Writing Tips : How can I make money?

 

writingYou’ve started a blog. This time next year you’re going to be a millionaire!

If you are interested in making money from a website you can. There are a number of advertising options, with the most popular for the small publishers being Google Adsense. Having said that, you’re going to get a rude awakening when you start earning 20 cents a day.

Advertisers care about reach, so advertising is a numbers game. If you want to make big money, you have to get big hit rates. How big is big? One of my friends works in advertising and for direct advertising they don’t consider sites with less than 500,000 hits per month, but even at 1,000,000 hits per month they still consider it a small site. If you happen across a really niche concept, an advertiser may *need* your small number of hits, but for most blogs, unless you are getting massive numbers of hits, you’re not going to retire on your advertising income.

Another big factor is the subject area. On an internet scale, Oracle is a niche subject. If you want to make money, you probably need to write about a more popular subject. The most heavily subscribed subject on YouTube is Minecraft. Gaming channels kick ass for hits and money making. Ask PewDiePie.

So I’m saying don’t write an Oracle blog right? Wrong! What I’m saying is money shouldn’t be your sole motivation for writing an Oracle blog. If it is, you will fail and stop. Be motivated by something more important than money. If it goes well, then some money may follow, but you are probably not going to be the next J. K. Rowling. :)

I’ve got another more specific post in the series about getting paid for writing.

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : A URL is for life, not just for Christmas!

 

writingI’m currently doing yet another pass through my whole website correcting broken external links. This is nothing to do with my bad management. This is to do with people changing their URLs and not putting the correct redirects in place. I’ve just done a scan of my website and there are over 800 broken links to Oracle documentation!

There seem to be several ways people deal with URL changes on their website.

  • They do nothing and quite happily let broken links fail and get picked up by their 404 error page.
  • They put in a generic redirect page that takes you to the top of the website, not the original content the link pointed to.
  • They put in a correct redirect, but only for a limited period, after which, the URL fails and you get the 404 page.
  • They put in place a proper redirect and it stays there forever, so all previous URLs for the content continue to work and direct to the correct content.

In my opinion, the only acceptable option is the last one. A URL is for life, not just for Christmas. A variant of this slogan from my childhood. :)

From your perspective, broken links (internal and external) are bad for your website. It’s annoying for your readers and make your site appear poorly maintained. Broken links are one of the factors search engines use to judge your website, so it is in your interest to keep things ship-shape.

Being an Oracle blogger can prove difficult at times as Oracle have this annoying habit of changing their URLs a lot and not putting the correct redirects in place.

Don’t add to this problem. Once you start writing, try to keep all the URLs alive forever. If you move your blog to a different service, leave the old one there and put links to the new location. If you self-host, life is easier as you can do redirects using “.htaccess” or directly in your “httpd.conf” file.

You can identify broken links in your site using a link scanner. I’m currently using SiteCrawl.net, which seems to do the job OK. Once you’ve identified the broken links, you can start the arduous task of correcting them. This involves finding the new home of the content and correcting your link to it. It’s not fun, but it has to be done. Once you see how boring and annoying it is, you will appreciate how important it is that you don’t piss off other people by not maintaining your own URLs.

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : How do I publicise my writing?

 

writingThis is quite a touchy subject for me and I’m maybe not the best person to ask.

On the one hand, I feel you should grow an audience in an organic manner. If your content is good, they will find you.

On the other hand, I’ve been doing this for so long it is relatively easy for me to get heard. If I was starting today and producing the same type of content, would you have even heard about me or would I be lost in the noise of a billion bloggers?

