Book Review: Blog Blazers

I just finished the book “Blog Blazers” by Stephane Grenier. My three word review: “Not too shabby.”

I have to admit this book wasn’t exactly on top of my “to-read” pile. I’m not usually a big fan of blogs/books about blogging, podcasts about podcasting, etc. – it’s all too meta for me. But Ian Landsman was offering a free review copy on his blog, and I’m a sucker for free books, so I gave it a shot.

“Blog Blazers” consists of 40 interviews with popular and successful bloggers, including Andy Brice, Bob Walsh, Dharmesh Shah, Eric Sink and Jeff Atwood. Stephane asked each person the same questions, including:

  • What defines a successful blog?
  • Do you have any tips or advice on writing?
  • How do you market your blog?
  • What is your best monetization method?

Because each interview followed the same form it became a little monotonous to read in one sitting. I could only take about ten at a time. Many of the answers were repeated by several of the interviewees, which was a bit boring, but the repetition confirmed that their advice is probably good. Or they’re all suffering from groupthink, but I’ll go with the first reason.

As I read the interviews I asked myself, “So what? Will this change anything I do?” I came away with these thoughts:

  • Original content vs. commentary: try to write as much original content as possible, as opposed to just commenting on others’ content. For instance, don’t write book reviews. 🙂
  • Use your own domain, instead of or That’s next on my to-do list.
  • A lot of bloggers get found through StumbleUpon – I haven’t used that in a long time, maybe it’s time to check it out again.

Nothing earth shattering, but it’s a lot of good blogging advice. The book also included a number of blog(er)s that were new to me, some of which are now in my RSS reader.

My favorite quote was from Eric Sink. When asked “How long does it take to become a successful blogger?” Eric answered, “The time varies so much that any answer would be incorrect. I’ll just say this: Some things are not under your control. Persistence is.” (emphasis mine)

Becoming internet-famous overnight probably ain’t gonna happen – the best way to develop a good blog is to be persistent about writing good content.

So there you go – it was a decent read, well worth a trip to the library, and maybe even purchasing if you want advice on building your blog.

Why bother with RSS?

(cut-n-pasted from my reply to a “Business of Software” forum question)

I resisted using an RSS reader for quite a while, mainly because it was “the new hotness” that I didn’t see any use for.

What made me start using it?

I read a fair number of websites, and I like to know when something new shows up. So I used to check each website every day and scan it for new content. Slashdot. Anything new? Yup, read a couple. Joel on Software. Anything new? No. Paul Graham’s rants. Anything new? No. Steve Yegge. Anything new? Yes, read it. You get the point.

The “load page – see if anything new” loop was getting tedious, especially since frequently there was nothing new to read, so loading the page was a waste of time.

Enter RSS. I chose NewsGator Online, subscribed to the websites/blogs I like, and *bam* – all the new content comes right to me, only one website (NewsGator) to load, no wasted time.

Well, unless you count the time I spend reading stuff on the web as wasted time, which might be accurate.

Blog, Cringely

Robert Cringely’s “I, Cringely” site has changed from a non-interactive plain ol’ web page to a blog format.

I can’t say that I care too much about the comments, but I do like the new page design.

Mostly I’m looking forward to more NerdTV interviews: “NerdTV is essentially Charlie Rose for geeks – a one-hour interview show with a single guest from the world of technology. Guests like Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy or Apple computer inventor Steve Wozniak are household names if your household is nerdy enough, but as historical figures and geniuses in their own right, they have plenty to say to ALL of us.”

Cringely does the best interviews I’ve heard – he has awesome guests (that you frequently can’t hear elsewhere) and asks great questions. The production of the first season of NerdTV was hit or miss – some episodes had barely audible audio – but I’m guessing that will be cleaned up a lot in Season Two.

Spellchecking complaint followup

I received this email from WordPress support regarding the spellchecking problem (‘blog’ is not in their dictionary):

Thanks for the report. We are already aware of that and will resolve it shortly.

Turns out their online support forums already had a bunch of references to the same problem – I thought I had searched for it and come up with nothing, obviously I messed up the search.

My point: They could have said something like, “Yeah, we know, why don’t you search for stuff first instead of wasting our time?” but they didn’t.

Instead WordPress sent me a nice thank you email – fast and polite feedback is a rarity in the customer service world (especially since I’m not paying for anything here!) – big time kudos to them.

Spellchecking complaint

I ended my last post with:

PS: The WordPress spellchecker doesn’t know the words “blog” or “blogging.”

I turned in for the night right after that post. When I woke up this morning my first thought was “Gee, I whined about the WordPress spellchecking, which is essentially pointless – unless I do something about it!” So I lept into virtual action and clicked on the “Feedback” link which is at the top of most WordPress pages, copied that spellchecker comment into the Feedback window, submitted it and tada!

WordPress folks: that Feedback link is brilliant! It’s practically everywhere, it’s quick and easy to use – great job!

WordPress post editor

The WordPress post editor has the word “Path:” in the bottom left corner of the text entry box. Nothing else, just “Path:”.

At first I had no idea what it means, and then as I type some more it says “Path: p”. “p?” What the heck does that mean? I’m a command line geek and I’m thinking is that some filesystem path within the WordPress world?

It turns out “Path:” indicates the tag hierarchy of the html you’re currently typing in. Like when you’re editing within a list it says “Path: ul >> li”. “p” means you’re in a paragraph block.

Everything else in WordPress has been intuitive so far, but “Path:” is bizarre.

How could it be done better? Or a better first question is, “Is it necessary at all?” I haven’t done enough blogging to know, but so far my answer is “no.”

PS: The WordPress spellchecker doesn’t know the words “blog” or “blogging.”

Creating a WordPress blog

When I decided to create a blog, I knew there were a few major free blog players out there. Google/Blogger, WordPress, etc. I chose WordPress because (a) it had the largest, most straightforward looking homepage, and (b) when I visited it had a big friendly button that said “Create Blog.” Done.

That’s some good UI design – I had no excuse not to create a blog here at WordPress, and it was oh-so-easy to just go ahead and do it.