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Where I reflect on the direction of my blog and what makes me visit other blogs

by John on July 6th, 2012

Around the corner is #BlogHer12, and I’m going. I’m quite excited to be going, in fact . . . yes, BlogHer markets themselves, rightfully, toward women — but it’s “the event” for bloggers to head to. Knowing that a good portion of the bloggers whose places I frequent will be at an event, that’s well within driving distance of me? Well, that leaves me with no choice but to go.

But, now that I’m heading to a place where “the showcase” is our blogs, I’m left thinking about mine.

I’ve “launched” several times, and I still really, really like this iteration of DRAL. Sure, I wish I could post more, and I wish that I could spend more time editing what I do write, so as to make my writing better. But, my posts about keeping active, and eating right, and hating the scale, and time with family, and my love of most anything breast related are fun to write . . . and, ultimately, I have this blog as a place to have a bit of fun and keep myself honest.

Heading into BlogHer, though, I want to make sure that my blog is “as good as it can be,” but I really don’t know what that means. I mean, I know don’t have a stellar design. While I’m quite technical, and I can create a site that looks like something someone with good taste might draw up, the actual “coming up with what will look good” is foreign to me. I’m still actually playing around with my own WordPress theme, but that’s all just fluff.

But, then again, isn’t a lot of blogging fluff?

Well, no, I don’t think so — but, still, I’m thinking of tweaking the look & feel around here, to make it more “mine,” if only to match the business cards that I’ll likely be designing & ordering within the next few days, because I hear they go over well at the conference, and, seriously – I do love it when new people stop by to visit around here.

All of this got me thinking about Katie‘s post about being an irresistible blogger. There are bloggers whose words I can not not read. And I’m not too un-vain to admit that I long to be on the “must read” list of others. I mean, I know I’m a “daddy blogger” amidst1 a sea of “mommy bloggers” (a fact I relish2). I’m a fat man with a fitness blog3. I’m a gentleman who spends a disturbing amount of time thinking of boobs. In short, I don’t fit into most any niche.

So, I’m left thinking about the blogs that I visit regularly, and what makes me want to come back.

  • I do notice the look & feel of any blog I visit. If I visit regularly, I do notice when things change. But, I’ve never made the decision to subscribe, or unsubscribe, from a blog based on the looks. I know there will be countless people, in just a few weeks, telling me how important the look of my blog is – that it’s the window into “me,” but, in all honesty, a flashy blog just doesn’t impress me, and a schlumpy blog doesn’t necessarily turn me off4.
  • Everybody knows that typos happen, and I’m ultra-forgiving (unless the person committing the typo is me, and in that case, I go all “John Belushi as the Samurai Chef” on myself). But, if I can’t read your writing without reading it aloud, I’m going to have a hard time coming back. I know, between texting and twitter, that every character matters — but, I want your writing to lead me to think, I don’t want to have to think in order to read your writing.
  • While I’ll fully admit that I’ll partake of an intentional sentence fragment for style, I find proper grammar unbelievably sexy on any blogger.
  • It needs to be easy to comment. I can’t tell you how frustrated I get when I leave a comment, only to have to fill out a CAPTCHA verification, and then find out that the blogger needs to moderate my comment.
  • While I seldom read other people’s comments on someone else’s blog (I just don’t have the time, and I know, if I start, I’ll get sucked in), I love it when I hear back from a blogger on whose blog I commented.

But, above all of that . . . well, I think the thing that makes me want to read a blog is the voice of the blogger. If there is one fear that I have with the social media invasion, it’s that storytelling will become a lost art. When I read a blog post, I want to feel like I’m sitting down with the author, and having him/her tell of the events. Heck, in my head, I’ve actually assigned voices to most every blogger that I read regularly (it’s particularly jarring when someone’s real voice doesn’t line up, at all, with the voice I have given them, imaginarily). The best blog posts read like they’re merely a story told in the middle of a much longer conversation.

My favorite bloggers, well, they’re the ones who I feel like I have those conversations with, often.

1 Shut up, spellcheck, amidst is too a word. Just because I happen to have antiquated words in my vocabulary does not make you smarter than me.
2 I’m picturing spellcheck yelling at me if it ever figures out that I’m using relish as a verb
3 Ok, maybe not “fat,” but if I were to say I was “in-shape,” the shape I can most adequately use to describe myself would be “round”
4 The one exception might be when there is popup “stuff” on your blog that, if I accidentally mouse-over something, makes it difficult for me to get to the content.

