State of the Blog

Yet another year has ended, and I've found that it is good to periodically step back and take a look at what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, and where I'm going from here. I've been blogging for over 4 years, but what I do now is much different than what I did when I started. About a year and a half ago, the blog wasn't doing well, so I changed some things. Things have progressed reasonably well since then, but there are a number of things I do (or don't do) that pretty much ensure that this won't become a huge blog. This doesn't particularly bother me, for reasons I'll get into later.

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost has been posting about how to start a blog and how to make it successful: These posts aren't perfect, but they are a good start, and they got me to thinking about why my blog isn't particularly popular, and why it doesn't bother me that much.
  • Posting Frequency: The big change I made a year and a half ago was to improve consistency by setting a schedule. I vowed to post at least once a week, always on Sunday. This is good, because consistency is important. However, once a week probably isn't enough to attract a regular readership. I often write very long entries, which could make up for some of that, but long posts can be a barrier in themselves. I prefer to write longer posts, rather than a series of small posts, so this will probably stay the same. I will occasionally make a post or two during the week, but the lack of consistency there doesn't help.
  • Breaking News: The Sunday posting schedule means I'm rarely on top of the latest news. I can think of one occasion when news was breaking on a Sunday, and I was able to pick it up and run with it. Otherwise, I'm usually commenting a few days afterwords, if at all. Perhaps because of this, I tend to gravitate towards writing about more general issues. This means that when news breaks, nobody comes here to see what I have to say about it. On the other hand, it also means that my content is still fresh and worth reading after a week or month or a year (not always, but usually).
  • Time and Motivation: I don't especially have much of either. One of the reasons I write here is to learn. Many of the subjects I write about here are unfamiliar to me, and I use the process of writing about them to learn. This usually means that I will need to familiarize myself with a bunch of material, or spend a lot of time thinking about something and figuring out what it means and how to write about it. This usually takes a lot of time and effort, and I prefer to have a few uninterrupted hours to compose something like that. This is why I post on Sundays, because I have the time then. I honestly don't know how other bloggers do it, especially the really popular ones who still manage to have a large output of original material. As I mentioned above, I tend to view blogging as an exercise in thinking, a way to learn, and a way to have fun. As Carter mentions in one of his posts:
    Blogging can be a form of enjoyment or relaxation just as jogging can be used as a means of relieving stress. But just as there is a difference between the casual jogger and the competitive runner, there is a difference between the average blogger and those destined for success.
    My posts on Self-Censorship and Arranging Interests in Parallel expand on this subject a bit more.
  • Ambition: I don't particularly have much for this blog. I would like a few more regular readers and commentors and perhaps a few links, but it really doesn't take much to make me happy. At one point, Carter says "Blogging is easy. Anyone can start a blog. Having a successful and popular blog is difficult. Incredibly difficult." I've written before about how I don't particularly want to deal with all the baggage that comes along with running a "successful" blog. There is just too much that needs to be done, and I don't have the time or motivation to do that much.
  • Marketing: I have a hard time marketing the blog. The concept of "link whoring" does not appeal to me at all, so my methods tend to be a little more subtle. This means hoping people notice a link from me in their referrer logs, or posting a bunch of comments on others' blogs. This is somewhat problematic because of the next subject...
  • Reading and Linking: This has become a major problem for me. I have a difficult time reading a lot of other blogs (more on why below), and thus it follows that I don't link to a lot of other blogs either. Combined with my infrequent posting schedule, this is quite problematic. This also makes my preferred way of getting noticed (see marketing above) a bit more difficult.
As of right now, I actually do read a lot of blogs. In fact, I've been stumbling around the blogosphere looking for new and interesting blogs for a while now. Unfortunately, this tends to induce some bad side-effects in me, and it's happened before. This was the cause of the last lull in blog posting a few years ago. I described it thusly in a post about information overload:
I used to blog a lot more often than I do now. And more than that, I used to read a great deal of blogs, especially new blogs (or at least blogs that were new to me). Eventually this had the effect of inducing a sort of ADD in me. I consumed way too many things way too quickly and I became very judgemental and dismissive. There were so many blogs that I scanned (I couldn't actually read them, that would take too long for marginal gain) that this ADD began to spread across my life. I could no longer sit down and just read a book, even a novel.
This is more difficult to diagnose than it sounds, but I've decided to curtail my blog reading in favor of activities which allow me to focus. I don't think this will change much, though. To a large extent, this is the sort of thing which has already shaped my blog to be what it is (warts and all, as described above), and I don't think it's going to change much. It's not the act of writing the blog which is the problem here, especially since I tend to write on more general subjects. This is more of a small calibration, along the lines of re-setting a clock when it begins to go awry (as even the best made clocks eventually do), than a major change (or defiant posturing).

In any case, this means that the blog will continue much the way it has, but that it won't become particularly successful anytime soon. As always, I hope to gain a few new readers here and there, and I see no reason why that couldn't happen. In a future post, I'll be talking about why I'm continuing despite my lack of ambition (which will, in turn, tie this post in with my recent posts regarding self-organization and the blogosphere).