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Shortcuts: Writing a blog

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(CNN) -- Bloggers are the new opinion-shapers and trendsetters, according to... well, bloggers, mainly. Here's how to set up your own virtual soapbox and get heard amid the cranks and loudmouths of that online Speakers Corner, the "Blogosphere."

Find a platform: While blogging may be associated with bedroom anoraks and techno-geeks, in fact the tools involved require little more than typing skills or a basic understanding of how to upload multimedia material to the Internet. Many bloggers are now turning to video (vlogs), podcasting or photo blogs as a convenient way of disguising their literary failings, but, for simplicity's sake, let's assume you've chosen to express your innermost thoughts in the same medium as Shakespeare, Dickens, Joyce and Dostoevsky: the written word. The most popular tools are Typepadexternal link, Wordpressexternal link and Bloggerexternal link. Or you could just sign up for the world conquering Myspaceexternal link.

Have a large ego: There are, according to blog watchers Technorati, at least 57 million blogs already out there with new ones arriving on the Web at a rate of some 15,000 a day. Which means that you might just as well set sail in search of an eighth continent as try to find a sphere of human activity unchartered in the blogosphere. Perhaps you thought you could write the world's dullest blog? Well, it's already been done, with entries including the likes of, "Some pencils were scattered around on my desk. I picked them up one by one. I placed the pencils in the drawer which I use to store pencils." All of which leaves just one thing left to write about that hasn't been done already: you (assuming of course you are a non-entity unworthy of your own page on Wikipedia). A blog is basically a vanity project. If you think the rest of the world is interested in hearing about your collection of Ottoman porcelain or why "The Catcher in the Rye" is the great American novel (yawn) you really do need an ego the size of a house.

Say something controversial: So you've set up your blog and you're sitting at your computer, fingers poised to impart your wisdom and humor to the world. Most bloggers will choose something very specific and stick doggedly to their subject, however much of a niche area it may be. But that doesn't mean your writing has to be dull -- in fact the more controversy and personality you can inject into it the better. The blogger's job is to provide gossip, conspiracy theorizing, innuendo, scandal and opinion uninhibited by the mainstream media's old-fashioned reliance on substantiated fact. Some say the godfather of blogging was the late Hunter S. Thompson, a writer who never let truth or clarity stand in the way of a good story. Starting an argument is also the quickest way to boost your hits -- and writing a blog without posting any comments from angry and offended antagonists is like trying to have a row with yourself.

Spread the word: Once your blog is out there, all you've got to do is make sure your audience can find you. The best way to do this is to connect or "ping" it to sites FeedBurnerexternal link, blo.gsexternal link and weblogs.comexternal link which will ensure your blog is picked up by search sites such as Technoratiexternal link and Google Blog Searchexternal link. Using RSS feeds will also help get the hits up. It's worth bearing in mind before you start that you are basically putting stuff out there about yourself that anyone can read and link to so don't say anything you wouldn't want other people to know. A good rule of thumb before posting something is to ask: would I want my mother to read this? Because she probably will be (even if nobody else does).

Stick at it: If you're thinking of starting a blog in the first place then hopefully you have some idea of what you want to say and enough material to get yourself up and running. The chances are though that two weeks down the line the prospect of writing something original is going to be a lot harder. Most blogs simply suffer a slow and lingering death from this point and no one is going to come back to a blog that hasn't been updated in weeks. The key to success is to blog as frequently as possible until it becomes as unthinking as blinking. If blogging is in your blood, then by this point work, sleep, socializing and relationships should all have started to suffer. Ultimately blogging is hard and often pointless graft -- you're never going to make any money out of it or receive any thanks for your efforts. Still, you could always post a nice picture of a cat. If everything else fails that usually brings in the hits...


Blogging: not just for geeks.

THE BRIEFING ROOM

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