43 Folders

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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

What Makes for a Good Blog?

My friends at Six Apart recently asked me to make a list of blogs that I enjoy. I think they're planning to use it for their new Blogs.com project. Unfortunately, I'm late getting it to them (typical), but if it's still useful, I'll post it here in a day or four.

As I think about the blogs I've returned to over the years -- and the increasingly few new ones that really grab my attention -- I want to start with, ironically enough, a list. Here's what I think helps make for a good blog.

  1. Good blogs have a voice. Who wrote this? What is their name? What can I figure out about who they are that they have never overtly told me? What's their personality like and what do they have to contribute -- even when it's "just" curation. What tics and foibles fascinate make me about this blog and the person who makes it? Most importantly: what obsesses this person?
  2. Good blogs reflect focused obsessions. People start real blogs because they think about something a lot. Maybe even five things. But, their brain so overflows with curiosity about a family of topics that they can't stop reading and writing about it. They make and consume smart forebrain porn. So: where do this person's obsessions take them?
  3. Good blogs are the product of "Attention times Interest." A blog shows me where someone's attention tends to go. Then, on some level, they encourage me to follow the evolution of their interest through a day or a year. There's a story here. Ethical "via" links make it easy for me to follow their specific trail of attention, then join them for a walk made out of words.
  4. Good blog posts are made of paragraphs. Blog posts are written, not defecated. They show some level of craft, thinking, and continuity beyond the word count mandated by the Owner of Your Plantation. If a blog has fixed limits on post minimums and maximums? It's not a blog: it's a website that hires writers. Which is fine. But, it's not really a blog.
  5. Good "non-post" blogs have style and curation. Some of the best blogs use unusual formats, employ only photos and video, or utilize the list format to artistic effect. I regret there are not more blogs that see format as the container for creativity -- rather than an excuse to write less or link without context more.
  6. Good blogs are weird. Blogs make fart noises and occasionally vex readers with the degree to which the blogger's obsession will inevitably diverge from the reader's. If this isn't happening every few weeks, the blogger is either bored, half-assing, or taking new medication.
  7. Good blogs make you want to start your own blog. At some point, everyone wants to kill the Buddha and make their own obsessions the focus. This is good. It means you care.
  8. Good blogs try. I've come to believe that creative life in the first-world comes down to those who try just a little bit harder. Then, there's the other 98%. They're still eating the free continental breakfast over at FriendFeed. A good blog is written by a blogger who thinks longer, works harder, and obsesses more. Ultimately, a good blogger tries. That's why "good" is getting rare.
  9. Good blogs know when to break their own rules. Duh. I made a list, didn't I? Yes. I did. Big fan.

And, yeah, you should disagree with potentially all of this. It's because I have an opinion, and so do you. It's why you probably have a blog. See? The system works.

Coming soon: the blogs I read, enjoy, envy, and admire.

About Merlin

Merlin's picture


Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




An Oblique Strategy:
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