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Blog Juggling

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January 13th, 2007
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Blogging Essays, General

This is the Twenty Second entrant in The Blogging Essay Contest from WeblogToolsCollection.com If you would like to participate, please email me your entry at mark at wltc dot net. Please rate this article using the star system below. The competition will be judged primarily on the input from readers like you. Thank you.

This is written by Jessica Beck

Blog Juggling: Keeping All Your Online Identities In The Air at Once

These days it isn’t unusual for people to have several online aliases. There’s the personal persona, hanging out on MySpace and YouTube; there’s the work persona, reading news feeds and doing online research; and there’s often a third, leisure persona, frequenting specialized bulletin boards and sites for hobbies like crafting, D&D or politics. And, of course, it wouldn’t be Web 2.0 if each of those aliases didn’t have its own blog.

As someone who manages several distinctly different blogs, I feel for people taking on the challenge of multiple online identities. The need for them, however, is undeniable. Here are some ways to make it all work (and crank up your productivity in the bargain).

Compartmentalize

The first step in managing multiple identities is breaking them down into bite-sized chunks. If you’re dealing with the line between business and personal, that may be an easy task. But what if your personal and leisure identities overlap? How do you categorize, for example, your love of a site like Dogster – is that personal, or is it leisure? Do you even need a leisure persona? The easiest way to figure that out is to look at your Dogster identity as though you were a stranger. Would you want the random Dogster aficionado to Google the alias in your profile and see, for example, your personal MySpace page or your Flickr photostream? If the answer is yes – if you’re on Dogster to invite other dog-lovers into your life, or if your life is already all dogs, all the time – then you probably don’t need a leisure persona. But if you’d rather your personal life and your hobbies remained at least superficially separate, you’d do well to use a distinct identity for each one.

Social Bookmarking: Mark ‘Em All, Let the Internet Sort ‘Em Out

If you’re going to use any sort of blogroll on your sites (and who doesn’t, these days?), you’ll want an easy way to sort the different links to correspond with your different identities. One of the easiest ways to do that is by using a social bookmarking service like Ma.gnolia or Del.icio.us. Just make sure you tag religiously and tag well, and you’re good to go. Truly compartmentalized people like me may even use different accounts for personal vs. business links, but within each account I use tags to separate, for example, my parenting links from my catch-all check-out-this-page links.

Browse in Multiples

One you’ve figured out how to define your categories and started the process of separating the personal from the professional, it’s time to put your browsers to work for you.

Only using one browser? That’s so last year. The easiest way to segregate one identity from another is to use different browsers for each. That way you can visit the same sites and collect different cookies. That’s especially useful for internet searches and news portals, but is also good for managing sites like Flickr, which requires a separate login for each alias. Think about it like this: if you want to comment on a friend’s photo, do you want to use your business login? I’m too impatient to log in and log out each time I visit a site; with separate browsers, I can stay logged in all the time, even if I use overlapping services. It’s also good for web forms and blog comments, for the same reason. You can have each browser remember a different address or e-mail – home and work, say – so you don’t have to re-type it every time.

Also, with separate browsers, you get separate bookmarks. For me, this is key; I don’t like having to search through lots of different folders to find the bookmark I’m looking for. Knowing that all my business links are in Firefox (for example) saves me a lot of time. I can set up each browser to open a specific set of bookmarks for me each time I log in, and I can easily manage the follow-up on sites I want to write about.

Yes, I said write. This is an article about blogging, remember? All of these things lead to this next thing: managing your blogs.

One Blog Per Person(a)

I’ve got a lot of blogs. A business blog, a mommy blog, and a fledgling copywriting blog, to name a few. At any given time, I have between ten and twenty tabs open in each of my browsers – stories I want to read or write about, services I want to check out, links I want to bookmark, reference material and entertainment. How do I keep track of it all?

Since I’ve assigned my personas different browsers, the first big chunk of work is done for me. I know at a glance that all the tabs I have open in Firefox are related either to writing (for Buzzverb) or design (for What Could Be) while the tabs in Flock are related to parenting, kids, or my new obsession with crafting. This makes it easy to focus my attention on one thing or the other, which in turn means I won’t be derailed in the middle of writing an article about web design by an amusing parenting anecdote. More importantly, it means I won’t lose an important link by overloading my brain with too many disparate subjects.

Since I use Flock, posting to my Cranky Mama blog is easy as pie; I just fire up Flock’s integrated blogging client and go to town. Since my mommy blog is pretty informal and doesn’t require a lot of editing (or, to be honest, a lot of research), I don’t miss the more advanced features of a robust desktop client.

For my business blogs, though, I want something with a few more options. I use MarsEdit, although there are dozens of options that are equally useful. Since all my links are open in Firefox, it’s easy to reference articles and sites, and if I want to find something I looked at a few days ago, my history is relevant to my business persona.

Don’t Forget That There Is Only One of You

Despite all this talk of multiple identities, you’re still only one person. Don’t expect that you’ll be able to maintain daily blogs for each of your personas unless you’ve got a truly ridiculous amount of time to set aside for blogging.

Decide ahead of time which blog you want to devote the most attention to, and make that your priority. Here are some ideas for managing all that writing:

  • Set deadlines for yourself so that you don’t leave any of your blogs hanging. If you’re particularly anal-retentive like me, you may want to use a calendaring service to remind you which days you plan to publish to which blog. Backpack, for example, will send an e-mail each week to remind me to post an article to What Could Be. I’m not suggesting that a mild case of OCD is a good thing; I’m just saying you might as well put it to work for you. Am I right?
  • Compose entries ahead of time whenever possible; this makes it easy to publish something when your creative energies have run out.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of linking. On days when you just can’t come up with anything to say, put those open tabs to work for you. Tell the world what you’re reading about. The world will thank you, if by thank you you mean take a look and collectively shrug. (A caveat: make at least a token effort to describe your recommendations using your own words. If you just post a list of links, the other kids on the internet will point at you and laugh.)

