This is still a blog

A year, or maybe two years ago, I wrote a piece called “This is a blog” in response to an overly full-of-himself author who said that serious professionals don’t blog. It infuriated some people and got me kicked off the daynotes.com web page. I don’t have anything like that to lose this time around, so I don’t approach the topic with the same kind of eagerness–you’re always more eager when you know someone’s going to be offended and throw a temper tantrum–but since everyone and his uncle seems to be writing about John C. Dvorak’s current PC magazine column, Co-opting the future, I might as well weigh in, since it’s the in thing to do, and disagree with the majority knee-jerk reaction, since that isn’t the in thing to do. But I won’t do it to be counterculture. No, I’ll disagree with the majority reaction because the majority reaction is wrong.

Yes, I find it funny that the guy who was recommending novelty domain names as Christmas presents back when a domain name still cost $99 a year is today opposed to blogs. What else is someone going to do with a personalized domain name? I’ll tell you what I’d do if someone gave me the davefarquhar.com domain–I’d run a mail server on it and I’d hang my blog off it. Dvorak would run a mail server off it and post some recipes on it and some pictures of his pets. But my site would be more useful–at least blogging software provides a search engine so you can find the stuff. Isn’t it tacky to tell people to go to Google and type what they’re looking for, followed by site:yourdomainnamehere.com?

But unlike the vigilante masses, I don’t take issue with the majority of what Dvorak says. So he cites a paper that says the majority of blogs get abandoned. The blogosphere goes nuts. Well, I’m sorry, folks, but Dvorak’s right. Go to any public blogging community and start navigating random sites, and you’re going to find a lot of abandonware. It’s like any other hobby. It’s great when the novelty is new. But eventually the newness fades away. Some people abandon their blogs for a while, for various reasons, then come back. Hey, I posted as much in the months of September and October as I used to post in a week. It happens. I came back because I love writing. Some people find they don’t love writing. Some people find they love writing but they run out of things to say. It happens. Large numbers of people trying it and deciding they don’t like it doesn’t invalidate it. How many millions of cameras sit in closets, only to be taken out during birthdays and holidays, if then? Does that somehow invalidate photography?

Then Dvorak says the people who stick with blogging are professional writers. Interestingly, the people rebutting Dvorak bring up the blogs written by–guess who?–professional writers. Now I don’t see how that invalidates Dvorak’s point that the longest lasting, most popular blogs tend to be written by people who do it professionally. I think it’s obvious. If you’re going to write professionally, you have to love it. And if you love writing, you’re more likely to blog.

In other news, computer professionals are more likely than others to build their own computers, dogs are more likely to bark than cats, the sky is blue, and if there’s snow on the ground it’s probably cold outside.

The really incendiary statement Dvorak quotes is that the majority of blogs have an audience of about 12 people. Sometimes reality hurts. I remember checking my logs in my early days and being shocked when I had 40 visitors. Then I was shocked when I found out some people looked up to me because I had 40 visitors. I thought I was the only small-market guy.

Eventually, one of three things happens to every small-audience blogger. Some get frustrated and quit. Others toil on in obscurity. Still others one way or another stumble onto something that people like and they grow their audience.

Today, my audience is closer to 12 hundred people. That doesn’t make me a superstar, but it’s not bad. Some people I remember celebrating breaking 20 readers a day five years ago aren’t doing it anymore. Others are, and they probably get 1200 people a day too. Or more.

I didn’t like Dvorak’s tone, but Dvorak will be Dvorak. I didn’t like Dvorak’s tone when he wrote about OS/2 either, and I think Dvorak’s personal crusade against the caps lock key is idiotic and annoying. He needs to just download a utility that remaps it to a control key and shut up. Those of us who really know how to type will continue to use it when we need it. So Dvorak doesn’t like blogs either. If I only ever read people who agree with me, I wouldn’t ever read.

The only thing I really disagreed with was Dvorak’s assertion that big media is taking over the blogs. Yes, big media is blogging. But the little guys will always outnumber big media. There’ll always be professional writers who blog on their own time to keep sharp or to experiment. There’ll be part-time pros like me who don’t like big media and don’t like most editors–well, I can name four editors I worked with who I liked–who blog because it’s a way to write and stay in touch with the craft and be true to one’s self. There’ll be up-and-comers who are in high school or college and decide to start blogging as part of the process of finding one’s self. There’ll be people who do it just as a hobby.

And guess what? Google starts out with no assumptions. It treats all links the same. That’s why little guys like me can get 1,200 hits a day.

And next week Dvorak will be off on another crusade. There’s about a 50% chance of him being right. I’ve known that since I started reading the guy a decade ago.

12 thoughts on “This is still a blog

  • November 25, 2003 at 4:45 am
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    Dvorak is the PC worlds self appointed curmudgeon or cogger (from COG = Crusty Old Guy). If mostly professional writers blog then it would seem serious people DO blog. So blogs come and go, so what, the ones that stick around are a service for those who participate regardless of the numbers. My wife runs a small but lively Korean Skydiving blog which dovetails nicely with her real passion – actually skydiving. It’s given her and her users opportunity to meet student and veteran Korean skydivers both from her native country and Koreans now living in the US. It is a source of real stimulation. Personally I say thanks for this blog – I came here first for info on Sotec laptops and now visit regularly for the variety of topics covered.

