Posts Tagged‘blogging’

I’m about 20% On My Way To Mastery.

Its almost trite to talk about Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers these days as it seems everyone is familiar with the key concept of mastery requiring a certain level of practice, on the order of 10,000 hours. Indeed the idea even spurred people on to do their own experiments to see how true the rule rang to life and the results of said experiments shows that there’s something to it, even if the hours required may vary wildly from person to person. I have unwittingly been participating in my own versions of these experiments for the past few years and a new milestone came up yesterday that I had completely forgot about.

I hit post 1000.

It seems like a lifetime ago when I hit that milestone that every blogger seems to celebrate publicly: the 100th post. Reading it again it’s clear to see how far I’ve come as the post is littered with smilies (which look horrendous to me now), the tone is completely different and it’s clear that I’m writing it directly to the only people I know are reading, I.E. my friends. Whilst I can’t claim that I’m some kind of blogging superstar now I do know my reach extends much further now than it did back then with my daily readership exceeding that of my monthly numbers back then. Back then however it felt like I had made some real substantial progress in my quest to become a blogger but upon reflection of my 1000th post it feels like I’m just starting out all over again.

Most of my posts don’t take that long to write, comparatively speaking, with most of them going from concept to draft to published piece in the space of 1~2 hours with more than a few being way above that. Putting that in perspective I’m probably about 2000 hours into the requisite 10,000 to obtaining mastery which, at my current rate, puts me at mastery some time in the mid 2020s. There are ways of accelerating this of course (I’d say that my experience writing for LifeHacker probably counts for 2x~3x the hours I spent on it due to the amount I learned whilst working for them) and I jump at the chance whenever they come my way but it’s still daunting to think that I’ve invested almost 5 years at this point and I’m only 20% into my journey.

Does that make me want to stop? Hell no! The opportunities that have opened up to me as a result of my work-daily rantings have been some of the most exciting things I’ve ever done and the more I blog the more those things seem to keep on happening to me. Whilst I’ve never attained the kind of overnight success that I had envisioned coming my way one day the slow and steady build up just never seems to stop. It can be disheartening some times when you write something you believe is brilliant and inspired only to have it fall on its face but, as the past has shown, I’m a terrible judge of what will be popular and for that I blame those little multiplying haters in my head.

It’s comforting to know that people I respect highly struggle with the same things I do, even if our medium of choice is different. I’ve always had this disembodied version of myself hanging over my shoulder, constantly critiquing everything that I’m doing. In all honesty it’s a great thing and it’s responsible for a large part of why I’ve enjoyed so much success in other aspects of my life but it can be a real detriment, especially when it collides with my almost OCD level compulsions. It hasn’t gotten any easier as the years have gone by but I’ve developed a whole bunch more tools in order to deal with it. That’s probably the biggest insight I’ve had into this whole 10,000 hour thing as it’s more about understanding and overcoming your shortcomings more than anything else.

Unlike my myriad of other hobbies I feel that blogging is one that will stick around for good, just like gaming and software development did before them. It’s something that I’ve made a heck of a lot of progress in and the idea of giving it up just doesn’t seem to make sense like it did back when my daily viewer count was in the single digits. Whether or not it’ll morph into more or less than what it currently is however remains to be seen but I’m sure as I keep chipping away at that 10,000 hour goal more good things will come of it. I might not ever become the blogging starlet that I thought I was going to be all those years ago but I’ll be damned if it hasn’t been a blast regardless.

Arbitrary Restrictions, Deadlines and Posting Crap.

It was a long time ago now, getting near to 3 years, when I made the decision to start publishing something on a week-daily basis to this blog. I can’t really say what drove me to do that, it certainly wasn’t because I was rolling in page views and I had an audience hungry for more content¹. For the first couple months the writing came easy since I was just mostly posting my opinion on one thing or another but you can only keep posting opinions about things for so long before you feel you’ve said all you need to say on those soft issues, at least when you’re trying to write to a deadline.