Here are some things I would suggest:

  • Make the title relevant. People will see it in their RSS feed or on social media and they will make a decision about whether to read it based on only that. Catchy is good, but relevant is more important!
  • Find out the blog aggregators that are available for your subject matter (OraNA for Oracle) and submit your RSS feed to them.
  • Make sure links to your RSS feeds are visible and working. RSS is not anywhere near as popular as it was, but every little helps.
  • When you write something new, post a link to it on social media. You will often have different followers on different platforms, so don’t worry about posting the same link on Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus etc. If someone decides to follow you on all networks, then it’s their fault if they feel spammed. :)
  • Put some form of share buttons on your blog. Companies like ShareThis and AddThis make it really easy. Let fans of your work publicise it for you.
  • Ignore Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) companies. The search engines change their indexing criteria constantly. What SEO companies advise today will be detrimental to your search placing tomorrow. I’ve been doing this for 15 years. Believe me, SEO is a scam! Write good content and people will find you!

Above all, be patient. It takes time and consistency to build an audience. Two blog posts are not going to make you famous, unless you’ve done something really interesting or really naughty! :)

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : Should I write off-topic posts?

 

writingI’m a Jedi master at writing off-topic posts! This blog started life as an Oracle blog, but now I just write reviews of Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey. :)

The simple answer is you should do what you are happy with. I had been writing on my website for 5+ years before I started this blog. When I started the blog, I thought it would be technical. It quickly became apparent that the Oracle content was better suited to my website and the blog became a series of opinions, rants, movie reviews and book reviews. That’s why I changed the tag line to, “Oracle related rants (and lots of off-topic stuff)”.

I know in the early days that kind-of frustrated a lot of people. I used to receive negative emails and comments about it all the time. That doesn’t happen much these days because most readers seem to have become accustomed to my stance of “Oracle content goes on the website. Bullshit goes on the blog.” I’m sure some people would say bullshit goes on both. :)

Blogging platforms allow you to categorise and tag your content. I would suggest you make use of that so if someone is really irritated by off topic posts, they can avoid them.

Speaking for myself, I like to read the off-topic posts written by people I follow. It gives me some insight into the person and makes me feel connected. If I actually meet them in person, I feel almost like I know them already. It’s kind-of freaky! :)

If you find yourself consistently writing about a completely different subject, you might want to consider starting up a new blog. I’ve written some MySQL and SQL Server articles and put them on oracle-base.com, but if I ever start doing more of them, I would probably branch them off into a separate blog. It’s not necessary, but would seem a little cleaner to me.

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : Backfill

 

writingI encouraged one of my former colleagues to start writing a blog (SnapDBA). He had lots of notes he had built up over the years, so he started to transfer some of them to his blog and described these notes as “backfill”. He used the term to indicate it was not a particularly new subject, but he wanted to write about it anyway.

Especially when you become more popular, it is easy to get a bit paranoid about the content you produce. If you write an article on an old subject, you wonder if people will think you’ve only just discovered it. It’s stupid to think that people really care about that, but ego is a powerful thing. :) The concept of putting out backfill articles liberates you from that paranoia. Remember, writing is for your personal development, not all about trying to become the new Tom Kyte.

I often write articles on quite old subjects, which are not really deserving of being promoted to the front page of my website and I won’t write a blog post about their release or push them out on social media. Here are some scenarios where this happens for me:

  • I’m looking at the enhancements in a new release and I notice I’ve never written about that subject before. I may write a backfill article on the original subject, then write the article on the new enhancements. I will often write blog about the release of the new enhancements article, but I will kind-of ignore the backfill article. It’s linked from the enhancements article, so if people are interested they can read it, but I’m not going to make a big song and dance about a new article on an Oracle 10g feature. :)
  • While reading through the documentation I notice a feature I have never heard of before and assume it is a new feature. After a quick check I realise it was introduced in a previous release, so I write the backfill article to cover it.
  • Someone asks me a question and I write the answer as an article. If the content of the article is not on a particularly new or interesting (to me) subject, I will not promote it as a new article.

I like writing backfill articles and I write a lot of them. I would say somewhere in the region of 20-40% of my writing is either backfill or revising old articles to bring them up to date with my current understanding. Over the last few weeks you might have noticed very little in the way of new content hitting the website and blog. In fact, I’ve been really quite productive, but I’ve not been writing new and sexy stuff. I’ve been writing backfill articles that have been prompted by stuff going on at work.

