Advice to Bloggers

Recently a blog reader asked two questions as he started his own new blog:

1. Do you think I should stick to just one topic? i.e. Digital Forensics?

2. Do you think blogging is a good way to learn more about a topic of interest or should you only blog about a topic you already know a lot about?

I addressed some of these issues in my post Why Blog?, but I'll add the following.

I recommend writing about a handful of topics, but stick to topics within a certain theme. For example, my blog covers "digital security and the practices of network security monitoring, incident response, and forensics." Although I love martial arts and ice hockey, I don't write about that here. I also do not address politics, family, religion, or any other non-technical issues in this forum. I believe blog readers prefer me to stay on my listed subjects; they can visit other sites for non-technical information.

I believe it is ok to write about subjects that are outside your core expertise, but you need to warn the reader that you are a beginner. Do not presume to be an authority on a subject that is new to you. Tell the reader and let him or her be the judge. If you don't know a lot about a topic, but you want to solicit assistance, say that in your post.

If you make a habit of discussing topics that are foreign to you, you will probably not be respected, however. I don't think many readers want to visit a blog that is constantly asking how to accomplish a task. Most readers want to learn something or see a new viewpoint, not be asked questions all the time.

Richard Bejtlich is teaching new classes in DC and Europe in 2009. Register by 1 Jan and 1 Feb, respectively, for the best rates.


Anonymous said…
Hi Richard. I agree with you that staying tight to an area where you are very knowledgeable is the best approach for growing your readership. I, however, choose to keep my site highly diversified. I write about politics, religion, and all the stuff I'm not supposed to. I decide a long time ago that I'm going to take the hit on my readership, and it'll be worth it, because those who do read will accept my whole person.

And it's been worth it. I've actually made many friendships by initially connecting through one topic and finding out we share other interests.

In short, my site is an avatar for me as a person, and the alternative is either to maintain two or more websites or to not write about the other things I care about. I choose to put everything in one place and reap the rewards and suffer the consequences.

But yes, I agree that the system you've described is the best way to grow readership and expert status, as well as to avoid angering people. I just can't do it; the other facets of my life are too important to me to push aside.

It's a personal preference, as with most other things.

Anyway, great piece and I agree totally. I just wanted to point out that there are justifications for going another route with a blog.

Anonymous said…
Actually Daniel I am going to have to stick with Richard on this one, but I do respect your opinion Daniel and enjoy your writing style.

When deciding on what topics to write about you must consider who your reader base will be. For my self I knew it was a tech savvy group of individuals who come for the technical information primarily. They are also looking for a trusted opinion relating to that information. They are coming for an expertise in a field. They are not coming because they want to know all about me or my opinion on politics (though I will slightly touch on the subject as related to my field), so if I run too far off away from the core topic I will lose members.

So I agree with you Richard, keep up the good work. Sticking on your topic and keeping your core audience in mind has made me an avid reader of your site, and that same principle has kept my site popular for over 6 years.
John Ward said…
I kept to the areas that I know and practice, programming, electronics, and general technology. I try to keep personal opinions out, and never jump into other topics just to "pad". I feel dirty to discuss other areas since I really have no other interest in other fields, and the point of my blog is to teach and show cool stuff that I'm working on. So I suppose the first rule should be have a point to your blog :)
Unknown said…
For the blogger question, I would also want you to ask yourself the ultimate purpose of your blogging. If you do it for yourself, you might be more apt to delve into topics you're not an expert on, because maybe that will settle your thoughts or reinforce learning. Or better yet, reference your posts later when you forget how to do it!

If you want readers, as a blog reader myself, I prefer sites to stay on topic as much as possible. The topic may be broad, but there is a big turn-off for me to read personal views or agendas. Typically, if I wanted that, I'd hang out on social networks more often. Typically I subscribe to a blog to either keep up to date with that person (rarely) or learn from their topic of choice (most often the case). Likewise, I tend to find I respect or look forward to reading the blog posts from on-topic sites.

That said, everyone is different.
Anton Chuvakin said…
Ha-ha! Y'all are missing one thing: it makes the blog MUCH MORE exciting to have one (or more, but no more than 3) "side subject."

E.g. I blog about security, but have an occasional post about, say, laser weapons, psyops or travel.

Sticking to infosec is fine, but "infosec+" seems like more fun!

Anonymous said…
I'm actually pretty new to the blogosphere, and I found this post (and this blog actually) in a deliberate attempt to get more aquainted. I just started a blog, so I'm trying to learn the ropes, and figure out exactly what sort of focus I should stick to as well. I'm thinking that I'll try to stick to updates on my own projects, and security-related things I discover or start playing with, but I guess I'll see... Thanks for the good post, and the Why Blog? post as well.

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