I’m not the only one suffering from this either, it seems:

Whilst I didn’t make the connection between my off days when I post inane crap because I can’t find anything better to write about (although I have been told that those off days are some of my best writing, go figure) and the mainstream media I can definitely understand it now. I had just always assumed that people getting paid to do this had a much better process of finding something to write about rather than my haphazard daily troll of other blogs, YouTube clips and news aggregation sites hoping that an article triggers that writing spark in the back of my head.

The restriction of daily posting, or it seems any deadline, is definitely what leads me to post what I feel is lesser quality work. In the beginning the wanting to write was what drove me but after a couple months of near daily posts it morphed from a routine into a habit, one that I’ve had a terrible time at breaking. It also doesn’t help that Google seems to punish me if I stray from my posting schedule, further reinforcing the behavior. I could probably circumvent the Google punishment if I tried hard enough (by writing with SEO in mind more) but I feel that’d erode the intentions of my blog further than me posting some crud every so often.

Funnily enough it seems that the solution to my problem may be found in adding more restrictions rather than lifting my current one. My goal of doing 1 game review per week for the entire year (I’ve only missed 1 week so far and have every intention to catch that up) has been an amazing experience, seeing me play all sorts of games that I wouldn’t have given a second thought to otherwise. It also means that I spend one less day a week wondering what the hell I’m going to write about in the morning, even if the time investment to getting that post there is orders of magnitude above anything else I’ve written.

It’s always nice to know that you’re not alone in your suffering, even if it doesn’t help you overcome that immediate problem. I all too often think that the problems I experience are because I was never really good at this writing thing in the first place only to find out later that no, all writers struggle with the same problems. At least then I can share in their misery and maybe even help out a little if I get the chance to, although it seems we’re much more likely to suffer in silence than to say anything about it.

Well, unless it makes for good blog fodder that is 😉

¹Indeed for the first couple months of its life I was happy that this blog would have a day that didn’t have 0 views. I’ve also been told in no uncertain terms that my initial attempt at being a blogger was crap, but usually in the same breath as saying that I’ve vastly improved since then (which I always appreciate hearing).

I’m a Terrible Judge of Popularity.

It seems that no matter how long I keep doing this whole blogging thing I’m still unable to judge which of my posts will end up being popular, controversial or just simply fall flat on their face. The most popular post on my site (excluding the home page) for some bizzare reason appears to be my April fools post from a couple years ago that seems to draw in several hundred people a month simply for the fact that it has 2 pictures of ponies in it. The second is the only piece that was ever linked to by a reputable news organisation, my original post on BitCoins. Even then though the post wasn’t popular until a month after I had written it, an eternity here on the Internet.

What confuses me most is though is that the posts that I considered forced, rushed pieces of work (usually ones I write when I can’t find anything good to write about) usually end up being some of the most commented and thought provoking pieces. It could be that I’m just somewhat self defeatist in this regard, thinking that if I can’t hit that creative spark in under an hour then obviously anything I’m plonking down is going to be crap. Still though those particular posts are usually the ones where I’ve spent the least amount of effort researching, proof reading and polishing which would make you think that they’d be below average.

Normally I’d just write that off as confirmation bias, since there have been many posts from both sides of the equation that have had varying levels of success. The perceived failure of a well researched post sticks much more clearly in my mind however, because I feel like there’s been so much more effort put into it. A great example of this was last week’s post on eSports which was a massive undertaking for me, taking up a good 4 hours to research, analyse and write. Of course it could end up being a surprising success story a month down the line but for a post that managed to generate such energetic conversation amongst my peers I had thought that it would hit a chord with enough people for it to see a bit more light than it did. I might’ve missed the boat on that one though, as I ofte do with my strict “one post per day at the regularly scheduled time” routine.

Realistically though I don’t dwell too much on whether a post will be popular or not. My giant backlog of 600+ posts seems to attract a variety of people looking for posts on varying topics and there’s a good collection of posts that bring people back consistently. I am getting better at recognizing which posts will do better in the longer term but it still seems to be a guessing game for the most part. It might be a different game for bloggers who have a larger audience as right now my sample size is probably too small to draw any proper conclusions from, but until such time as I reach those dizzying heights of blogging stardom I’ll have to make do with working in the uncertainty of what the wider world would like to see from me.

