There are some rules one should follow if they want to throw their thoughts out there on the internet. Simple ones. I’ve been thinking of my personal list as I watch traffic from around the world come in to the post in which I broke mine. This has had Consequences, some that you might consider good and others you might consider bad. Yours might not match my own, but I think these are pretty universal.
- Don’t hit the publish button immediately — When you finish your masterpiece, whether it’s addressing a subject you’ve been planning to discuss for months or is a reaction piece to something you’ve just seen, heard, or read, wait. While it is best to have someone proofread it for you, if you don’t have anyone available, go back in a few hours and read it over. Odds are very good that you’ll find things to fix.
- Think about your title — Your title is the first thing people will see if your blog gets linked on social media or someone finds it organically. It’s the big print. It’s what search engines weigh the most heavily when serving results. Don’t be clickbaity. You’re better than that. Even if you aren’t, don’t be clickbaity. Please. Only you can help make the internet a better place.
- Know that someone will get angry — Be prepared for someone to tell you you’re an idiot. It may be that you framed an argument poorly. It may be that they didn’t read everything you wrote, misread something, or read it on the train and missed an entire paragraph. Your piece may have been framed perfectly and understood, but you’ve managed to attract trolls or otherwise intelligent people who are just wrong. They must be wrong if they disagree with you. The alternative is just crazy talk!
- Someone will miss the point — The more people that read what you write, the greater the chance that someone is going to miss the point completely. Given enough time and enough content, this will happen. Murphy’s Law ensures that it will be the one you care most about making.
- You will be horrified — If you publish anything that presents an opinion you will eventually wind up seeing someone disagree with you about something you think any rational human being believes. You could say that Hitler was a bad man. You could say that human beings are fallible. It doesn’t matter. What is worse is when you find someone agreeing with you for the wrong reasons. Somewhere on the internet your post about cute kittens will be getting Likes from neo-Nazis because it includes a picture of a cat with a Hitler mustache.
- You will learn things you weren’t prepared for — When you’re putting your thoughts out there you’re telling people something about yourself. You may think you have prepared yourself for people to learn more than you intended. Maybe you did. But, the internet is interactive. Particularly if you link your blog via social media, you’re going to get some data you weren’t expecting. Who likes, loves, shares, pins, or reblogs what you’ve had to say will tell you a lot. Comments people make will surprise you. And not always in negative ways. Often it’ll be something inane, like search terms that attract people from Finland.
- Sometimes you should hold off on a reply — You’ll be tempted to reply to every single comment people make. You’ll want to clarify a point or argue a premise. It can be a trap. If you actually believe in what you’ve said it can lead you into trouble. If you find that someone’s response to your work has made you angry, don’t immediately engage. Waiting a little while before making a response will help you avoid saying something you don’t mean and help you avoid fighting on the internet. No one wins a fight on the internet. It’ll also help you to recognize when you just shouldn’t reply at all. Sometimes it just isn’t worth the fight.
- Stats can be a trap — Don’t just stare at your site analytics. You can get some interesting data, like the aforementioned interests of Finns, but it can be tempting to get lost in your site stats. A post about a video game got a few hundred hits, one about something in the news didn’t break one hundred, and the one with the clickbaity headline has… holy crap, it’s up to several thousand! I know I said not to use clickbait titles, but wow! I mean, that’s ad revenue traffic. Maybe just one more time.