All Posts Tagged ‘blogging

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Does a Daring Fireball sponsored post actually work?

I was putting all of my proverbial “eggs” in one basket and was hoping that it would work. But, it wasn’t without research and it wasn’t a decision I took lightly (obviously). You see after reading DF for years I’ve been witness to many companies that have had great success with sponsorship. The kicker was that I have purchased many products just because I first saw it on DF.
John Saddington, creator of Desk

A fascinating glimpse behind the curtain of high profile sponsored posts. I’ve often wondered if blog sponsorship was an effective marketing channel for apps and products. There’s a lot of it going on in tech, also on podcasts, but are they actually effective? For Desk, the answer is a clear yes.

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Being too popular for a day

Two weeks back, Marco Arment (creator of Instapaper, development brains behind Tumblr, creator of Overcast, founder of The Magazine..) published a typical Marco-style post criticising Apple’s recent software quality;

I suspect the rapid decline of Apple’s software is a sign that marketing is too high a priority at Apple today: having major new releases every year is clearly impossible for the engineering teams to keep up with while maintaining quality. Maybe it’s an engineering problem, but I suspect not — I doubt that any cohesive engineering team could keep up with these demands and maintain significantly higher quality.
Apple has lost the functional high ground on marco.org

Which then spread like wildfire;

This morning, my words were everywhere, chopped up and twisted by sensational opportunists to fuel the tired “Apple is doomed!” narrative with my name on them. (Or Tumblr’s name, which was even worse.) Business Insider started the party, as usual, but it spread like wildfire from there. Huffington Post. Wall Street Journal. CNN. Heise. Even a televised CNBC discussion segment.
What it’s like to be way too popular for a day on Marco.org

Which might seem like a blogging dream-come-true, but you’d be wrong. Fascinating.

See also: Marco went into more detail on both ATP and The Talk Show, both of which are equally long and worth the listen.

Image Credit: Marco.org

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How to avoid blogging limbo

You too, can avoid blogging limbo!

Blogging today is almost too easy. Cheap hosting, open source software and fantastic themes are very easy to find and use. In fact, since it’s so simple & easy, you’re not even limited to just one blog. Why not have two? Why not have ten? The time between silly idea and voila! blog existing is so short, that it can actually become a problem for people with the inclination to do so. What am I trying to say? That since starting a blog is so damn easy, it’s also easy to wind up with too many blogs, slowly gathering moss in some dark corner of the internet.

You might laugh and call this a first world problem (“I can’t keep up with all of these websites I keep creating..!”), but it’s a real pain in my side when it comes to keeping things going. If you want your blog family to grow and thrive, and not simply wind up in 404 limbo, you need to give them the love and attention that they need.

Let me put it another way — it’s super easy to find and buy lots of beautiful plants to put in your home. You simply walk down to the nearest florist or garden store, pick something and walk home with it. But what happens two weeks down the track, when you’ve forgotten how often your orchids need watering? Or when you last watered them? Or how much water you’ve forgotten to give them?

Your beautiful flowers can very easily wither and die.

Life on the internet is unbelievably fast. News sites, social media sites & microblogging are all ‘in the moment’ (think: Twitter). Literally: blink and you’ll miss it. Yet at the same time it can be incredibly slow, especially when you’re trying to build something of value (value is a topic for another day). It can take a long time for your words to find an audience, possibly even an indefinitely long time, you just never know.

Those sites you started with infinite enthusiasm, passion and energy? Where are they now, 6 months later?

It gets worse when you consider sites created for business or startup ideas. Having your own domain name sure makes things seem legit, like you’re not just two guys in a building hacking together pieces of code. Like you might just be the next big thing. Startup life though, as we know, can be very demanding & business ideas are very likely to fail. Or you might need to pivot and change your focus – possibly many times before the whole house of cards collapse. The website you build in the first 6 months of operations had better be able to adapt and follow your new path, or instead be the most evergreen content ever seen. Otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll stop nurturing it, stop giving it the love it deserves. There’s a good chance it will simply slide into the internet graveyard.

Remember how I said that life on the internet is slow? Yes, we’ve finally reached our point. Dave Wiskus recently remarked that the App store is like a graveyard for good ideas. If that’s the case, then the internet is like the mother of all graveyards, filled with good ideas and intentions – though staffed by a skeleton crew. Held together with hopes and dreams of internet stardom. Only a few sites manage to save themselves from this limbo fate.

So how do you do it, you ask. How do you stave off oblivion?  There are three simple steps you can follow to avoid blogging limbo.

The first step is to simply not exist.

