Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Tips for New LDS Bloggers

I've been getting a lot of email recently from enthusiastic LDS folks anxious to start blogging, inspired by some recent comments of Elder Russel M. Ballard encouraging students and others to take up blogging and other approaches to make Gospel truth more visible to the world. (And according to the More Good Foundation, he even mentioned Bookslinger's blog - one of my favorite commenters here!) That's wonderful!

Starting a new blog may not be the best way to help. Much of the action on blogs, forums, and many Websites takes place in the comments. That's a great place to be active in supporting the Gospel. I'm so grateful to some of the readers here who take time to respond to comments and questions posed in the comments areas. Sometimes some great insights and excellent research can be found there. Helping out in that way can be a very effective way to have an impact. We need more people to do this kind of thing, including on news sites where people can respond to stories. When there is an LDS topic being covered, there is a need for intelligent Latter-day Saints to be there and help spread a little truth and even make the pro-LDS part of the Web more visible to those looking for answers.

For those of you taking up blogging, make sure you have a reason for being, a theme, an angle, a value proposition, or whatever you call it. Why should anyone care? What do you offer? Share your plans with other bloggers and get some feedback.

Still interested in starting a blog? Be prepared for a long haul if you want to do any good. Most bloggers stop after a few weeks. Many don't last more than about 10 or 20 posts. That's why I probably am not going to link to new blogs until they have a track record - no offense, please, but it's a pain to add a link only to have it die a few weeks later. And I'm pretty fussy as it is when it comes to links - please don't be offended.

Blogging is a pain. Part of me really enjoys it, but the sane part of me regrets the time I spend for almost every post. I don't have the 20+ minutes it takes for a quick 5-minute post. Teams of bloggers are a way to reduce the work load on any one person, but teams come and go and are hard to manage. I prefer to work mostly alone here to maintain my carefully tailored haphazard style and erratic, idiosyncratic feel that is hard to do with sane people on your committee.

You'll probably never have as many readers as you would like (it may seem like shouting to the wind much of the time), and many times you'll find what you think is your best work is simply ignored. But if you endure to the end (with the right software tools, this should be at least three to four months after you croak), you can prevail, especially if you remember each day Whom you are trying to please and serve: Google.

Oops! A Freudian slip, really. As Latter-day Saints, you naturally want to please the Lord, but as a blogger, but you must also serve Google and look for ways to be visible with Google. Can you please God and Google? Maybe, just maybe. Well, as least do your best to stay out of Google hell. More on that later.

Have fun, be yourself, be prepared for a lot of abuse, be careful what you say and try to save more souls than you offend or drive out of the Church. I hope I'm on the positive side of that equation, though it's hard to say. Some folks enjoy telling me that my stupid defense of the Gospel is the reason they left the Church. (Maybe that will help me on the day of judgment if it turns out I'm actually supporting a demonic cult after all - "Hey, look, I did help save some souls after all.") But I sincerely am trying to do some good, at least some of the time.

I'm a couple days away from my 1000th post and nearing my 4-year anniversary with Mormanity. I have plenty of regrets and frequently consider throwing in the towel to focus more on the books I'm writing (ooh, can't wait to complete the one on Innovation Fatigue! so much fun!), the photography I'm doing, my family, and my work. And I still might need to do that, but for now, I continue trying to squeeze in a few minutes here and there and there. And sometimes it's really quite fun. I really had fun doing the "Gift for Anti-Mormons," for example. But was it worth it? Maybe not. Did it offend and harm people? Perhaps. Did it increase my visibility in Google? Ah, there we go.

One more tip: if you have a good name for your blog, be sure to get the domain name locked up before squatters and click farms do. My biggest mistake was not grabbing Mormanity.com. Once the name gets known, squatters nab the domain and make money off your name. I had to settle for Mormanity.org, but really wish I had thought of nabbing the dot com version. (Please don't click on anything on that other site - it just encourages the squatters and gives them money.) Domain names are cheap these days. Invest in one or a few.

Best wishes blogging! But be sure to consider other routes, like helping existing blogs or being a pro-LDS voice to balance the critics out there in various forums.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...
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SilverRain said...

I'd suggest to most new people coming in to comment (or at least read) before they start their own blog. SO much good can be done commenting on others posts, where the traffic already goes.

Drew E said...

Jeff,

Any chance you can give fellow bloggers practical tips on how to utilize google and get their blog noticed?

Bethie said...

I've been blogging for a few years now and I love it!

