Learning Curves: My Fun Blog

On life. One learning curve at a time on the path to becoming a renaissance man.

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When First Blogging (Spam-y Behavior)
gevron
When I started blogging I made mistakes. What I learned was not about security, or writing--That came later. I learned about how to balance my presence in online communities with my blog posting--Without unintentionally being an annoying spammer.

Seeing a friend post to communities I am a member of in the past few months and repeating my mistakes, annoys me as much as spammers do (much like I used to annoy others). I searched for an ancient post of mine on the subject and here it is, updated.

Part I: How do I balance my blogging with my communities?

I like mailing lists and I participate in some, depending on free time and interest. Before I started blogging, I used to be more active, and felt these different discussion forums were a home. I had a problem.

I’d start talking about something there and say to myself “hey, why not write about it in a blog?” and I would. Or the other way around, I’d blog something and say “hey, wouldn’t this interest community home #21?” :P

I went through several phases before settling down on what was best:
  1. Email in that you wrote about something in the blog.
  2. Email in just a bit or a summary, as you don’t want to write twice, and send a link to your blog.
  3. Copy the entire blog post, and add a link (which is useful if the situation was unfolding in real time and updates to the text are expected).
  4. Include a link to your blog in your signature.
  5. Email in a copy, and unless you have a specific reason, don’t mention the blog.
I keep seeing other people repeating the above process (more or less), with minor variations as to which step comes first, and what is considered acceptable. Some people call them spammers, others just smile or pout. One thing is for sure, it is something many new bloggers who were part of at least one community before their blogging days, go through.

The thing is, I am my own worst critic and had to feel comfortable with posting. My solution ended up being #5 (although #4 is also okay, as critics of that one are just nit-picking flamers). More specifically, I decided:
"Stop worrying. Post what you want where you want, and try to avoid duplication. Do not mention the blog. Mention URL to the blog only when you have a reason to, such as *necessary* updates that will follow."
So, even if I did like the idea of people hearing of my blog (obviously), marketing was far from my main intent. I didn’t like the fact it ended up appearing like spam, in their eyes or in mine.

Part II: I want to "spam"! ;-)

"But." you might say "aren't there places in an online conversation where giving the URL to my blog is acceptable?"

Acceptable marketing in this case is viral, and if you participate people will find your blog. If you still want to send in the URL, make sure it is relevant.

The following are some occurrences in which it is okay to mention your URL in communities:
(Watch for the important notes and caveats later on)
  • As mentioned, you can place the URL is in your signature or profile information (quite alright, but I personally avoid these 99% of the time).
  • When a relevant topic presents itself, make a real comment and if, and only if, relevant, mention there was a similar incident, or you wrote about this before.
  • Unique posts with new and revealing subjects are exempt. An example would be: "I am on the cover of the New York Times!!!!111".
  • Similar to the above are announcements of a personal nature such a birth of a new baby girl, with pictures. Again, only if done rarely, and advisably with a direct URL.
Notes and caveats on "acceptable" exemptions:
  • Timing and rarity: Don't over-do it. Post URLs only *rarely* or you may as well spam.
  • Form: When you do post, a direct URL to the post is advisable.
  • Relevance: Don't force it. Here's an analogy from the product world as coined by a friend on one of my ideas--"Most solutions wait for a problem. This is a problem waiting for a solution". Wait until you see a relevant pre-existing topic where you find yourself repeating what you wrote in your blog.
  • Don't be a stranger: It's best to do so only if you are a *contributing* member.
In conclusion

I learned how to participate in these communities while having a topical blog, which for some reason originally was not straight-forward for me.

I now realize I went through the same process once before when I became active in more than one community. Learning is not an easy process, and repeating mistakes is what we are wired to do to try and make it work "this time". With it happening to me twice I was able to pinpoint what was bothering me and why, and apply the necessary changes.

Gadi Evron,
ge@linuxbox.org.

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