Bring it All Together

Now that you’ve got everything all neatly separated, how do you bring together all your myriad online identities? My suggestion is an identity management service like ClaimID or an aggregator like Jaiku. ClaimID lets you list every single little bit of information associated with your name and compile the links in one page; you can set privacy levels for each item and arrange by importance (or however else you want). Jaiku lets you enter the RSS feeds for all your many blogs, photo streams, or whatever, and uses all that to create a page which has a constantly-updating, personalized information feed, showing you at a glance where you’ve been putting your energy. (And no, if you’re wondering. I get nothing for making these recommendations. Just the inner satisfaction of making good links, and really, isn’t that what linking is about?)

Go. Blog.

Now put all these suggestions to work for you. You’ve got the tools. You’ve got the interests. Give it a whirl and see if you can juggle more than one identity. In fact, nothing is stopping you from starting a new blog right now. Go ahead! I’ll wait.

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Comments

  1. Kit (1 comments.) says:

    Thanks for the article. I now stick to one blog to minimise stress levels, but have at times maintained several daily’s, and it is hard.

  2. Rirath (14 comments.) says:

    I have to wonder though: Why? Assuming you are keeping these blogs for others to read, I’d often rather see all of a persons interests correctly categorized on one blog, than spread out over several. I suppose it depends on the type, professionalism, and number of authors per blog though.

  3. Pi (9 comments.) says:

    I see little point in maintaining several different weblogs with differing content – the categories are there for that – unless each one is run under a different identity. That’s not to say no one should do it, of course, but why?

  4. Frozenball (1 comments.) says:

    I really don’t see any point of having multiple personas. But it’s just my opinion.

  5. Aaron B. Hockley (2 comments.) says:

    For those who don’t understand why you’d have multiple blogs, here’s a concrete example which is my life: I run Dogcaught.com which focuses on railroading and railroad photography. I also run PortlandFeed.com which focuses on issues local to the Portland metro area.

    Two sites, totally different topics. People reading about train pictures from Wyoming don’t care what’s going on in Portland, and the folks looking at government waste in Portland don’t particularly care about a photo of a train from California.

    Hence, separate blogs.

  6. Gnorb (5 comments.) says:

    One factor, for those of you questioning the needs for multiple blogs, is money. If you run a blog about Macs, and your crowd wants to read about Macs, and your advertisers want to see Mac-related content, why would you put anything more than a smidgeon of unrelated content or, God forbid, inappropriately controversial content (ie. politics or religion) and potentially alienate a good chunck of your audience?

    Personally, I have one blog. It contains information on everything from Anime to Web tools. While the cross section of those two is quite high, I also write about personal development, business, and marriage, not to mention all the unclassifiable personal stuff. If I were running a blog on Personal Development, my posts on Anime would have almost Zero place there. (My blog is aimed at Gen-Y’ers who, I can only presume, have tastes similar to mine.) Nevertheless, I like Anime, and want to write about it. Solution? Open up a new blog. In order to alienate one from the other (for business and SEO purposes), I’ll develop another identity to run that one. This identity shows up in places like Anime Nation and Cons, while the Personal Development pesona shows up at places like Tony Robbins seminars.

    Now, let’s add another persona, the political junkie. I know (from first hand experience) that unless you’re aiming for the political spectrum, this is one topic you should generally avoid in any business sense. Personally, it’s just fine and dandy. If you want to make money on your site, avoid this topic like the plague.

  7. Drake (2 comments.) says:

    With all the fuss about niche marketing, I can understand why people think it’s so great but I personally could not care any less about adding other aspects of my interests on my blog. The multiple personas is a bit crazy for me. It’s obvious that there is more to a blogger’s life then just his niche topic so why should he limit himself to writing about one thing all of the time? As long as there is good organization, I think writing about other niche categories wouldn’t neccessarily drive away your readers because many of them can relate to the blogger and his/her other interests in life and could find out useful information reading things that are of interest to the writer. Maybe it’s just me, but I think specific niche marketing limits a blogger as a writer. Now a days, blogs are doing useless blog tagging and other lame stuff because they probably have nothing left to write about in such a specific field. If you really have to seperate your writing then sign up another blog to give you a little room to work with but you don’t have to create a whole new identity to go with it. Blogging is just another name for reporting but the blogosphere became so infested with money hungry wanna be entrepreneurs who wanted to strike it rich with a blog that much of the information they provide is just recycled news off of websites and other bloggers. I am going off topic here but the post was well writen and interesting, but I think it’s a little crazy handling so many identities as just one person and creating different personalities to fit with each one. (I’m Schizophrenic so I know all about relating to different characteristics)

  8. John@Dog-Breeds-Explained (1 comments.) says:

    One blog one niche!

    That is the only way to focus success on you and your blog. I have a dog breeds website and also a seperate blog on dogs. They serve the same niche market but are different. The search engines see relative links coming from my dog breed website to my dog blogs and they love it.

    I highly recommend you get up as man blogs as you can handle, its easy you know. Especially with rss feeds. My dog members love it and yours will too.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Sincerely,
    John Adams



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