Wednesday, August 20, 2008

If you're thinking of starting a UU blog...

you've been advised to answer the following questions.

I'm going to answer them with the Chaliceblog in mind. Bear with me. I'm making a point.


Purpose

What is the purpose of your blog?


I've written something nearly every day of my adult life and my husband suggested I find a central place to put it all.




Who is your intended audience?


Whoever cares. My stats inform me that hundreds of people I've never met read it every day. My own mother rarely bothers, even when she knows I've written about her. If a certain kind of post gets lots of comments, I'm likely to write more posts like it, but I mostly write to please myself and perhaps an inner circle of half a dozen people, most of whom never comment.



Who will own your blog?


I do in a general sense, but I grant posting rights to anybody I feel like, sometimes on a whim. And far from everyone I've offered posting rights to has taken me up on it. I've been working on Katy-the-Wise for years. Jana-who-creates, too.

I own chalicechick.com and several variants, along with Unitarian-Universalists.com and Unitarian-Universalists.org. If I ever need to, I will move the Chaliceblog off of blogger, but blogger seems easier for most people to deal with.

Frequency of Posting

How often will you post to your blog?


Whenever I have something to say. When I don't post for more than a week, I get mail, when I post many times a day people have trouble keeping up and the quality of the comments suffers.

But I've done both and everywhere in between.


Tone and Impact

What tone will your blog have and how will that make readers feel?


Well, for the first year and a half The Chaliceblog was bright red and had a cartoon of Death on it that apparently only I liked, but nobody told me this until I got rid of it. The gratitude just poured in when I made it more readable, though, and I will admit that my readership quickly doubled.

The style I write my blog in is pretty much exactly the one I talk in, and I talk different tones about different subjects. I don't have a consistent tone or feeling I'm looking for and don't want one. When I write something sad, I'd like people to feel sad. When I write something funny, I'd like it if people laughed. I'm often sarcastic about things, but my more on-the-ball readers get that I'm a complicated person and that there's a pretty thoughtful and sensitive nature beneath the snark.

And the on-the-ball readers are the only ones I honestly care about.

To answer the question about how I make people feel directly, I've been told I made someone laugh hundreds of times, moved someone to write me a nasty email in the low dozens of times, been told I made someone cry a few times and two different people have reported that posts I wrote made them throw up.

Not bad for almost two thousand posts.

I've been called a "bleeding heart elitist" before and that's the closest thing to a consistent tone I have. But I could point you to plenty of posts that don't remotely meet that description.

That said, the worst posting statistics I've ever had were the time I gave up Snark for Lent, so it is fair to say that snark is an important part of what I do here.

Safety

How will you make sure your blog is a safe space for you and for participants?

For years, my policy was "It's the Goddamn internet. You can't promote volunteerism without somebody insulting you. Get over it."

But a few factors, not the least of which observing how quickly a few bitchy people can kill a good discussion in Salon.com's comments, had me relent a couple of years ago. Now I won't kick a post for being pointless and I won't usually kick a post for being over-the-top insulting, but I occasionally kick posts for being both. By "occaisionally," I mean I've done it maybe half a dozen times, usually on another commenter's request.

BY FAR the majority of posts I kick are posts where the author emails me and says he/she has changed his/her mind on what he/she wrote and doesn't know how to remove it himself/herself.


What kinds of information about yourself and about others will you need to keep confidential?


I generally keep real names and anything I know to be a secret out off the Chaliceblog. I don't say anything about anyone that I wouldn't loudly say in a bar. I don't make my workplaces recognizable and I almost never write about co-workers. I write all the time about belonging to a large church near Washington DC, though I tend to be a little coy about which one of the half-dozen or so local 500+ member churches I belong to. Doing so gives me the freedom to VERY OCCASIONALLY write about something that has happened in church.

That said, having Chalicechick in your congregation was not in the job description of any of my ministers and they shouldn't have to be worried that if they say something I disagree with in church they will get trashed on the internet. (I doubt this would keep them up nights anyway, but still...)

I do my best to never let my YRUUs be identifiable at all, ideally not even to people within the group. But I don't write about them often, so that's easy.

My policy on my own name, as people have noted in the comments, is considerably more lax. Most people, even some people who like to mess with my head, know my name. I tend to assume if you don't know my name, it's because you don't care. I always kind of liked that just about everyone knew Wonkette's real name, yet she kept her blogging persona separate. I like the same thing in the guy who writes Waiter Rant, whose name is also public information. Like with Wonkette and The Waiter, however, a quick google will give you plenty of information about me, also my real name is doubly obvious to Facebook members.