Why I (and You Should) Blog.

I was never a big fan of writing. I’m a very stereotypical nerd/engineer in that respect as I always struggled to get my thoughts down on paper, especially when I was told I wasn’t elaborating enough. I became frustrated with the arbitrary word counts as everything I needed to say could be summed up in a couple paragraphs and struggled with gathering supporting arguments. It got easier when I started writing documentation professionally, since all you really need there are the facts, but I only really started to enjoy writing about 6 months after I started this blog when I started to force myself to punch out at least 1 post per weekday.

I’ll be honest with you though, I still struggled with the basics for quite a while. Back then inspiration was a lot easier to come across than it was today (thanks to me not having a massive back catalogue of stuff I’ve already written about) but writing anything more than 500 words was a complete chore as the engineer in me yelled continually that anything more was just me waffling on. Over time however I came to realise just how to trigger that part of my brain that knows how to break down a subject into several key points that I can then turn into a paragraph each and now I routinely find myself writing 1000~2000 word posts on things that I’m passionate about.

Of course the small bit of recognition I get amongst my friends and peers for my various musings here go a long way to keeping me coming back to continue writing. It’s why whenever I hear about a friend starting up a blog I’ll link to them, subscribe to their blog and comment on their posts as I know how hard it is when you’re first starting out. I was shouting into the darkness for a good year before I got anything above what I’d classify Internet background noise so I know exactly what it can feel like to do something with seemingly no return. Of course most of the benefits don’t come from page views, but they certainly help to keep you on track to improving your writing (and hopefully other aspects of your life too).

Now I don’t necessarily recommend doing what I do exactly as whilst it’s been immensely helpful for me it’s also had the rather undesirable side effect of giving me a crazy OCD for getting a post out every day. Whilst some of my most complimented bits of writing come from the days when I have to drag inspiration kicking and screaming out of the dark reaches of my brain it would probably be a whole lot better, at least creatively, if I only wrote when the inspiration hit me. Indeed some of the best blogs I read come from those who only write when they really have to. That’s not to say that all my posts are forced out (the majority, thankfully, aren’t) but unless your goal is SEO and page views blogging or writing whenever suits you is probably the best option.

I’d also go out on a limb and say that any sort of online creative expression (whether blogging, vlogging, tweeting or whatever) will help you better yourself in some way. Of course I think some mediums are better for certain things (blogging is best for writing, of course) but giving yourself some sort of creative outlet, even if you think you aren’t that good, will do wonders for you. Sure many people already have these, especially those who make a living off their creativity, but having your own place of expression where only you are in control is definitely something worth having.

I’m not going to say that everyone in the world should blog, more that if you’re looking for a sure fire way to improve your writing and being able focus your thoughts then starting a blog might be the way to go. Plus there’s always the possibility that what you jot down will gain you an audience that will keep coming back for your musings, something that’s extremely gratifying (even the trolls, to a point). Hell if you’re worried about what people might think then just open up notepad every time you want to write something down and save the files off in some random location. Even doing that I think you’d be surprised of the improvements after a while, I know I certainly have.

I Wish Inspiration Hit Once a Day.

A long time ago I made a decision to do at least one post per day on weekdays. I’m not sure where I pulled that figure from, probably because it lined up nicely with the fact I had absolutely nothing to do at the time whilst at work, but after about 6 months habit took over and I was then compelled to write at least once a day. The only sure fire way I’ve found to break myself out of this loop is to be on holiday somewhere, although should that holiday go over a weekday I’ll still have that niggling little voice in the back of my head telling me I should post something. In fact I’d say that it’s obsessive compulsive disorder that drives a good chunk of posts on here, it’s now such a part of my morning ritual that not getting one out can seriously impact my productivity.

