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To blog or not to blog

Are you thinking about starting a blog? Do you wonder about the pros and cons of blogging? What should you put in a blog?

Before going any further, it might be useful to define the term. A good definition is provided by wikipedia.org. It states that, “A blog (a contraction of the term “Web log”) is a web site, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. ‘Blog’ can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.”

I have had an interesting experience so far in the so-called blogosphere. I started blogging in March of 2008 just to see what would happen. I recently learned that my blog — philhardwickblog.wordpress.com — was ranked No. 69 on the WordPress November 16, 2008, list of 100 “Growing Blogs.” By the way, on Nov. 16 at 8 a.m. there were 4,703,238 blogs on WordPress. So, how did this happen?

The obvious answer is that my percentage of hits went up drastically. The other answer is national news, especially politics. When I first blogged about a business trip to Atlanta and discovered the gasoline situation, hits went up substantially. When I blogged about the presidential debate in Oxford, hits went up dramatically. And when I posted a Newsmax.com map of the red/blue county-by-county election results, hits went high enough to make it to the Growing Blogs list.

All things are relative of course. My blog appears to have a dedicated cadre of about 75 folks who read the blog regularly, but when I tag something with national implications, the hits go into the hundreds. My comments are usually about economic and community development, with restaurant reviews, book reviews and general public policy comments interspersed from time to time.

My thanks to the Mississippi Business Journal for putting a link to my blog on its portal page — www.msbusiness.com — and as a tagline to my column, “From the Ground Up.” No doubt that drives up hits. I notice that on Mondays, the day that most people get their weekly issue of the Mississippi Business Journal, my blog hits go up higher than normal.

Since becoming a regular blogger I’ve discovered a few things, such as:

• it will be surprising as to who reads the blog regularly;

• tagging a blog has a tremendous influence on the number of hits received;

• blogging must become a regular activity;

• variety of subjects is not necessarily a bad thing; and

• it helps if useful and interesting information is provided.

The first thing to do is to select a blog host. Believe it or not, almost all are free. You need only an Internet connection. At first, I used blogger.com, a simple and easy to learn web site. Someone suggested wordpress.com. I tried it and now use it because it provides me with more statistical information and is very flexible. It is, however, not as easy to learn as some others. My advice is to try several and determine which one you are most comfortable with. There are dozens of free blog hosts. Just search for blog hosts and see what appeals to you.

At first, I thought my small number of hits — less than 25 a day — meant that hardly anyone was reading my blog. I thought it must just be off-base Internet search words. I did not post a a blog entry for a few days, and then one evening a restaurant manager told me he had been reading my blog and wondered why I had not written anything lately. The next morning an e-mail came from a friend in Virginia asking the same question. I realized that if I was going to be a blogger that it required regular commitment.

Now, I do not let two days go by without posting. My entries fall into the categories of community/economic development, restaurant reviews, business commentary and just general musings. Although many blogs on the Internet are on very specific subjects, my readers told me that they like the variety of my entries so that is what I’ll keep doing.

There are pros and cons to posting your thoughts on the Internet, but if you have something useful to say I’d say go for it. There are people online who want to hear what you have to say.

Happy blogging!

Contact MBJ contributing writer Phil Hardwick at phil@philhardwick.com .

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