Five Observations on Blogging

I had intended to give myself a full year before posting about things I had learnt from blogging. However, with slightly over a week since one of my posts was Freshly Pressed, I decided to post five observations about my blogging experience.

Rather than devote hours to working out those insights which had the greatest impact, or even which insights were totally the product of this blog, I started with the concept that readers supposedly like lists of five items and wrote out the first five observations that came to me. I then expanded on them slightly. Whether this has produced a more or less significant list is for each reader conclude for themselves.

The points are observations rather than detailed theories; I might expand some of them into posts of their own later if a more detailed or interesting thought occurs. As I have no data on how many of the page views did not finish the post, I am choosing to use comments and likes as the primary measure of popularity.

  1. Most of the Audience Appear Silent: Before Freshly Pressing I had gained over a hundred followers but only a very few followers who commented on more than one post. After Freshly pressing my followers have more than doubled but I have not seen a similar increase in followers commenting on multiple posts. Based on both the likes and page view summaries, new followers seem to be looking at existing pages so there is a group of people reading my blog but not commenting. Although this was disheartening to begin with, my current theory is that many more people like to read about writing, ethics, and the other things I write than discuss them in detail.
  2. Not Every Follower Follows You: Not all the people on the list of most prolific commenters or likers follow my blog, so there are people who manually check my blog rather than subscribe in some form. Without detailed breadcrumb data I cannot tell if this is because they come to my blog via my comments on a mutually followed blog or are actively choosing to read my blog periodically but not follow it.
  3. The Best Posts are Not Always the Most Popular: The current most popular post on my blog is, unsurprisingly, Giving Away One End of the Candle. However, that was not the post I spent the most effort on, or the post I like the most of those I have written. It is also not, for me, better than the post to which it is a response or Brian’s post in response which seem much less popular.
  4. Incomplete Posts Gain More Comments: Having studied English to A-Level and worked as a trial lawyer for many years my embedded non-fiction style is to advance a thesis then set out the whole argument for why it is right, including pre-stating reasons why opposing theses are less correct. However, the posts with the most comments are often those where I have set out a thesis but not included both supporting evidence and refutation of other theses.
  5. The Greatest Disputes are With People With Whom You Mostly Agree: Looking over the blogs of commenters who disagree with one of my theses, I commonly find I agree with much of what they post. While this initially seemed counter-intuitive it started to make sense when I imagined a disagreement threshold above which many potential readers would close the post without reading to the end.

If the purpose of this blog were to build a “presence” or a “platform” then these observations would obviously provoke much navel-gazing. For the purposes of my curious mind they are five more aspects of human behaviour that are more likely to go into the melting pot of my unconscious and emerge later as part of something only tangentially connected, such as a better method of making soup or a theory on exposition in Gothic serials.

Do you have strong feelings on any of these observations? Hypothetical bonus points for showing how they contribute to improving soup making

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15 thoughts on “Five Observations on Blogging

  1. There is a blog that I follow whose owner’s stated purpose is to eventually offend everyone. His posts are not grammatically or politically correct, nor are they punctuated or spelled correctly all of the time. His comment queue fairly often is over the double digit. He started blogging in January of the current year, and today he hit 50,000 followers.

    I think that people relate to him on an emotional level. He speaks hard truths with which his followers can readily relate, and he is a prolific blogger. Somehow he as managed to touch the pulse of a lot of people.

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    1. I am more interested in discussing topics of interest than getting interest purely for the sake of it; a controversial topic certainly doesn’t hurt though.

      Being able to speak without fear of opinions is a useful skill. I prefer a less stressful life though.

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  2. All five of your observations mirror my own experience. “Most of the Audience Appear Silent” is definitely true. I estimate something like 1% of a typical blog audience chooses to interact with the blogger.

    “Not Every Follower Follows You” – I’m one of these. Yours is one of a handful of blogs I read regularly, but I don’t follow any of them. Generally if a blog is interesting enough, I’ll read it on my own without an e-mail reminder, and if not, the reminder just gets annoying (to me anyway). And if a blog doesn’t update several times a week, I’m usually not interested.

    “The Best Posts are Not Always the Most Popular” – Agree 100%. A post I fired off in 2011 with very little thought is still more popular than all the rest of my blog put together, because it happens to contain a popular search term. Some of my very favorite posts received almost no attention.

    “Incomplete Posts Gain More Comments” – Interesting is more popular than Thorough.

    “The Greatest Disputes are With People With Whom You Mostly Agree” – I think the reason you pegged for this is spot-on.

    In conclusion: soup.

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    1. As the first person to include a connection to soup you win the special prize: when the internet is turned off for annual cleaning my hive-brothers in the US Government will seamlessly connect you to an identical copy so you can continue without interruption.

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  3. I agreed with pretty much everything you discussed, but the main thing that jumped out at me was that the ‘best posts are not always the most popular’. Some days I’ll write something great, or work really hard on a blog post, or just feel really happy with what I’ve written and… bleh. Nothing. No love. Another day I’lll slap together something while I’m still half-asleep or as I’m cramming my lunch into my mouth and typing one-handed. I’ll hit ‘publish’, feeling ashamed and like I could do so much better and BOOM. ALL THE BLOG LOVE.

    One huge thing I’ve discovered is: people? Fickle. Weird. Random.

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    1. I wonder if it is something to do with the inner critic.

      If we write while mostly asleep then a different part of our brain is driving, so we either write without pretension or utter junk; as the junk is evident even when sleep addled the posts we write on autopilot are actually median good, but we are too distracted to give an objective judgement.

      Whereas, the post we spend ages on are usually fuelled by our conscious desire to write about a really great idea so risk being tweaked to death in an attempt to capture the full majesty of our idea.

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  4. I know how to make a soup, or rather it’s a cream, where the process is always the same but you add the most important ingredient based on your preference… This to echo point #4, which has made me consider trying to leave options open and see how the readers add the final touch… It should be quite revealing! Thanks Alexandra

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  5. Interesting, Dave. Another topic you might consider is how the quality of a blog is affected when it becomes a popularity poll for the blogger rather than for the content of the blog.

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    1. This was more of a e-dérive than a planned topic.

      The dynamic between authenticity and popularity is certainly interesting. I feel I might need to experience more blogging post-FP before I can express a personal view on how popularity drives content.

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