Category Archives: blog

Some thoughts on blogging and social media with the news that Dooce is retiring

According to one big name blogger, Jason Kottke, another big name blogger, Dooce, is retiring. How big is big? According to this piece in the NYTimes.com (Heather Armstrong, Queen of the Mommy Bloggers – NYTimes.com), she is hinted at having earned $1M / year. That’s pretty good money. This comes on the heels of Andrew Sullivan, another big name blogger, who recently retired too.  From the sounds of it, Jason Kottke himself is thinking that the days of blogging are numbered. It seems the days of a very limited number of big name bloggers making good money are numbered.

Dooce, Kottke, Sullivan and others rode the wave of the golden age of blogging. Dooce and Kottke kept up the format longer than others. Sullivan, Josh Marshall, and many of the political bloggers I started following years ago, have all but abandoned pure blogging. Marshall’s TPM still retains some elements of his original blog, but his site is more like CNN and less like a traditional blog. Sullivan’s site was chronological, but it was more like a blog on steroids that turned out 30 or more posts a day from a variery of sources. Others, like Nate Silver (538), Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein (Vox) all went off and start up variations of what Marshall did with TPM. The model of Vox and 538 is more like Buzzfeed and less like a blog.

Kottke and Dooce are good at what they do, but they also were in the right place at the right time. I admired Kottke and modelled my blog off of what he did, but in truth, there was no way my blog would ever catch his. The same goes for Dooce and her mommy blogging. They occupy the left end of the long tail, while most of us occupy the right end. That’s fine: it is great that it is possible for anyone to be able to write and have it published for free. While your writing may not be read widely, it will be read by more people than you expect. That has certainly been the case for me. When I first started, I was thrilled to have anyone read my blog. As of this post, thousands of people have read my posts over 800,000 times. I am still astonished by that.

Like much in IT, blogging hasn’t died so much as it has been displaced. One time blogging was about the only social media out there. Now, all media is social media.  There are so many choices now. Not only that, but as networks get faster, sites like YouTube and Vine and other visual sites attract more attention. Video is the future.

Blogging still exists and likely will continue to exist for some time. The fact you are reading this proves that. As well, blogging platforms like WordPress seem to be doing well. While some platforms like Posterous went away, others like Tumblr continue to attract new writers and new audiences. I expect to see people writing in this format for some time to come.

What I don’t expect to see happen is individuals making the money that Kottke and Dooce and Sullivan made. Those days are done. Perhaps people will make money blogging by doing it in conjunction with sites like Patreon.com. That’s a possibility. Also, people may use blogs as a way to promote other ways they make money.

Blogging, derived from the words “web logging”, was a way to log your thoughts chronologically on the web. It seems  old and trite now. But the need to write and the need to have others read the words that you have written will never get old. We need new and better platforms. Medium.com tried to do that. Other sites, from Google+ to Facebook to Twitter to Ello have all tried to offer some way to do that. Maybe the golden age of online writing via some platform like blogs is over, and people will write less and share less. Or maybe people are waiting for the next great platforms to start creating again.

 

Writing I really enjoy: The New Family / 1,000 Families Project and this piece on Brian, Jen and Emily

If you ready nothing else from the The New Family / 1,000 Families Project, at least read this piece on Brian, Jen and Emily.

I predict after you do, you will want to read more of them. All of the stories I’ve read so far I’ve really enjoyed. The site itself looks great too.

A great look into the many ways we are families. Highly recommended.

How I blog now (for people interested in comparing notes on blogging)

Blogging is dead (so it is said). But I am still blogging, and happily so. Here’s why, here’s what I think has changed, and here’s what I do now.

I have been blogging a long time (since 2005). Over that time I have had blogs on Blogger, WordPress, Posterous, Tumblr, and on IBM’s hosted sites. I still blog on WordPress and IBM. (Posterous is gone, Tumblr feels less like blogging and more like social media sharing (great stuff, but not for me), and Blogger never could top WordPress for me.)

Blogging had it’s big moment in the early Web 2.0 days, and a number of bloggers went on to great success. Then more and different types of social media appeared, making blogging seemed dated and bloated. Even I dropped off blogging and started doing more with Twitter, Instagram, and more.

I have returned to blogging because it still has something that other social media lacks. It allows me to capture longer ideas, unlike other social media. It lets me go back and see what I was thinking about and doing years ago. Most social media is about the Now and about the Group, but blogging is more than that. Blogging extends in time, and starts (but doesn’t end) with me.

I was also incented by a number of small things. One, my blog traffic was declining, and I thought I would like to see if I could reverse it. I like the idea of people reading my blog, and I thought blogging again could improve the decline. Two, WordPress started paying me monthly for my blog traffic. It is a pittance: less than $6 a month. I have a goal to get it up higher than that. Three, I’d like to reach the goal of having a million views of my blog. I started the blog modestly, and I have been happy to see how it has grown. I’d like to hit that number.

