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So You Wanna Be a Web Super Star?

Tuesday, August 05 2003

How to become a web super star in 10 easy steps:

1. Pick Something

Pick one thing you truly enjoy doing. It doesn’t have to be about computers or anything even remotely computer related, but it has to be about something you would enjoy doing for the rest of your life. It can be a subject as mundane as “I truly enjoy sitting Indian style for hours and doing nothing more” or a subject as equally mundane as “I enjoy studying the mass of protons found in iron atoms.” But pick something. And just one thing for right now. It’s OK to keep a list of standbys, but pick the one thing you enjoy the most to start.


2. Become an Expert
Become an expert on what you truly enjoy doing. You may think you know a lot about what you enjoy, but you can always know more. Use the Internet, compile lists, make diagrams, study it, go to the library, talk to people, lots of people, see what they think. Make flash cards, live it, breath it, drive the people you love absolutely bonkers. Exhaust yourself learning all there is to know about your subject, then test yourself by executing step 3 while continuing on with step 2.


3. Start a Weblog
Start a weblog. You need no computer skills for this, there are people who are experts at creating weblog software, and they’ve done all the work for you. All you need to know is how to connect to the Internet and how to go to a website to update your own weblog. See Appendix A for how to start a weblog. Your weblog helps you test your knowledge. Post entries about what you’re learning, and about what you know. Write in a way that encourages people to ask you questions. Don’t be afraid of being wrong, you will be at least once, probably a lot more. You need that. It will encourage you to grow. Continue step 3 while doing the next step.


4. Communicate
Understand where you fit in, or where you can/will fit in. A weblog isn’t very effective or useful for others if they don’t know about it. Go to sites where the subject matter is related to what you’re an expert on, and write comments on the sites. Talk to the authors via email. Ask them questions, challenge their ideas. Go to community sites and find opportunities to share your knowledge and become part of communities (see Appendix B for community sites).


5. Write Well
Continue steps 2 through 4 for a good portion of nearly every day of your life. Make it your job. Continue improving your writing and online communication skills. Learn more about how to talk to your audience through your weblog posts. Be practical, and know calls for attention will get you no where. Good, quality weblog posts in high frequency will have far more punch than “Is anyone out there?” posts. Don’t share too much. Retain a certain degree a privacy by not posting personal email addresses (use a public one), or telling people where you live and what your bank account numbers are. Stay on topic as much as possible, and put in at the very least a new entry daily. Don’t worry about short entries, they are usually more effective. But do at least post daily, if not more.


Include links to sites you’ve used in coming up with your post, if possible. Have you discovered a way to prevent your legs from falling asleep while sitting indian style? Give credit where credit is due, and encourage your audience to read your sources.


Make it interesting. It’s your show, you can use humor, you should write in a consistent voice, and typically writing in the first person makes the most sense. Your subject is a part of you, and touches you in a way that motivates you to write about it. Make that clear to your audience.


6. Gain an Audience
Do nothing, except for the previous steps. Don’t, for a second, worry that your audience isn’t big enough. It will be if you’re doing your job according to the previous steps. Avoid thinking about the numbers, or looking at them at all. Big numbers can scare you into not posting. Small numbers can frustrate you. Worry not about the size of your audience. Continue improving your writing and communication skills, and keep your knowledge up on the subject matter.


7. Look for Opportunities
Use your weblog to get yourself writing gigs, for news sites, for magazines, for newspapers. The perceived stakes are higher (can’t delete an article printed in thousands of magazines), but it’s not much different than writing a weblog entry. Build a pile of published works writing directly on your favorite subject. Don’t worry about getting paid yet. Look for opportunities to speak publicly about your subject. Use your work, your church, find special interest groups, community centers, trains, street corners, cafes. Become comfortable with speaking to groups of people face to face. It will improve your writing skills, and increase your confidence of how well you know your topic. Give people the opportunity to learn about your site. Use it as part of your author’s or speaker’s bio. “So and so also writes about cuttlefish husbandry at his/her site”.


8. Choose Opportunities
If you’ve been diligent about the steps above, you will have people asking for your time. This is a wonderful thing. It’s proof that what you’re doing is not in vain, but it also means that you can choose your opportunities. It means that you don’t have to work so hard looking for opportunities (no more going to the senior center to explain breastfeeding to elderly women) and it’s likely the opportunities will be more suited to further success. Opportunities that come to you can typically pay you cash as well, which helps you succeed in all steps leading to step 8.


9. Persevere
Never give up. Continue pushing forward towards your goal of becoming an expert who can present subject matter in a captivating matter. While it’s unlikely, it is possible that the joy you have of your subject matter is not shared by anyone else. Consider a standby topic, and start the process again. Evaluate your writing skills. Admit to yourself that you suck at writing, and could use a class. Learn how to express your opinions or how to share what you know in more interesting ways. Ask for opinions. Improve yourself. Don’t drive anyone crazy though.


10. Avoid Head Bloat
Enjoy being a web super star. But be humble. All of your efforts will be in vain the exact second you decide that you’re better than a single one of your audience. Continue to work hard, seize good opportunities, share, give credit, support others, be cheerful, be kind. Most of all, be honest and humble.


[I expect these appendices to grow, if you know more, comment away]


Appendix A [sorry, not much here, but both are excellent resources for beginners]
http://www.typepad.com/
http://www.blogger.com/


Appendix B
http://www.metafilter.com/ [good example of a large community]
http://slashdot.org/


Also, depending on what you’re interested in, there is likely a huge community surrounding it. Search on www.google.com for your subject, and if you poke around enough, you’ll find the community. Google Groups are also invaluable.