My general process for finding something to write about is pretty fixed. Most of the time I simply troll my feed reader looking for something good to write about, usually something that I can either find a core theme to expand upon or a topic in which I believe I’ve got some interesting background information. Having a rather large backlog of posts means I’ve probably hit on a topic before and apart from topics where I’ve changed my position on something (like say cloud computing) there’s no good reason to go back and revisit it. Often this process ends up with me rifling through thousands of post titles, hoping to hit on that one that triggers the writer in me to plonk down a good 600+ words.

I also have a sizable backlog of drafts and post ideas that I’d love to do but simply don’t have the time or haven’t done the preparation for. Many of these are long form works that would require a whole day just to research and formulate properly. That’s not to say these will never get written indeed many of them do, but they sometimes feel to be more harmful than helpful to the whole writing process since I’ll often procrastinate trying to find something to write about by digging through them in the hopes they’ll trigger another idea (which they do not, 99% of the time).

Inspiration then is a tricky thing, as whilst it appears to strike me in some form most days it’s often preceded by hours of trawling, researching and screaming inside my head. To be honest I attribute this to trying to shit when I don’t have to go as really I shouldn’t try to force myself to write when I don’t have anything good to say. I’d probably do that too if the posts I write on those days weren’t the ones that get me positive comments (how that works I’ll never know) and it seems that if I go more than my usual 2 day break on the weekend Google likes to punish me by dropping me down a couple notches, thereby reinforcing my OCD habit of needing to do it every weekday.

Still for all my whinging about the difficulty in finding inspiration for things to post on here I still very much enjoy the whole process once I get it rolling. There are also a whole bunch of posts that come along quite easily (like my reviews) and it seems that no matter how stuck I get eventually something will eventually trigger in my head that will lead me to posting something here. Like any endeavor its not always rainbows and flowers but the rewards I’ve reaped from blogging (both real and intangible) far outweigh the costs of doing so, and I know that the work I do is appreciated.

At least some of the time anyway 😉 

Zero Value Blogging: News From Non-News.

I’ve found that no matter how hard you try to keep the quality of your blog high you’ll eventually end up posting something that’s utter crap, even more so if you go for the silly idea of blogging on a regular basis. This particular blog is a good example of that as whilst I’m overall satisfied with the level of quality stuff I’ve written over the years there’s more than a few examples of me trying to shit when I didn’t have to go and ending up posting something that does little more than keep this blog alive in Google’s search algorithms. Still this won’t stop me from pointing out when others crap out posts that add nothing of any value to anyone, especially when the articles are pulled directly out of their asses.

One of my favorite blogs who I regularly use as a punching bag here is Techcrunch. Don’t get me wrong there’s a reason that I keep coming back to them everyday for my fix on up and coming companies (I’m mostly watching for competitors) but they do have a habit of making news out of innocuous crap in order to generate some page views. From creating recursive posts with 0 content to wild speculation on new products without little to no research they’re no strangers to peddling out shit to their readers and seemingly act surprised when a vocal bunch of them begin trolling them. With the volume they put out though its inevitable that a percentage of their content will end up like this, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that it adds nothing to the value of their site or the wider Internet.

And rightly meta-blogging like this is similarly of low to zero value as all I’m really doing here is belly-aching about a much more successful tech blog. I try to avoid posts like these wanting instead to give my readers the information behind the news so that my posts can stand by themselves (and as a result age well) but a combination of lack of inspiration, seeing one of these 0 value posts and having this thing in draft for a couple weeks finally pushed me over the edge. You’d think the irony would be getting to me, but I’m just happy that I can satisfy my OCD for the day by getting this thing written.

I think the biggest issue I have with this kind of blogging is that when big sites do it the smaller ones follow suit turning the non-news story into a story in itself. I pride myself on not laying on the bullshit too strongly here and if I can’t verify something I just don’t write about it (or flag it as opinion). Unfortunately in the rapidly paced world of online news there’s really little time to allocate to fact checking a story when it hits, leaving you with the undesirable option of either reporting it verbatim or missing the boat by attempting to verify the story. My rule of posting once a day negates this problem (and also helps keep me sane) but also negates any benefits of posting on hot news as I’m often behind the times. I’m not a news reporting site however, so the impact on me is quite minimal.

