28 December 2006

What makes a good blog (and why this isn't one)

Forget permalinks, track-backs and mutual blogrolls; Worry not about short paragraphs, understatement and whether-to-use the personal pronoun: none of these are criteria for being a great blog.

On the other hand, there are five components that are needed to make a great blog. These are:

The Five Components...

  1. Theme: There must be one. What's the blog about? What's the point of it?
  2. Things: (to write about) A good blog needs a natural, reliable source of original incidents / anecdotes / examples / news that fit the theme. (a blog that relies on having a good idea every week, won't last)
  3. Tone of voice: sarcastic, cheerful, critical, suicidal, wry, it doesn't matter, but a blog needs a personality (note - this the only one of the five that has anything to do with the ability to write)
  4. Timeline: A good blog needs developing personal narrative. A good blog is rarely (never?) about its author, but all the same, the author must be present. This is one of the things that makes it a blog, not a newspaper column. The author needs to have a story.
  5. Tempo: A good blog needs regular updates. Contrary to much advice it doesn't have to be daily. But it does have to be regular. Daily, weekly, twice a week. Stick to it.

Some Examples...

Armed with these five criteria, you will often be able to spot examples of blogs that are not a great blog...

  • My Random Thoughts on Assorted Things I Read in the Papers isn't a great blog
  • Hi everyone, gosh its ages since I blogged, sorry is never going to be a great blog
  • Now I've gone part-time look after Harry, I've finally got time for a blog isn't a theme
  • although Part-Time Fireman, part time Dad might be theme. And
  • Inept government policy is killing our part-time firemen .....now you're talking

..and it will be easy to understand why something like Coppersblog is a great blog

  • Theme - 90% of police work is a waste of time
  • Things - life as a policeman is never running out of material
  • Tone - wry, amused, surrounded by idiots
  • Timeline - anonymity, cult blog, famous blog, book-deal, fame, pursuit, discovery, new life
  • Tempo - Dave, you're slipping mate...

The mandatory link..

Everyone knows that an expected feature of all good blogs, is links to other blogs, writing on the same subject: Every post should have one.

Bloggers love to receive incoming links, but don't often get them on their very first post so, hopefully excorpus, also writing self-referentially about what makes a good blog should be agreeably startled :-)


I'll leave my thousands of readers to work out for themselves why, sadly, green ideas isn't a great blog (..but never fear... I have an idea for a new project....)


Perry de Havilland said...

Yes, I think you have listed the correct ingredients of a good blog. One of the main reasons I set up Samizdata as a group blog was that I know sustaining daily content (for five years now) was just going to be beyond me as I do have a life beyond blogging (I think).

Lenon said...

Perfect! The components you've mentioned are exactly the primary key to a succesful blogging strategy. Absolutely useful tips.