Saturday, June 5, 2010

Back to Blogging Bootcamp

A visit to the library today has led me to ask myself some hard questions about blogging.

I don't visit my local library as often as I should but whenever I do the women in there give me wary looks, although I could be just imagining this.

I'll come clean and admit I used to be paranoid but I am fine now because I have realized only half of the people who used to spend all day following me are tailing me now.

Even so I still feel the strain in my eyes in the library as my pupils dilate and I take on the expression of a random alcoholic in an ABC store as I gather in books from east and west, knowing I'll probably never read any of them from cover to cover by the due date.

I hadn't meant to get out Blogging for Dummies but when I saw it I thought - what the heck? What the heck one day I may look back on this as one of life's seismic what the heck moments.

Now I find myself randomly opening pages and getting more and more disenchanted each time. Of course there are the normal frustrations brought about by my rampant technopobia but I can cope with that. I don't need to concern myself with heading off free template problems because I have no clue what these issues might be. Likewise blog markup languages, pinging, RSS feed and Apache which until now I thought was a type of helicopter that got into trouble in Somalia.

I'm more worried by the perceived goals of a blog which include the number of readers attracted, the number of comments, followers and the ability to sell a product. By any and all of these measures if I was at Blog Bootcamp I'd be the overweight guy walking down a dirt road four miles into a 10 mile run.

I try not to consider the stats but 17 followers in over a year and a couple of comments on each post if I'm lucky, certainly ensures my blog is a failure in the terms defined by Blogging for Dummies.

And in the era of social networking when following is everything let's face the harsh truth. I'm hardly a virtual Moses whose followers would walk through parted seas for me.

Page 151 of Blogging for Dummies has proved the most dispiriting so far. "A blog that gets lots of comments is a sign that the blogger is resonating with his or her audience - even if just to make them mad. A blog with no or few comments is probably just leaving people flat and maybe just isn't being read."

This advice makes me wonder if I should be more controversial. What a great job BP is doing in the Gulf. That kind of thing.

Another thing I should be doing, according to Blogging for Dummies is lurking on other blogs. This sounds slightly sinister like I should be wearing a dirty rancoat as I trawl through successful blogs, getting increasingly frustrated by their abject success.

The author Susannah Gardner suggests turning an offline hobby into a blog can lead to a successful hobby blog that's read avidly by likeminded people. "One of my hobbies is knitting, and let me tell you, the knitters have caught onto blogging in a huge way," she writes.

One of my hobbies is not knitting, unless knitting of one's brows while reading a help book counts, but this won't stop me putting in a link to a successful knitting blog because linking is apparently as important as lurking in the blogisphere.

That wasn't so painful. So maybe this is a cue to supply the links of the hardy followers who have stumbled across my blog in the blogisphere and have stuck with it against the odds.


I owe you all something - a Snicker bar, maybe.

Gardner also suggests reporting news is a good source of blog traffic. I shouldn't have a problem there although apparently the more specialized the reporting the better. Maybe I should curtail my blogs to news about crop circles in southern Wiltshire, although I fear I would run out of material in about 10 minutes.

Then there's always the personal diary blog approach espoused by life bloggers; my personal battle against weight loss and how I wrestled on the floor for an hour with a Frankfurther sausage that alone contained my daily input of saturated fat before man beat food. That kind of thing.

But when it comes down to it I fear my blog is too random. Topics occur to me such as how I have suddenly rediscovered The Beautiful South after practically forgetting about the group for a decade, or how Sam's Club gets me down more than any other store in America or how people drift in and out of one's life like the tide but leave an indelible impression that never quite washes away.

But for now I will focus. I will re-read Blogging for Dummies and get my RSS feed up to speed. And I'll buy that raincoat to go lurking.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for the shout out. I'll take a martini instead of the snicker bar if it's ok. :)

    I love random to be honest. My blog is very random and I think my blog is very random.

    One way to get readers is to twitter your new posts, a facebook page/link and commenting on other blogs.

    Good luck and keep blogging.

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  2. David, you crack me up! I do believe you could find yourself among the "A-list" bloggers if you were dedicated to the proposition; writing well and with humor and depth is not a commonplace skill in blogland.

    But then I remember that most bloggers are actually pushing themselves in their hobby because they'd like to be writing for a living... which fortunate state you've already attained. So it really makes sense that you not be all that fussed about the blog. :D

    I think the focused blog does attract more readers, as my gardening blog and my artistic development blog had two totally different audiences, and the more focused in I got, the more folks I attracted. That said, I've quit caring about my stats, and I never really wrote what I thought the readers wanted to read. If I wanted a really popular garden blog, I'd write more practical advice, how-to, and plant profiles. And if I wanted a really popular meditative/spiritual blog, I'd knock it off with all the nature/garden stuff. Instead, I just stick with what I like to write. The ones who enjoy it keep coming back, and that's enough.

    I'll always stop by to read your posts, random or not.

    Thank you for the link love!

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  3. Oops! Superlong comment again -- maybe my comments count like several people's? Anyway, forgot to add that I *love* the Beautiful South -- but no one around here has ever even heard of them.

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  4. Thanks so much for your kind comments Meredith - I don't care about the stats much - I guess I momentarily become competitive when i read that book.

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  5. Awww, thank you, David,for the shout out.
    I love your blog and your writing style.
    There are also some tips if you're interested in for increasing the "traffic".
    Keep blogging, dear friend.
    I've posted some London photos on my recent post if you'd like to see.
    Hope you're having a good day!
    Cheers,
    B

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  6. The blog is great David. I think you have an angle, the English perspective on American life, that makes your writing entertaining and informative.

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