Recently I started a pro LDS blog "Day of Praise", its helping me maybe more than others. I'm exploring the LDS faith and I am learning alot by blogging about it.

One of the top tips for bloggers is "blog often". Don't neglect your blog for weeks or even days at a time. Stay consistent, stay current.

Also, commenting on other blogs is very valuable. You can learn alot from others!

God Bless!
http://dayofpraise.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Just know that this non-LDS, infrequent contributor only visits two blogs regularly, and one of them is yours. Sometimes you have me banging my head against the wall, and other times I think you're spot on.

I hope you don't ever give it up.

Bookslinger said...

Jeff,
Thanks for the link. It's been generating traffic, indicating your blog is popular and well-read.

Drew E,
Do a search on "SEO" and "Search Engine Optimization" for articles on increasing your search-engine rank.
www.sitepoint.com is one place I have used in the past, and their "Tribune" newsletter,
at www.sitepoint.com/newsletter/

NM said...

Give google what belongs to google and to God what belongs to God =D

Good post Jeff.

I'm guessing there's going to be a massive influx of bloggers within the next few days. Better be ready google.

Jordan said...

Jeff: I sure appreciated these comments, and always appreciate the quality emanating from this mormanity place.

I might add one more thing that I have learned over the years I have been blogging- always take a deep breath, count to ten, and carefully re-read what you have written prior to pressing enter when you are commenting in the "heat" of blog "argument" to make sure your comment does not sound insulting, condescending, or rude. You will be so glad you did!

Peter said...

Jordan,

I know what you mean, so many times I have written something then re-written it or just decided it wasn't worth replying to or somesuch.

There would be heaps of unposted comments in my past.

Peter

Jared said...

Another informative post.

I started blogging in July 07 and opened my personal blog in Oct 07. My purpose for blogging is to try and emphasis the need to fulfill our baptismal covenant and receive the Holy Ghost. Somehow in the prosperous times we live in this basic tenant of the gospel is losing ground, in my opinion.

My blog is getting more and more readers but few comments. I am puzzled by this.

If anyone cares to share their opinion why this is the case please visit my blog and share your thoughts.

www.ldsaliveinchrist.com

Jeff--I wouldn't post my blog like above except for the subject matter you have in this post. I hope its all right with you. Let me know either way.

Patrick said...

I've been reading blogs and posting comments on religious forums for the past 2 years. When I first discovered there was a big religious conversation occurring on the net I got excited. I was used to the conversations I had with close friends and thought it would be interesting to share thoughts with other religiously oriented individuals.

I started out on Catholic.com and found I was in for a real roller coaster ride. Most conversations turned into shouting matches and venomous accusations of who offended who first. I also found it hard to share my ideas there becuase I was drowned out by the cheerleading of the home team. I don't frequent that site anymore becuase I felt the level of discussion is very sophomoric.

I did benefit from the coversation though.

1. I no longer attribute the level of infallibility to our past leaders as I did before. I'm willing to allow them to have made mistakes. If they made mistakes then it's alright that I make mistakes. What a relief.

2. Other groups accuse the LDS of not worshipping Christ. They say we spend too much time thinking about Heavenly Father. That got me to thinking about how much do we actually worship and glorify Christ as LDS. I started paying more attention to the sacrament and especially to the hymns we sing prior to administering the sacrament. Do we worship Christ? I can now answer with a resounding yes. Read those hymns between numbers 169 to 197 in our hymnal. They are beautiful.

3. Again another criticism leveled at the LDS is they don't spend enough time reading the Bible. I've read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover several times, but only once have I read the entire Bible. I decided the critics were right and it was time for me to rectify this. I started last year and I'm now half way through Jeremiah. It's been a great adventure. I'm glad I did it. I just read about the Prophet Urijah in Jeremiah 26:20-23. Urijah prophecied against the city of Jerusalem and had his life threatened. He escaped to Egypt to save his life but the King extadited Urijah back to Jerusalem and had him killed. All I could think was, "Run, Lehi, Run!"

My faith is richer and my understanding is deeper as a result of my participation in this loud cacophonous conversation.

Vanceone said...

I've not yet got a blog, though I build websites for a living.

Instead, I've followed Mormanity's advice: comment on other forums.

On one particular political forum I frequent, I think I'm the major LDS member defending the church against the guys who attack it. It's amazing the prejudice still out there--at least two of the posters there apparently regret the Extermination order was rescinded. They literally have threatened any "uppity Mormons who come back to Missouri--I'm ready with my gun."

