Advice for silo bloggers

Are you a silo blogger? By that I mean: does no one ever link to you or comment on your posts? Well, I doubt it. Because if that were the case, you probably wouldn’t be reading this, either. Or if you did read it, you wouldn’t leave a comment with your name linking to your blog, because then I’d know about it and there’s a chance I’d go read it — and you wouldn’t want that, would you? The next thing you know, we might get into this weird relationship where we’d feel compelled to read each others’ blogs on a regular basis. You might have to learn how to use Google Reader, and be tempted then to subscribe to other blogs, taking valuable time away from your real work, which is the crafting of perfect poems, essays or novels. Pretty soon you might have a hard time continuing to keep your sidebar free of such clutter as links to other blogs, or (god forbid) one of those awful widgets with the avatars of other bloggers in it. You need that space to link to all your publications elsewhere on the web.

Remember, the blog is your space, a tool for leveraging your personal brand, as I’m sure your agent has told you. Like a real silo, its sealed environment is integral to its purpose as an efficient storage space for fermented fodder — the blog archives. And while you can use your blog to share some original content now and then, be careful with that because most literary magazines — your real destination — don’t like to see content replicated until after they publish it. They want their poems to be virgins! So try and restrict yourself to sharing news about your writing, with the occasional link or embedded video to show off your wide-ranging intellect.

Now, none of this should be construed to mean that you shouldn’t be social. Quite the contrary! Social networks are invaluable for making connections with editors and publishers and possibly even meeting a few readers — in short, advancing your brand. Consider joining Facebook and sharing your blog content there, so that if people really feel compelled to comment on that announcement of your upcoming book signing, they can do so on Facebook and keep your blog silo clean as a whistle.

There is a danger, though. If you start finding yourself getting sucked into conversations that have nothing to do with you and your writing, then you might legitimately question your involvement in this too-social network with its birthday announcements and silly online games. Remember, you are a serious writer! The web is little more than a distraction machine, with none of that hallowed hush that one finds in books and the better magazines.

So if Facebook becomes too much, I advise abandoning it and trying Twitter instead. Some of the most famous and important writers are on Twitter, and the reason is simple: you can amass way more than the 5,000 friends permitted on Facebook. Plus, on Twitter they’re called followers, which is a much better description of what you’re looking for. And whereas on Facebook you may find that constantly sharing links to your own content alienates people (take it from me), on Twitter, it’s considered weird not to link to everything you do. Best of all, for your purposes as a silo blogger, conversation is kept to a minimum, and hardly anyone ever clicks on links. It’s perfect!

41 Replies to “Advice for silo bloggers”

  1. A great article. Thank you for the reminder. I get miniscule numbers of visitors to my blogs, and I feel too embarrassed to follow them back – stupid and self-defeating, I know.

    I’ll try to do a better job from now on.

    1. Is it about numbers, though? I’m not sure it is. In my mind, low numbers of readers is nothing to be ashamed of, if they are quality visitors. Then again, I’ve always preferred small get-togethers to huge parties. That’s where the fun conversations happen. Above a certain noise level, meaningful interactions are impossible.

  2. Brilliant! I agree with Christine – I like the conversational aspect of Twitter, much more than Facebook or even my blog. To tell the truth, I never thought about the (not so) subtle undertones of calling Twitter people “followers.” Hmmm.

  3. Perfect! : ) I’ve been stuck forever inside my little silo, and nobody has been able to hear my tweets, I am so deeply ingrained in there….

    1. I wouldn’t call you a silo blogger, just a quiet one… currently. I remember in the past when you were more out-going, but maybe that’s not who you need to be now. Quiet is nice, too.

