|"C'mon in!" Or not.|
I thought I'd write a post for you who are interested in blogging but are unsure about it. One of the things that I was concerned about when I started was the issue of privacy, so that's where I will begin.
I think I may have been misleading in my last post because there can be strategy behind bloggy-blogging. It's just that you approach strategic-blogs and bloggy-blogs differently. Perhaps if I wrote my last post over again, I might call it professional-blogging vs. bloggy-blogging.
As you think about setting up your blog, you will need to be strategic in how you choose your settings. First, you need to ask yourself a strategic question which will help you decide on your privacy settings.
A STRATEGIC QUESTIONSince a blog is a journal that is shared online, by it's very nature I believe it is best experienced with a global community in mind. Otherwise you would put your family pictures and stories in a really nicely bound scrapbook. And you would occasionally dust it as it sits on a shelf. Then, when you have company, you might pull it down and let them see your family pictures and tell them your family stories. If they have time.
What I'm saying is: As you consider your privacy and comment settings, you need to also ask yourself why you want to have an online journal that you share. You could just scrapbook or pen and paper journal instead. That is the question that it came down to for me:
"If I do not want to share my online-journal to [all] users of the internet, why have a blog at all?"
And from talking to a couple of you, that's where I think some of you are--asking yourselves why you should even have a blog.
Here's my answer to why I have a blog at all: Blogging is a gift I give to myself, and a gift I share with others. I enjoy the relationships that I've strengthened and created through blogging. I am thankful for the motivation that sharing it provides for me to tell my story. I am grateful for the feedback that I get, which I never anticipated but is so helpful. I appreciate the accountability it provides for me to be true to myself when I am sharing myself with others. It is a platform that I wouldn't otherwise have, to share some things I've learned along the way. I blog for all those reasons.
As I wrote in my previous post, when we bloggy-blog "what we are sharing is our humanity. Our willingness to connect, to relate to others, to let others relate to us and our story, our strengths and our struggles."
That's why my online journal is public, because I'm willing to share my humanity and connect. Sharing myself is a gift I give to myself. It's one of the ways I grow.
BLOGGY-BLOG PRIVACY SETTINGSYour decision on your blog's privacy settings will affect whether your experience of blogging will be social and how social it will be.
WHO CAN READ ITYou could set your blog so that only you can see it. Which would not be much different than keeping a pen and paper journal that you hide. Except that this one is a digital format, which has it's advantages.
Or, you could set your privacy setting so that only people you have invited to see your blog can read it. They may or may not read it. And they may or may not comment. And then you may or may not be disappointed that they are not commenting. And then you might find yourself wondering if they are even reading it at all, and if they aren't, then you might wonder why are you doing this blog thing anyways?
Or, you could make your blog public. So that everyone in the whole world can see your blog. Everyone including your parents, your pastor, and that one person who you offended greatly. That's just the people you know. What about all the people you don't know, all the strangers, possibly even crazy people out there? They'll be able to see it too.
I have my privacy setting to public and here's why: why not? I am in total control of what gets put on my blog (I'll address that in a future post). I'm not going to put anything on my blog that I would not want seen or read by the public. In fact, one of my reasons for putting my journal online is for "that one person." If it's not public, then it can't be read and shared for that one person who I don't know, but God does.
However, I started out with my blog set so that only I could see it. That way I could set it up and get comfortable with the blogging medium before I went "live." Then I invited people to read my blog. And, well, let's just say that my example of what might happen was not theoretical. I have gotten the most joy out of blogging with it set to public and am able to interact with people about my blog posts. I've been very surprised by people who have told me that they enjoy reading my blog. More times than not, it's someone who I wouldn't necessarily have thought to extend an invitation, but I'm really glad they read it.
SEARCH ENGINE TRAFFICDo you want people to be able to search for your blog and find it? Then you will need to let your blog be visible to search engines (and also "public," by the way). However, if you do, beware that if you write a post about waxing your lip, you will get a lot of hits on your blog from strangers trying to figure out how to wax their lips. Or figuring out how to tell their wives they need to wax their lips! I laughed out loud at that one. It can be a little entertaining to see some of the search terms people enter that lands them on your blog.
Most of the people who visit my blog are people who are trying to find out if olive oil and honey are good for the skin. Most of them don't find what they are looking for and leave just as quickly as they found me. There are tricks, of course, to getting people to find your posts and that particular post I inadvertently used the key search terms "honey" + "olive oil" + "face" in the title of the post, something I didn't realize would bring me traffic. If you want people to find your posts, read up on "search engine optimization."
