14 May 2012

#NBIMMO Blog Setup and Community Building

Previously: Why and What to Post

While your first posts are percolating in your head, let's think about a name and hosting. Names are incredibly important to me - I agonize over them for days before I can finally create whatever I was trying to name. Hopefully you don't have this affliction. Names can be simple, descriptive, punny, or random. They don't have to be immediately obvious, but straightforward works too! Your content can help influence the title - guides would want a plain title, fiction would merit something more flowery. See if you can encompass the goal of your blog in the title - something like "The Best DPS Evar" sounds more likely to have DPS theorycrafting than fanfiction about Thrall.

Got your name? Let's go register. If you're new and unsure (or a cheapskate) you probably don't want to plunk down cash on webhosting. Fortunately, there are solid blogging platforms like WordPress and Blogger that offer free hosting. I've also read blogs hosted on tumblr, but can't say too much on these. My feedreader is about half WP and Blogger.

Okay, the blog is made and you're ready to customize! With the popularity of feed readers, I often suspect that the only time people see your actual site is their first visit, when they comment, and any time they want more information: a specific post, your profile, or your contact info. Make your blog representative of your personality, but also make it accessible. Choose a premade background or upload your own. Create or commission a header for your title - screenshot, drawn art, or fancy text works!

Remember that different screen resolutions will affect the appearance. For instance, my background doesn't quite reach the edges of my widescreen but is heavily cropped on my work computers. I have it set so it doesn't scroll with the page for a less busy appearance. The max width of the important bits is 900px, because I know some people who still use 640x800 screen resolutions, and width scrolling is a pain.

Blogger helpfully suggested page element colors based on my background's "palette," and I went with dark text on light background for max legibility. I've read that light text on a dark background can cause more eyestrain, but since I get most of my posts in google reader's black and white interface it doesn't much matter. Whatever your color scheme, be sure to test the visibility of your text!

Now it's time to add widgets. Being comprehensive without cluttering up the page is our design goal. You have the option of tabs and sidebars, so see how you like one, the other, or both. (Or even double side bars all the way across the page.) Here are some things to put near the top: your email/twitter contact info, a link to your RSS feed or email subscription, a search bar, an about page, and archives. Other things you might like to include are: a picture roll, armory/achievement widgets, an organized page of your major posts, a Creative Commons license, a tag list or wordcloud, and a blogroll. Blog Azeroth is an incredible resource for this stuff - I added a contact page because of the advice there, and you can find CC and achievement widget howtos as well.

Optional: Feedburner is a neat little service that creates a permanent feed for your blog, meaning you can change your URL and subscribers won't need to update a thing! It also opens a special page where readers can automatically add the feed to their preferred reader, which is convenient. There's also a stats page, although I usually use Blogger's Stats or Google Analytics if I feel like stroking my epeen. Just, for love of the Earthmother, don't truncate your feed. If you do, I may give up on reading your blog on principle, or stick your URL into fulltextrssfeed out of spite. Also a secret desire to keep reading. Follow your own feed to see how posts translate into your reader - everything from colors to formatting can look wonky when taken out of the context of your blog!

If you choose to use advertising on your blog, that's cool, but as a personal favor to me please put it above or below your posts. Ads in the middle of a post are very distracting!

Before seriously networking, I recommend that you publish at least three posts on your blog. A generic introduction is ok, or jump right in with your deepest of thoughts, but give potential readers something to see! There's no way to know what will appeal to different readers, but an example of your aim and style will give them an idea. I always seem to get more comments on throwaway word vomit than well-researched compendiums...hmm...

Now it's time to get out there and make friends! I must emphasize the fact that the WoW blogging community is full of sweethearts. We are a helpful and friendly bunch, and we love to cuddle and coo over newbie bloggers. (Metaphor too creepy? Let Auntie Aka pinch your widdle cheek!!)

Hop on over to Blog Azeroth, register, and post in the New Authors forum! Use the template...or else. Then, fire off an email to the TNB Wiki to get on their lists. Finally, message Beru to be featured on an upcoming Welcome Wagon!  Okay, your name is out there. All that's left is to make some friends! (And keep posting. Never stop posting!)

If you already have some blogger buddies in the community, ask them to promote you on their blogs or blogrolls. I get the impression that it's generally frowned upon to message a stranger blogger and ask them to include you on their blogroll. However, interacting with them may earn you a place! Populating your own blogroll is a good way to start - free advertising for blogs you read is never bad, and if you refer traffic their way they may be more inclined to check out your blog and link back! I've chosen to import my Google Reader feed as my blogroll, and it was so massive I ended up cutting it to the top 10 most recent. Other bloggers show titles only in alphabetical order, sometimes grouped into topics like RP, guide, comics, etc. Pick whichever you like!

Comment on blogs. If there's an option to sign in or include your URL, do so. Linking your blog with no other comment is kind of spammy. If their post inspired you to write a response, by all means link that in your comment. Otherwise, include your link in the designated box (it will usually show up in your nickname or even show your most recent post) and leave a nice comment. Even something as simple as "Great post!" can make a blogger smile.

Write fan mail. If you write into a podcast, your comment and signature info will often be read on the air! Writing to bloggers will make them feel good and hopefully prompt them to read or comment on your blog. I've gotten requests for proofreading and advertising, and it is very flattering to be asked for help!

If you want a less formal way to interact with other bloggers, try out twitter. It's not mandatory - I know at least one well-known blogger who manages just fine without it, but the added element of short, snappy communication is quite useful. Ask questions, offer comments, and see a more personal side of your favorite writers. Promote their stuff by retweeting, and they may do the same! Consider an automated service like twitterfeed to advertise your new posts.

Your posts are out there and people are reading them. You may get comments! They may not always be to your liking. Gird your virtual loins and respond, moderate or close comments to stem the flow, or simply avoid posting about stuff that typically attracts controversy. (This blog caters to casuals and noobs raauugghh!) Some bloggers don't respond to comments at all, or may only respond to a few. Others respond to each and every one, no matter how many (or few, boohoo!). Respond however you like, and remember that since your blog is your space, it is entirely up to you how you deal with comments. Moderating or closing comments is not a bad thing. Maintain your space in whatever way makes you most comfortable.

Keep writing! Keep posting! Legions of adoring fans are just waiting to read it!

Next time: RoundupUsing Screenshots


  1. Commenting and mail are especially important. Engagement is something we need more of. Trust me, every blogger loves getting even but a simple piece of mail that says "HEY, LOVE YOUR WORK".

    1. So true! The current "blog circle" on Blog Azeroth is a great idea for promoting not only blogs but also the act of commenting. Having a weekly "assignment" to comment on the specified blog has made me more aware of the importance of taking the time to leave even a simple comment on a post I liked.

  2. A bit late on this article but I have found it very useful and while I have done most things here the one thing that I failed at though is fan mail. I listen to loads of podcasts but never make the effort to write in even though I'm very opinionated (hey I blog!). I will do that and hopefully uip the visits and comments on my blogs.

    I would start with the Matticast but you know Matticus just got too busy which was a shame ;p

    1. To be honest, even though it was my suggestion, I am also very bad about writing fan mail! It takes real effort to make yourself open a post and leave a thoughtful comment, especially when you read/listen to a lot of content in one week! Still, totally worth it :)