Check it, it’s like…
My man Jus used to keep an ox between his teeth
Said he could spit it with pinpoint accuracy if there was beef
We chuckled out loud… Still the thought of it intrigued me, (right)
So now I keep a jackal under my tongue to spit with related reasoning
–Aesop Rock, “Nickel Plated Pockets”
(an ox is a razor)
If he talkin’, he a target
–Royce da 5’9″, “Politics”
I missed my third year comics blogging anniversary by a just under couple months, looks like. I’ve been preoccupied, I figure.
Anyway– three years of blogging. Wow. I think I took a break of a few weeks at some point in 05, where I relaunched 4l after being a little less than enthused with both online and offline things, but it’s been more or less weekly ever since. Hopefully more than weekly. Maybe thrice weekly. Maybe a bit more, I don’t know.
I was mulling this over and thinking about what I’ve learned and seen. Interacting with people via blogs, message boards, and emails has been interesting. What have I learned? Let me boil it down to 13 things.
1: Don’t expect e-fame. Three years on and I’d consider myself small time. A few people who run popular blogs know my name, and that ended up in me running another comics site (and what a ride that is!). We’ve got a grip of readers, but 4l was never about hits anyway. It was about me listening to the sound of my own voice while I talk about comics with other people who may or may not agree with me. It was about learning, listening, and laughing.
If you’re blogging to get famous, you’re probably not doing it right. Do it because you like it.
2: Timeliness helps. If you want readers, you have to attract them. Part of that is being timely, whether that means meeting a daily deadline or talking about current comics events. Doing 29 days in a row for Black History Month was a beast, but I felt good when I finished and I felt like I’d learned something. Even better, I felt like maybe somebody else had their thoughts provoked a little bit.
4l has been not quite daily in varying degrees of “not quite” since forever. We’ve added a considerable amount to our visitors ever since we started doing “almost daily” rather than “not quite daily.” Timeliness helps.
3: Timeliness doesn’t matter at all. Honestly, if your content is good, people are gonna tune in. One of my favorite blogs is Not Blog X, a review blog for X-Men comics that were coming out in the 1990s. Each post is a trip down memory lane for me, but the most recent comic reviewed on the blog is basically 14 years old. Fourteen years old. Regardless– it’s awesome. Each post reminds me of something from when I was a kid, and G. Kendall is a pretty dope writer. He’s got a format, a good hook, and a site that I immediately added to my RSS feeds.
4: Blogger is terrible. Seriously, I switched to using WordPress and bought my own domain a few years back. It’s been pretty much smooth sailing ever since. My site only breaks when I break it, rather than when Blogger goes down and freaks out. I have total control, and that is a wonderful thing. 100 bucks a year isn’t a lot at all. RSS feeds, RSS comment feeds (I can’t describe how much I love those), plugins, all of that. It’s golden. Livejournal and blogger are dinosaurs. Make your own site.
5: Don’t name your site after yourself if it’s a group blog. For some reason, the exclamation point in my site’s name always ends up left out and a space gets added in between 4th and letter. However, 4thletter! means one thing– D. As in David. As in me.
It’s catchy, though, and 4l/fourel is kind of a cool abbreviation.
Sorry Gavok and Hoatz! It’s all about me-me-me-me-me. We’ll have another 7thletter! and an inaugural 8thletter! day sometime in 2009 when I finally stop talking about black people in comics.
6: Don’t be afraid to use your real name. When I asked Gavok if he wanted to do some work at PCS for me, I also asked him if he wanted to be credited as Gavok or Gavin. He said Gavin, ’cause PCS was a different kind of site than 4l. Here, a nickname is gravy. It’s a fansite, it’s a place to make stupid posts about Jubilee or What Ifs.
I can see where he’s coming from, but I took it a step further. There’s only one place online where I still use a pseudonym, and that’s more due to laziness than anything. Plus, “hermanos” is a really, really crappy secret identity.
Using my real name is just taking away that (thin) veil of anonymity that the internet gives us. It’s saying, “Yeah, you can’t see me, but I’m here and my words matter.” No one can use that “Oh, you’re hiding behind a fake name” excuse when you call them out.
7: If you’re talking, you’re a target. This is step one is basic discourse: don’t open your mouth if you aren’t ready to back up what you say. This is the internet– someone is gonna argue with you on whether or not the sky is blue today. What makes you think they won’t call you out when you’re wrong?
