What I learned in my first year of blogging
It’s hard to believe, but the blog is already one year old. It started as a lark, a way of reputation management, but it grew into something very different. Milestones are always a good time for reflection, so it is time for some more navel gazing.
Why I Blog
I’ve been hit up a few times with that “why do I blog” meme, and the answer for me has always been learning. I’m breadth oriented instead of depth oriented, and that means I like to know a little about a lot of things (at least when it comes to technology). According to William Glasser we learn 70% of what we discuss with others and 95% of what we teach to someone else. This blog gives me an avenue to digest my learning and regurgitate it all over the Internet, which is much more pleasant than it sounds.
While writing //engtech I’ve been learning and developing many skills:
- Technical writing
- Programming for an audience other than engineers
- Creating GUI user interfaces for the first time
- CSS Design
- RSS/XML creation and manipulation
- Marketing, advertising, branding and promotion
- Search engine optimization
Two key things I learned over time were to avoid the echo chamber and stop repeating news stories with a slight spin, and to write new content instead of always linking to other people and blockquoting. Being able to link to other people is the greatest strength of the Internet, but if that is all I want to do then there are better tools than a WordPress blog (like StumbleUpon or Tumblr).
- Over a million page views
- High of 62,000 page views in a single day
- One of the top 1700 most linked blogs (out of 15 million active blogs)
- One third of the way to the Technorati Top 100 (not that I’ll ever reach it)
- On the front page of Digg six times
- On the front page of Reddit three times
- On the front page of Slashdot two times
- On the front page of Lifehacker three times
- And about 10 lbs of weight gain.
- Tag Cloud Generator for WordPress – 1700 installs
- Akismet Auntie Spam – 700 installs
- WordPress Category Resizer – 300 installs
- Technorati Favorite Your Fans – 300 installs
- Check image size for blog themes – 200 installs
- Increase size of del.icio.us Firefox extension – 150 installs
None of these programs are groundbreaking or notable, but I think it’s cool that blogging acts as a springboard for creating small utilities and exercising my programming skills in new directions. It also forces me to write user documentation for real people of different knowledge levels instead of the tech types I usually deal with.
One of the dangers of having some small success with blogging (or any activity) is letting it go to your head. I’ve been guilty of it in the past, and I honestly don’t know that I would have gone this far with //engtech if there wasn’t the ego validation of seeing that “hey, people are reading what I write.” Searching for that validation can be self-defeating and lead to a dilution of ideas as you try to look for mass appeal. The goal is to write and created something that some people will love and other people will hate; aiming for the middle ground of mild contentment always leads to something forgettable.
What will the second year of //engtech look like? I plan to blog less, but when I do write something it will be of better content. I like how I do my “links of the week” as a single post on Saturday to keep the signal to noise ratio low. I will focus on better titles, telling stories and covering the four different kinds of learning. I will write more software, how-to guides, and book reviews as I read to learn.
I’ve set it up so the front page of the blog is the latest post only (at least in Firefox). I’ve also nuked the MyBlogLog and WhosAmungUs sidebar widgets to further reduce clutter. Archive/summary pages all show twenty items at a time, and I’ve even put the dates back on them.
The default wordpress search kind of sucks for honing in on specific posts, so I’ve replaced it with a Google custom search engine. It will specifically skip over my “best of feeds” link posts.
Next step will be to align the categories in the sidebar to be more representative to what I really write about (not what I wrote about eight months ago).
One thing that has been noticeably absent from my blog is a tagline, or a mission statement. It is a sign of my own inability to focus. That is something I want to fix for year two.
What should my tagline be?
- Helping you solve your problems with technology
- blogging / programming / technology / lifehacks / career tips
- I came here to write code and chew bubblegum, but I’m all out of bubblegum
- dirty hacks and tech tricks
- a nerd and his blog
- duct tape for the internet
- coder, blogger, geek
- Hack the planet!
- On the Internet no one knows you’re really a cat
- On the Internet no one knows you’re not wearing pants (but they suspect…)
- I can has techburger?
- a blog about blogging and recursion
- making things more complicated in order to sound smarter
- high tech litterbox
- the carne asada super burrito of tech cat blogs
- I love technology, but not as much as you love me, but I still love technology
If you have any ideas for a good tagline then I’d love to see them in the comments.