Those are small incentives, though. A bigger incentive/goal is that writing my blog is Writing. Blogging is a good word, but what I really want to do is write and write better and eventually write well. Maintaining the blog helps with that goal.

(If your blog is mainly writing, consider saying you are Writing (not Blogging) when you are adding to your blog. A blog is a web log, but if you are trying to do something more than just log things — and you likely are — why not elevate what you are doing by labelling it with a better label?)

How I blog now:

  1. I use a WordPress plugin with my Chrome browser. That allows me to quickly blog about an interesting web page I come across.
  2. If I don’t want to blog about it now, I use instapaper to save interesting pages for later. Then I will take time and go though the saved pages and either blog about them or save them in delicious (or just get rid of them).
  3. To promote my blog posts, I connect twitter to my WordPress blog: whenever I update my blog, I have a link to it posted on twitter.(After all, I want people to read them, and flagging them on twitter is one way to do that).
  4. If I post a number of posts at the same time, I schedule when they are posted. Otherwise, people on twitter will get flooded with them, and I think that doesn’t help get people to read them (and it is likely annoying).
  5. Besides my web browser, I use Feedly to read other blogs. I have integrated Feedly with my WordPress blog using IFTTT. I have an IFTTT recipe that fires off whenever I save a document in Feedly. The recipe will create a new draft in WordPress for me to work on later.
  6. I process the drafts in WordPress using Firefox and a plugin called ScribeFire. ScribeFire used to work with WordPress, but it doesn’t work for mine now. But I still use it to create more complex blog posts (like this one). Then I go to the admin panel of WordPress and update my blog using copy and paste. (I know, this isn’t exactly *easy*, but I had gotten used to ScribeFire and I haven’t found a tool that I like as much as that.)

Unlike many smart bloggers I follow, I tend not to write long form posts. When I do, I write them in Microsoft Word, mainly because if my machine hangs up or reboots or does any number of stupid things, I will not lose what I have written thanks to Word’s superb autosave feature. Once it is good enough (by my meagre standards), I will copy and paste it into WordPress.

China and Web 2.0

 

Cnn.com has alot of stories on very trivial matters. But this China story is anything but. It’s about:

Wei Wenhua (who) was a model communist and is now a bloggers’ hero — a “citizen journalist” turned martyr.

The world needs China to open up, and so does China. Here’s hoping they do. Everyone will benefit.

For more details, see Death pits technology against Chinese control. Kudos to CNN.

Great reasons to start a blog from lifehack.org

For
people who wonder, “why blog?”, the people at lifehack.org have listed
a number of strong reasons why you should in their article, How To Use Your Blog To Make 2008 Your Best Year Ever!

The
article is written from a viewpoint of how to use a blog to improve
yourself, and the bonuses they list regarding blogging (e.g. track
progress, get feedback, share knowledge) apply to anyone, either
personally or professionally.

My favourite new blog: Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories

This is a great site for all you geeks / evil mad scientists.

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories – Making the World a Better Place, One Evil Mad Scientist at a Time

Tip from one of my other favourite blogs, Geekdad.

How to drive traffic to your blog

Not sure how useful this is, but based on examining my blog stats on WordPress.com, here are some observations I came up with that seem related to driving traffic to my site (not that I am Robert Scoble or anything..and what is alot for me is really not much). But they are practical tips.

Here they are:

  • Make it easy for search engines to find you: use searchable words in your blog title. I used to use interesting titles. Now I think about how to put as many searchable words in the title (and hence the URL) as possible so search engines will fine it.
  • Make the first sentence and the first paragraph catchy: search engine results (like Google) will have the first line or first paragraph highlighted in the search result. Make that something people want to read and therefore clickable.
  • Comment on general interest topics: I wrote an entry on the social effects of Facebook. People search for that alot it seems.
  • Comment on seasonal topics: like Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. People will be searching for things like that.
  • Comment on things in the news: new media, people in the news, new technology. People will be searching for new things. I am a big fan of Blade Runner, so I blogged about the latest version of it coming out, and I get lots of hits on that.
  • Offer helpful advice: Ok, I don’t know how helpful this is, but I used to have alot of people asking me for wine advice, so I blogged about how to find good cheap wine at the LCBO (i.e. the liquor stores of Ontario). I get alot of hits due to that, and if you google “cheap wine lcbo” I come out ahead of some established wine writers in Ontario. Go figure. I should give up this IT gig and write on wine for a living. :)
  • Use Images: I try to use images on my blog entries to make them more appealing (and give credit where it is due). But I also get alot of hits as a result of images.google.com
  • Write on offbeat topics: easier said than done, I know. I once wrote a blog entry on using a blackberry as a flashlight. I get at least 1 person a day searching on that.
  • Comment on sites with automatic trackback: some blogs like those at the nytimes.com and other places have automatic trackback. If you comment on those sites and put a link on your page, you may show up on their site.
  • Include a pointer to your blog whenever you can. :)