If anybody doubts that I'm just as tough on John Edwards and/or anyone I'm arguing with in person when they know my name, they have my invitation to ask theCSO about that one. I find the idea that I would be less confrontational if people knew my name a little strange. If I backed down from controversy in person, law would not be the career for me, and indeed, in my current job I deal with people who hate my firm and everything we stand for all the time.

Honestly, CC differs from the woman who writes her the most in that CC is less afraid to be vulnerable when she writes about sad things. As a kid, I wasn't encouraged to express emotions even though I was unhappy a lot of the time. I find it easier to do so in writing and most of my posts about my family are me working on how I feel about the situation. (Which probably makes it terribly hypocritical of me to make fun of livejournalers. Ah well...)

At the same time, I know from experience that if I'm too depressing, I don't get comments, so I try to keep sad posts few and far between. Also, my readers don't like it when I write about sex and don't comment. It's possible you think I'm funny looking, but I prefer to imagine you are safegaurding my employment prospects by encouraging me to be more dignified.




I said I had a point, and I do. After years of blogging, I can answer all of these questions. But the answers aren't what they would have been a few years ago and in some cases are answers I could not have articulated before I set down to answer the questions half an hour ago and really thought about them.

I started a blog because I wrote a lot and because I felt like it and I have hundreds of readers a day and have been no slouch at the UU blog awards. I've made amazing friends and have awesome commenters and as far as I can tell no small amount of whuffle in the UU blogger community.

Blogging is an art, not a science, yo. If you have something to say, don't let "Oh, but I haven't developed a commenter policy" or "But I hear video blogging is the next hot thing and I would have to have a free written blog that I update from the public library" stand in your way.


Here's my advice for starting a UU blog.

1. Read lots of blogs. Respond to what people say. If you have been commenting at the Chaliceblog and I think you're good, I will pimp posts of yours I like and your blog in general if I realize you've started one because I want thoughtful, cool, voices to be heard. Commenting on other people's blogs is I believe the only marketing I've ever done for the Chaliceblog, though of course that various aggregators list me helps, too.

2. Write about what you care about. Make us care about it too. If you write with thoughtfulness and passion, we will. Subject matter is WAY less important than you think it is. As far as I'm concerned, the greatest novel of the 20th century was written about an incompetent hot dog vendor who also couldn't make it as a file clerk at a pants factory. (If you had to click, you owe it to yourself to buy the book. CC cried buckets and laughed some, too, and in reading it came to some serious insights about the world.)

3. Write about what you think and feel about things in balance. Too much think is boring, too much feel is Livejournal.

4. Don't be afraid to be wrong. My "being wrong" policy is "If I'm wrong and you can convince me of it, I will apologize and either correct the post obviously or write a whole new post. If I'm wrong in the comments, I will correct it in the commnets" I've done it plenty of times. Most of us are wrong a lot. The people who you have to watch out for are the people who never admit it. Either they don't say anything much, they are dishonest, or they can't see their own wrongness.

5. Go to blogger.com*. Sign up. Write. It really is that simple. If you need to, make yourself write every day in the beginning until having an interesting thought and thinking "Hey, I could blog this" is second nature.


CC

*Yes, there are lots of different places one can start a blog. But blogger is very easy for a beginner and you can always move your blog later.

6 comments:

dd said...

now this was a kick-butt post. inspiring. educational. only you could have written it.

keep it up!

- a long-time reader and facebook "friend"

Berrysmom said...

An inspiration, CC. I read your blog inconsistently, as I do everything -- including writing on my own blog. It's not that blogworthy thoughts don't come to me; it's that I'm so busy that I don't feel I can take the time to compose them and deal with the software. (Blogger is obviously for newbies, and it still gives me pause...)

Maybe I'll get more inspired now.

CK said...

This is a good post for anyone who's thinking of starting a blog. For me, especially, the point "Don't be afraid to be wrong" is a good one. My own blog is kinda abstract for most people, which is fine, but the folks who read and challenge me are the ones that I write for.

Even though I will never write something that everyone agrees with, dissenting views help me strengthen my own, whether they end up changing or not.

Oh, and FWIW, I still read your blog pretty regularly--it's one of the ones I kept in my RSS reader when I unsubscribed from UUpdates.

Joel Monka said...

Excellent post! The only thing I would add is to not be afraid of not knowing anything about html or other computer stuff. I was afraid at first- I was one of God's innocents concerning computers. But Blogspot made it easy, and everyone I asked for help did in fact help me.

dd said...

one other thing to mention: beginners can always choose to make their blog "private" at first. this would allow them to only share their blog with a few select people before putting it out there for the world to see. it gives you time to polish up and get a groove going. that is what i am currently doing right now.

Dan said...

[i miss the old death cartoon (sniff)]