What? Not exist? How can I not exist?  It’s simple. The the most surefire step to avoid blogging limbo is to stop yourself creating the blog in the first place.

Does your blog need to exist? What will you post about? How often will you be writing there? Who do you hope will be your audience? If your answers to these questions were: “shut up!”, “stuff I like”, “whenever I feel like it” & “cool people”, I’d strongly recommend you stick to Facebook. This isn’t snark or an insult to your writing, I’m simply trying to help you avoid falling into blogging limbo. Blogs don’t give you the same kind of addictive social rush like Facebook. People aren’t already coming to your site to read your clever quips. You could think of Facebook as like blogging with training wheels. Make sure you really want to take those training wheels off, before you jump into blogging in earnest.

The second step to avoid blogging limbo is to set yourself realistic expectations and timeframes.

This sounds so boring, I know, but it really is the key to long lasting happiness and fulfilment online. Get really Zen about your web properties and you can stare into the void without flinching. By this I mean: don’t start thecoolzone.net.au expecting to be an internet sensation in your first year, or ever! Sure, it can happen and sometimes does, but setting high expectations is also setting yourself up to fail. By all means, keep hold of your hopes & dreams, but you can’t eat hope for dinner. Let your hopes inspire your actions, but don’t let them set your expectations. Realistic expectations often revolve around things that can be measured — e.g. web hits, shares and likes. Set realistic goals and work towards them, but don’t define success simply by what you can measure.

One of the goals for this blog is to get on the radar of people I admire professionally. Writers, mainly & most likely people you don’t know, but that doesn’t need to matter to you. It matters to me & that’s what helps me avoid blogging limbo.

The third step to avoid blogging limbo is equally simple: just keep blogging.

The clearest sign that a blog is neglected or slipping into the darkness is a simple equation, I call the neglect coefficient™:

neglectCoefficient = date(today) - date(mostRecentPost)

Blogs with a high neglect coefficient are a turn off for everybody. For you, for the readers, for advertisers, even for Google. And if you think it’s not true, let me assure you from my experience, that blog neglect is insidious. I know the neglect coefficients for each of my blogs & it’s a real slippery slope down to blogging limbo. It’s a mental game you have to play. Simply adding new content, on a decent frequency, will help pull you out of a neglect death spiral & get you back on an even keel (how many more metaphors can I cram in here?). Step 3 won’t save you if you’ve ignored Step 1 & 2, but it can help.

Despite perceptions to the contrary, being a blogger is hard work. Being a multi-blog author is even harder. You need every trick in the book to keep your plates spinning & to maintain sanity — but it can be done. The next time you find yourself considering either: starting a blog or giving up on a blog, I’d like you to think of this:

Not every blog needs to exist, not every blog will meet your success goals & no blog will succeed without sustained effort from you.

This doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile, nor is this a call to stop blogging — on the contrary. I love blogs, I love blogging & I hope to some day enjoy discovering your writing on a well nurtured site.  The fact is that quality writing takes effort: maintaining that standard over time takes even more. I want to see you set yourself up to succeed.

These three steps will get you partway there, the rest is up to you.

[One last thing: I’m seriously astonished that Limbo for iOS literally dominates the google image search for the term “limbo”. Check it out for yourself! The cover image for this article was created by Diego Does on deviantArt.]

Update November 2015: Still dominating! Unbelievable.

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the cargo cult of statistics

“You may even compel your indentured “writers” to hew to a stifling regimen of post volume, pointless stock art inclusion, and even compulsory word count — simply because the cargo cult of statistics whispers which coconuts make the best headphones. You conspire to trick, deceive, annoy, and badger your audience up to precisely that moment when they say, “Screw it,” and just never come back.”

Merlin Mann, from the 43Folders archive

So good.

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★ An announcement: upcoming changes

This is a short note to let you all know that there are going to be a few changes around here. Frustrated by the results of some of the writing I’ve seen fit to print here, primarily poor quality link posts or low value lists, I’ve decided to do a serious spring clean and bring this site back up to scratch. I’m going to go through the archives and delete a lot of clutter. I’m going to tidy up the way I differentiate between links and posts, and – most importantly – I’m going to commit to dramatically improving the quality of the writing here.

This change will affect mostly the back-end of this site (much of which is now hidden from the front end) and will take effect immediately. I do thank you all for patiently sticking with me, as I learn the craft and patience required to create something truly special.

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★ Problogging

A few days ago I posted a short note, essentially my thoughts on the ‘do what you love’ topic, which has also been covered quite extensively elsewhere.