When you’re making a living from the number of page views that come to your site it is understandable that you’ll do anything to keep that number high. Hell even just having a higher page view count can make you feel pretty good (like it did back when I first started this site) but in the end being proud of your work feels a lot better. I might change my tune when I finally think about monetizing this site, which could be coming soon since I moved this to a proper server, but that won’t change the fact that I’ll hate on those who aren’t providing any real value and I encourage anyone to point back to this post should I start playing fast and loose with the quality content just to keep the page views up.

2 Years and 2 Days On: A Look Back at The Refined Geek.

I’ve never been one for making a big fuss about milestones on this blog, apart from that one time when I hit 100 posts (now well over 450) and unleashed Geon into the world. Indeed as the title of this post suggests I even managed to let the 2 year milestone slip by for 2 days before realising that I had been at this blogging thing for quite a while, nearly double the time of any job I’ve held in the past 6 years. So since I don’t have anything else interesting to post about today (more on that later) I thought I’d take some time to reflect on what this blog was, where it is and where I think this thing is going in the near future.

As anyone who’s made the journey into the archives section of this blog will tell you I initially started blogging as a knee jerk reaction to being roped into the No Clean Feed movement here in Australia. In all honesty I’ve never really been that much of a writer nor anyone who you would consider as a public face for something. Still my ego is large enough to support that idea so when my long time friend Hannah asked me to be the media representative for the Canberran branch I didn’t hesitate to say no. What followed was a brief stint in the public eye with me doing a couple radio interviews and doing a speech in the middle of Canberra. Thinking that this would lead onto bigger and better things I thought it would be time to get my online personality into shape and started this blog to chronicle my thoughts and misadventures whilst fighting against the Australian Internet Filter.

The name was something I thought up with a night of googling through dozens of possibilities before I found one that didn’t have any meaningful search results for the title. I always had the theme of something debonair but also wanted to keep true to my geeky/nerdy roots and “The Refined Geek” seemed to fit the bill. Funnily enough not too long after starting this blog and buying the domain name did I come across Refined Geek, another Australian based blogger who shares some of my passions but who’s writings are worlds away from what I write here. I still drop by there from time to time as he’s quite a good writer, preferring to post less often with much more well formed posts than my usual one post a day scatter gun approach.

I can’t remember exactly when it happened but I do remember making the commitment to writing at least one post a day sometime back in the beginning of 2009. Mostly it was because I felt this blog was languishing in the dark recesses of the Internet, garnering only one view a day for the first 3 months or so. After integrating my blog with Twitter and Facebook that increased traffic ten fold but my presence outside my social circle was still quite minimal. Still as I developed a large backlog of posts on varying subjects the traffic started to climb, peaking at about 20 visits a day by the end of 2009. 2010 however really has been this blog’s year with 80~100 people visiting this blog per day looking for all sorts of weird and wonderful things. I’m still surprised to see some of my old articles popping up in the stats, it always brings a smile to my face.

Initially I started out with the idea that this would be my professional presence on the web, demonstrating my professionalism and expertise on certain subjects. However, as most amateur bloggers find, the stories that do well are often those that come with a personal aspect to them and I always found those the easiest to write. Over time I let go of the idea that people would come here like they do for the other big blogs, instead preferring to just write about what I’m passionate about and seeing where the chips fall. Most recently this has taken the form of not trying to force out a post every day (although my OCD keeps bugging me to) instead hoping that I can just let the topics come to me and write when the moment strikes. Most recently I took to blogging my exploits through the USA which was an interesting diversion away from the usual game/tech/space focus that I usually take. I think that was the final nail in the “this isn’t my personal blog” idea’s coffin (all the other nails were put in a long time ago, however) and I’ve wholeheartedly resigned myself to not thinking about The Refined Geek in that way again.

