How To Become A Great And Successful Blogger (Volume I)

Okay, so maybe this past weekend you watched the bloggers behind Crommunist Manifesto, WWJTD, Atheist Experience, Voice of Reason, En Tequila Es Verdad, Rock Beyond Belief, and Token Skeptic become newly knighted as Sacred Bloggers of the Order of Freethought Blogs and thereby ascend overnight to international stardom as part of phase III of PZ Myers’s plan for world conquest, and you thought, “how can I get in on some of that celebrity blogger that action?”

Well, recently I noticed an interesting trend among a significant handful of my favorite bloggers in how they made it to the high life of internet fame, internet glory, internet power, and internet money. Below the fold is one secret of their success they share in common…

Hank Fox, of Freethought Blogs’ own Blue Collar Atheist, Digital Cuttlefish, of Freethought Blogs’ own Digital CuttlefishRichard Wade, of Friendly Atheist’s “Ask Richard” column, VorJack, of Unreasonable Faith, Eric MacDonald, of Choice in Dying, and our good friend George Waye, of Misplaced Graceeach went into blogging after making splashes in preexisting blogs’ comments sections.

Hank and Cuttlefish were Pharyngula staples, Eric MacDonald credits Jerry Coyne with encouraging him for a long time to blog based on his comments at Why Evolution is True, Hemant Mehta not only plucked Richard Wade out of the Friendly Atheist comments section but then later had the vision to give him his breakthrough column, VorJack commented on Unreasonable Faith before becoming its most frequent blogger, and George Waye’s comments here at Camels With Hammers were so good I routinely was building my own posts off of responding to him before he decided to try his own hand out at blogging. He also established a close relationship with fellow Freethought Blogs blogger the Lousy Canuck.

One of the most important ways to get yourself known in the blogosphere is to build relationships with other bloggers.

Bloggers, like normal people, don’t like to feel used, of course. Greta has a number of great tips for getting started blogging and she warns rightly against only commenting on people’s stuff with links to your own posts and without a desire to just contribute to the discussion of the blog you are visiting.  That comes off, as she puts it, like going to a party and handing out your business card to everyone. I admit, I kick myself for having made that mistake a lot in my zealous early days of doing whatever I possibly could to get my links out there.

But who bloggers do love are those amazing commenters who turn their beloved internet home into a much greater source of fun and wisdom and vigorous discussion than they alone could have made it by themselves. And sometimes, some commenters are so exciting that we wish they had their own blogs we could read, which got their own voices out to a wider audience. And we are delighted to support those people. And we know, from their prodigious output in our own comments sections, that they have the chops to blog regularly enough to make their efforts worth it. Sometimes, bloggers even give their own blog as a regular place for great commenters to guest post or, even, to permanently blog.

One of my own occasional guest bloggers, Sara Manesterska of Sendai Anonymous, was someone with a low profile blog who I found in the Pharyngula comments section, whose comment I liked. Her post eviscerating biblical literalism, Leviticus, Biblical literalism, and why it’s all drivel propagated by delusional bigots who need something, anything to validate their beliefs was an early Camels With Hammers classic, filled with detailed information and a solid argument. Similarly, James Gray’s blog Ethical Realism is a terrific philosophy blog, one of my favorites, but it took his copious amounts of insight generously offered in the comments section at Camels With Hammers for me to check out what he was doing and to want him to fill in for me when I took a brief hiatus in the spring. His excellent philosophical post here was Philosophy Can Debunk Myths About Atheism. (On a side note, sometimes you don’t get the attention of the major blogger but meet other low profile bloggers with whom you can develop valuable relationships. See my post Soul Searching With Clergy Guy which was part of a cross-blog debate with a reflective pastor which began in the comments section of Unreasonable Faith.)

There are many more things to say about how to blog successfully and when I am more successful and more qualified to speak on that topic, I may write some more on the topic. But for now, if you think some day you might want to do this in a serious way, in the meantime make your favorite bloggers know and appreciate you by commenting brilliantly on their every word and you can get ahead in the game.

Your Tips?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • http://limerickfun.blogspot.com Rich Stage

    Lim’ricks don’t fall from a tree
    I’ve been at this for a year (or three)
    there’s naught good to say
    for toiling away
    in anonymous obscurity.

    I once harbored delusions that skeptical limericks would make it possible for my voice to be heard, to meekly rise above the din of thousands of others whose opinions echoed mine. I still have a voice, and have (or, had) a unique way of expressing myself. Alas, life got in the way, and I stopped producing limericks for a time. Now Cuttlefish has been doing his Headline Muse, and I fear that I will be seen as a copycat, attempting to cash in on the work that he has done.

