What Makes a Good Blog? Or a Blog Good?

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005, 3:52 pm

Not only is PokerStars hosting this massive tournament for us on Sunday, and not only are they throwing in $25K worth of goodies, now they’re sponsoring writing contests. The question posed is a deceptively simple one, but I look forward to reading all the answers. “What Makes a Good Blog?”

That’s a subject worthy of a book (I know I have a book by Rebecca Blood on my bookshelves about this very subject). But rather than write 3,000 words about it, I’m going to break out of character and try to keep this short and sweet.

Anyone can become a publisher these days. It’s cheap (like, free) and easy (in two minutes you can be blogging away). Keeping a blog going, however, takes countless hours of hard and usually thankless work. “Why am I doing this?” is a question we’ve all asked in our dark hours. Is anybody reading this? Does anybody care? These are difficult questions to answer when you’re in the middle of a monster post about a subject you care about passionately.

And these questions illustrate what can be so frustrating about writing (and especially about blogging). Most of us write because we like to. We write about subjects that interest us. But that isn’t enough. We write in order to be read. These words we’re putting on the page, either paper or digital–these are our thoughts, our ideas, sometimes our hopes and dreams. And we’re writing them down to share them. If no one else reads them, then the act of writing them is so much wasted effort.

Blogs give people who otherwise couldn’t find an audience a way to introduce their writing (and pictures and podcasts and, by next year, probably high-def holograms) to the world. There are no barriers to entry, and all you have to do to find an audience is write stuff that people want to read.

Which is easier said than done, of course. If I have any advice to bloggers or those-who-would-be-bloggers, it’s this–you should write about what you want, and not give a damn what anyone else thinks. But–and here’s the tricky part–you still have to think about your readers. Not that you should become a hack and write what you THINK will lure readers to your site, but the people fool enough to read your nonsense should always get the very BEST nonsense you can muster. Some days your best might not be very good, but when you sit down at the keyboard you should keep in mind those people who are going to invest their time and read it. The quickest way to condemn your blog to the depths is to fill the screen with self-indulgent nonsense that no other human being could possibly find interesting. Share something worth sharing.

I think that’s why we poker bloggers have developed into such a thriving community. Everyone has SOMETHING interesting to say. And about so many different facets of the game. There are bloggers who are world-class players; there are bloggers who candidly admit they’re total fish. Some play in the World Series and the World Poker Tour, some play in freebie bar tournaments. Some have considerable writing experience, some probably never even thought about writing until they read other blogs and decided to sign up.

One thing we poker bloggers have done very well is find a niche and then work within those parameters to give something unique to the community. Everyone talks from time to time about the same subjects–the gutsy calls, the brutal bad beats–but just about every blog adds something to the conversation that you couldn’t find anywhere else. Not than anyone feels pressure not to go off the reservation, as it were–in fact, some of the best posts I’ve read had nothing to do with poker. I don’t think there are many folks out there who feel uncomfortable writing outside their normal boundries. And they shouldn’t be.

Well, this was supposed to be short and sweet, and it’s not. I don’t even know if it’s on topic. I think that’s MY niche–I bloviate for thousands of words like a goddam filibuster (and I use words like “bloviate” merely because I like typing them…yeahhh…”b-l-o-v-i-a-t-e”…feels so GOOD). I’ll admit, there have been times the past 21 months when I’ve seriously thought about shutting this blog down. But I know I never will (and, no, I don’t mean that as a threat). I like to write. I like to read. Blogs give us access to a wider and richer vein of thoughts, opinions, and ideas than has ever been possible in history. We should all do our part and pitch in some of our own.

Permanent link to this post.

Leave a Reply