As for the future of this blog? I’m not really sure where I want to go with it. Spending an hour or two here every day writing a post is still feels like part of my morning routine so there’s no doubt that I’ll be continuing to post here for the foreseeable future. However there have been many times when I’ve considered moving it to a better domain (I happen to own, which would be very suitable), revamping the site with a new theme or even starting anew with a better focus but with all my other exploits at the moment I can’t see many of them happening soon. So for those long term readers of mine can rest easy in the fact that I’m not going to start changing things now that I’ve hit the terrible twos but with change coming my way in the real world soon I can see this blog shifting in unison as it has done so over the past 2 years. Whether that’s anything I’ve just predicted is anyone’s guess, but I’m not one to be comfortable with the status quo.

I mean really, when was the last time you saw me write about finance? 😉

The SEO Line I Won’t Cross.

 One of the first things you’ll come across after starting a website is the wonderful world of search engine optimization. In essence it’s the idea of making your website more appealing to search engines by following certain sets of guidelines in the hopes of getting your site higher up in the search ranks. Whilst I won’t go as far to call it black magic (search engines are by definition deterministic) there’s still enough mystery about how search engines work for the snake oil peddlers to work their craft in this field. If you see any of those “Mum makes $70/hour online! Find out how today.” type of ads on websites I can almost guarantee they’re some kind of SEO based idea that more than likely ends up being a scam or fails to deliver on any one of their promises.

This is not to say that I don’t employ SEO techniques on this site though, far from it. I run a couple WordPress plugins to make my site easier for search engines to crawl so that my posts appear in Google no more than 5 minutes after they’ve been posted. Additionally many of my articles have been written in such a way as to ensure that they’re more favourable to certain search terms. Indeed I’m guilty of writing articles specifically for people who land on my blog with certain search terms, mostly because I know how frustrating it can be trying to find something so simple yet be lead up the garden path repeatedly by countless blogs.

Those SEO experts amongst you would also point out that this blog is not the only one running on The Refined Geek domain, in fact there’s 26 more of them! Why would anyone have these if not in an attempt to try and boost the primary site search listings? Well I can’t deny that they’re part of an experiment I started over a year ago to see how one particular SEO technique faired, mostly to see if a blog that’s automated (read: none of the articles on them are written by me) could garner a higher readership than one from a genuine person. The result was mixed as for the longest time none of them attracted more than a casual passer by but at the beginning of the year at least 4 of them soared past this blog in terms of readership. More recently however this blog has overtaken them yet again and whilst no hard evidence of the cause (the experiment has been woefully unscientific) I believe it’s because Google has figured out how to track down blogs of this nature and is beginning to punish them in the search results.

However whilst I might be doing quite a bit of SEO based work there are some techniques I just can’t make myself do. Take for instance Tim Ferriss’ (of Four Hour Work Week fame) guide to writing titles for articles that will get you retweeted:

Into trapeze or German techno? Our starting headlines might be “How to Perform 5 Tricks on the Flying Trapeze” or “German Techno 101.” That’s just a starting point. Then we expand to what your wider circle of friends or co-workers might be interested in. For example:

“How German Techno Can Make You a Better Agile Programmer”
“5 Principles of Flying Trapeze for Better Hiring Decisions”

See how that works? This recipe works, and it’s a plug-and-play format for getting started, and getting traffic.

Once you’ve had a bit of practice, it’s oftentimes easier — and more scalable — to imitate what works elsewhere.

In essence this one of the more classic SEO techniques of putting the search term you’re targetting at the start or early in the title of the blog post. I’m guilty of doing this too, most notably with my most visited posts in the forms of game reviews. However those kinds of titles actually suit the articles that follow them since they first tell you what I’m going to be talking about usually followed by a somewhat whimsical statement that reflects my overall feelings about the game¹. Ferriss’ idea of creating these kinds of titles for posts, whilst nothing new to the SEOs out there, still managed to rub me the wrong way.

