I have been semi-regular blogging since 2009, and in the past 9 years I have some interesting observations that I would like to share.
comments are for the birds
Early on, when I had a minuscule audience, there was a lively discussion around my posts in the comments. People would say thanks, or that they had a correction, or to discuss a particular point. Good natured, friendly banter ensued, that drove the conversation forward.
Then came the rise of comment spam, the use of bots to post comments to drive search ratings. This led to an escalating war of technology to get by the spam filters, and to block the abuse.
I currently use WordPress, and Akismet, the service that blocks malicious login ins and comments works overtime. I did turn comments off for a lot of years, only recently adding them back. But the joy of finding the daily (or near daily) banter has died. I get maybe one real comment every 6 weeks. Sad.
arguments with people who haven’t read beyond the title
Today, I used twitter gin up some traffic on one of my “professional” posts. And this led to a multi tweet (but fairly calm) argument with someone. I assumed that they read my post, and had some critique, so I responded, but he got more antagonistic. I decided to check my server log, and alas, there hadn’t been a view of my website in almost 8 hours. So this jackass who wanted to piss on the thesis, didn’t bother to even read the article.
Sigh, there is one site where I expect this behavior, a site that I need to wean myself from. I am speaking about slashdot, an early tech hub, but it hs devolved into neck beards, techo anarchists, and a cesspool of misogyny (not on the scale of 4chan or Reddit, but still depressing). The standard there is to read (or skim) the summary, never click on the article, then pontificate as if they are a fucking expert.
I don’t mind discussing what I write, but to have a hack argue that I am full of shit, merely from the goddamn title and my summary I posted to twitter is pretty fucking lame. My site(s) are low traffic, so I can tell when someone is full of shit.
The weirdest topics get the most hits
On my personal blog (here) the top post of all time is …
A review of my 2002 Lemond Buenos Aires bicycle. Seriously, that one still get search hits, and page views every damn day. (to be fair, it was a modest priced steel framed bike when I bought it, with decent components, and it has a pretty solid following even today, 16 years later).
Or, on my professional blog I wrote a piece of life in product management as a capital “I” introvert. That one post in less than a week got more hits than my professional blog normally gets in a full year. Wow. I have to assume that someone found it, and posted it somewhere that gets lots of traffic. Seriously, I was thinking that something was wrong.
Past favorites are rants about LinkedIn and some of their scummy behaviors.
Weird what generates traffic.
Social media is slowly (or not so slowly) destroying discourse
This is the facebook effect. People want short, easily consumed bits, that take less than a minute to read, then simple options to share or show support. I understand this, and it hasn’t affective what I write, because I write not for wide consumption, but to share what is top of mind, or what I observe in my professional capacity.
However, the advent of Medium that seemed to want to drive all the content to its site, and the dreaded 140 characters of Twitter (now 280), and the rise of sites like Quora are de-democratizing the world. I am unsure if this is positive or negative, but it just is.
However, there is no going back. And to be honest, I really don’t care. I do what I do because I need the outlet. If you read it and enjoy it, great. If not, no skin off my back. I am never planning on monetizing this or my other sites (i.e. injecting advertisements to pay the bills).
What makes a good post?
For me, it is a theme (people cheating public transit, as an example) and then 400 – 800 words, with an image or two. Should take about a half hour to write.
For my professional blog posts, I do a bit more research, and often stew over the content and themes for a while, but it is a catchy title, a “hook” backed up with evidence and opinion (hey, I am not an objective journalist, deal with it).
I used to spend a lot of time finding header images, and rewording my posts, writing and rewriting.
The coming thing that I am going to hate
I have one more quibble about Medium, and that is their editor. Not sure what they call it, but instead of it being stream of consciousness, you and a text entry page with some RTF formatting bits, it is this “block” based editor, which many praise as removing constraints, and allowing the author to free form, and design as they write.
Alas, I am old as dirt. As in so old, that I learned to program in Assembler on a PDP11 computer in college. Yeah, I am an old fucker, and I just don’t work like the Medium editor works. I am sure that many people are tickled with it, but for the few posts I did on Medium, I pasted in my text, then spent (way too much) time fixing the quirks.
I stopped reposting my content there to avoid this bullshit.
Now, I am told that the next major update to WordPress is going to replace its dated post entry system with this thing called “Gutenburg”. What the fuck is that? Oh, it is a “Medium-like” post editor.
The trend is headed that way.
However, my workflow is to type up my posts in a text editor (BBEdit on my Mac, or Sublime on my windows machine) usine Markdown, and then use a markdown viewer to preview (Marked2 on the mac is AWESOME, highly recommended) before exporting the HTML to paste in the “Text” editor on WordPress. Except for the shortest posts, I work this way.
I did get the memo and installed the classic editor, so that when the new shit-bag editor is forced upon us, I can continue with my workflow.
Ain’t progress grand?