  • November 25, 2003 at 7:44 am
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    There has been talk for months about Google not treating all links the same – for example, A-list and even B-list weblogs were seriously skewing PageRank for a while. I’m not sure the problem is solved yet, but nearly everybody agreed that either PageRank would be thrown out, or Google would start reducing the PageRank of any blog that was obviously running the Big Three (Radio UserLand, Movable Type, Blogger). I know that one weekend after it was reported that Google was making the latter change, my own PageRank went from 6 to 4, and diveintomark.org and Scripting News dropped off the first page of results for searches for “Mark” and “Dave” respectively. I don’t know what else has been done recently (my own PageRank was back up to 5 last I checked). For more information, go to the Register and search for “google” (they aren’t fond of Google and seem to hate blogs, be forewarned).

  • November 25, 2003 at 9:00 am
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    You say “got me kicked off the daynotes.com web page.”

    Well, yes, but you’re still up there on the one that IS being actively maintained – http://www.daynotes.org – and there are quite a few daynoters there who are listed as “on sabbatical”. In fact, the registrant of daynotes.com ought to be listed as “on sabbatical” as well.

  • November 25, 2003 at 9:43 am
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    Dvorak is to tech as Limbaugh is to politics: 50% of what he says *might* be true, the other 50% is personal opinion, carefully calculated to excite you one way or the other. He doesn’t care which way, as long as he keeps your interest, and gets you talking about the subject matter.

    Dave, on the other hand, talks tech, life, humor, and blogging, depending on what’s foremost on his mind at the moment. I found Dave looking for Sotec discussion, as well. I’ve stayed for Dave. Don’t think I could say that much for Dvorak. Ah, well… ;^)

  • November 25, 2003 at 2:42 pm
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    Spot on, Dave. I blog because I like to write, I’m passionate about certain subjects, and apparently people actually care enough to read it. But even if very few people read what I write, I wouldn’t stop. And I read blogs that I find interesting, yours included. The micropublishing community is in some ways more powerful a voice than the big media. I’ve been particularly interested in community-based aggregators such as:

    http://www.gnome.org/~jdub/planetgnome/

    or

    http://www.go-mono.com/monologue/

    Where I can read dozens of blogs of members of a community on one page. Being a part of that community gaurantees that you’ll be read, also, so you can directly respond to other members of the community in a blog entry.

  • November 25, 2003 at 3:55 pm
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    …and Mr. Armstrong, spot on as always!

  • November 25, 2003 at 8:48 pm
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    Cursing the darkness makes for copy; lighting a candle doesn’t.

    Jim
    Who FINALLY put some foam rubber under his caps lock key just last night. (thanks, JerryP)

  • November 26, 2003 at 1:54 pm
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    This is a Blog” is from this year. Has it been that long of a year?

  • November 26, 2003 at 6:10 pm
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    It was this year? It sure seems like longer ago. And yes, this has definitely been a long year.

  • November 28, 2003 at 7:08 am
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    Dave –

    Right on. Sound arguments that make mincemeat of the Anti-Blogging stuffed shirts. Speaking of which, I personally have forwarded the URL for CAPSLOCKOFF (http://www.frankgerhardt.com/CapsLockOff.html) to Dr. Pournelle on at least three different occasions. Evidently he enjoys having something to bitch about rather than a neat, handy, and harmless solution to his problems – plus also keeping his readers in ignorance!

    Regards,

    JHR

    [JHR@WarlockLtd.com]

  • November 30, 2003 at 12:12 am
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    He needs to just download a utility that remaps it to a control key and shut up.

    Ironically, there is just such a utility ($) on the PCMag web site.

    J H RICKETSON wrote: Speaking of which, I personally have forwarded the URL for CAPSLOCKOFF (http://www.frankgerhardt.com/CapsLockOff.html) to Dr. Pournelle on at least three different occasions.

    This URL points to a page with a bad link on it.

    Page at archive.org
    Documentation
    .ZIPped utility (22 KB)

  • December 5, 2003 at 8:42 pm
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    You’ve got an interesting take on the Dvorak column and thanks for sharing your thoughts. I read Dvorak’s column too (and have been reading Dvorak at least as long as you 🙂 and it is so typical Dvorak. I hate to admit it, but I enjoy reading the guy.

    It’s interesting that I’m a writer who doesn’t fit the stereotype of a consistent blogger who is also a professional writer. I’m not a professional writer; I do write, though, just because I want to, I like using the forum to work through my thoughts, and because I have a voice that is as deserving to be heard as any other. Does that make me a First-Amendment blogger? Maybe so.

    It’s also not important to me how many readers I have. That’s not why I’m writing either. It’s nice to be read, it’s nice to have comments on the essays. But, it’s totally not necessary. What is necessary is to think, to reflect, and to write — that’s all.

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