On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog.Having just shed blood, sweat and tears getting my blog migrated to this shiny, happy new WordPress 3.0 compliant theme, I have just one wish. That I could step into a time machine and go back a few years to my Newbie Blogging Self and dispense some hard-earned blogging lessons. Because it seems to me, everything that caused me pain and suffering during this process could have been avoided if someone had just warned me of a few pitfalls to avoid. But none of you did, did you? Never mind. I’m still going to pay it forward and tell you what I’ve learned.

1. Decide up front if you are committed to this. Then make a commitment to a platform.

I know everyone loves Blogger, because it’s easy and it’s free. I started on Blogger, too, a couple of years ago. But it will never take you where you want your blog to go, if you really want it to go somewhere. Or even if you just want to keep doing this for awhile. I remember the tears as I finally migrated off Blogger to a dedicated WordPress site. In any migration, you lose shit. As well as losing your shit. Start as you mean to go on. Take Away Lesson: If you think you want to blog — even just for a few years — start on the platform you think will keep working for you. If you want cheap and free, WordPress.com has free hosting as well.

2. Think long and hard about the way you want your blog formatted. Going from a three-column format to a two-column format? Not so easy. My CyberDesktop is now littered with plug-ins that can’t fit my new format. Luckily, my new template has so much built in, that nothing essential was lost. But trying to migrate from my original format to this one was not a pretty sight. I ended up rejecting a lot of possible templates that wouldn’t let me shoehorn in all my content.

3. Invest in the best template you can get. There’s a reason free templates are free: they aren’t very feature rich and they don’t really take full advantage of the platform — especially a platform like WordPress. That’s why we all keep sticking on those plug-ins. Then we start having plug-in conflicts. Moving to this new template from my old free one has been like stepping up from a Yugo to a Ferrari. I’ve got so many options and so much horsepower under the hood, I just don’t know what to do with my blogging bad self. You don’t have to spend a lot. There are some great templates for $20 to $70.

4. DO NOT BUY A TEMPLATE FROM A PLACE WITHOUT A FORUM AND SUPPORT! This is critical. You will need it. And it’s worth whatever it costs you to buy the template. I’ve had a million questions and I’ve found most of the answers at the Elegant Themes forum. And I highly recommend their themes as well.

That’s it. That’s all I know after two years at this. Except for these extra credit helpful hints:

  • Carry a small notebook everywhere to jot down ideas.
  • If you have a great post idea, write that post as soon as you can, even just as a draft. If you let it sit too long, you’ll probably lose it.
  • Try to learn just a bit of HTML so you have some idea what’s happening under the hood.

And, as Joe Dirt says: Keep on keepin’ on. (But without the mullet!)

Don’t know Joe? Check him out. Think Dumb and Dumber. With mullets.