog entry is tantamount to being published as an op-ed contributor in the New York Times.

Blogs are dynamic, however, and that's an important idea because it means that "good enough" is when you can publish, and then tweak and fine-tune things as you learn more, gain additional information, or receive helpful feedback from visitors and the like. Obviously this isn't something you can do in print, and it's one really big reason that online writing is far superior for many of us.

If you are also someone who falls into the NYT trap, remember also that your audience is quite a bit smaller and -- a key concept -- much more forgiving than the editors or readers of a snooty publication like the Times. Indeed, since the attraction of blogging is that it's the vox populi, the "voice of the people", having typos, grammatical glitches and even awkward sentences or incomplete thoughts can often be part of the charm and appeal.

Oh, and you don't need to sprinkle Latin into your blog entries either.

Myth 7: Bloggers Should Let It All Hang Out

Last time, I said that bloggers shouldn't be afraid to have a personality when they publish, that everyone has a life and has challenges and successes, which can help you connect with your audience of readers. There's a flip side to this, though, that bloggers shouldn't write about everything going on in their lives.

This is one of the more controversial myths I'll write about in this series, I admit, and there are very well known bloggers who will write one entry about a vexing code problem in their software design, an interview with a reporter and a fight they had with their spouse, all in the same day. For them, this isn't a myth at all and bloggers should indeed write about any and everything going on. One popular blogger wrote about the untimely loss of his mother in between all his commentary about industry goings on, and at the risk of sounding callous, he lost me as a reader because I wasn't interested in his views on medical care, the elderly and related -- just his smart take on the business world.

I think that there's a precious small number of people who can pull that off, however, and even pundits in more mainstream media can often wear our their welcome by admitting their foibles or faults. Many people lost respect for Rush Limbaugh when they found out through his radio program that he was addicted to painkillers, for example. Should he have kept mum on the topic? Probably not, but it's dangerous to move from expert, pundit and voice of a business or company to strong, visible personality with potentially polarizing views.

Indeed, a great example is a colleague of mine who for a long time kept two weblogs, one for her personal life (she has very non-mainstream views of relationships and intimacy) and another for her business consulting. When she decided to intermingle the two, I was surprised and rather concerned because by doing so she risked alienating her core customers. Fortunately she seems to have done fine, but I know that I am now more aware of her personal life and views than I otherwise would be.

My suggestion is to try and find the line between being a boring corporate shill or flack -- which doesn't accomplish anything -- and being a larger than life personality who blogs about what they eat, why they don't like particular political candidates and the fights they have with their spouses.

Myth 8: Facts Just Get In the Way of Blogging

For many bloggers, this isn't a myth at all. Indeed, it's endemic of all modern media as we have moved more into the world of Big Issues and injected an unwelcome dose of drama into the world of news reporting. Even opinion pieces used to have at least some basis in facts, perhaps facts considering only one side of an issue, but facts nonetheless.

Particularly in the world of political bloggers, however, it's "anything goes" and you can make up stories about people and companies then backtrack by saying "it was true to the best of my knowledge". What makes this particularly dangerous is that bloggers are like kindling in a wildfire: gossip, rumor or innuendo on one site can quickly spread to tens or hundreds of other blogs without anyone ever checking to see if something is accurate or factual.

My recommendation: if it's anything even vaguely controversial or legally actionable, double check and list your sources when you blog about this sort of material. Don't shy away from controversy, but document your reference sites, writers and works. Oh, and don't be afraid to apologize and recant something if it is indeed wrong.

Myth 9: Without Open Comments, It's Not A Blog Anyway

This is one that particularly aggravates me, and yet I know plenty of bloggers are thinking "that's not a myth. it's not a blog if you don't let people add comments". They're part of what I call the Blog Police, a group of people who believe that they somehow have the secret to what makes a blog a blog. They don't.

As I've said time and again, a blog is just a tool. There are no rules, no laws, no requirements. After all, blogs started out as personal diaries and few of them ever allowed third party comments, let alone received any.

Having said that, I believe that allowing comments is a best practice with the world of blogging, because it turns a monologue into a dialog with your readership and offers you splendid feedback from your audience. But can you call your weblog a blog if you decide comments aren't appropriate and disable them? Of course you can!

Myth 10: Ten Thousand New Blogs Are Launched Every Day

Go to the right Web site and with less than a dozen mouse clicks you can set up a weblog of your own where you can pontificate and share your views and opinions with the rest of the world. No surprise, thousands of people do so every single day. Sites like Technorati claim that they add over 10,000 new blogs every day.

But they're not really blogs until the blogger has posted a few times and demonstrated some sort of longevity. Without that persistence, they're more like "failed blogging experiments" and it's startling how few of those 10,000 are still active after even 30 days (less than 1%, by some counts). You won't be surprised to find that the most common blog entry is "testing" or "my first entry" or something equally dull and uninteresting. People sign up, they post a simple test message, and then they forget about it. Ten thousand new blogs every day? Not really...

Finally, there are plenty of additional myths and misconceptions about blogging, but I'll end with some encouragement instead: if you think you have something interesting to say and want to engage in a dialog with your marketplace and customers, and believe you can stick with it for at least a few months to get into a rhythm and build an audience, go for it! There may be lots of new blogs launched every day, but just between us, there's still plenty of room for smart new voices.