What not to name your blog.

Arts, entertainment, and more.
Aug. 7 2007 4:20 PM

Don't Drink the Balloon Juice

Good, bad, and ugly things to name your blog.

Blog screenshots. Click image to expand.

As the just-completed YearlyKos convention demonstrated—with the presence of 1,500 liberal bloggers and nearly all the major Democratic candidates —the influence of the blogosphere, for better or worse, has reached a new peak. I've been covering the medium for Slate for two years, and of all the questions that have come from friends, family, and e-mail strangers, the most interesting is, "What should I name my blog?" Whether you plan to write about food, your miserable day job, or a viable exit strategy for Iraq, the answer is always a negation: It's more a matter of what not to name your blog. When CNN calls to ask for your expert opinion on farm subsidies, do you really want to be known as the Intrepid Ploughman? What follows are a few mild observations and modest suggestions based on a frightening amount of Web trawling.

1) Irony is a cruel mistress.
One way to enhance your online charisma is through self-deprecation. In cyberspace, no ego goes unpunctured and no comment thread remains friendly for long. So, why not rile your enemies by wittily pre-empting their nastiness right on your masthead? (The lamented Suck.com applied this tactic with terse aplomb.)

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If you choose to make a tongue-in-cheek debut, be sure your humor will outlast your self-importance. 2 Blowhards is a good name made better by the fact that its contributors are consistently enjoyable curmudgeons. Shiraz Socialist beats "limousine liberal" or "Mastercard Marxist" as the alliterative epithet of radical chic, and Bookslut gets the job done fine.

But when a dip into irony percolates right back up as literal-mindedness, the results can be unintentionally funny: See Rightwing Nuthouse or The Superficial.

2) Mind the allusions.
For some reason (don't ask me why) conservatives christen their sites with geek pop-culture references more often than liberals do. The Jawa Report  seems to think those hooded midgets at the beginning of Star Wars were acolytes of Milton Friedman, and the prolific and always-quotable Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters presumes to pilot not the ship of state but the Starship Enterprise.

Lefties opt for more tragically hip allusions: Shakespeare's Sister, the blogging name of Melissa McEwan, is a tip of the beret not to Virginia Woolf but to Morrissey, which is almost a distinction without a difference.

If you must be literary, please stick to one text. The excellent Ministry of Truthwould work better as a clearinghouse of guarded information if its main page didn't muddle references to George Orwell (the name), Guy Fawkes (the graphic), and Mikhail Bakunin (the quote).

3) Inside jokes doom.
Nicknames and private giggles are fine for yearbook inscriptions and e-mail passwords, but as blog titles they're a nuisance. You don't want your ideological call to action muffled by a faulty bullhorn. Take the DailyKos. This mega-trafficked "netroots" site derived its outré gazette name from founder Markos Moulitsas Zúniga's old Army handle, "Kos." Quite unselfconsciously, his minions now affectionately refer to themselves as Kossacks—hardly the historical outfit with which a "people-powered" revolution should want to identify.

Also, silliness is no substitute for directness. It's quite a trip down the long slide of progressive opinion from I.F. Stone's Weekly to John Cole's Balloon Juice.

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