At this point I let search engines find me, but I don't optimize them. I just accidentally get visitors, which is fine with me. If you do not want strangers to accidentally find you, then you might want to choose "no" when Blogger asks you if you want to let search engines find your blog. But then your friends who know you have a blog but don't remember the blog address won't be able to find you either.
REAL NAMES OR CODE NAMES?There is a real concern that some have regarding sharing their last names, children's names or the location of the city they live. That's totally legit.
For me, the reason I choose to use our real names is about authenticity. I'm not saying that you can't be authentic if you don't share names and places. I'm just saying I feel strange about having code names and locations given my desire to be real. Well, that and it's just easier for me to do the real thing. Especially when I'm blogging primarily for my family to have a record of our story. I'm not giving out their Social Security numbers, though. I do not advise that.
BLOGGY-BLOG COMMENT SETTINGSBesides having people simply read your blog, the other way that you will connect with people is through the comment section. When you set up your blog, you will determine if and how people comment.
WORD VERIFICATIONTo make sure that the comments you get are not from spammers, you could require something called "word verification" which is similar to CAPTCHA. This will require people who want to leave a comment on your blog to type in the numbers and letters they see before their comment can even be communicated to you.
I have my word verification turned off, only because I do not like having to verify words when I leave a comment (although it doesn't stop me from commenting).
WHO CAN COMMENTYou can determine who will be able to leave comments on your blog. You can even choose to allow no comments. In Blogger your choices are: anyone - including anonymous users; registered users - who have a registered account but not necessarily on Blogger; users with a Google account; & members of this blog - which would be only people you have invited to see the blog.
I had my blog set up for only registered users to comment until I realized that some of my mother's comments were getting lost in cyberspace. We'd be visiting and our conversation would turn to something I wrote about on a blog post.
"Oh, did you read it?" I'd ask.
"Well yeah!" she'd look at me strangely, adding "I commented on it!"
But there had been no comment from her. Sometimes her comments would show up and sometimes they wouldn't. This happened several times until finally I told her that I wanted to watch her comment on my blog. I wanted to figure out why her comments where getting lost. If it happened to her, it could happen to someone else. Any blogger knows: comments are precious. You don't want to lose them.
So we brought up my blog. She wrote a comment, chose to comment with her Google account, then she hit publish. The Google log-in page came up and she said, "there! See? I commented!"
Except that she never logged into her Google account after she commented. Truth is, I have probably done the same thing while commenting on someone's blog.
After that, I decided to switch my setting so that anyone could comment - including anonymous users (spammers). Blogger has caught almost all the spam comments, so it hasn't really been a big deal. And now, at least, no one's comments will get lost in cyberspace.
COMMENT MODERATIONFinally, you can choose to moderate your comments or have them published on your blog right away. I had my comment moderation set to "always" until recently. Truth is, it's just a pain to have to moderate the comments. I don't have readers who make obscene or mean comments, so I always hit publish anyways. I'm just lazy, I guess. But also I want my readers' experience to be rewarding as possible. It's just rewarding to see your comment published right away, isn't it?
THAT SAID,After all that, this is the most important thing: you don't need a strategy at all if you don't want to be strategic. For real. So don't stress about it. Because bloggy-blogging evolves, just like Marky Mark did. You can develop your strategy (or not) as you go. Because you can.
I hope this helped those of you who are considering bloggy-blogging. I hope it gave you some things to think about as you begin your bloggy-blogging journey.
I think next I'll tackle the comment I heard someone say: "I'm thinking of having a blog, I just don't know what I would blog about."
* I feel like I should not end this post without admitting that I am no expert on blogging. I've been blogging on Blogger since 2007 and have gathered some opinions about blogging but that's as far as my level of expertise goes. I don't get thousands - or even hundreds - of hits on my blog each day, and I really don't care. So you can take my advice for what it's worth. Or not.
** Also, Blogger isn't the only platform out there. You might want to look at WordPress. Many people who start out on Blogger switch to WordPress for various good reasons. I tried WordPress, but my other blog was in Blogger and I didn't feel like learning a new platform. Blogger serves my needs well right now and it's very user friendly. My specific examples are from Blogger, but the general ideas will translate to any blogging platform.