1. 16
  1.  

  2. 22

    Even a blog post needs tags, categories, and images. When it comes to stock images, there are two sites that have a wide selection of free to use, no credit required works:

    Strong disagree here. I’m a firm believer of the “clear and cold” writing style: your writing should be clear and concise. The reader isn’t there for your memes or hero headers or zany gifs. They’re there for your words. If an image doesn’t make the words clearer, then it doesn’t belong.

    Case in point: at 97 KB, your typewriter image is the heaviest thing on the site. All it does is make me have to scroll in order to read your actual content.

    1. 11

      The useless practice of hero images has become so prevalent that I acquired a habit of scrolling past them without even looking.

      The memes also have negative value because they take up space but carry no information.

      Related to this, in newspaper articles I often see random images that have nothing to do with the article like, say, a man waiting for a bus in an article about mass transit. To add insult to injury, it’s also captioned with “A man waiting for a bus”.

      1. 3

        I do agree with you for images, but not for tags and categories. Sometimes I stumble upon a great article on a subject and would like to find more articles from the same author on this subject. When there are tags, they are often useful, when there is not… you have to go the the archives (that sometimes you cannot even have…) and ctrl+f on several pages several key words to find what you’re looking for. Sometimes, some Google foo helps but sometimes not.

        To me it’s like some blogs that don’t serve RSS because the author don’t use it himself. This drives me mad.

        1. 2

          It seems many recommend the use of these header images to increase engagement. Of course, this is often from SEO websites that may do that to compensate for lack of contents. And there is no source for such a claim. I didn’t find if there was any appropriate research work on this topic. I also don’t like to scroll an unrelated image to see content, but maybe many people find it engaging.

          1. 3

            To be precise: to increase engagement on social media, for the post to have a thumbnail.

        2. 18

          Obviously, re-reading the article is the preferred way to proofread.

          My advice is to re-read your work many, many times. And be merciless to your words. Always ask why each element (word, sentence, paragraph, section) is there and don’t be afraid to remove it.

          [taking a break and reading it later] allows the mind to reset so the writer can more easily see typos or spelling mistakes.

          Putting it aside and reading it again later is critical, in my experience. Everyone I know who writes says this. Also, typos and spelling mistakes are the least of your problems. It’s structure and clarity that you’re looking for. Spellcheckers will mostly take care of the typo problem.

          Even a blog post needs tags, categories, and images.

          This I don’t buy.

          As a frequent reader of technical articles, I almost always fire up reader view in Firefox to (hopefully) remove all that cruft. Images can be very useful, but the practice of adding “meme-ish” images between paragraphs is mostly useless. Don’t go in assuming you need an image: add the image if it helps explain the point. Lead-in images (the ones at the top of an article) might be okay, but are still cruft, in my opinion. Layouts where a title or side bar is floating fixed at some location, especially when it contains a site logo or the author’s image, is just distracting.

          Tags and categories may be the least useful part of any blog post. I’ve never paid attention to them, but maybe I’m doing something wrong. Completely ignoring them has never seemed to be a deteriment, though.

          1. 3

            My advice is to re-read your work many, many times. And be merciless to your words. Always ask why each element (word, sentence, paragraph, section) is there and don’t be afraid to remove it.

            I agree. A text isn’t finished when there is nothing left to add – it its finished when there is nothing left to remove. It is much easier to go through a text where you can take every word at face value than it is to filter the critical points out of fluff.

            1. 2

              I appreciate your point on images. I don’t use reader views. How does it handle diagrams or images within the article itself?

              Tagging and categories are so folks can find the article more easily. This is search engine fodder essentially but, it’s also a key organizational tool on most web sites.

              1. 5

                Load up your own article in Firefox. Look at it in original form. Then, go to View menu, hit Enter Reader Mode, and look at it again. It nicely illustrates what GeoffWozniak is talking about.

                1. 5

                  I appreciate your point on images. I don’t use reader views. How does it handle diagrams or images within the article itself?

                  It doesn’t. In a few cases, it removes useful images and diagrams. In the vast majority of cases, it removes header images, bad memes, and cruft.

                  IMO most people use images poorly. Not displaying them is a sensible default.

              2. 4

                I used to write a fair amount; there’s one advice I remember reading that resonated with me, and one I try to keep in mind whenever I write a non-trivial amount of text: clearly and religiously separate the writing and editing phases of your work. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the source, but I believe it’s a fairly common pattern among writers.

                During the writing phase, the idea is to get as much of one’s thoughts out on the paper, regardless of style, grammar, vocabulary and miscellaneous nitpicking. If you, the writer can understand it, it’s good enough: get the general idea out of your system, and move on. You can start with an outline, as this article helpfully suggests, but at the end, you should have complete sentences staring at you, and probably have a slight panic attack because you think they completely suck.

                After the writing phase is done, go back through the text and try to look at it through the eyes of an editor. Is it interesting to read through? Is it well balanced? Are the paragraphs of approximately equal length? Are you repeating certain words too much, and can you replace those with a decent alternative? Are there any issues with grammar or spelling? Fix all of those meticulously, and repeat the process.

                I used to start writing, and then obsess over every sentence as I wrote it, which led to spending hours in front of a text editor only to barely write a paragraph of text. This helped a lot, and it works (on my machine(tm)) equally well for both technical and non-technical writing.

                1. 2

                  The next problem is convincing folks that writing is not too difficult.

                  I think you mixed up inciting people to write and putting a guideline to follow. It might sound redundant but to start writing you have to start writing and not stop to look at guidelines. Make it simple quick, as it comes out of your head.

                  Grammar mistakes are not important as long as the content and ideas come across. If someone nags about how you structure your sentences and how you are misspelling words it just drives them away from writing.

                  Images are good, I’m actually going through some of my old articles and adding illustrations to help visual readers understand the topic. These days I’m slowly adding them to this one about data storage on Unix.

                  I also use the Firefox readerview when reading articles and this made me realize vertical alignment is important but overlooked (http://oceanpark.com/papers/vertical_white_space.html).

                  NB: it was awkwardly disturbing to have your face stare at me all along the scrolling.

                  1. 1

                    Thanks for the tip on Hemingway Editor! I consider myself a fairly good writer but I often need to work hard to strip down my writing and this looks useful.