They Took My Bribe

OK, so there were no bribes exchanged but I’m certain my half dozen regular readers will be shocked to hear that Sampa listed Nordquist Blog as one of the 10 Daddy Blogs You Should Read.

Yep, you read that correctly. image

No, really.

I came in at #3 on ahead of the juggernaut of all Daddy Blogs, MetroDad

This could be the tipping point I’ve been waiting for. An interview with Oprah can’t be far behind.

But seriously, check out the list and you’ll find hours of good reading. I’m honored to be mentioned among this group of bloggers who are a lot more polished than I am.

Each blog on the list is worth a read but Creative-Type Dad and A Family Runs Through It are the two I can relate to the best.

And thank you Sampa for making my day.

Windows Live Writer 2008 CTP

Steve Hodson over at WinExtra put together an excellent review of the latest version of Windows Live Writer which was recently made available for download. I’m writing this post using the updated version and it doesn’t look or feel much different other than the new tabbed look.

screen_2008-06-03 16.57.21

It’s my favorite Microsoft product and one of the few things that is keeping me tied to Windows. Last week I rebuilt my PC by installing a fresh copy of Windows Vista, and then I sat down to determine exactly what software I wanted to install on my machine. The fewer programs installed the better chance I have of fighting Windows Rot.

As I look over the list today, Windows Live Writer stands out as the only one that I’d miss if I were to switch to Mac as my desktop OS of choice. I believe that many people would say Microsoft Office is the deal breaker when it comes to moving off Windows. For me, the transition to Google Docs from Office took about two hours. I collaborate a lot at work and the notion of sending around document versions via email was cumbersome. Google Docs makes easy work of this scenario and everything else I’ve thrown at it. Leaving Outlook for Gmail was even easier. If you’re still using Outlook to manage your email, you’re living in the past.

So what applications keep you tied to Windows?

I found that many of the products I install are used to KEEP WINDOWS RUNNING SMOOTHLY and wouldn’t be needed if I moved to Apple. But cost is still an issue and the fact than I can upgrade my PC on the cheap keeps me from breaking the bank to move to Apple.

At least not yet.

My Top 11 Blogging Tips

I’ve been blogging now for over eight years. Back when I started I followed a few blogs including Scripting News which is still one of my favorite blogs. None of my friends or family had any clue what a blog was so I had to use words other than “blog” to describe what I was doing. Telling my guy friends that I kept an online journal was the equivalent of admitting I kept a secret diary in my lockable Hello Kitty notebook. It just wasn’t very cool. But around 2004 more people started to take notice and I could use the word, blog, in most settings without risk of embarrassment and confused stares.

I figured I’d throw together a few things I’ve learned over the years about blogging. Here are my top 11 blogging tips:

  1. Your writing is more important than your blogging platform, theme, plugins and style sheet. If your writing is top notch, nobody will care how ugly your blog is.
  2. Starting a blog is easy. The first few weeks or even months is exciting. But after a while, it takes time and dedication. Most will bail, but the best will push through.
  3. The A-List Bloggers talk about the same topics, so don’t worry about subscribing to more than a couple of them. More than three or four and you end up with content overlap. They attend the same conferences and hang out in the same circles.
  4. The best way to grow your readership is to read and comment on other blogs.
  5. Keep your posts as short as possible while still getting your point across. Posts are like resumes: after a page I get bored and move on.
  6. Linking is good. Linking to new or lessor known bloggers is better. Like this one.
  7. Take a stance. I come to your blog looking for your take on things. Tell me what you think, even if it’s controversial. Don’t tell me the plot of the movie. I want to hear whether you enjoyed it or not and why.
  8. Take your own pictures. A picture you took is 10x better than one you found on GIS.
  9. Admit when you made a mistake or changed your mind. I’ve been ripping Vista for over a year. But recently changed my mind after a good experience with it on a new laptop. It’s OK to say, “A while back I felt this way, but now I feel different“.
  10. Encourage and help others start a blog. I’ve helped my wife, mother-in-law, father and numerous friends start blogs. Some have quit while others have created blogs I consider better than my own. This is awesome!
  11. Write today. Write now. Just write!
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Get a blog or I’ll take my business elsewhere

OK, I wouldn’t go quite that far. Yet.

But I find myself searching out the blogs of those businesses and individuals with which I choose to do business. And not just the online businesses, software or technology companies. I assume they have blogs and am disappointed when I find out they don’t. Netflix has one. SmugMug has one. So does 37 Signals as does the Windows Live Digital Memories Team.

It won’t be long before I expect my realtor, my doctor, my dentist and my accountant to have a blog. Why shouldn’t they? I want to know more about them than I can glean from a marketing brochure or ad in the yellow pages.  Basically I want to know what makes them tick. Those that jump in now will be that much further ahead.

Smart money is on my dentist to be the first to embrace blogging.

Suggestions for first time bloggers

Recently, my mother-in-law and friend started blogging. I encouraged both of them to blog because I don’t get to see either very often and both are very good writers. I figured both would create interesting blogs that I and others would enjoy reading.

Both asked me questions about what it takes to get started. I don’t consider myself a blogging pro by any means but I’ve been doing it enough years now to have an idea of what has worked for me and what might work for others.

Here are a few questions friends or family or coworkers have asked me about blogging and my answers:

How do I get started?

I usually tell people to read a few blogs for a while before jumping into the fray. This is especially important for those who have been told to start a “company blog”. It’s worthwhile spending some time checking out different blogs before starting your own.

So I checked out some blogs, what’s next?

I’m a big believer in simplicity. So unless they already have a website, I’ll usually suggest taking a look at Blogger or Windows Live Spaces. Both make it very easy to start a blog. There’s very little to get in the way of writing which is what a blog is about anyway. I find Blogger a little easier to use but Spaces feels a bit more flexible and powerful. And, if down the road, they decide to move to WordPress, they’ll be able to easily migrate content.

If you want even more control over your blog but want someone else to host it, take a look at WordPress.com or Typepad. Both offer a hosted blog solution that many have come to rely on. Robert Scoble hosts his popular blog at WordPress.com and Seth Godin relies on Typepad to handle his. Both are proven platforms with very responsive support communities.

But what if I want to host my own blog?

I’m hesitant to suggest this option mostly because if they run into problems I become their technical support person of choice. The installation isn’t for the faint of heart if you’ve not familiar with at least some basic Linux/PHP/CSS/MySQL. But I digress. If I know someone is tech savvy I’ll suggest they take a look at WordPress.org or Moveable Type. I’ve tried a number of other options but these are the big two. I’ve been using WordPress for about five years now and really enjoy it. There are tons of themes and plug-ins available for it and it has such a strong community that any problems I run into are answered quickly. And tools like Windows Live Writer have vastly improved the writing/posting process for hosted blogs.

Choosing the right blogging platform is important but it’s not the most important decision. Creating interesting content is the most important. If you are interesting people will come. And they will return. New bloggers can easily get bogged down with all the themes, plugins, widgets, blogrolls, and the like while they ignore writing. It’s not about where your blog is hosted, your hip theme or page full of widgets…it’s the quality of your writing that matters most.

OK, put the Flickr widget down and start writing. 🙂