08 December 2008

On Blogging, Stat Addiction, and Popularity

It might probably go without saying that when times are tough, as they obviously are now, one tends to look closely at some of the behaviors one exhibited when they were doing a certain thing, when suddenly chance dictates that they not do it so much any more.

On The Blogging Habit

Such it is with me and blogging. I love blogging. I'd even go so far as to say, even if it were inaccurate, that I'm addicted to it. So, bereft of my main computer – where all my design files and whatever research and art play on whatever it was I was doing when the wall fell down – I don't blog as much, and when I don't blog, I seemed to naturally gravitate toward asking myself why I was doing it and what I hoped to accomplish.

I'm still answering those questions. The overall answer is that I just plain love writing. I always have. And it's quite empowering when even one person reads it and even comments. That's a palpable high.

And that may be indeed a physical response that can maybe qualify as addiction. I note in my pretty-much-constant reading that some researchers are treating being on the intermets as an addictive behavior. I also note elsewhere that someone figured out that the reason you go to Wikipedia and promply lose hours of your life clicking random links is because the very act of finding something out that you didn't know (or you didn't know you wanted to know) causes the release of neurotransmitters that deliver pleasure.

I'm no medical researcher, but it all makes sense to me.

Back when there was just TV News, you couldn't tear me away from the set during "the dinner hour". When I found the internet and UseNet, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. When I found the WWW, I revised that. When I found blogs, I revised that yet again (so far that's three dying-and-going-to-heavens. I'm probably pressing my luck here).

I guess you could call it an addiction, so.

On Stat Addiction

One thing I know I'm addicted to (or as near as makes no difference) is watching my hit count go up. I think that, in the end, that's probably a bad thing. I get about 100 hits a day, more or less and I want it to be more.

But how soon I forget that a couple years back, I only was getting 20 hits a day and was thinking I was really hitting my stride if I got more than thirty. Maybe it's tenaciousness but I really seem to be carving some sort of a niche.

The downside of being addicted to my stats is that when my stats go flat or fall (which seems to be the normal mode of operation) my smile tends to turn upside down. My Technorati authority was once over 70, would you believe? Then it started falling, and nothing I've been able to do content-wise have gotten too many people to link in to me. Noting that I've been leaning on the "easily distracted" part, I began to explore using my intense interest in design software to explore tutorials available online. It was fun, and when I'm back up and running I'll do it some more. I simply enjoy using Illustrator and Photoshop.

But it didn't result in any more inbound links or much of an uptick in stats. I really don't understand why. That was some fascinating stuff!

Also my quest to find out what artists I admire use and how they use it, which saw reality in a couple of posts about Dilbert's Scott Adams (which I still find dead cool) didn't get too much interest, which I thought funny. Who wouldn't be fascinated by such stuff?

One lesson I've learned about having a blog worth visiting is to not have one that's' banal. I think I've done my level best to get this blog there; after all, just before G4's PSU lost the magic smoke, I'll be a bit arrogant perhaps and say I've been doing the best blogging so far in the history of The ZehnKatzen Times. And I don't know anyone else who's experimenting with tutorials on line or actively finding out about the techniques of artists he likes, or even posting scans of his old Portland maps.

Where this section is all going, is that I just might be getting rid of some of the pretty stat counters on the sidebar. The Technorati authority widget might go; the Blogcatalog widget has gone from 55.2 to 58.0 and, for some reason, back down to 55.1, so that's not elevating. The trouble with stat loggers like that is they go down, but it's not clear why.

The Blogged widget? That'll probably stay. An editor over there rated me as 7.4. And the Statmeter? That'll stay. I've watched that go through 30k, 40k, 50k, and 60k and I'm almost on 70k. That's pretty good for a blog of my stature.

I'm pretty sure that that national love affair with my blog is due to start any time now, and I want to know when it happens.

So, I'll dial that back a bit ... but I won't completely abandon tracking my stats. I will try to make it rather less of a distraction.
On Popularity
In all my blogging activity, I keep coming to a central kernel of truth for me. I also want to be liked by a lot of people.

I don't want to be the most popular blog around. I'd settle for being everyone's third most popular blog maybe. See, I'm humble!

