November 2003

Christian Walters

nonfiction

Blogging: Genius Strategies for Instant Web Content by Biz Stone

They didn't make textbooks like this back when I was dropping out of computer sciences.

Of course, this isn't really a textbook, despite the familiar layout. Biz Stone, who has bravely admitted he's a genius, wrote his book like he writes his blog: saturated with a silly and irreverent sense of humor, plus a dash of name dropping. It still looks like a textbook, and I don't appreciate him juggling my paradigms like that.

Still, losing the more formal tone clears the way for his obvious enthusiasm for self-publishing to come out. He clearly enjoys blogging, and wants the rest of us to enjoy it, too. After all, the blogging world is better when more of us participate. It's easy to get caught up in the boyish "gosh wow" excitement.

Despite the off-beat feel, the book is laid out logically. It's broken into three main sections for beginning bloggers, experienced bloggers, and advanced bloggers. You can find a decent primer on setting up your first blog with one of the many blog services available, some tips on HTML formatting, suggestions on how to market your blog and blog for bucks, or even how to syndicate it. Stone never dives far into any subject, but has concentrated more on getting his readers started and sharing his ideas and experiences. That's probably a good move on his part, since it will hold off obsolescence a bit longer.

If you flip to the back of the book, there's an appendix where you can learn that Wil Wheaton really wanted to sleep with Marina Sirtis when they were doing Star Trek: The Next Generation together. Most of us could have guessed that, but you won't find that information in the O'Reilly TCP/IP Network Administration book I bet.

It's a good book if you want to get a feel for what blogging is all about. It might also help spark ideas for improving your existing blog -- I'm not sure, because I don't have mine going yet. I was hoping Stone would have some brainstorming tips for finding something to blog about, but he really can't do that part for us. He points out that you've got to do it and keep doing it and do what comes natural, and let your "voice" come out on its own.

Some people may be put off by the light, bantering style. Stone isn't shy about going for the laugh, and he hits a few chucklers along with his share of early-Dilbert-ish groaners. Whether you find this approach refreshing and easy to read or distracting and off-putting is a subjective call. I got used to it quickly, and only occasionally got frustrated (normally when I felt Stone went out of his way to reach for the payoff on some nerd pun).

But I did learn a lot about how to get started and got caught up in Stone's enthusiasm for the whole thing. If you're looking for instructions on getting into the guts of blog coding, don't bother. But if you want to learn the basics and prefer nerd puns to coder-speak, give it a look.

Blogging: Genius Strategies for Instant Web Content by Biz Stone
New Riders
ISBN: 0735712999
336 Pages