I won’t lie that getting people to read your blog is the main reason why a lot of us bloggers do what we do. For many of us the main source of readers are search engines so it makes sense to try and sculpt your posts in a way that will push them up the rankings. For this site the breakdown is about 41% from search engines, 47% from referrals and the remaining 12% coming from bookmarks or typing the address into the bar. Still writing just for the purposes of running up the search rankings never feels quite right as the titles always feel sub-par and don’t match my style. I will admit that they are quite effective but that doesn’t stop it from feeling like selling out.

I guess my feelings stem from the idea that the title is just that, barely even a begging to the actual content. An article or post should really stand on its own with its success being determined by the content not by the way in which its title was crafted. Unfortunately while search engines continue to value titles over content this kind of behaviour will continue. Sure you can still be creative within the bounds of certain rules but for myself it still just doesn’t sit right and I’ll continue writing just the way I’ve always done.

¹I often wonder if anyone picked up on this as no one ever commented on them. People have commented on some of my other post titles though (usually when I’m trolling). I’ll bet you’ll notice now! 😛

Blogger? Well Sir, I Guess I am.

A couple weeks ago I was out and about on a Friday night, having birthday drinks with my brother-in-law-in-law (we both married into the same family, so I guess that’s the right term). Although I’ve met quite a few of his friends before there were a few there that I hadn’t and of course he did the introductions. He started with my name but instead of leaving it there he also mentioned, before anything else, that I was a blogger and the topics that I write about. This was the first time that I had been introduced to anyone in the real world as a blogger and I must say it was both startling and thrilling all at the same time.

For starters I’d never really used the term to apply to myself instead identifying myself by what I do as my day job (IT guy or, if pushed, virtualization specialist) and then usually mentioning that I blog during the week about things that interest me. Blogger in my mind conjures up an image of someone who does this thing at the very least semi-seriously with either the passion to write about something they love or they’re in it for the money. As I’ve mentioned a few times before this blog began more out of a necessity to chronicle my misadventures in joining the grass roots political movement No Clean Feed. However after writing on a few things that interested me and having people say how much they liked them I made it part of my weekday ritual to post about something, sometimes to my detriment.

With the 2 year anniversary of this blog fast approaching it really goes without saying that yes I am in fact a blogger, even if I don’t identify myself as one. Whilst this blog has always been somewhat of a side project it’s still taken up a good chunk of my time over the past 2 years and anyone will tell you that if this site is down I just can’t do much else until its back online again. It’s also works as a great talking point for all the like minded individuals that I may meet in my travels with the added thrill of competition when you start comparing metrics just for the hell of it.

I guess why I shied away from the blogger title for so long was because I’m not really a part of any of the blogger communities. I mean I’ve got quite a few blogging friendsbut they’re all people I know in real life, not ones I made through blogging. Honestly this kind of behaviour is pretty typical of me as whilst I love to dive deep into many subjects I often don’t get involved with the communities that much, mostly because I already spend quite a bit of my time doing other things (which are right now Starcraft 2 and programming). That’s not to say that I don’t want to be a part of them, far from it, it’s probably more that I don’t feel like I’ve got anything of worth to add to the community. At least nothing that I’m not already doing with this blog.

There’s also the scatterbrained approach to my subject interests which makes slotting into a blogging community rather irksome. I write about many things that interest me but I try to do it in a way that would be a least semi-interesting to the wider world. Although the numbers really do speak for themselves with my most popular posts being my game and product reviews, an article about the Internet filter and an aptly timed and titled critique of the iPad. Indeed if I’m honest those are probably some of the most enjoyable posts I’ve written and I’m glad that people enjoy reading them. It does break my heart sometimes when an article I feel really proud of doesn’t generate any responses but it’s part and parcel of any endeavour. All that pain is forgotten in a heartbeat when something I write garners just a single response, either online or in real life.

Does this mean I’ll be introducing myself to people as a blogger from now on? Probably when I’m in like minded company but still I find it hard to say that I am a blogger when its more of a hobby than anything else. I do enjoy the writing and exposure that it grants me and realistically a good chunk of my identity can be traced back to my writings on this site but still I’m just a regular IT guy who takes the time to write to no one in particular almost every day. Maybe one day I’ll take a title like social media extraordinaire when a large group of people start hanging on my every word but until then I guess I’ll settle on saying that I’m a part time blogger.