It has gone beyond that though. Short of being everyone's hero, I have met some very very fantastic people. Stan, for one; Dale, for another (spiritually these two people are polar opposites, and I find that cosmically delightful). I live in the same city as Dale (and Stan lived in Milwaukie until he married his sweetheart Nicole, now lives in a city in SW Missouri called Orangutang, I think) but I've never physically met either, but I count them as friends and I view the emails I get from them like a friendly visit at the front door. Larry Fire, of The Fire Wire, actually asked if we couldn't exchange links (which still to this day flatters me). And Miles, of Documented Life and Portland Ground, who I don't visit near enough. And of course Portland Confidential, now Lost Oregon. I love that guys work. You all should. Alan Cordle? A hero of mine from the days of Foetry. Very courageous individual, if you ask me.

So I'm not the top of the blogging heap. I'll be honest; there is still a deep abiding need in me to be everyone's hero (and I'd try, if I weren't so weighed down by some of my own concerns). But I have built these amazing relationships that I'd not have, that sustain and inspire me, if I'd never started blogging.

I guess, then, you'd call it a kind of success.

In the near future, thanks to inspiration from Rorohiko's Kris Coppieters, I'm going to gradually remake this humble web home of mine into a more focussed place. I can't promise there won't be tangents ... I seem to be doomed to be easily distracted (the tagline in the header image is there for a reason) but if there are, I'll try to go off on them sparingly.

Back to the fray, now.


Jaggy said...

I, too, am a bit addicted to my statcounter. I look back on the days of ten and twenty hits being huge records. My returning hits were all my own... and now I fall in the two- to three-hundreds for individual hits in a day. It's so exciting to think that somebody in Scotland or Finland or China is reading my nonsense.

Way to go on all your milestones. Keep up the research. Just don't force it. If your passion flags, take a break. Your true readers will stick out a vacation.

Oh, and you get serious bonus points for having good grammar. Nothing turns me off a blog faster than bad grammar. Yay you!

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

Jaggy, thank you for what you said there. That was really cool of you to say. And especially the grammar remark, which completely makes my day.

It did occur to me that if I wanted to keep doing this thing I love then I have to have a better idea of doing it. For too long, my blogging model has been similar to the business model of the underwear gnomes from Southpark:

1. Blog
2. ???
3. Profit!

Again thank you for your words. They were quite inspiring and reassuring. And thank you for visiting.

Judy said...

I really started blogging just to find out what this blogging stuff was all about. I never thought I would please anyone but myself. And, indeed, for months I was thrilled when the hit counter showed any visit that was not my own.

When I first realized that people were actually reading me on a regular basis and not just stumbling over accidentally, I felt a bit of panic. What if they don't like me? Then I realized that those that don't like me won't come back, and those that do like me will. And it was best to just keep doing what was interesting to me and what pleased myself.

At first I blogged about everything. But it was soon apparent that I was not going to make it as a techie blog or a political blog. There are too many other blogs that cover those topics much, much better than I could. When I started to focus on one area that I did have some expertise in, then I started to gain a loyal readership. I can still blog about anything, more or less, but my main topic is the thread that holds it all together and the other topics have to take a back seat.

I'm certainly not one of the more popular blogs. I don't get hundreds of comments to each post. My hit count diminished during a summer hiatus and has yet to fully recover. I've resigned myself to never getting rich from my blog. But that was never really the point. I do have a cozy relationship with my regulars - sort of like chatting over a cuppa in my living room.

And that's what keeps me coming back to yours, too.

BTW, if you haven't discovered Woopra yet (www.woopra.com)... stat addicts paradise. :-)

Dale said...

SJKP, thanks for the kind word. I think Judy has the right answer if your goal is to rise in the blogging world (by whatever measure) -- find a niche and stay with it.

I myself have a suspicion of specialization (one that predates blogging), but that's my li'l pet peeve that doesn't detract from the real-world value of it.

That said, I like your blog as it is, even if not every post sings to me in the same degree as every other. Imagine that! We don't have exactly the same interests in exactly the same proportions!.

I will just say keep up the good work, and I'll point out that we're allowed to change what we mean by "good work" as time and circumstances go by.

Judy said...

I would be sad, indeed, if the things I like most about any of the blogs I follow were to disappear in favor of specialization. I don't think that specialization is required at all, Dale. I belive it was Robert Heinlein who said, "Specialization is for insects." Sometime remind me to tell you about my 8 different college majors. :-)

But it's amazing how, once I picked an area of focus, I could apply it to almost anything I wanted to write about -- specialization not required.

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