From → Blogging, Writing

  1. I know how you feel…even though I do moderate my blog comments due to a certain cyber bully. I’m not going to BlogHer this year, much to my dismay, but I get the feeling you don’t actually have to KNOW the direction of your blog before you get there. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure its for all stages of blogging. Be ready to have your blog grow and thrive AFTER BlogHer, not before. Submit yourself to the wolves and see what makes them bite and go from there. i love your blog…as in LOVE it. I know I don’t show it love often, my ex would argue I have trouble showing love in general, but I do love ad and can’t wait to see where buzzes off to after BlogHer:)

    • I’m perfectly fine with CAPTCHA or moderation . . . it’s the combination of the two. If I had even the slightest hint of bullying, I’d head back to moderating.

      And I get what you’re saying about the direction of the blog . . . what I tried to get across is that I kind of like the direction of the blog, even if it’s not the most attended, or the fanciest, or doesn’t fit into a niche — it’s my place, and it feels like home.

      As far as blog loving — ours is a mutual one πŸ™‚

  2. I don’t feel that BlogHer did much for my blog perse other than assure me of what I am NOT going to do…make my blog a business. It was fabulous for meeting people I was already in love with, though. FAB-U-LUS! I think watching everyone scribble notes on SEO and marketing and tech stuff and writing also made me realize that I am not in it for the “trend” side of blogging either. I do this for my words. That is really it. The relationships that come from that would be second. I LOVE my bloggy/social media friends. They are the best side effect of writing EVER!

    • I should say that I’m only going to the expo portion of BlogHer — I’m not actually attending any of the workshops. I’m much more into the thought of drinking with the girls that I read regularly than I am about “making my blog better.”

      I really wish the best for anyone who wants to take the time to figure out how to best get their voice to their readers, and better give their readers what they want. But, I know I wouldn’t put in the work necessary — I just want to putz around, write a little, and drink with my friends. So, I got the pass that will allow me to do just that πŸ˜‰

      • That’s the way to do it. When I go again, unless their are sessions that are REALLY interesting sounding, I am totally only going to do an expo pass and just hang out. sessions didn’t do much for me.

  3. I agree with your reasons for not going back to blogs, especially the grammar/writing reason. I can’t stand a poorly written piece, even if the content is interesting, but that rarely happens. Content and writing knowledge seem to go hand-in-hand.

    • You’re right – rare are the times that you’ll encounter a poorly written, but interesting piece. Usually, if the writer knows enough to write a story that will capture me, the writer has a firm enough grasp of the English language to not make my head hurt.

  4. These are the things I notice — they are the attention getters, you know? I’m not going to BlogHer ’12 . . . and I’m sad I won’t be meeting you and Duffy πŸ™

    • I’m quite sad that you won’t be there as well!

      I might have to plan a rogue trip to your neck to the woods — a “just because” adventure, when you’re around.

  5. I have no talent for design or marketing. I suck at grammar and often don’t edit. I just can’t not write. Which is probably why I’ll never get to blogger or 25 comments on my posts. But I am okay with that. It’s good to do what you love on a regular basis.

    I like to read blogs that share a piece of life with the reader. Not an advertisement for a product our a forced account of the weekend. A story out of everyday life that is funny or insightful.
    Hope your trip is fun!

    • For someone who “sucks at grammar” you write really, really well — so I’d argue that you’re actually really good at grammar, but you just don’t think about it. I also get the sense that you write as you speak (as I do, though I have a LOT fewer parenthesis when I speak), and I sense that you speak well — hence, I like your writing πŸ˜‰

  6. I LOVE that you schooled spellcheck on “amidst”. It shouldn’t surprise you that I am a fan of the word amidst πŸ™‚

    • No, Angela, not surprised at all. Though I was very surprised that “amidst” is not in my computer’s dictionary.

      I love antiquated (but still fully functional) words.

  7. So, I haven’t changed my blog design in, um, three or four years. And every time I think of doing it, I end up eating pink and white animal cookies in a corning while humming a soothing tune.

    I have to admit, I visit food bloggers for recipes, craft bloggers for ideas, and blogger like you and so many other to have a conversation.

    Now if only I’d be a better commenter…

    • Mmmmmm, animal crackers.

      Maybe it’s my schedule, but, lately, I haven’t been able to even consider visiting food/drink blogs — it’s not that I couldn’t use the inspiration . . . it’s just, I don’t know, I just don’t have the interest. Or, maybe it’s because I do a lot of my blogging while at work, between meetings and what-not, and thinking about food then is just a bad idea.

  8. Cameron permalink

    I am commenting from my phone. Need I say more about my regard?

    And yes to all of that. I read to be engaged, entertained, and connected. Not to trends, news, or stars, but people and stories and passion.

