The key to blogging for the long haul…

Even though I’m still relatively new to the blogosphere (I’ve been blogging since May 2006 – see my first post!) I have been journaling off and on for quite a few years and blogging and journaling share some similarities in terms of what gives lasting power. Of course, there are pretty significant differences between the two (the primary one being the “public” and journalistic feel of a blog vs. the private and diary feel of a personal journal) but for the purpose of this article I think I can write out of some modicum of experience! Another reason that contributes to a measure of insight found in this article is the fact that even though I haven’t blogged myself until recently, I’ve been an avid reader of other peoples blogs for quite a while – there’s certain things that are common among bloggers with lasting power that stick out to me.
Anyway, the purpose of this article is to answer the question, “What are characteristics that keep someone blogging for the long haul?” According to David Sifry’s, “State of the Blogosphere Report” for August 2006 Technorati tracked it’s 50 millionth blog! Now that’s a lot of writer’s out there – however according to a comment David made in response to Glenn Fannick’s article, “Technorati’s Active Blogs — Perhaps 1.4 Million?“,

55% of all the blogs we track have had at least one post in the last 3 months.

Just over 11% have posted in the last week.

That means that 27.5 million blogs have made a post in the last 3 months and a little over 5 million have made a post in the past week. Now regardless of the debate over how many actual active blogs there are (which also depends on what criteria you use for measuring active!) the point I want to make is that there is a huge number of people who enter the blogosphere who simply create a blog and then never visit it again. So what gives – for the percentage of people who contribute regularly and maintain an “active” blog? The following is my “short-list” of indicators that suggest that a person who blogs will be still blogging 5 years from now:

First on the list is they like writing

It goes without saying that if you don’t like writing (or creating any other sort of content – ergo pictures/audio/video etc. – that have become an increasing new medium for bloggers) then your blog probably won’t last that long.

A pretty important component of this indicator that can’t be overlooked is the subtext, “do they have something to say?” If you start a blog simply to say, “I have a blog” but don’t really have a reason for creating the blog then more than likely you won’t be blogging very long!

Second, they like tweaking their blog

What tweaking am I talking about? Everything from simple things like changing a few colors to the type-face all the way to the more complex which involves getting your hands dirty in the actual code. Now the amount and complexity of tweaking may vary between individual “long-haul” bloggers but nevertheless a common characteristic is that all of them have had some involvement in tweaking their blog to their own liking. How many active bloggers you know have not changed their blog layout/structure/colors in some way in the past 3 months (let alone years…)?

Third, their initial experience with blog-ware

Currently there are a plethora of varying blogging tools available to choose from. Everything from Google’s Blogger, to the much hyped MySpace, and my personal favorite WordPress (both the hosted and self-hosting versions). A bloggers initial experience with the blog-ware he/she chooses will have bearing on whether they become an active blogger. Is the tool easy to use? Does it let them do what they want? Is it a pain to maintain (enter in spam)? Does it “break down” a lot? All of these are examples of some of the factors that play into the initial experience of a baby blogger. I remember my first foray into blogging came in the form of creating a Blogger.com account over a year ago. It looked like a great service but at the time I just didn’t like the restrictions placed on what I could do in terms of overall design (because I’m a heavy “tweaker” personality…and don’t twist that into something else :lol:!) I think I posted one article and then I quit. I didn’t even think about blogging again until I came across WordPress…but that’s another story 😉

Fourth, do they contribute to the blogosphere somehow?

This contribution can come in the form of commenting on other people’s blogs, creating themes and/or plugins for others to use, or providing content that other’s benefit from. Although, personal journaling has it’s benefits and I know some long-haul bloggers often write about things that happen in their lives but people who have long-lasting activity in the blog-world are folks who also contribute in someway to the blogosphere (other than only keeping a daily journal that just themselves and a few family members might enjoy).

Fifth, they don’t worry about posting every single day or sticking to a routine schedule

That’s not to say that having a routine schedule for posting is bad but simply that long-haul bloggers don’t worry if they miss a few days or have a lapse in their schedule for posting. There’s nothing that kills a bloggers enthusiasm more than feeling they just have to post every day to their blog! Of course there are some that enjoy doing that but that’s the point – long-haul bloggers post regularly to their blog but don’t do so out of obligation but because they have something to say!

That’s why nailing down a definition of an active blogger can be so difficult because does someone have to post every day to be considered active? In my opinion, no.

Sixth, they don’t worry about writing “mongo-size” posts everytime they post to their blog!

If a blogger is trying to come up with a change-the-world kind of article every time they post they’ll quickly run out of juice and lose enthusiasm. Not only that but blog-readers, for the most part, have an upper limit of about 5 minutes for tolerance in reading an article. In terms of blogging longevity (from the standpoint of the blogger) it’s better to make frequent small posts interspersed with the odd monster rather than trying to maintain a book writing attitude with every blog entry.