I guess the real solution to this is try not to care what other people think, but if you are a “sensitive type” like me, just write it as a backfill article and don’t tell anyone about it. :) If you are using a CMS, like WordPress, you can always put an older date on it (like a month old) so the RSS aggregators won’t pick it up as a new post.

Cheers

Tim…

Approaching a car park barrier : What it says about you!

 

parking-barrierWhich of these describes you?

Option 1:

  1. Drive up to the barrier.
  2. Open the car window.
  3. Rummage through your bag or glove compartment looking for your parking pass.
  4. Swipe your pass.
  5. Put your card away. Probably in a random place each time.
  6. Pull away from the barrier.

Option 2:

  1. Approach the barrier with your card in hand and the car window already open.
  2. Swipe the card immediately.
  3. Pull away, almost without stopping because you were so well prepared.

If you most closely match “Option 1”, please don’t think about a career in I.T. The fact you find it acceptable to approach any task in life in this way says to me you are not what this industry needs! Probably not what the human race needs!

Cheers

Tim… (Suffering from “barrier rage” this morning!)

Writing Tips : How often should I write?

 

writingThe true answer to this is to write as (in)frequently as you want, but in my motivation post I suggested writing little and often. I think this is really important when you first start. Like anything, writing takes practice. It takes a while to get into the right head-space and even longer until you are happy with the way you express yourself. I imagine that is even worse if you are trying to writing in a second language.

In addition to what I said in the motivation post, there are a couple of things to consider.

If you are in the mood, keep going. Some days it just really feels natural and you feel happy with the content you are producing. On those days, don’t put an artificial limit on yourself. Let it flow.

Even if you are writing regularly, don’t be too quick to hit that publish button. Dumping 20 blog posts on the world will probably result in many of them being overlooked by your “loyal” followers. Having a few “in reserve” is also a pretty good idea for those times when you really can’t be bothered. :) Of course, time-critical posts like, “X has just been released and it’s [amazing|rubbish]!”, have a limited shelf life. :)

As an example of these two points, this series of posts was conceived and written in a single session at the computer. Rather than banging them out, I planned to sit on them for a week and re-read them a few times, then start to release them on a daily basis.

As I said in the motivation post, the world doesn’t care how often you hit the publish button. :)

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : Should I go back and rewrite/revise/remove old posts?

 

writingThe answer to this is very much dependent on the content and context of the material. If you have said something really bad in a legal sense, then you should definitely consider deleting it, or deal with the consequences. Assuming we are not talking about those naked pictures of you at a stag/hen party, what do I think?

I do rewrite old articles if I’m sufficiently motivated by a drastic change in my understanding of the subject. The articles on my website are more fact-based, so if there is incorrect information, it should be revised. I tend to write version-specific articles, so I don’t usually add features to old articles, but write a new features article, then link the articles in a chain. That prevents an article becoming massive over time, while still clearly showing the progression of the feature set for those that care about more than the basics.

My blog posts are more opinion than fact, so I am less inclined to revise them. If my opinion alters, I prefer to write a new post discussing my current opinion and why I changed my mind, with forward and back links between the posts. I think this is much more informative for readers, as they can see how you’ve developed over time. There is little value in trying to rewrite history. :)

I remember having a conversation with Chris Muir about this a long time ago and he was very much of the opinion that a blog post is a point in time snapshot of your opinion and thoughts, so it shouldn’t be retrospectively changed. His words have obviously influenced my opinion in this matter. :)

Ultimately, the Way Back Machine will reveal that terrible secret (you thought Buffer Cache Hit Ratios were a great way to tune a database) and you will be exposed. :)

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : Dealing with comments and criticism.

