Site Tips

Comment collectors

Community: A community usually refers to a group of people who interact and share certain things as a group.

9rules is a community, there is a lot of interaction going on here. That is the point of a community – share ideas, interact, have fun, learn, debate…you get the idea. As our communities grow the interaction will increase. So keep in mind, interaction.

So if I’m browsing your site, I see people commenting but you are not interacting back I’m going to wonder why you do that. Why are you having a one-sided conversation? Why would I want to add a site that will not help foster the community it is placed in? If you don’t do it on your own site, why would you do it anywhere else?

Now it’s cool if you don’t have people commenting, that will come in time. It’s cool if you don’t have comments open. And of course not all comments require a response but I think you know what I mean. Some site owners never respond.

But wait Tyme, I email my responses back.

Well, um, that’s great. I used to do that too until I figured out that when people came to my site it looked like I wasn’t saying anything but hey, you’re site, your world.

Tyme, aren’t you being a little two-faced because I heard you say in a podcast you aren’t into social networks?

I knew that was coming. You’re right I said that, but I interact on my sites. I did it on AOL, Yahoo…I feel like I’m repeating myself but I practice what I preach. Here’s my brand new MySpace (I’m still tripping I did that), Facebook (need to tweak it) and LinkedIn. Friend me. Message me. Do what you do so I know you can interact. I mean, when we have 9rules parties we don’t want you sitting in the corner all alone, do we?

Site Tips

Stay on topic

“Should I guess how many Round 5 submits there will be? Speaking of guess, I guess I should pay my credit card bill. Ha, I saw Bill in Taco Bell the other day and he gained 20 pounds. Oh, when was the last time I had pound cake? Did you see the make up caked up on that actor’s nose? I always thought about having a nose job…”

That paragraph started off talking about 9rules and ended up talking about plastic surgery. When someone is speaking to you and does something like that, it’s rambling. Same thing online. The reader starts to zone out after awhile.

Decide what you’re going to write about and stay on topic.

The other day I was reading a blog and I swear the person wrote 1000 word entries just like that. Every couple of sentences – new topic. Now there is nothing wrong with covering a couple of related things in one entry and let me be very clear, I am not talking about a link roundup of diverse topics. I’m talking about rambling, which is why I need to end this entry before I’m guilty of it myself.

Want to know where some of the messed up entry titles come from? Entries like my example above.

Site Tips

Does your site have curb appeal?

Curb appeal is the first impression someone has when they see a house from the street. Consider the first time a reader comes to your site curb appeal. What will they think?

Ok, I sense the anxiety. You’re not a designer. You’ve done your homework. You know The Design Master Mike Rundle will be looking at your site. You know sharp-tongued Scrivs will be looking at your site. I know, you read Scrivs called Microsoft, AOL, Netscape, Bloglines, SixApart and (gasp) Technorati losers and to top it off the 9rules Design Community has many of the best designers. I feel you. Have no fear, Tyme is here. I don’t believe I typed that.

Scrivs tells me all the time, “It’s ok Tyme, you’re not a designer” when I work on my site. One time doing an interview with Mike and Scrivs, I made the sad mistake of asking Mike what was the #1 design mistake bloggers made? He said “The header is not a link to the front page”. Scrivs could barely contain himself (laughing) because not only was my header not a link at the time, there was a typo in the header. Yes, that was a tip: make your header a link to the front page.

So essentially, my goof ups are benefiting you. You can thank me later. Yes, it’s okay to use WordPress (insert your writing tool here) themes. Contrary to the myth we do accept sites without custom designs. Here are some tips to spice up your site a bit:

  1. Change the default header graphic so it reflects your personality or if it is a company site, your brand.
  2. Tweak the links, it’s a nice way to bring some color to a site.
  3. Don’t blind your readers with lots of colors. You want the reader to focus on your content, not be crossed-eyed from all the colors.
  4. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a site standout. Leihu is a wonderful example. Every time I go to his site I find something new. Did you know he has a light and dark theme?
  5. Is your site easy to read? Tweak your fonts/colors.

Focus on your strength. If you aren’t a designer, do your best with the design but focus on writing exceptional entries.

Site Tips

This should be obvious: don’t lie

Did you just roll your eyes? Before you click a way, writers/bloggers/companies subtly do it all the time. Have you ever said “We take great pride” when there is only one person behind the site? Lie…but that’s so commonly done most people let that slide. What I’m talking about is much more devious: the loophole lie.

Come on, you know what I mean. “Usually we do…”, “generally, we do not”, or “on occasion we will”. When I read this I think one thing:

Make up your mind and stick to it. Of course that would require a plan, which requires a bit of management, which for some reason writers do not think they need, but that’s another entry for another day.

Personal bloggers are thinking “Ha, she’s not talking about me!”. Ha! Wrong. You people do it too.

“I usually don’t take men/women home on the first date, but….”
“On occasion I will go over the speed limit and wouldn’t you know it the one time I did it, I got a ticket!”

I made these up so I apologize if someone blogged about something like this recently but again, if you did it, you do it. What are you ashamed of?

Writers, sometimes unconsciously, try to sugar coat when they step into gray areas. There’s just one problem: once something is online, it’s out there. White, black or gray most times sugar coating doesn’t work.

Why am I bringing this up? Will your site be rejected because you do this? Honestly, I’m probably the only one that would spend that much time on a site and I’m not your mother. I bring this up because joining 9rules means more exposure. More people reading your words. The things you used to get away might not work any more. And it’s quite possible you’ll be called out on your loophole lie.

If you did it once, and you might do it again, you do it. Stop sugarcoating it. Take responsibility for what you, um, are doing and if you’re ashamed of it, why continue to do it? Stop doing it.

Site Tips

Entry titles: think about them

Here’s the scenario. Tyme’s going through her RSS feeds, sees the entry title “Digging for the Truth podcast joins 9rules!”. Tyme reads this and thinks “whaaa?”, clicks on the link, browser opens up. The entry starts off with:

Ha, now that I got your attention…

Yes, you have my attention all right. Congratulations, you now have an irritated reader. Do you think I’m going to browse your site? Finish reading the article? Subscribe to your site? No. I’m not, but I’ll remember the site so if I forget and click to the site again, I will not be there long.

Another common one is a link that says something like Janet Jackson’s music, and when the person clicks on the link the reader is taken to a web site where the writer mentioned Janet’s music in the last paragraph of the 1000 word entry.

Curious, if you do this, who are you thinking of? Yourself and the temporary traffic or the reader’s experience? I know, you’re going to say “Tyme, you’re being too harsh! Lighten up!”. Um, no…going to tell you why.

1. Open a new tab in your browser.
2. Go to 9rules
3. On the left hand side what do you see? Remember that.
4. Now, click on any community.
5. Scroll down to the site listings. What do you see?

Yes, links. 9rules is made up of a lot of links because we do not show full content here. Can you imagine what our site would look like with that kind of foolishness? We’re trying to get people to visit 9rules member sites, not tick them off. More importantly, when people are ticked off, they do not email Scrivs or Mike, they email Tyme. Can you imagine how exponentially irked I would be?

So give some consideration to your titles and links. Deceiving (I know, you call it having fun) your readers is a risk most blogs can’t afford to take. Keep in mind, some blogs pull this off wonderfully and you can tell because the readers are commenting and interacting with the writer. If you’re doing this and the tumbleweeds are blowing on your site…this might be why.