One great way to start doing what you love (as a job), is to just start doing what you love and receiving payment for it! The way I’ve done that is to start this blog, then I left my job for 9 months to go traveling around the world. Right now my only job is to write interesting things on this website, for interested and interesting people to read. That’s it. Right now I get paid in page views and (very rarely) nice comments. You know, as well as I do, that I can’t feed myself with page views or comments. But for the moment that doesn’t matter, because I’m doing something that I love.

After reading this, a friend of mine asked me if I did in fact earn any money from what happens here. I mentioned that I’d put a disclaimer at the bottom of that post, saying how I don’t run this site as a job, nor do I get paid in any way for the things I post here. I haven’t considered this blog (at any point) to be a potential candidate for full-time work, nor do I see that changing in the near/mid-term future – and I felt like it might not be such a bad time to reflect on this in the public domain.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the effort and reward of growing this blog, as a place to jot ideas down for future reference, and as a place to share interesting things I spot in my daily wanderings. It’s a pastime, a hobby and a whole lot of fun. I don’t make any money from this blog – and to be perfectly honest, that’s not really the point. I actually find it somewhat strange to find us living in a world where people actually do this kind of thing for a living, successfully! I actually considered putting a note on my about page, mentioning how I don’t run this thing as a full time job, before remembering how odd that concept is and that it’s even odder to think people will come here with the expectation that it would/could be the full fruits of my labour.

I’m sure there are ways that I could turn this thing into my full time work, if I put a whole lot of work-like effort into it — but that’s not my goal. I would hate to turn this pleasurable, enjoyable pastime into something I was forced into doing daily, or that I felt contingent upon to earn a crust each month. Today the pageviews and comments are a nice reward for writing (hopefully) interesting things here, tomorrow that could horribly turn into a metric by which my value can and will be calculated. Who needs that kind of pressure?

Perhaps more importantly, doing so would rob me of a myriad of opportunities and challenges in the realm of my actual passion — the design of things! I would no longer be able to put my head to the very real and important challenges that face us daily, the design and life of the cities we live in. What could be a more worthwhile challenge, than to seek new and interesting ways to improve the ways things are done? I know I’m being rather obtuse here, but I really don’t wish to put a finer point on it. I want to be involved in shaping, in creating, not solely reflecting and writing on these things here.

I’ll continue writing here, because I love it. It’s an outlet, a way to give you a few new and different ways to unlock my brain. Without this, you’d need to spend an uncomfortable amount of time with me to get the same insight – and I don’t think either of us is really ready for that level of commitment.

I do hope you stick around, though, it’s really nice to know you care.

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★ 30,000

Speaking of page views, yesterday marked a new milestone for this humble little site – seeing the 30,000th page view, a neat achievement for something I do purely out of interest.

To give you some sense of scale for this (because many more other websites will see 30,000 page views in any given month, easily), over the last four years this site saw an average of 23 page views per day, or around 650-700 per month – making the 30,000 view milestone a nice long term reward for the ongoing design and creation of this blog. This year things seem to also have kicked up a notch, with a monthly average of around 1000, and 38-40 page views per day. Wonderful!

(I do think page views are a odd way to measure the success of a blog, the reach and audience and so on.. but the sad fact is that page views are a cold, hard measure of interest in your writing, and numbers like that can’t be refuted, and nor are they easily replaced by other measures – although i’m completely open to hearing suggestions on how else we could do it.)

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★ Getting paid, yo

Merlin Mann, on doing what you love, over on the magnificent 5by5 podcast, back to work;

You’re not going suddenly arrive and do what you love. You get there through course correction: look back at all the ugly birdhouses and look ahead for the next step toward building a home.

One great way to start doing what you love (as a job), is to just start doing what you love and receiving payment for it! The way I’ve done that is to start this blog, then I left my job for 9 months to go traveling around the world. Right now my only job is to write interesting things on this website, for interested and interesting people to read. That’s it. Right now I get paid in page views and (very rarely) nice comments. You know, as well as I do, that I can’t feed myself with page views or comments. But for the moment that doesn’t matter, because I’m doing something that I love.

Actually, in many ways this is like being a musician, or a artist, or a (surprise) writer. You don’t become The Beatles in one week, you’ve got to spend years banging out covers and crummy pop songs until you get good enough to deserve the attention of such a wide audience. If you’re specially talented or clever, or insightful you may even create something so inspired that it reaches an audience decades or centuries later. If so, you’re so far beyond caring about money that it’s more like a search for that super-mortal existence: living on in the work you produce. But to get to that level, you’re going to need to spend a long time honing what it is that you do – banging out blog posts, rocking new crummy pop songs, learning how to stretch canvas just so. In addition to this, you’re probably going to need to figure out what other skills are needed to make it all work; who you need to know, what kind of relationship you need to forge with them, how much you’re going to need to evangelize your own work before others begin to do that for you. It’s going to take a long time, and if you’re not prepared to accept that as a reality, you might just not make it.

