Now that I've officially been "blogging" for 6 months, I've gained a little personal insight as to what this actually means. Following is an evaluation of what I've learned and what I it means to me to participate in the blogsphere community.
Blogs are an interesting social phenomenon - a reflection of what the world is saying and listening to. There are about as many kinds of blogs as there are personalities. You can find blogs that deal with news, technology, hobbies and every other topic imaginable. But my favorite types of blogs fall under the "personal" category. These sites generally contain stories (true or fictitious), insights and humorous anecdotes based on the writer's life experiences - kind of like an internet blend of reality TV and sitcom. This is what I attempt to write, and what everyone I read writes as well.
For those of you who don't have blogs, you may wonder what goes into putting one out. For those of you who do, you may wonder why you put one out. I know I've asked myself this question a few times and I know some of the people I read have asked this question of themselves too.
Why do it? - So why do we bother? After all, it's just one more thing we have to worry about in our already too-busy lives. I suppose from this point on I can only speak from my perspective, but feel free to contribute your personal thoughts and experiences in the comments.
I imagine there's a deeper psychological explanation that has something to do with our ego and need for validation etc., but for me it's not that complicated. I've always liked to write and blogging provides me an avenue for which to do so, a "purpose" for writing if you will. I'll admit that knowing my work is out there for the whole world to read (and potentially criticize) adds a certain amount of challenge and thrill to it. But that is also the very reason I try to make sure I don't just put out a bunch of crap for the sake of getting something posted for the day. Blogging is an artistic release for me that so far has been a lot of fun. Once it stops being fun I'll hang up my site and move on to something else.
Comments - My wife mentioned that most of my comments came from the same group of people and noticed that I was leaving comments at their sites as well. "So what's the point?" she asked. Good question. I explained to her that comments were our measuring stick as to who was reading our stuff and that it's common courtesy to leave a comment every now and then to let your cyber-friends know you've been around.
If it always felt like no one was ever reading our blogs, then I guess there would be no point to writing them. If we wanted to write only for ourselves, then I suppose we would be writing in private diaries instead of on public webspace.
Statistics - Besides comments, most bloggers have another type of measuring stick to help determine if people are visiting their blogs. If you look at the bottom or sidebars of our sites, you may notice a label such as Site Meter or StatCounter. These are tools that help us track who and how many people have visited our sites. This too is another type of validation that helps us decide if we're actually reaching an audience or simply wasting our time. Some people pay money to be able to receive very detailed information about their visitors. I use a free service and only receive limited data, which is fine with me.
Lurkers or Lurking - This is a term invented by the blogging community for people who read your blog but don't leave comments. We can tell you've visited by our trackers, but we don't know who you are personally. To me, lurking is a strange phenomenon. It's almost as if people are saying "I don't want you to know who I am because then you'll think I like your stuff and then I'll feel obligated to comment and I don't need that kind of pressure in my life right now."
Either that or I'm over analyzing. ME? Naw.
Links - Another thing you'll find on our sites is a set of links to other people's blogs. Some people add these simply to reciprocate the favor that someone else put your link on their blog. Other people "open up" their blogs and let anybody put a link on it. These are known as blogrolls and represent a kind of free advertising. The links I list represent blogs that I've been reading for a long period of time, even though there are several other blogs I enjoy but haven't added their link. I am constantly sampling of lot of different blogs at any given time and frequently move on if a particular blog doesn't fit my style after awhile. Over time, I'll add a link if I think I'll be sticking around.
Subscriptions - These are the little icons you'll find on the sidebar such as Feedburner or Newsgator which allow other people to "subscribe" to your blog through a web feeder. This allows them to read all the blogs they've subscribed to in one place rather than have to visit several different blogs all day long. This is a great tool for the blog reader, but makes it difficult for the blog writer to know who is reading your stuff.
Facts - Finally, to put it in perspective, here are some facts I've gathered from Technorati, a service that captures statistics to track and rank blogs.
Boing Boing - 20,000 links
Post secret - 12,000 links
Huffington Post - 8,000 links (~250 comments)
Dooce 5,700 links (~400 comments)
As you can see, I've also noted an "average" number of comments per post these sites seem to draw. To determine this I've simply looked back through their posts for a few weeks and took a thumbnail average on what I saw. Nothing scientific, nothing accurate.
Even though these superblogs are among the most popular on the planet, I don't personally read any of them. My interest lies in the personal sites of the more normal everyday people I can identify with. Therefore, to conclude, I will list the blogs I read on a daily basis along with their Technorati stats including my ballpark guess of their average number of comments per post.
Comics Curmudgeon - 260 links (~75 comments)
Blogography - 196 links (~30 comments)
Suburban Turmoil - 175 links (~35 comments)
Jess Riley - 57 links (~40 comments)
*Foma - 56 links (~15 comments)
Schnozzfest - 14 links (~5 comments)
Mooselet Musings - 9 links (~5 comments)
Chanakin Ricesteamer - 3 links (~5 comments)
View From The Cloud - 3 links (~5 comments)