I been taken stock of where I am with blogging. A lot of this has looked at long term goals and thinking about the implicit social contract I have with readers. Some of the data points that pushed me in the direction of this were:
- I produced almost 100 blog posts in about 120 days before Christmas, but reviewing them, although there are many I’m very proud of, there are many I’m not – quite a lot are a little on the short side or a ‘hey look at this’, which, frankly I can use Twitter for.
- This blog has been much more popular than I ever expected it to me, I’m constantly astonished by the rate of traffic and thankful for it. I’m responding to this gradually: in the last couple of weeks I’ve overhauled the site design considerably to something that looks much more ‘committed blogger’ than ‘academic with thoughts’ (you’d think there’d be no other type, you’d be wrong). My intention is to move more towards substantive issue-based articles, interviews, and guest posts and away from the ‘hey a news item’ style.
- The last issue is that looking at my analytics, I’m astonished how few readers and looking at my stuff using rss-clients compared to just ‘turning up regularly’. The most astonishing part of this was that when Lifehacker.org linked to me a couple of weeks ago, only a tiny fraction of the Lifehacker readers arrived from rss readers and similar services. And if the Lifehacker readers aren’t using rss very much, then it’s fair to assume very few people are (I think everyone should, but that’s an article for another day).
After having thought about these things for a little while I’ve decided to try out a ‘three posts a week’ strategy. So I’ll be posting new articles at 10am Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The idea is that it will encourage me into more substantial posts (because that’s fewer posts than I would write if given free rein), while at the same time letting regular readers know that there isn’t any point turning up on Tuesday/Thursday looking for anything new (this will take down my visitor numbers obviously, but if that’s not an excellent example of number-blindness then I don’t know what is). It will also encourage me to write less ‘of the moment’ articles. Yes they might be interesting at the time, but having to ask myself ‘will this still be interesting next week?’ can only improve my writing.
I should say I’ve trialed this for the last few weeks, and I’d like to keep up a cushion of about a week, which I currently have. If it doesn’t work then I’ll happily go back to a slightly more ‘fire and forget’ approach, but I’d like to publicly commit to it.
Other admin – style and comments
Some other bits of site admin – the site itself has had a small style overhaul – mostly behind the scenes but some more obvious parts. I’ve removed the ‘auto hold’ on comments. Previously I had to moderate a comment before it appeared on the site, now they appear instantly. I was surprised I was getting comments at all and I hope to encourage more of them – I think that engaged readers are the very lifeblood of a blog and I’d love to get more and more of them. To that end I’ve improved various aspects of the commenting system, and I’ve put the ‘recent comments’ right at the top of the sidebar on the home page so that everyone can see how much I value them.
(one of the advantages of holding posts, of course, is that I can put all this ‘about the blog’ information in one post, rather than spreading it out over a few weeks)