But that’s not what matters, actually. Because when you start doing what you love, you get to write your own definition of success.

*Disclaimer: this site is not my job, in any tangible or imagined way. It is, however one outlet for me to do what I love. The page views are very nice, though, I’m more than happy to accept your attention as payment for my efforts, and I love you all for that.

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★ Joining in

Another thought occurred to me tonight. This whole blogging thing, the reason why someone publishes a podcast series, the reason we join Twitter, the reason why we’re all involved in the first place – is that we all want to join in. We all want to become a part of this, the most fascinating ongoing public conversation happening today.

We all want to add our voices to this ever growing global community, and it feels right.

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On comments

Tonight I had a long and thought provoking conversation with my friend michael, about the nature of this site and the way I choose to handle comments — essentially by not allowing them at all. Mike asked me why I don’t allow comments on this blog, to which I gave my response.

It would seem that the case for comments goes something like this:

  1. You should welcome debate, discussion and a forum for connecting with a community and getting exposed to different points of view
  2. By shutting down comments, you’re removing a way for people to disagree with you on your space – essentially cocooning yourself from dissenting opinions, or avoiding criticism of your thoughts
  3. People want a way to respond to something they just read, then and there. Setting up a separate blog is too much effort, and is too far removed from the original article

I’ve written about blog comments on here before, so this may be old news to you, essentially my position is this;

  • This site doesn’t really spark that kind of conversation. It gets absolutely minimal comments. In the 3 years since opening doors, I’ve received only 40 comments, some of which have added a lot of value and I’ve found highly rewarding. Some portion have been track-backs, which are nice reminders that people are paying some attention or are inclined to borrow my words temporarily. The rest, sadly, are all spam. Given the low volume of value adding comments, and the high (proportion-wise) volume of spam comments, I decided to shut them off.
  • I hold the view that blogs are not a prescribed medium, and that not all blogs *need* to have comments. I’m simply not prepared to accept the view that there is only one way to blog. Why should all blogs have comments? Why should all blogs be open platforms for discussion and debate? Why should anyone visiting here expect to be given the right of reply, simply because many thousands of blogs offer this ability?
  • If you really want to leave your thoughts, a carefully crafted response, take part in the dialogue or engage with some really interesting content, are you sure that doing so on someone’s hosted blog is the best place to do so? If your thoughts are valuable to you, to the author, to the community – do you really want to just leave them on my website? Who knows when I’ll decide to shut down wordpress and start using something else (calepin, tumblr, static HTML or some other future amazing web software), and the value of that conversation will die with it. Give your thoughts the time and space they deserve – create your own blog and get in touch with me about it.
  • Today we have more ways to get in touch and connect than ever before. Tonight I was reached by SMS & a phone call, and if those didn’t work an email would have done the job. I’m on Twitter, my email address is on my about page, I’m fairly active on flickr, vimeo, Facebook and who knows where else. Heck, if you still can’t find me, just fire up google. If you want to make contact, here is not the right place to do so.
  • Finally, this place takes time, effort and imagination to create. It’s incredibly rewarding and I’m having a blast since deciding to give this thing a real honest go. It’s my own small digital garden, and I don’t feel so inclined to invite everybody in. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but this space is mine, I’ll do with it what I like. If you want a blog with comments that you can enjoy and nurture, be my guest. Just don’t expect that here.

One thing I might add, is that in some ways the comment box is too tempting, it’s too easy, it’s too free of responsibility and it shows. Just look at any of the popular magazines, blogs or newspaper sites – I can’t imagine how much trolling and spam they must have to wade through. What’s on the site is the end result of smart filters and moderators – imagine what kind of bile would emerge otherwise. Do you really want that kind of behaviour on your own website? Why?

I can see how this might seem confrontational, aggressive or rude. This isn’t my intention, rather I’m openly articulating my chosen curatorial stance for this space. I implore you to take up your own stance, on your own space and on your own time – by all means, feel free to create a post tearing this one to shreds. I welcome this, I really do.

@mention me. Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me why this is the best place for you to contribute and add value to the community. I can’t wait to hear your side of the story. Just not on this page, if it’s all the same to you.