During my mediocre bike racing career, a lot of my teammates raced wearing two pairs of shorts. I didn’t. Then I crashed, ripped out the entire right cheek of my lycra tuchus-cover, and had to finish the race with a gentle breeze wafting across my abraded buttock. From then on, I wore two pairs of shorts.
Humiliation is a fine, fine teacher.
In that spirit, here are ten utterly stupid things I’ve done as a blogger. You don’t have to admit you’ve done it. Read. Laugh at me. Then go fix the problem while no one’s looking.
1. Accidental flaming.
On the internet, no one can see your facial expression. Be careful if you’re using dry humor, sarcasm, or anything else that might be misconstrued as you being a butthead.
Example: I wrote a post meant to gently poke fun at the idea of the ‘free’ economy. I didn’t have anyone else read it first.
Result: I came off as a shrill, clueless pile of lint. And probably guaranteed that Wired Magazine will never, ever publish anything I submit to them. Ever.
The fix: Have someone else read your post! Or, leave the post unpublished for a couple of hours, then come back and read it later.
2. Click send as you leave the office
It’s always tempting to publish a post as you leave work. Then you can read the Twitter love notes as you drive home. Unless, of course, you did something really boneheaded. Then you get to do damage control when you get home.
Example: I published then hopped on my bike to ride home. Alas, I’d missed a closing ‘h2’ tag.
Result: 75% of the post used boldface, 22 point type. Hooo boy.
The fix: Preview your post! If you’re out of time, publish it tomorrow, or after you get home.
3. Being a snot
It’s fun to pick on those more famous than you, right? You catch a keynote speaker using the wrong word and run to your blog, where you post “NYAH NYAH NYAH NYAH JOHN SMITH IS A POOPIE HEAD”. It feels oh-so-clever. It makes you look like a tool.
Example: I thought I’d caught Danny Sullivan mis-using ‘vertical integration’. I’m a History major, after all. I should know. I was wrong.
Result: 2 hours of conference goers patiently explaining what ‘vertical integration’ means. Intense flop sweat. Desire to crawl under a rock.
The fix: Just don’t. Even if you know you’re right. Send a polite note to the speaker, at most. Or ask them if you have it wrong, in person.
4. Stealing by accident
You install a nifty script that guarantees thousands! of! links! overnight! with! great! content!!!!!! It sounds too good to be true because it is. Those scripts always scrape, always steal, and always get you in trouble.
Example: Actually, I’ve never done this. I wasn’t born yesterday. Or even the day before yesterday.
Result: Humiliations galore.
The fix: Don’t buy the magic beans. They aren’t really magic.
5. Go off half-cocked
You read the first paragraph of a post and are so incensed you MUST GO ANSWER THIS IDIOT’S STUPIDITY RIGHT NOW BEFORE THE ENTIRE INTERNET IS DESTROYED BY HER DUMBNESS. If you read the rest of the post, of course, you’d have seen that the first paragraph was ironic. Oops.
Example: Too many to count.
Result: I improve my ability to swallow my entire foot.
The fix: Always read an entire post, twice, before you decide to rip the author to bits.
6. Going hi-def
Just this one time, you decide to let WordPress resize that 2400×4500-pixel image for you. Ever helpful, WordPress uploads small, medium and full-sized versions and lets visitors download them all. Your site grinds to a halt.
Example: I used a few images from iStockPhoto, without resizing them.
Result: My CIO keys my car, turns off my e-mail and starts leaving sticky notes around my office that read “WE WILL REMEMBER”.
The fix: Don’t be lazy. Resize and compress images before you upload them.
7. The secret post
It’s 2 AM. You’ve worked your fingers to the bone, finishing your Best Post Ever. Google will immediately rank your work of art number 1 for ‘wheels’, you figure, because it’s so brilliant! Alas, no.
Example: I wrote my first Internet Marketing List, published it, then left it alone.
Result: A deafening silence. Depression. Bitterness.
The fix: Easy! Tweet it. Post it to Facebook. Stumble it. E-mail it to some friends. It only takes one good Like to start a lovefest.
8. The commenting smackdown
Some twit posts an inflammatory comment. You respond with elderberry-related insults. That’s five minutes you’ll never get back.
Example: Someone posted a particularly nasty comment regarding a YouMoz post I wrote. I posted a carefully worded response. Cough.
Result: Wasted time on my part. More fuel on the fire. A waste of perfectly good insults.
The fix: Delete the comment, or ignore it. Or, make fun of it. Nothing defuses a troll faster than humor.
9. Writing the post online
WordPress has a lovely text editor. You write all your posts right in the editor. Until the first time you accidentally hit CTRL-W and erase 3 hours’ hard work.
Example: I wrote a guest post for SearchNewsCentral. I (probably) closed my browser without clicking ‘save’.
Result: Poof. I crush another molar.
The fix: Write your post in a text editor, first. Then cut-and-paste it into your blogging software.
10. Going pedantic
You know more than anyone else. You write like a first-year college professor who’s angling for tenure. Your writing has more ‘insofar as’, ‘therefore’ and ‘clearly’ than a legal brief (I just insulted the writing skills of two professions at once. Amazing. Please don’t kill me.).
Example: My writing, from 2000-2005. Any time my kids ask me a question.
The result: Your audience tries to gouge out their own eyeballs so they don’t have to read your writing.
The fix: Write like you talk. Or record yourself ‘talking’ your blog post and then write it. Oh, and write every day.
It’s all about improving
I’ve replaced these 10 mistakes with 10 others. I just don’t notice them yet. The universal fix? Be a self-aware writer. Know when you’ve written something truly awful, but don’t take it personally. You’re writing. Learn, refine and go again.