Here's question #1:
PI reporter Cecelia Goodnow said...
"I'm launching a blog about children's books, an area I've covered for about 20 years at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. How "finished" should the design and format be -- and how many posts should I have -- before I let people know about the blog's existence? How much can I tweak as I go along?"
PI Community Editor Don Smith, who has helped launch over 200 reader blogs at seattlepi.com, jumped into the comment thread to offer this answer:
"Cecelia, good question. Blogs benefit from having content to show readers what the blog is about and what kind of authority its author has. So I usually ask bloggers to have at least three posts before we launch on the site. But there's no hard rule. If you can, I'd try to get as much content up there as you can right at the start, and then blog frequently to let readers know it's an active blog by someone with good background and a lot to say."
Thanks Cecelia and Don, for the question AND the answer! I agree with Don, with a nuance to the answer:
When you're launching a blog on a major platform like seattlepi.com, where people are likely to see your blog as soon as you publish it, you do need to launch with no fewer than three posts.
But when you're working on Blogger, you can go ahead and publish as soon as you want -- once you've finished one post, if you like. (So long as you've vetted the posts and are sure they're libel- and otherwise risk-free).
Fact is, even if you do publish before you're ready for anybody to see it -- nobody WILL see it. There are so many millions of blogs out there -- seriously -- until you start to market your blog, it'd be a miracle if anyone found it.
You should, however, try to have five or six posts in your blog before you start marketing it to other sites, asking other bloggers to link to you, announcing your blog on Twitter and FaceBook and etc.
My friend Ricky Young, who I worked with long ago at the Orange County Register, writes to ask:
I've been grabbing photos off government sites, figuring my tax dollars paid for them, they must be fair game.
Should I stop this?
Taxpayer in San Diego"
The answer is: It depends. Many government agencies will say outright on their Web sites that anyone can go ahead and grab content and republish it. I also know, having tussled with a couple, that some government agencies believe the content produced by government staff and posted on their Web sites is not up for grabs. I disagree and fight with them about this, but I don't know if there's some rule out there that says absolutely, all city, county and other government-produced content is copyright free stuff we can take. So I always check. (And sometimes get into fights).
If anyone out there knows of a hard and fast law somewhere that says all content produced by government employees and posted on government Web sites is free for the taking, please let me know.
Also, even on government Web sites that do say outright that you can take the government-produced content, not all the content you see there is necessarily produced by government employees. Sometimes government Web sites buy content from freelancers, for example. The freelancers don't automatically give the government the right to grant use of their content to everyone else. If you check out USA.gov, you'll see they warn about this and recommend you always check about copyright before taking photos or other content:
"Most of these images and graphics are available for use in the public domain, and they may be used and reproduced without permission or fee. However, some images may be protected by license. We strongly recommend you thoroughly read the disclaimers on each site before use. For information about obtaining seals of Federal Agencies and the United States, please see the Government Printing Office website."
So to be safe you should always check with the agency. I find this is generally pretty easy. Recently I wanted to use the City of Seattle's FAQ about Seattle for example. I wrote to the contact email on the Web site, and the guy wrote back right away saying sure thing.
One plus to doing this is the folks who produced the Web site you're grabbing from might be happy to see their content out in the world, and might link to you from their sites, sending you traffic.
PS: Check out Ricky's excellent San Diego-based blog at www://ricky-why.blogspot.com.