The docs…

After sliding hard on a patch of wet grass, I’ve finally had to admit it was probably time to retire a venerable pair of Doc Martens that have been my every day boot of choice for a long, long time. I don’t actually remember when i got this pair of boots. Seven to ten years ago feels like a reasonable estimate. They’re super broken in (some might say broken down) and comfortable, but coming into the frozen season walking around on slick soles is just one of those things that wouldn’t have ended well.

I’m not a shoe shopper. Open my closet and you’ll find a couple of pair of 3-hole Doc shoes and a couple of pair of 8-hole Doc boots in various colors and states of disrepair. Aside from one pair of sneakers for yard work and another for everything else, you won’t find much else on my shoe rack. It’s one of the handful of products that has ever inspired in me a sense of brand loyalty… and stretching back to the early 90s, it’s definitely the longest running.

So, thanks to a wet patch of grass, I’ve ordered myself a nice new pair – and resisted the temptation, once again, of ordering up the Made in England Oxblood Quilons. Even my loyalty has its limits and I couldn’t justify the extra hundred bucks for a boot I know I intend to subject to whatever snow, salt, and ice that winter in the Mid-Atlantic can throw at it… now if they bothered to offer up a boot from Cobbs Lane in a nice distressed leather that I didn’t feel awful about beating to hell and back, I’d be happy to throw more money at fine English craftsmanship.

In a week or so I’ll be working on a new set of break-in blisters. If bleeding for your brand doesn’t show dedication, I have no idea what would. Sure, I suppose there are alternatives, but showing up at the office without my Docs would be akin to wandering around without my coffee cup. I have a brand of my own to look to in these cases.

To blog or not to blog…

I was asked this morning for some insight into the mechanics of starting a blog. I wouldn’t say any of this is definitive, but if anyone out there is thinking about taking a stab at becoming an unpaid and overworked writer, here are some initial bits to ponder.

The first real decision you’re going to face is picking your platform. There are a million of them, but the two biggest are http://www.wordpress.com and http://www.blogger.com. I’ve used both and they both have their strengths and weaknesses. For pure ease of use, I’d recommend starting out with Blogger. It’s easy to use and doesn’t have too many bells and whistles to make things confusing at the start. If you decide you want to go at it in a big way, you can always export your work there to another platform. Usually the web address for a Blogger blog is something like http://www.myblog.blogspot.com. Again, if you really get into it and want to manage the minutia of your site, you can purchase your own domain later. For instance, my blog started out on MySpace (God forbid), migrated to Blogger, migrated to WordPress, and finally now lives at http://www.jeffreytharp.com. The important thing though, is the writing at first, so in my opinion it’s better to focus on that and let the tech people focus on doing all the behind the scenes stuff.

As far as anonymity goes, is anything really private on the internet? The easiest way to preserve some semblance of privacy, of course, is to set up an email account with Google under a pen name and then register your Blogger blog using that name and email address. There are still ways you can be found out, but it’s a nice basic level of discretion for most purposes. As you move into hosting your own domain name, there are more sophisticated methods of safeguarding your identity. You’ll find though, that the real issue with security to the average blogger is self policing what you write. Stay away from events that can be traced back to only a small number of people and if you must write about those, change enough of the details, names, etc. to make it a bit more general. The bottom line with security is that once it’s on the internet, there is always the possibility of someone finding out that it’s you regardless of how many layers of security you put in place, so write with that in mind.

Choosing a name can be a madding experience, if you think of something smart and witty, there’s a fair chance someone beat you to it. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that. At the entry level, the chance of your two groups of readers ever intersecting is pretty slim. A good rule of thumb when it comes to branding is that easy is better – you want to pick something that people will remember. There are a laundry list of sites out there that have great advice about website and blog branding and the good news is that it’s something you can change over time if you find you aren’t thrilled with the name you started out with. Bounce ideas off people you trust to give you a sense of whether the names you like make sense to a broader audience.

I’m no authority on any of this and lord knows there are many, many blogs that are put together better than this one, but for the casual writer, this should help get you started. Reading a lot of other blogs, taking copious notes, and writing more than you ever thought you would are what will keep you fresh and open your eyes to new ideas.