 

writingThe way you handle comments, especially criticism, says a lot about you as a person. There have been times in the past when I’ve said something stupid, then got into a comment fight trying to defend my stance, even though I knew I was fighting a losing battle. In some cases this is about territorial pissing, wanting to protect your own space. In other cases, it’s just not wanting to admit you’re wrong because you think it makes you look weak or stupid. In almost all cases, a quick admission of your mistake and a shout out to the person who corrected helped you will be gone and forgotten in a few seconds. A hum-dinger of an argument can drag on for weeks.

So my number one tip would be, admit your mistakes and try to correct them ASAP. You don’t want incorrect information on your site and you certainly don’t need a war on your hands.

This was my response to a thread on the OakTable list about 18 months ago.

I‘ve said stupid stuff on the internet so many times I‘ve lost track. As long as someone puts you straight and you accept it and move on don’t have any problem with it. It’s hard not to launch into the “post mistake excuses and damage limitation”. Been there. Done that. Made myself look even more stupid and then bought the t-shirt. My stock response is now, “Your correct. Im a dick. Thanks…”

At which point Jonathan Lewis posted this.

your“/. “you’re”

The mistakes people make !

It’s just perfect! Still makes me LOL when I think about it. :)

Sometimes people level unfair criticism at you. I get this a lot. People write to me saying something like, “I followed your instructions and they are completely wrong!” On further examination, you realise they are trying to use your Oracle 10g installation for RHEL guide to install Oracle 12c on Fedora and then they have the nerve to complain when things don’t go to plan. In these cases, it’s really tempting to go Guns of the Navarone on their ass, but you’ve got to try and take the higher ground. You have to educate them.

You will definitely get a lot of spam comments. Some of this can be controlled with plugins, like Akismet, but some of it you can’t. It’s worth spending your time cleaning up the spam, but there are some comments that are a judgement call. Some people are so desperate to advertise their own articles they will comment on everything they see and put a link to their own articles, even though they don’t add any more value. My site is for me, not an advertising platform for others. If someone posts a comment that links to another article, I read the article and make a decision if the comment is worthwhile to myself and other readers, or just link spam. If I think it is the latter, it gets deleted. You will have to decide how you deal with this sort of thing yourself.

You might want to consider locking the comments on older posts. WordPress allows you to do this. A little while back I switched on this feature and locked comment for anything older than 30 days. The amount of spam I received dropped massively. I guess it’s a bit annoying for someone who finds the post somewhere down the line, but you have to protect your own time or you will become a slave to housekeeping and you will quit.

Cheers

Tim…

Writing Tips : How do I stay motivated?

 

writingHere are some things that help me keep on the move.

  • Write little and often. Don’t get into the habit of feeling like it’s not worth bothering unless you are going to change the world. Those little hints and tips might just change someone else’s world. :)

  • It doesn’t have to get finished immediately. I have the attention span of a gnat. I will often start things, then put them aside to revisit later. I’ve got some Oracle 9i articles I’ve still not finished. :) It’s better to go where the mood takes you and do something, rather than slave over something that bores you. It should be fun, or why bother?

  • Start with the bits you enjoy. I like writing the example code. Writing the linking text is not so interesting to me. I typically put together all the examples first, then thread some text around them. There is a reason most of my articles are not very wordy! :) You should focus on the pieces that you enjoy and try to minimise the boring stuff, or you will never keep going.

  • If you can’t be bothered to write, do some planning. If I don’t feel like writing I don’t, but rather than waste the time I try to do some planning for future articles. Gathering all the relevant documentation links and sketching out what should be included takes time, but very little in the way of mental effort. It’s like being productive while you are actually being lazy. :)

  • If you really don’t want to write, don’t. Don’t feel guilty about taking a step back from time to time. If you push yourself when you are really not motivated, you will burn out and give up. There is no need to be apologetic about your absence when you come back. The world won’t collapse if you don’t put out a blog post for a couple of months. :)

Ultimately, you have to find what works for you!

Cheers

Tim…