  4. Thanks for liking this, y’all. I hope I made it clear that I implicate myself in this satire too to some extent. I am not as social as I could and perhaps should be. I can think of some literary bloggers we would all do well to emulate, but I don’t want to embarass them by calling them out, and in any case there is no one best way to blog… but I will say that when I click on a blog and see no sidebar links or links page whatsoever, I tend to click away again without reading unless I know the author. The commenting part is trickier, because really there’s nothing wrong with blogs that have no comments — in certain circumstances it may be preferable, like for instance when your blog gets too popular and the comment threads require constant maintenance. (I sympathise with Ron Silliman in that regard. One certainly can’t accuse him of silo-blogging, either — his links section got so huge, he had to give it its own site, and he’s always been generous with links in posts, too. So in my mind, a good guy, even if I disagree with him 75% of the time.) I am acutely aware of the fact that I don’t comment on the blogs I read nearly as much as I should. Usually I relegate blog-reading to the end of the day when I’m too tired to do much else. But I tell myself that I’m already giving enough back by editing qarrtsiluni and curating Moving Poems, and perhaps that’s true.

    Anyway, one of the other things I suck at is Twitter. I don’t thank people for RTs or Follow Friday mentions, rarely follow back people who follow me, and generally use it as a broadcast medium. I am happy to know that lots of others, including some poets and witers, are using it in a more social manner. Christine, I’m pretty tone-deaf about status games, so I wasn’t aware that was even an issue on FB, but poets being poets, how could it not be, really.

    1. I’m awful at the Twitter thing — I favorite a lot but apparently on Twitter nobody knows when you favorite them and I guess there’s no reward except to go up on my favorites page, which nobody probably reads. I should retweet more but I try to hold that to a real high standard. But I have to say that people have been very generous to me on Twitter in spite of my bad twittering manners.

      I do try to be generous on my blog, which, fuddy duddy that I am, I still think of as my main social site.

      And I did get sucked into reading your blog. You’re right. It’s dangerous to read other people’s blogs.

      1. Well, see, we share the same excuse — and i think it’s a good one — for our bad Twitter manners: we’re on Identica, where conversations generate their own pages, where favoriting a post actually means something, and where people get emails when their posts are favorited or repeated. It’s not our fault if the sheeple prefer the vastly inferior Twitter.

  5. Your blog is easy this way, but I get really fed up when I go to a blog to comment then have to enter fifty million different security thingies in order to comment, which half the time don’t seem to work. I just discovered a ‘share on Facebook’ button which I have now installed on my bookmarks bar and is a super-easy way to draw attention to content on others’ blogs I enjoy. Which I’m about to do with this terrific post!!

    1. Thanks, Nic. That’s a very good point. Typepad actually introduced an Akismet-like spam-catching service more than a year ago, but I don’t know anyone who adopted it — still hard-to-read CAPTCHAs and multiple hoops. Blogger is a lot better than it used to be, but I get irritated by users who have failed to ennable the Name/URL option, as if doing so would unleash a flood of spam. WordPress really shines in this area, and for self-hosted WordPress bloggers who don’t want to use Akismet (which costs money for commerical bloggers), I understand that the similar Defensio plugin works just about as well. With Akismet, false positives are so rare, I feel comfortable deleting the hundreds of spam comments I get daily without scanning them.

  6. “…I’ve always preferred small get-togethers to huge parties. That’s where the fun conversations happen. Above a certain noise level, meaningful interactions are impossible…”
    I share this view exactly which is why I’m dazed, confused and distracted by Facebook etc. Your satire hits bull’s eyes on all sorts of targets, me included, but don’t be too hard on us existentially un-social beings.

    1. Hi Natalie – I think you and I are a lot alike in this respect (actually, in many respects — your posts about your work habits always resonate with me). But Facebook does help me as an editor, and I always enjoy being able to keep up with the lives of our far-flung extended family members in a way that was never possible before. Just yesterday, for example, my Silicon Valley cousin posted an adorable video of one of his young daughters dressed up as the author Louisa May Alcott and reciting a lengthy, memorized speech — the sort of thing he probably never would have bothered to try and share via email. Facebook links do seem to boost blog readership a bit too — much more so than Twitter, actually. I think comparable numbers of people probably see my links in both places.

  7. I’d call your proposal far too modest.
    A perfect blog post should not even touch the nasty ‘net, but hand-inscribed on vellum and sealed away in a cedar humidor.