I think about every blog post I write. I’ve had posts checked out by other people when I’m really worried. This is because I’m not the type of person to pop off at the mouth with something half-cocked. You have to think if you’re going to blog, and you have to be prepared to be disagreed with. Expecting everyone to fall in line behind you like you’re Pollyanna is dumb.
I once wrote a love letter to Joe Quesada. Joe Q is a guy that half of the fans out there want dunked in acid for “ruining Spider-Man forever.” I did it and got away with it because I backed up what I said. I thought it through and argued my points. Looking back, I could’ve done better, but that’s any post I’ve ever made. Some may not agree, but they can’t say I didn’t try and didn’t make sense.
8: Controversy sells. The flipside of the above is that the squeakiest wheel gets the grease. The loudest blogger gets the hits. Going off half-cocked and shouting at people is going to get you attention. Being a jerkbag is going to you even more attention, as people who should know better will come to try and set you straight or debunk your points. Don’t be afraid to troll a little bit. Call that blogger worthless. Call that creator as a pedophile. Put out that hit piece on a popular comic and how overrated it is and all its fans are racist ageist sexist misogynist misandrist flat-footed pot-bellied balding imbeciles who probably eat babies for lunch and senior citizens for dinner.
However, all of this will make you look like a jerk to everyone ever. At least, I hope so. Anyway, don’t do this one. Controversy doesn’t sell, it just makes you look dumb.
9: Everything has a funny side. Learn to laugh at yourself. Taking yourself too seriously is for, I dunno, action figure bloggers (do those exist?), not comics bloggers. We’re talking about funnybooks here, and while there are Issues to be solved, you cannot take this too seriously. It’ll kill you.
Seriously. Your blood pressure’ll get up and then you’re screwed. Semi-famous comics blogger dead at 27 of a fatal heart explosion due to reading the internet, news at 11.
Don’t be jealous, either. Sure, there’s an idiot of a blogger with crap opinions who has higher hits than you, but screw that. Do your thing. They’ll self-destruct eventually, right? If they don’t, uh, pretend like I never said that.
10: Comments count. I’ve had some of my best conversations in comments. That’s part of why I love WordPress’s Comment Feeds feature. It’s brilliant.
There are three kinds of blogs out there. Ones with comments, ones without comments, and ones with moderated comments.
Ones with comments are wonderful. You get to dig in, debate, question, answer, troll, reply, and figure things out with others. If things get out of line, the blog owner can step in and shut things down. In my mind, this is the perfect blog. It’s like a mini message board or classroom. It also turns the blog into a two-way street– if you’re going to make a stupid post, someone out there is gonna call you an idiot for it.
Ones without comments are less wonderful, but still good. Nine times out of ten in this case, you can toss an email at the blogger and get into private conversations with them. In a way, this is a better thing for the blogger, ’cause you’ve got to the space to make your point clear and you don’t have to worry about commenters getting things twisted up. It’s all about you. No distractions.
Ones with moderated comments are worthless, nine times out of ten. I feel like moderated (as in approval first) comments just lead to commenters toadying up to the blog owner, neutering your point so you don’t offend, and a culture of yes-men playing greek chorus in each post. It’s lame. The temptation is too strong to just leave out the negative posts. After all, who wants to be told that they’re wrong? Who wants to be questioned?
I want to be called out when I’m wrong or lazy or intellectually dishonest with my points. I’m in this to learn, not to have my feet rubbed. Yes, Virginia, that’s why this blog has comments– so that I can be called an idiot when I need to be.
11: Any idiot can be a blogger. And sometimes, that idiot is you. Or me. Or a friend. Make an effort to not be that idiot.
12: Make some friends. I hesitate to call them allies, mostly because that sounds corny and terrible, but go out and find semi-like-minded people and chat. Discuss things over email. Keep in contact. I’m hitting New York Comic-con again this year and I’m easily supposed to meet over a dozen people who I only know via the internet. All of these are online friends that I’ve been talking to.
This includes the iFanboy (though I met them at Wondercon), Funnybook Babylon, and PCS gangs. Not to drop names or anything.
I wonder if I can convince Pedro that the FBB/4l! alliance should be called F-Unit. Funnybook Babylon, Four(4)thletter!…
Anyway, knowing people is great. It’s a huge plus to blogging, and gives you even more people to talk shop with. If someone writes a post you like, drop them an email. It’s more personal than a comment, but less personal than visiting their house. Give it some thought. All of my e-buddies are e-cool.
Also, you can use your friends to bounce ideas off of, or check to see if you’re out of line.
13: It’s just comics. If blogging isn’t fun, you aren’t doing it right.