Yeah, that seems to work 😉

Linkbaiting, Trolls and Other Secrets to Blogging Success.

I try to keep resemblance of what could be likened to journalistic integrity on this blog. I usually only write about things that I believe I have something worthy to say on the topic and I think it shows when I’ve forced out a post just to satisfy my obsessive-compulsive side. Still the temptation is always there to take the latest hot headline in one of my areas of interest and just parrot the popular sentiment as it’s an almost guaranteed way to drive people to this site. Sometimes I’m lucky enough that these two worlds collide and I get to write about something I like that brings people to my blog. One example of this was my reaction to the iPad which, whilst I knew was going to be all over the press, was an honest reaction to the product’s announcement and saw quite a few people coming here to get whatever details they could on Apple’s latest toy.

In the professional blogging world things aren’t quite so freeform.

You see, despite efforts to the contrary, the best way to make money off your online content is advertising. Depending on who you’re dealing with these can be cost per thousand impressions (CPM), cost per click (CPC) or some other variety. No matter what kind of advertising you end up slathering all over your content the amount you make will still be directly proportional to the number of users that you receive on your site. The best ways to do this usually involve breaking a story (although that doesn’t last that long in our Internet world), writing on the topic de’jeur or playing on people’s loyalties by taking a controversial stance on a subject. Take a look at any blogging site and you’ll see a combination of all of these, usually right there on the front page. All of this is done in aid of driving users and their respective advertising revenue to the site.

As always this post was inspired by an example of such behaviour that I saw on the Internet. Currently one of the hot topics amongst the tech crowd is the issue of the iPhone 4’s antenna which can be shorted out if held in a certain way. I’ve steered clear of the topic mostly because I don’t have anything useful to say on the matter and it’s already been beaten to death in the headlines over the past couple weeks. To give you an idea of just how absurd this whole situation is getting take a gander at this post over at TechCrunch:

But the thing is, that trust that my mom gives to Consumer Reports was hard earned over decades of obsessive use. She trusts Consumer Reports. And if I read it I might trust it too. If they rated stuff on shininess I’d definitely subscribe. Or if they rated robots.

But suddenly Consumer Reports is crazy for the link bait. This iPhone 4 antenna problemhas them going absolutely batshit crazy, and nearly every day they’re firing off a new set of recommendations, or demands, that conflict with the old recommendations and demands.

Ironically¹ Arrington is also guilty of the same things that he criticises Consumer Reports of doing. The post is a classic traffic driver attempt: he’s taken a rather controversial stance on something (no one else has criticized Consumer Reports to my knowledge), he’s talking about one of the hottest topics today and for what it’s worth he’s breaking the story. The post is just aching for Consumer Reports to post a response back to his claims and should they actually do that he’s got another in to write yet another trolltastic article.

For me since my blog is primarily personal and nets me zero in the ways of revenue I don’t usually have any desire to write those kinds of articles. That’s not to say I haven’t, in fact I’ve done quite a few of them. However I never really felt that good about them afterwards and talking it over with my fellow bloggers they agreed they weren’t really of the standard they’d come to expect from me. I am human however so there are times when my stance on something will go against the grain of what’s currently socially acceptable but those posts will (hopefully) contain reasoned, logically constructed arguments so at least if you don’t agree with me you understand how I came to my conclusions.

You could write this whole tirade off as someone who’s just languishing in the dark recesses of the Internet casting an evil eye to anyone who’s got a whiff of success. The Australian blood that runs through me will always want to cut the tall poppies down but realistically it all comes back to my desire to give a little something to those who read my writings. Whilst I know that not everyone cares about why people write things for all to see I feel that knowing someone’s motivations helps me greatly in understanding their content and, should they attempt to convince me of their viewpoint, acknowledge any biases they have lest I take them on as my own.

¹It gets even more ironic if you consider that this post could be construed as falling prey to the same ideas I’m criticising. I knew that when writing this, just so you know 😉