    I will keep doing what I have been, however, and be grateful for those readers I have.

    But what is a (not-so) humble limerickist to do?

    Shameless self plug

  • Crommunist

    I am sure you will mention this in a subsequent issue of this series, but I will share what I personally think is the MOST important thing:

    Regular posting

    I can’t count the number of blogs that I discovered with great enthusiasm, only to lose interest because the author only posted 2-3 times in a month, with long hiatus breaks. I recognize that life is busy – blogging is essentially a part-time job. I’ve cancelled social engagements, annoyed visiting friends, even stayed up extra-late to make sure there was something ready for the next day. Some people have mocked me for this self-inflicted fervor, but I take pride in the fact that readers can rely on me to have new content every day.

    Relationships with other bloggers is important, to be sure. I think, though, that regardless of who your friends are, you’ve got to demonstrate you have something worth saying and that you’re saying it regularly.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      Absolutely. When I restarted my blog in 2008, when I let it go dormant for a month after only blogging a month, in my mind it was just dead. There was no option of just occasionally posting and being an actual blogger, in my mind. When I decided to start over in 2009, it was as a new blog with a new identity and a serious commitment to endure through low traffic and hustle constantly to make it worth reading and make it visible. I have unfortunately still had long fallow periods which alternated with my normal prodigious blogging but at least when I have gotten back I have ramped up fully again.

  • http://www.meddlingkids.org Big Ugly Jim

    I’m not able to write limericks to retort, but I do have magical skeptipowers when it comes to haiku:

    If you wish good hits
    ‘Tis best to contribute thoughts
    Rather than self hype

    And on an unrelated topic…

    Clandestine raindrops
    Slither down the window glass
    What the frickin’ frack???

    (sorry, I just noticed it was raining)

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    I agree that blogging has to treated like a job. However, it’s not a job like sales where there is instantaneous feedback. It’s more like a job in the entertainment field where work can produce little, if any results in the short term.

  • http://psychoticatheist.blogspot.com/ Psychotic Atheist

    I had long put off my entrance to the atheist blogosphere out of a sense there was little that I could add to the collective. I made the occasional comment in blogs like Pharyngula, Dispatches from the Culture Wars and Bad Astronomy (under a different user name than this, more anonymous one).

    Since the creation of FTB, the urge to join the blogosphere has grown until my voice became a repetitive droning ‘Join them! Join Them!’ and I was forced to capitulate.

    But the question of readership plagued me and I had a creeping suspicion that that it would involve a little netspace socialising. The act of which fills me alternatively with apathy and terror, no doubt symptomatic of my psychosis.

    I was worried about the line between polite blogvertising and so-called ‘blog whoring’, or to use your metaphor – when does making oneself visible become the crass self-publicity at someone else’s party? I had begun to seek a guide to the etiquette so that I wouldn’t fall foul of it.

    This is a long way around of saying ‘Thank you’ for the post, it (along with greta’s post that you linked to and Crommunist’s comment above) helped clarify the issue tremendously. I know the way forward is to try adding to the blogosphere already established (as you say: seek to turn their beloved internet home into a much greater source of fun and wisdom and vigorous discussion…) and let the readers come at their own pace rather than trying to force the issue in any way. Especially since the intended audience are clearly canny to manipulations – intended or otherwise. If they come they come, at the very least my blog can be its own end – an outlet for my writing passion.

    I wrangled for a good while whether this post in own ‘meta’ way could be construed as crossing the politeness line, but I’ve got to start somewhere and I trust someone in the comments may inform me if I have been rude.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

    Yes, I should officially designated this comments section one where people should feel free to plug their blogs without seeming self-serving.

    And, I should also note that since I myself was so overeager in others’ comments sections, I really generally am much more sympathetic to, and permissive of, people promoting their posts in my comments sections as long as they are actually on topic and pertinent. It’s just good to remember not all bloggers are so thrilled by it and to be tactful.

  • http://psychoticatheist.blogspot.com/ Psychotic Atheist

    It’s just good to remember not all bloggers are so thrilled by it and to be tactful.

    Thanks again, you’re quite right.

  • Crommunist

    The other piece I of advice I would give to any would-be blogger is this: do it for yourself. Don’t start a blog to get readers – that’s what terrible political parties do. You should write about topics you have some passion for, and be unflinching in that. Readers will eventually find you, because they’re looking for stuff they’re passionate about.

    A blog should be accountable to an audience of one: its author. Be respectful of readers: write TO them, but don’t write FOR them.

    Of course I am the last person who should be talking about marketing. Any advertising I did for my blog was quite unintentional.


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