AMA Part 2: Blogging

Taking a leaf from a friend’s blog, I let Facebook ask me anything.  I’m blogging the answers to the questions I received over the next several days, in no particular order.

Here’s today’s:

What recommendations do you have for autistics who want to get involved and (possibly) start their own blogs? (Aka me, mine is still under construction)

1. Read Constantly

Seriously, read as many other autistic bloggers as you can.  Apps like Feedly are a nice way to keep these organized without overwhelming yourself.  (I miss Google Reader, but Feedly will do.)  While how much you read depends on your schedule, your reading pace, how much you enjoy it, etc., I’d aim for reading no fewer than five blog posts by other people – any five – for every post you write.

Why?  Because:

  1. You’ll know what other people are already talking about or have already said, which lets you find things that aren’t being said and fill in the gaps.  This (a) gets you readers, and (b) helps add to the collective knowledge of the Autistic community.  Point (b) is especially important – it’s how we support each other in a world that is really, really bad at supporting us.  For instance: a year ago, Googling “grieving while autistic” or “autistic burnout” got you nothing at all.  Today, there are actually good resources out there.  Autistic bloggers read each other a lot, saw where the gaps were, and filled them in.
  2. You’ll have a good reference base.  At lot of the basic work has been done – there are good, comprehensive pieces out there on everything from autistic burnout and borrowing praxis to why you’re getting more autistic and the origins of the Autistic Party Giraffe.
  3. You’ll get better at writing.  Seriously.  Reading extensively helps you figure out what kinds of writing work for you, which makes you better at using them.  It also helps you figure out what doesn’t work.

2. Write When You Have Something To Say

Some bloggers write on a schedule, some don’t.  Some write Blog Posts of Epic Length, some jot down three sentences to ponder at a later date.  What they all do is write when they have something to say.

If you don’t have something to say, don’t write.  You’ll only frustrate yourself and bore your readers.

An added bonus to reading other autistic bloggers: you’ll very often come up with things you want to respond to, or things that you have a different take on, or things that remind you of a thing you wanted to write but had forgotten about.  Reading gives you something to say.

3. Link to Blogs by Other Autistic People

As you’re doing your reading, you’ll run across posts that you’ll link back to a lot.  Without checking my own WordPress stats, I can confidently say that Mel Baggs’ “Help, I Seem to Be Getting More Autistic!”, Kassiane Sibley’s “Here, Try On Some of My Shoes” and “The Cost of Indistinguishability is Unreasonable,” Nick Walker’s work on neurodiversity, and the entire We Are Like Your Child blog are some of the most-linked pieces on this blog – although there are many, many others.

Links do a number of things.  One, they indicate that you’ve done your homework and are thus worth listening to.  Two, they connect your blog to other people’s blogs, so they can see that you’re also joining the conversation (WordPress, for example, tracks “pingbacks,” meaning it will tell you whenever another WordPress blog links to yours).  Three, they help your blog and the blogs you link to climb the Google search results, so we can put information by and for actually autistic people above the sort of crap produced by orgs that don’t bother to ask us what we need or who we are.

…Incidentally, that last point means you might want to avoid linking to any site whose traffic you don’t want to improve.  I often make PDF versions of articles and store them here, rather than link to them.

4. Moderate Comments

As much as we all want to assume we will have a groovy readership, not every reader is groovy.  Sorry.  Create a comments policy and set comments to “moderated,” so you can decide whether they should be published or deleted with extreme prejudice.

Also, every time you get a comment that eats your spoons, repeat after me:

I do not owe my commenters anything.

A comments policy is an affirmative gesture of goodwill on your part.  It is a gift.  You do not owe them anything – not a platform, not a response, not “the benefit of the doubt.”  The Internet is big enough for each of them to start their own blog if they feel that passionately about their wordpile.

Delete and forget about them.  You do not owe them anything.

5.  …But Don’t Delete Your Past Posts

If you stick to blogging for a few years, your past posts will start to look kind of jankety.  Maybe you’ll have completely changed your opinion about a topic, maybe you’ll want to edit extensively to reflect new information, or maybe you’ll just hate the way you used to write.

Unless a past post is openly abusive of another (identifiable) individual in a way you can no longer condone, don’t delete it.  You might want to write a new post, explaining your change of position or what you would add if you were writing the old post today.  But don’t scour your archives.  People notice when you do that, and they do not approve.

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6 thoughts on “AMA Part 2: Blogging

  1. About linking to sites you don’t want to give views to: there is a website called Do Not Link.

    You put in the URL and it gives you a new URL to use, so you’re viewing the bad website through dnl’s url, rather than visiting the actual bad website and giving it a higher visitor count.

    I think that made sense? Idk how much trouble it is to do the PDF thing, this mayy be easier.

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    1. DoNotLink has been down for a few weeks now – is it back up?

      The Rebuttr extension for Chrome does something similar.

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  2. Some bloggers have had to delete certain posts because they get disproportionately attacked for them. I don’t mean just the usual hate. I mean something that goes above and beyond that, like the “how dare you’s” a certain blogger got after suggesting a beloved celebrity is autistic. This is not something that the blogger could rebut like the “how dare you’s” you get for self-diagnosis, it was something that would have left that blogger up to constant attacks if it had been left up, and that blogger would have had no substantial way to argue it.
    Also, some people may not feel safe blogging because they fear their job or job prospects may be on the line, sometimes for good reason, sometimes not. This does not mean any particular blogger owes them a comment post, however. People in that situation will use it, and it can be a nice thing to do, but it is still perfectly okay to delete those comments if they violate the policy.

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  3. I would add a thing, and it is “Do not feel obligated to start blogging immediately upon getting diagnosed.”

    It’s an intense thing to have happen. You have a lot to process. You might not need to start doing it in public right away.

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    1. I agree with this. I didn’t start for about five years. Too busy reading everyone else and trying to figure out where I wanted that diagnosis to fit in my life.

      It was during this period that reading Kassiane’s work on indistinguishability was what talked me out of another suicide attempt. Our people really do know.

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