      1. Actually, there are a couple of plugins for self-hosted WordPress blogs that allow commenters to edit their comments for a set time after posting, and I used one for a while, but I’ve been afraid to reinstall it now because I’m pushing against the ceiling of allowable CPU usage at my cheap shared webhost, so have had to cut back on non-essential plugins, plus anything that uses javascript slows down the site. But these plugins might’ve gotten better and faster since the last time I checked — I’ll keep an eye on them.

  8. Ah, sarcasm with something to say– one of my favorite forms. And, yes, you had a touch of self-deprecation, which kept the post from being just snarky. (Although it would have kept its humor intact just fine.)

    Good to read all the comments. :-) Agree with most of them entirely.

    Thanks for the laugh. And more.

  9. I’m agreeing with most of what people say . . . especially those who find twitter very interactive. It’s time-consuming though.

    If my tumblr blog weren’t a silo, and I were on Facebook, I’d probably never read a book!

    1. Ha! Yes, you do seem to be afflicted with a debilitating sense of responsibility to be sociable on Twitter. I guess you must not have gotten the memo about building your personal brand.

      Kidding aside, I’m amazed you have time for any of it, as an active scholar. I hesitate to mention that I’d be happy to help you install a Disqus comments system on your tumblelog should you ever decide you want one.

  10. If I don’t read all of the blogs that I frequent several times a week, I feel like something big happened and I don’t know about it!! When I see that certain blogs have a new post ( is one–fascinating and accessible psychology writing), it feels like such a treat.

    I also love going to someone’s blog, and seeing that someone I already know has commented there…wonderfully overlapping.

    Thanks for this, Dave! You are about as un-silofied as you can get, by the way.

    1. Yeah, I’ve noticed you’re really good about visiting and commenting on blogs. I don’t know how you do it, Hannah. Just thinking about writing a poem every weekday for two years exhausts me.

  11. Dave –
    Great post! I must admit that I have no desire to have a presence on Twitter – it just confuses me. Just I do adore my Google Reader – it gives me a chance to catch up on lots of wonderful blogs (like yours) in my few spare moments. Of course, I would love it if more people read my blog and commented, but I appreciate the ones who do more than they know.

    1. Twitter can be confusing, no doubt. If they simply introduced conversation threading, they could bring a lot of order to the chaos. But yeah, GR is a great service (though I’m sorry their main competitor, Bloglines, just shut down).

      Added your blog URL to your comment — I hope you don’t mind. That’s actually one of the best and easiest ways to get new readers, you know: leave a good comment in an active thread.

  12. “…when I click on a blog and see no sidebar links or links page whatsoever, I tend to click away again” – I find that quite intriguing, because these days I rarely look at links on blogs, and I have no sidebar links on my own; I get introduced to new blogs, and share the posts I enjoy (such as this one), almost exclusively via Twitter.

    1. That might be more the norm in other blogging communities, but I think Twitter use is far from standard among personal bloggers and literary bloggers. Obviously a blogroll isn’t the only measure of a blogger’s interest in, or awareness of, other bloggers, and we could certainly talk about how useful it really is…

  13. I loved reading this because I have no idea what you’re talking about; the jargon reads like Lewis Carroll: words that sorta make sense, but then don’t. It’s fun. Blogroll? Is that anything like a sticky bun? Well, it all sounds like poem things to me!

    1. Blogrolls are a bit like sticky rolls, actually, inasmuch as a lot of bloggers make them once and then never alter them again — people stick in there forever, even after their blogs disapppear! It’s simply the list of other blogs in the sidebar (usually) of a blog. Via Negativa doesn’t have one; I do the Smorgasblog instead. The Morning Porch has links in the footer. “Linkroll” is an alternate, perhaps better term.

      1. Thanks for the info….I learn something new every day, and always learn something from you and your posts…which I read religiously! I like that link roll thing, too, altho it does remind me of sausage. I guess this eating right experiment is making me hungry!

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