Monday, December 22, 2008

Bitter on Blogging

In comments at this post, Bitter explains blogging today. I'm going to take her comments and repost them here, because they are too good not to share.

Part 1:

Since I'm not really blogging anymore, I'm a chick, and I started a successful blog in 2002 and kept it going for 6 years, despite lots of life changes, let me completely honest about why some blogs get attention and why some don't. This is not in anyway to be personal attacks. Though I will use some very personal examples, they are just so that I'm not avoiding the comments at hand in this post. It's not meant to be mean or bitchy, it's a perspective that only matters because reading and linking is very closely tied to personal opinion.

First, addressing a specific issue (but not your blog in particular), getting on someone's blogroll means squat these days.

Back through about 2004, it meant some traffic. Now that many regular readers and especially other bloggers use RSS, no one ever sees the blogroll. Even when people do visit a site, blogrolls are often ignored as part of the expected "noise" on a blog page. They generate practically zero traffic, even from huge blogs like Instapundit.

In addition to the no traffic benefit, they also make no difference for rankings now. Technorati stopped counting links like a blogroll that stays up for 6+ months a while ago. One reason they stopped doing that is because once the blog is set up, most bloggers completely forget about their blogrolls and rarely update them. There's no effective benefit by any objective measure for being on a blogroll.

The only benefit that comes from a blogroll link is the linked blogger feeling good about themselves. Although, I would argue that it is also an inappropriate subjective benefit because people blogroll folks for different reasons. Some add blogroll links that are exclusively reciprocal (quality be damned!), and others add their top referrers. Some only post their reading list, and other post the highlights from their blog reading list. Some only link they people they know, and others like to use it to highlight other interests. In other words because the motivation to link is so random through the blogosphere, you never really know why someone links you, so it doesn't necessarily mean an endorsement of your blog's quality or whether they read it.

Part 2:
Second, it's time to address quality when talking about non-blogroll links.

This is much harder, and no one should take any critical thoughts personally because this is extremely subjective. Some people link to be nice. Some people don't link because they don't want to show too much favoritism. (Odd, but I've heard of it more often than you think.) Some people only link if a tip gets sent to their email box at the time they happen to be reading emails.

The keys to getting linked are often newsworthiness, timeliness, or a different perspective. If a blogger reports the same thing that all the other bloggers know, then there's nothing worth linking. If they add insightful commentary, have it up faster, or maybe add a unique local angle (local not necessarily being geographic), then they are much more likely to get linked. I believe many bloggers actually read far more blogs regularly than they ever link (blogroll or not), but they may never find a story of interest to link because it's all old news or simple links that, if useful, are at most worth a hat tip. Even if a blogger has all of those features – big news as it's breaking with incredible insight – they still probably won't get linked nearly as often as they want to simply because people are fickle.

These links are the kind that matter, and the ones that will lead to the biggest payoff in terms of readers and feedback/interaction. No other form of linking even begins to compare unless the benefit a blogger seeks is simply feeling good about any kind of link. In that case, the best solution is to find and link lots of blogs with reciprocal blogrolls.

Third, I don't think that the "things of the past" you mention are actually gone for good, especially carnivals. The difference is in quality. So many people jumped on the bandwagon that it became too much for most people. Only the best edited ones will float to the top and get regular links and submissions. One reason why editing matters more than ever again relates to changing technology like RSS feeds where people can track hundreds of blogs in a reasonable amount of time. At the time the first carnivals started, if RSS even existed (I don't think it did), then few people were using it and they were the best avenue for following the best of lots of blogs.

In the gun blogosphere, this is particularly challenging. It's a niche, which means people who are extremely interested in the subject read pretty much all of the major sites and a decent chunk of the smaller or specialized sites. Carnivals really don't bring in new readers or expose new blogs because we're generally all so connected. Based on other niche blogosphere groups, I actually think we're far more connected and networked.

I have to agree. Blogging isn't The Next Big Thing any more. Lots of people do it. Some better than others.

In an interesting side note, Blogger spellcheck calls out "bloggers" as a misspelled word. =).


elliot said...

It's NOT the next big thing? Then why do I keep doing it? I'm a maroon.

jed said...

> At the time the first carnivals started, if RSS even existed (I don't think it did)

RSS, waaaaaaaay back, was developed by Netscape Communications. See RSS. I'm a bit hazy on the gory details, but I do remember when "push" content was supposed to be the coming rage, and Netscape used RSS as part of its technology base in being one of the earliest portal sites.

The earliest carnival I remember is the "Carnival of the Vanities", which was what ... 2002 or 2003?

The main advantage I see to the carnivals or roundups or whatever is that -- at least on the ones I read -- more blogs get mentioned, and so I tend to be exposed to a broader variety of possible regular reads. I know it sounds contradictory, but sometimes a link that wouldn't make it into a singular topical post will get tossed into a roundup, and I'll discover someone I want to read more from.

99% agree on blogrolls. But sometimes, just for the sake of seeing what else is out there, I'll go to a couple of my regular reads, and pick something off the blogrolls that I'm unfamiliar with.

Couldn't tell you how many of my regular reads I've found by either the latter method, or from carnivals, but it's more than a couple. That's probably more true for Colorado bloggers I got acquainted with when we had the Rocky Mountain Blog Roundup, and for gunbloggers who sent stuff in for the Weekly Fusillade when I was doing that (and the 2A Carnival -- don't recall what it was called -- that preceded that). Oddly, I don't recall finding anybody new to read during the run of the Carnival of the Cordite that came a bit later.

FWIW, I think that carnivals (and such) work better within a subset of the blogging community, whether that be geographical, or topical. And, my sense is that in the topical area, keeping a narrow focus will make the carnival more useful.

That said, yeah, having a good aggregator and feed collection does make the carnival less needful than it used to be, but I still find a well edited one can bring things to the fore that otherwise would get lost in the noise. And that, after all, is why we select the blogs we select anyway. It's because we find the filter that that particular writer (or group) puts on the world to be useful and enjoyable.

phlegmfatale said...

I started my blog in 2002, also, but I did and have ever only done this for me. I appreciate that a few people enjoy reading mine, and as I've explored my interest in shooting, I've been thrilled to be welcomed into a community of some of the most lovely, erudite people I ever have met. That said, if I ever stopped enjoying writing it, I certainly would leave off that habit. I think when you start making your goals external such as readership or fame, then you are focused on the wrong thing, anyhoo. But that's just me. :)