Amazing.

You find out that so many people want to define what the church believes for us--usually as a precursor to attacking it.

It's also hard, because invariably you'll find someone who has extensively read up on the usual anti-mormon stuff, and will doggedly toss stuff, hoping something will stick. Gosh, how I get tired of explaining cherry-picked Journal of Discourse stuff.

If you do go into blogging or defending the church: please be kind and courteous. There's a lot of people who know very little about the church, except what they've heard from their pastor or guy on cult night. So it will be wrong and offensive. Most people are happy to have a kind, respectful answer that is polite. They are glad to have a misconception cleared up, if it's done nicely. Oh, and use some humor, too. Not to excess, of course.

See, most people really ARE looking for some answers, to satisfy their curiosity. You also should remember the purpose of the place you are commenting. Like I said, I'm mostly on political blogs. That's not really an appropriate place to start into the first discussion... so I just reply in good faith. Just address the concerns, and also point out that it's not really germane to the forum. The only reason you do it is to clear up potential misconceptions. That wins far more goodwill than any preaching I could do. Plus.... the anti-'s REALLY hate it when they find someone who can show them they are wrong in their out of context stuff. It drives them batty.


If you do run into some dedicated antis, and you will, try to treat them nicely, too. It's hard, and you won't always succeed. But remember, they have to have some amount of hate to be that dogged and bitter, and inevitably, it will show. Those who watch your exchange will conclude that you are on the right. Especially if it's a consistent thing.

I hope that helps! Oh, one more thing: if you don't know the answer, say so. If you can tell you've run into some questions that you can't answer, or will quickly go over your head--you don't have to answer. There's a few other LDS members on the blog I frequent, but rarely do they comment with as much detail as I do, simply because I believe I know a bit more facts. I think they have more of the spirit, though. They, on the other hand, are much more useful doing what they are doing: being a good citizen and chiming in occasionally. I'm not saying I'm a master LDS guy or anything, but sometimes, you can do much more harm that good if you don't know what you are getting into.

Here's a tip: get to know Jeff's site, and FAIR, and some of the FARMS stuff. It will prove IMMENSELY helpful. Trust me.

Andrew Miller said...

I've been very active on message boards, blogs, and even had a website of my own (back in my teenage days). It's a great experience. I've recently started a blog and hope to keep up with it.

http://strongreasons.blogspot.com

Joseph Antley said...

Excellent advise. I'm relatively new to blogging (I've been at it for a few months now), and traffic is so-so (not bad considering, I guess). If anyone has any specific advice for my blog, I'd appreciate it. http://www.josephantley.com ;)

And it's amazing that Elder Ballard referenced Bookslinger's blog. That's awesome.

Octornian said...

Glad to see the "Driving Out Mormons" link on the right side of the blog. I think it's a great idea!

Clifford said...

Well, after nearly a year running a secular blog that I enjoy, I made the leap into a blog that focuses specifically on the Church (mymormonworld.blogspot.com).

I thank you for these tips.

I guess my greatest fear is that someone with a very big brain will engage my smaller brain and drown me in deep philosophy.

Or that if I don't respond as quickly as they deem proper, they will declare to the high heavens a victory for their side of the discussion.

NM said...

Personally speaking, I'm really quite glad that so many LDS folks are responding to Elder Ballard's call to start blogging.

Blogging is a good way to learn and somehow refine existing thoughts. Someone once told me, the best way to learn something is to teach it.

I have really appreciated the Discussions here at Jeff's blog. Although there are differences, the observation of it has helped me to refine and appreciate what I know and experienced in God.In the same way that it has helped me, I hope that the discussions have helped you (crazy LDS) folks refine and appreciate your faith =)

My point has never been to promote Evangelicalism for evangelicalism's sake; but to promote God's amazing and completed work through the obedience of His Son. God is good, He is gracious and He deserves to be made much of! =D

elizabeth said...

My two cents is, you can blog about your daily life and how your beliefs help shape it. One doesn't need to "teach".

This is a fun blog to read for it's articles, but I do also enjoy reading a blog that sheds light on the day to day life and beliefs of someone.

myfoodstoragedeals said...

I would LOVE it if you checked out my LDS blog on food storage. It is one of the best blogs on food storage and gives great tips and information to help your family get prepared!
www.myfoodstoragedeals.blogspot.com

JDurrant said...

For what it's worth, Jeff, I'm sure you've helped far, far more people than you've hurt. :)