Thursday, April 06, 2006

I blog, therefore I am

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.

Click here to read about these statistics at Technorati

As I mentioned earlier, there a LOT of blogs to choose from. In fact, as of this March, Technorati was tracking 28.4 million active blogs. And, that number has been doubling about every 6 months and continues to grow at a rate of about 75,000 new blogs a day - or 1 every second. This service uses "links" to determine the popularity of blogs. In other words, the more that other people link to your blog, the higher you rank. Four of the more popular blogs I'm aware of are ranked as follows:

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)

10 comments:

Dave2 said...

I am now reading 278 web feeds. Over 200 of them are personal blogs. The problem is that having a blogroll of links that's over 200 sites long is almost impossible to manage, and doesn't really help people to find something new to read. Sure somebody might click through the first few links, but 200?!?

This is kind of depressing to me, because I read a lot of good stuff (present company included), yet don't have a viable way to expose people to it. My "solution" is the BloggerPeeps Project, which will hopefully be finished up soon. Sure it's just a glorified blogroll with nice toys, but I'm hoping it might help people to find interesting stuff that's not in the Technorati "Top 100".

Your wife is right though, bloggers tend to comment within a sphere of blogs they read, but the good news is that this sphere is constantly expanding. If somebody comments on my blog often, I'll get curious and start reading their site. And if I find their site interesting (and most of them are), then I'll start commenting there. Then other readers read my comments, visit my blog, and it starts all over again.

It's a form of social interaction that I find pleasing because I participate according to my schedule. I write when I have time. I read when I have time. And, since everybody else is too, that means nobody is intruding on somebody else's schedule. Sure it's not the deepest form of communication... sometimes it's downright superficial... but I do think it is meaningful communication, and I have made many, many friends because of it.

And that's why I keep going.

Chanakin said...

I'm flattered to be mentioned, but I don't belong in the same category as Dave. Maybe off to the side... a little. O.k. a lot.

I'm reading more and more every day (still trying to develop some kind of groove here).

My interest in a blog is as varied as the people behind them, and I read them because I like to read them - not because Technorati says I should.

Jess Riley said...

Holy cow, there I am! I'm honored! :)

There is so much out there (good and bad) that it's easy to get lost in the world of blogs. But I'm having fun and "meeting" some pretty interesting people (and some fantastic writers), so it's been a fun ride so far.

Harmonica Man said...

Dave - Thanks for the great input. All of us who read Blogography are eagerly awaiting the release of the BloggerPeeps Project. Now, on with it!

Chanakin - I'm with you in that the Technorati ranking means nothing to me in terms of who I read. It does, however, provide a useful way to see if anyone is linking to your site - if that's important to you.

Jess - I'm kind of in awe of how you gained such a large readership in only 6 months. Especially in the beginning of Feb. As of Jan 31 you were drawing around 10-15 comments (not bad) but then on Feb 1 you had 30+ and it's been that way ever since! Now you have 57 people linking to your site?

What kind of campaign did you run that weekend Jess? What kind of blackmale techniques do you employ? Who do you know in the blog-mafia?

I'm just saying...

DURK said...

BLOWHARD – YOU COMPLAINED AOUBT LURKERS TWICE THIS WEEK. OK HERES WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW. SOME PEOPLE DON’T HAVE TIME TO COMMENT ON EVERYBODYS BLOGS AND SOME DON’T HAVE THEIR OWN ANYWAY AND YOU SHOULD BE CAREFULL NOT TO BITE THE HAND THAT READS YOU. YOU PROBABLY WON’T PUBLISH THIS BECAUSE YOU MODERATE ANYWAY. DURK.

Cousin Steve said...

I must confess that I have been “Lurking” your blog for some time. It never felt like the right time to leave a comment because I usually check in once a week or so and you have moved on to other topics. I particularly find I enjoy, and can relate to, your growing up and childhood stories. Sometimes I feel I want to add to some of the details that we would not want our mothers, or your children, to know about. Some of the fondest childhood memories I have are of us as kids in Duluth and summers at the cabin.

Suburban Turmoil said...

This is great! You know more about my blog than I do! Maybe you could come out with a weekly stat report for all of us. ;)

This is would be a very good synopsis for someone who doesn't know much about blogs.

Harmonica Man said...

Steve! How nice of you to stop by, I had no idea. Thanks for the suggestion regarding summers at the cabin. I believe there might be some fun material there. I reminisce of those times often and also have extremely fond memories of those days.

Hey, rumor has it that you might come on up on your bike and come see The Receders in June? That would be way cool if you could. Hope to see you then - and here!

Mooselet said...

:::sniff::: You like me, you really like me!!!

I think Dave summed it up nicely in regards to the comments and social interaction. It's a way to meet people of similiar interests without actually leaving home. To some that's a cop-out, but I disagree. We're often told it's a global world, but how many of us have the means to travel it and then meet those of a similiar mindset? I don't see Bill Gates at my door leaving a donation, so this is how I choose to do it.

As for the writing and why I do it, like you HM (can I call you that?) I've always enjoyed it. I went through a period of my life where that enjoyment was taken from me and now that I've reclaimed it I feel like a new person. My readership isn't huge, but most of my feedback has been good. Makes me keep going.

A great post and nicely written!

Schnozz said...

Woo! Let's hear it for Schnozzfest! That blog is AWESOME! 14 links? Only 14? How underrated!

Your wife's "what's the point" comment amuses me. A circle of ten friends all getting each other birthday presents every year? The family's Christmas gift exchange? What's the point? Not that she meant to be all that critical, so I don't mean to pick on her. (Sorry, Harmonica Man's wife. I'm really just using you to make a point. You're still OK in my book. I promise.) It just amuses me that in our fame-oriented world, simple reciprocity isn't considered worthwhile anymore, even though that very concept has fueled our relationships for thousands of years.

I'm perfectly okay reading your blog and having you read mine and having that pretty much be the end of it, just like I'm perfectly okay with sending my friends an e-mail and having them reply to the e-mail and having that be the end of it until I start the process over again. That's just kind of the way relationships work. :)