    • If the iPhone delivered one beautiful thing, it’s the ability to read & comment on blogs. Seriously, that might be the one thing I missed the most, if I lost my iPhone. Well, that and Twitter, but the blogging is actually a bit closer to home — I think my brain just enjoys the 140 character challenge.

  9. I agree, on everything. One reason I read your blog is because I have faith in you to put an easily readable, proper sentence together. πŸ™‚ I’m also attracted to randomness in the blogs I read, because I relate to it. I get turned off when I’m supposed to “click through to read the 7 ways I stay sane with the kids home for the summer”… because that’s a cheesy page-view grab. IMHO.
    Amidst? DEFINITELY a word! (wtf, spellcheck?) And relish – definitely a verb. I rarely use it otherwise.
    And although you are pretty rare as a daddy blogger… I’m pretty sure there are lots of gentlemen who think about boobs much of the time. You’re just unique in that you admit it. πŸ™‚

    • That’s a lot of faith to put in me — “easily readable” and “proper”? It’s funny – my teachers, all through elementary school, hated diagramming sentences, so we never did it. So, I got to high school, and we were expected to be able to diagram sentences for something-or-other. Well, I had already been writing properly — so it was just, really, a matter of learning my parts of speech and following the rules — those who never really learned to write properly, well, it was always a huge effort for them.

      On the topic of admitting about thinking about boobs, I’m realizing that I spend more time admitting embarrassing stuff about myself than I do writing about most anything else. I think it works πŸ™‚

  10. fun post! i like your style and the way your blog looks. keep being the best you and readers will flock;)

    • Why thank you — for the looks, I try to keep things simple. If my writing ever becomes “non-conversational,” I’m taking myself far too seriously.

  11. Love this kind of true, sincere blog talk.

    It feels so good to just put all the banners and whistles down and just talk blog talk once in a while.

    Loved this.

    Will be featuring it on my ICYMI this week. Cause it just hit the nail on the head.

  12. I found you via a very complicated route but find you I did and I really enjoyed your post and will now have to browse a bit more!!!
    What really took my fancy was your little bit about the voices Having just been to the little Australian answer to ‘blogher’ where I met a few of my favourite bloggers it was their actual voices that surprised me!!!!! Sorry I can’t make New York but several of those new blog friends are going so hopefully I will catch up and perhaps they will meet you and report back on your voice!!!!!!

    • Hey – complicated routes are what I specialize in! Glad to have you πŸ˜‰

      And that voice thing — doesn’t it just throw you for a loop? I have one blogging friend who assigned a very proper & mature voice to, in my head. Well, she has a bit of a squeaky “valley girl” voice — it doesn’t make me like her any more or less, it’s just that, well, when I do catch her speak, I have to remind myself that the voice that I use when reading her words was conceived, entirely, in my imagination.

  13. I’m not going to BlogHer, have never been to BlogHer and, in truth, don’t particularly care about attending BlogHer. I know that may sound sacrilegious – especially in light of the fact that they just featured one of my posts. But I’m really just not sure I’d get all that much out of it and would, in all likelihood, actually come away from it feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by everything I’m not doing or doing “wrong.” Because like you and Katie, I read blogs for the writing and storytelling and camaraderie. Nothing more, nothing less. And I strive to make mine a welcome corner on the Internet by implementing those same elements in my own space.

    That said, I hope you have fun at BlogHer! I’m sure it’ll be a blast. Don’t mind my Negative Nellie attitude about it – I’m actually just grumpy that I can’t afford to go and don’t have a sponsor.

    Grumpy and a little relieved.

    • I echo your grumpy and relieved.

      Equal parts.

      Or maybe 49-51…

    • While I’m going to BlogHer, I only got the Expo pass. So, I’m not attending the workshops, and I won’t actually be studying about how to be a better blogger. I will, basically, be drinking, and staring in a bit of awe about the fact that I’m actually meeting some of the people that I read on a regular basis.

      As Rizzo said, after Gonzo’s monologue about the mission that he had as storyteller in The Muppet Christmas Carol, “Me? I’m here for the food.” That will be me — everybody trying to figure out how to make their blog better, and me, trying to figure out where I might be able to find a well-matched cheese to go with my current glass of wine.

  14. I know I’m in need of a complete blog overhaul. Like NOW. Both in design and function.

    So I can’t wait to hear what you learn (both what you’d like to do and what you WON’T do) from BlogHer.

    I also think it’s extremely kick-ass that you’ll be one of the few (brave) men there.

    I wish I could go. But I can’t. And therefore I’ve convinced myself that I would be too nervous to enjoy it.

    Which is mostly true.

