This Blog’s One Year Anniversary

I started blogging on September 4th oflast year.

apples I had an internetpresence prior to that (content that received several Slashdotmentions, along with a half-decent number of inbound links),but I didn’t put up content with the regularity of a blog — largely as afunction of the hassle involved — and I didn’thave RSS, Atom, or any other feed technology (and thus wasn’taggregated into other feeds).

It was just a random hodge-podge of random pages prior toputting it into the structured form you see today.

All-in-all the past year has been a very, very rewardingexperience: A very credible number of people visit, and from asearch-engine perspective the results have been extraordinarilysuccessful. Strange seeing several dozen people a day from my hometown coming by just because I happened to mention it ina blog entry.

To quote from a September 4thentry

The question I am pondering, then, is whether the onlyway one can remain internet credible (in search engine terms) is tointegrate heavily within the blogging community, quid-pro-quoingendless links and trackbacks, ingratiating oneself with otherbloggers, posting meaningless comments about every posting everyother blogger makes (which they will of course do in turn). It’s asort of super-pyramid scheme, but with no bottomlevel.

Thankfully I’ve never had to quid-pro-quo or ingratiate tomaintain PageRank. In fact I think I’ve maintained a fairlyantagonistic approach to many of the popular blogs and bloggers,and I’ve seldom resorted to inventing “material” out of mentioningother blogs.

Which brings up an interesting topic – I was chatting with apeer about blogging and the effort/reward ratio, and they asked ifI felt that I had “succeeded” in this venture: Sure, theypondered, I’d gotten a lot of mentions, along with a couple ofheavily visited pages, but overall I still sit quite low on the list Playdough Flowersof bloggers. My Alexa rankingsstink (though I should mention that Alexa rankings arelaughably useless outside of the top internet sites.Alexa ratings are culled from users utilizing the Alexa or A9toolbars, which is a vanishingly small number of users, clusteredinto certain demographics. Just a couple of users occasionallyvisiting with the toolbar has an absurdly large impact, so if Iwanted to shoot up in the rankings, I’d just recommend the toolbarevery month. As a case-in-point, at one point I noticed that myAlexa ranking had jumped considerably, but became suspicious that adisproportionate number of visitors visited the webstatspage…which of course only I visit. I realized it was me that wasinadvertently impacting the rankings when I had installed the A9toolbar, so I removed it), and I’m not even among the top 1000bloggers (by one metric I’m #5,269).

I have something like 118 bloglines subscribers, versus say21,000 for someone like JoelOnSoftware (bloglines is only one ofmany aggregators, and Joel has far more subscribers overall, butit’s a metric that is meaningful in a relative sense).

Yet I am thankful for every single reader, and the success ofthis blog is worlds beyond what I imagined. More importantthan quantity is quality, and some of the feedback leads me tobelieve that a great group of people have decided to drop by everynow and then (even though many don’t use feed readers, and justadded it to their bookmarks for a once-a-month browse. That’s thesame technique I use for most blogs). Sure, complimenting yourreaders is a suspect activity, and is often driven by egotism aboveall else, but I really mean it: I couldn’t have asked for a betterreadership.

And perhaps this will come off as cheap or like sour-grapes(which it most certainly isn’t — I set out expecting anoccasionally accidental search visitor, and never anticipated thesuccess this has seen), but there are some pretty easy ways I couldhave modified the message a bit to build and maintain a muchgreater blog presence, but that wasn’t my goal.

I could…

  • Blog more frequently. As it is, with twopre-school children, it’s ridiculously difficult finding time toget posts in, but sometimes I just have to get a thought out thereso it’s a great exercise.
  • Blog a more consistent message. No thanks. Oneof the things I love about this is that I can blog about a .NETvideo codec one day, Wikimedia on Windows the day after, HTMLcompression the next, SSIS packages the next, and my opinion aboutwork environments after that.

    Occasionally I hestitate, wondering “will the people whosubscribed after {X} hit the front-page on Reddit really care forthis?” — for instance when putting up navel-gazing entrieslike this — but then I realize that’s getting caught in theclassic trap of limiting oneself to a narrow range of topics. Withreaders and browsers, people can just hop past things they aren’tinterested in, and while I’m sad for anyone who unsubscribes or/dev/nulls this blog, that’s preferrable to diluting it to aserve-everyone-but-really-noone message.

  • Blog a more generalist message. I certainlydon’t mean to be elitist with some of the entries, but it’s thenature of the beast that some of them aren’t going to entertain orcater to generalists or technical tourists. Compare this to almostall of the top blogs in this space — apart from a couple of veryrare exceptions, most seldom venture outside of the realm of easy,accessible observations and pondering. The “colour of the shed”sort of entries that everyone can add their voice to the choruswith their opinion.
  • Blog towards retention. This is reallyachieved by keeping a general, accessible, non-threatening topicgoing, consistently pounding the same theme, or by creatingcontroversy and debate where none really exist, but it’s also builtby minimizing the number of outbound links, and maximizing thenumber of internal links. This has never motivated the way I authorposts, and if I lose a small percentage of users with each outboundlink as they go off exploring Wikipedia or Seth Godin or anythingelse, that’s something I’m very happy about. Having said that, thenumber of internal links seems to be increasing on here as of late– as I’ve built a larger and larger volume of content, it justseems like I’m a pretty good resource to reference!

None of these techniques are secrets, but they’re onlyacceptable modus operandi if your primarygoal is, well, blogging. That isn’t my primary goal by a long shot,and I have no ambitions of becoming a professional blogger.Instead I’m motived to talk to, and hopefully influence– and maybe even impress — intelligent and influentialpeople.

In the coming few months (or more correctly weeks) I haveseveral very, very exciting things that are going to come out,including the most exciting and innovative web idea I’ve ever had.It’s only going to get better.

But I’ll never compromise the message, and I’ll never letmetrics and stats give me misdirected motivation.