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This is written by Jessica Beck
Blog Juggling: Keeping All Your Online Identities In The Air at Once
These days it isnâ€™t unusual for people to have several online aliases. Thereâ€™s the personal persona, hanging out on MySpace and YouTube; thereâ€™s the work persona, reading news feeds and doing online research; and thereâ€™s often a third, leisure persona, frequenting specialized bulletin boards and sites for hobbies like crafting, D&D or politics. And, of course, it wouldnâ€™t be Web 2.0 if each of those aliases didnâ€™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).
The first step in managing multiple identities is breaking them down into bite-sized chunks. If youâ€™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 youâ€™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 donâ€™t need a leisure persona. But if youâ€™d rather your personal life and your hobbies remained at least superficially separate, youâ€™d do well to use a distinct identity for each one.
Social Bookmarking: Mark â€˜Em All, Let the Internet Sort â€˜Em Out
If youâ€™re going to use any sort of blogroll on your sites (and who doesnâ€™t, these days?), youâ€™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 youâ€™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 youâ€™ve figured out how to define your categories and started the process of separating the personal from the professional, itâ€™s time to put your browsers to work for you.
Only using one browser? Thatâ€™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. Thatâ€™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 friendâ€™s photo, do you want to use your business login? Iâ€™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. Itâ€™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 donâ€™t have to re-type it every time.
Also, with separate browsers, you get separate bookmarks. For me, this is key; I donâ€™t like having to search through lots of different folders to find the bookmark Iâ€™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)
Iâ€™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 Iâ€™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 wonâ€™t be derailed in the middle of writing an article about web design by an amusing parenting anecdote. More importantly, it means I wonâ€™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 Flockâ€™s integrated blogging client and go to town. Since my mommy blog is pretty informal and doesnâ€™t require a lot of editing (or, to be honest, a lot of research), I donâ€™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, itâ€™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.
Donâ€™t Forget That There Is Only One of You
Despite all this talk of multiple identities, youâ€™re still only one person. Donâ€™t expect that youâ€™ll be able to maintain daily blogs for each of your personas unless youâ€™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 donâ€™t leave any of your blogs hanging. If youâ€™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. Iâ€™m not suggesting that a mild case of OCD is a good thing; Iâ€™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.
- Donâ€™t underestimate the power of linking. On days when you just canâ€™t come up with anything to say, put those open tabs to work for you. Tell the world what youâ€™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 youâ€™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 youâ€™ve been putting your energy. (And no, if youâ€™re wondering. I get nothing for making these recommendations. Just the inner satisfaction of making good links, and really, isnâ€™t that what linking is about?)
Now put all these suggestions to work for you. Youâ€™ve got the tools. Youâ€™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! Iâ€™ll wait.