    • I’m only heading to the Expo of BlogHer — no classes for me . . . just drinking and maybe some hugging. In a very roundabout way, I’m glad you’re not going, because that means, when our paths do finally cross, we’ll be running a race together. That seems to be the way we’re destined to be in the same vicinity – wouldn’t you say?

  15. ~But, above all of that . . . well, I think the thing that makes me want to read a blog is the ***voice of the blogger***

    You said a MOUTHFUL right there, brother.

    Great Post.

  16. I hope you have fun at BlogHer.

    I agree with you on liking to get reply comments on blogs. I always do that on mine although lately it takes me longer to reply than I would like.

    • Whenever I feel that I’ve written a great blog post, I just sit back & wait for the comments to come flooding in . . . of course, it never happens that way. Though, well, the slow-trickle is a lot more satisfying in the long run.

  17. I also talk to spell check regularly, though I will admit that it is often because I have made up a word for effect that it wants me to change. I will admit that I YEARN to be a blog people can’t NOT read as well. I think it is because I’m a middle child who is therefore an attention whore. And I will also say that as much as I love writing, I am so much more deeply rewarded in my daily life by the reading I find in the blogging world. Thank you for reminding me of this.

    • I forget the term for a word that isn’t a word, yet you want to be a word – but I know what you mean. I’ll stare at the little red squiggle & say “yes, that is too a word, it means xxxxx” and then I’ll google said word and realize that, no, I’ve made it up.

      Glad to know that I share the awesome with someone else πŸ™‚

  18. Great post. The Empress was 4 for 4 with her recommendations. Maybe I’ll get to buy you a drink at BlogHer.

  19. Do you also read blogs whose names get songs stuck in your head? You should add that to your list. I love your blog, and I love that you’re a man who loves (and is good at) writing. You are a rarity, my friend! Also, that’s pretty kick-ass that you’re going to BlogHer. I am so jealous, but I am hoping to be able to attend on in the near future. If I go, I hope you’ll be there, too!

    • You’ve been on a posting kick lately – so I’ve had the Monkees on repeat. And I like the Monkees so all’s well πŸ™‚

      Plus, you’re writing about your underwear & kinky sex . . . so there’s that.

      I’m hoping to attend any future blogging events within a 3 hour drive of me . . . unless I can find someone to sponsor me, in which case I’ll gladly whore myself out to attend most any seminar.

      But, seriously, if you plan on attending a BlogHer, or any other conference, drop me a line when you get your pass.

  20. Yes, to all of this.

    My time for commenting has nearly disappeared lately, but I love feeling that I’m still part of a blogger’s world when I read their posts on my phone or in my reader. It makes it a community. We’re friends.


    • My commenting time ebbs & flows — sometimes, I have great big gobs of time that I just want to see more posts in my inbox . . . it’s during these times that I end up writing whole posts in other blogger’s comment sections. More & more often, though, I’m sneaking out to read a post in the bathroom or in the two minutes between meetings. It sucks to want to spend more time with bloggers and, simply, not have it.

  21. Yes to all! And a high five — as dorky as it might be — for the footnotes — just by using them, you’ve elevated blog writing to academia πŸ™‚

    Well, really not, but they were FUNNY!

    • I wear my dork badge with pride πŸ™‚

      I shamelessly stole the footnote idea from Dave Barry. And, maybe, most of my jokes.

  22. I cannot wait to meet you at BlogHer. I’ll be the one crying in a bathroom stall. I’ll send you a personal invitation. xo

    • BlogHer will be a blast πŸ™‚

      And I’m pretty sure you just invited me to make out in a bathroom stall.

      While at BlogHer, you might want to find a stall in the men’s room — I hear there might be fewer guys than women in attendance.

  23. I agree with your list of things you notice about a blog(though I am a huge fan of the sentence fragment- I think it’s in rebellion to my Language Arts minor).

    Design never really bothers me, as long as the blog remains easy to read.

    It’s the blogger’s voice that has me returning.

    You are headed to Blogher? Have a blast! I was going to go but decided just yesterday that I need to stay home. With work and the kids and other trips, I just feel like I need to be at home that weekend. Though I’ll probably pout when y’all are tweeting and blogging about it!

    • Oh, it would have been great to meet you — but enjoy a weekend home (I kind of miss unscheduled weekends). And, I’ll try my best to keep you pouting about not being there πŸ˜‰

  24. Have fun! I can’t wait to hear about it and I’m excited for you to get to go. And I agree with much of what you say, but I have to also agree with Shell on the sentence frag thing – I was an English major, but for some reason I just love using sentence fragments in posts. Correctly, that is. πŸ˜‰

    • Used sparingly, the sentence fragment may be my favorite literary device. Well, aside from the footnote. Or the dick joke.


      I’ll be sure to recap thoroughly.

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