Someone wrote on twitter that they’d been blogging for over a decade and I chuckled. I’ve been at it for at least twice as long, though my body of work has disappeared like fallen leaves in the forest of blogs. I can’t tell you how to make money blogging, because I haven’t made much directly, and I can’t tell you how to be popular because the popularity I had was niche and fleeting. I can tell you what not to do, so let me lay that out for you in the manner I can best describe.
There’s the stuff I wrote on KnowProSE.com, which in it’s most successful period was a place where things about Second Life, Free Software and Open Source were the main focus, as well as a lot of quotations that I was building on with book reviews. The book review part was fun for me – but Amazon.com wouldn’t allow one to publish reviews on sites after Amazon.com after a while, and publishers wanted the review on Amazon.com, and there was no way to monetize that.
Lesson: Don’t tie yourself to one method of deriving income when they can change it at any time. And the second they can and it’s profitable to them, they will.
Then, through a weird kerfuffle on BlueHost.com servers, KnowProSE.com was knocked offline between backups I made while I was out of the country, at a CARDICIS event as I recall, and they lost all my data. And the data I had from Drupal was months old because, as it happened, the backups I had made in between couldn’t be restored.
Lesson: Don’t trust the technology and hosting of your blog. You’re just one of many, and you don’t matter that much to the hosts or to the content management system you use. And test your backups locally by using a local host on your PC.
This loss of content combined with the ageism in corporate America with real software engineering work caused me to get into farming for a while. The reward was the tangible, and plenty of time to think, but that’s more toward what I’m doing now than what has past.
Around the time that I was getting KnowProSE.com, I was also involved in writing articles for Brainbuzz.com and CramSession.com for software engineering. This wasn’t blogging, per se, but the reality is that it was in how it was used. I got paid, and paid for moderating groups of software engineers yapping away in the forums with the religious wars of coding, of which there are many.
It was not a bad gig. I made $100 an article, I’d write at least 5 articles a month which was pretty good considering I was living in Trinidad at the time – I could live off that. In fact, I did. And I had the allowance of writing whatever I wanted about software engineering, and I did.
The trouble was the websites, and I expect companies, disappeared. That writing is gone forever.
Unfortunately, part of that $100 meant exclusive rights, and that means when it’s gone, it’s gone.
Lesson: Keep notes of what you have written before, no matter how easy it seems before, because while what you write for anyone else may be exclusive to them, it does not mean you can’t rewrite it.
One of the ‘problems’ I have is that I don’t have a ‘niche’. This is largely because I’m interested in everything, and I enjoy connecting seemingly unrelated things. This means my content ‘categorization’ varies widely, and as a ‘blogging rule’, this is not how to build a blog. People like to go to certain sites to get certain information consistently, like flipping to a television channel.
I hate that rule because I find it limiting. If you want to create a financial stream, that’s a good rule to follow, but what I have found is that there are needed silences in niches where there is nothing worth writing about, or the writing becomes repetitive. This leads to content for the sake of content, and to me that’s not the best use of the space we have to share our thoughts.
Some people like it. They do it. They make livings off of it, and what I’m doing is likely a mistake in the eyes of those that are financially successful in writing. People stick to genres and do well, and if you can do that it’s the easiest way forward. I’ve had mixed success with not following the rule.
And yet I have a lesson here, the final one for this post:
Write for yourself, or not at all. This is not to say that you should dismiss the audience, far from it! Yet your writing will likely be better and feel less forced if you follow your instincts and give yourself the space to grow.
Through a loop of fate that had a lot to do with my travels in Latin America, which was a wonderful experience, I became editor of LinuxGazette.com and A42.com – both of which are gone.
The company that owned them, SSC, paid me well enough, but finding content that was original and getting people to write for them was challenging because of one key issue that I was not told about when I accepted the job: LinuxGazette.org.
This was an issue that put SSC at odds with a very vocal part of the community. Thus, this job was self-limiting, and I imagine a bit of a joke to the editors of Linux Journal at the time though I did not know it. I meant well, but intentions means nothing when you find yourself in the middle of a dispute regarding copyright and trademark where neither side understands what the word, ‘compromise’ means.
I tried to mediate, it didn’t work out, I advised my boss that going up against the community was a bad idea and was hated on by just about everyone involved for the trouble. Scathed.
The two sites at one point redirected to LinuxJournal.com, but now one is presently a redirect to ‘SwiftMoney.com’, the other to a site that I’ve never seen before that is not particularly helpful in explaining what it is.
Lesson: Do some hard research on things involved before you take jobs, and don’t trust the people around you to tell you anything.
Well, I wrote a bit about this before, so I won’t repeat it. But I know at least one author from HuffingtonPost, Sally Duros, who voluntarily helped build HuffingtonPost up as many authors of the period did just to make one person rich.
Lesson: Don’t trust people with your work because you think they are well intentioned. Under the right circumstances, they may decide their value is greater than that of the people who helped build things up and, if they have the opportunity, they’ll do what’s best for them… and you’ll be out in the dark