As a side-note – a lot of long-haul bloggers I read write series which is a good way of keeping short posts but at the same time tackling a subject that requires more than a few lines. As a plus, writing something as a series contributes to keeping you blogging!

Finally, the seventh indicator is they aren’t obsessed with whether the world reads their blog or not

At first, this indicator may appear to conflict with what I wrote for the fourth indicator (do they contribute to the blogosphere somehow) but it really doesn’t because the point I’m making here is more about that inane behaviour people have of wanting to be liked by others. On the blogosphere this can be a blog-killer. Long-haul bloggers aren’t consumed with building up the biggest following of readers (not to say that doesn’t interest them – of course it does – but it’s not the driving force behind them blogging) but are more interested in the content they post.

The truth is, the majority of bloggers will not build up any significant following of readers and if the only reason you are blogging is to see how many comments you’ve got that day, or for statistics junkies – seeing how many “hits” you’ve got – then blogging will quickly become boring and at best you’ll abandon your block and at worst you’ll become the anathema of the blogosphere – a splogger – stealing content from other popular blogs to drive your page rank up and satisfy your appetite for recognition (and the spin-off ad money of course you hope to get). Of course this isn’t to say all sploggers start out this way but for people who are obsessed with counting hits (as a primary motivator for blogging) splogging is certainly a real possibility.

There you have it – my short list (ha!) of indicators that I believe point towards someone becoming (or the reason they are) a long-haul blogger. To summarize:

  1. They like writing (and have something to write about!)
  2. They like tweaking their blog.
  3. What their initial experience with blog-ware is like.
  4. Do they contribute to the blogosphere somehow?
  5. They don’t worry about posting every day or sticking to a routine schedule.
  6. They don’t worry about writing mongo-size posts every time they write to their blog.
  7. They aren’t obsessed with whether everyone in the world reads their blog or not.

As usual, I look forward to any feedback you might have to offer!

A wordpress plugin I’d scramble to get…

Okay, I wasn’t going to post about the recent interview Matt Mullenweg did with Blogging Pro but there was an intriguing response to one of the questions asked that led me to leave a comment on Photomatt where Matt posted about his interview. The purpose of my comment was to try and tickle out more information – alas my comment was deleted for some reason and so I find myself writing this little blurb in my blog hoping (I’m not quite at begging yet hehe) that someone might have more information 😉

UPDATE: Mysteriously my comment reappeared on Matt’s site…dunno what happened there hehe 😉

Anyway, in the interview, Matt was asked,

What?s Automattic?s next move? I know you have been focusing on the next versions of WordPress, and your great Anti-spam service Akismet, but with the people in the Automattic now and your great eye for filling a gap in the marketplace, could you give out any hints on what we can expect next?

Tucked in his response was this reply…

We?ve got a few plugins and services we?ve cooked up internally that we?re going to provide to open source, including a little todo/project management app.

“todo/project management app.” plugin for wordpress? Now that would be nice. I’ve searched all over for a nice plugin that would do this in wordpress and have come up short. I’ve even contemplated writing my own code but unfortunately my coding skills are rather limited and I’m short on time for the moment. If the team at Automattic was to come out with this anytime soon it would make my day!

I don’t know why my comment got deleted on Matt’s site but I hope more news will be forthcoming – that teaser in his interview was just cruel! (from my point of view anyway hehe) 😉

UPDATE: Thanks to opa (see comments below)? I’m now trying out a “To-Do” plugin by Abstract Dimension.? It’s much better than what I’ve been using and so far it’s pretty neat.? Only thing it’s missing in my eyes is the ability to group the to-do’s into different lists.? Nevertheless, I appreciate the find!? Thanks opa!

Another UPDATE (July 15, 2007): Thanks to PaintChip (see comment below) I’ve discovered that the To-Do plugin by Abstract Dimension seems to be no longer available (the site is down).  I did some digging and found “Our To-Do plugin” at the site,  “WordPress by Examples“.   It is based on the original To-Do plugin is an improved version of it.  I haven’t tried it yet but it looks nifty.

Been a bit quiet here…

Yeah I know, I haven’t posted in a while. It’s just things have been so busy everytime I visit thinking I’ll post something I’m just so tired – too tired to think let alone type :lol:! Anyway, what have I been up to that’s kept me so busy? Well aside from church stuff I’ve been working on a website for my brother-in-law in the evenings. He’s got a cabinet making business and asked me to design a simple website for him that’s easy to maintain. I just finished most of it last night – when it goes live I’ll post a link.

Another thing that’s been keeping me busy is cutting wood in preparation for winter. My house has a woodstove and it is by far the most economical way of heating our old house. So between cutting/splitting wood and preparing the house for winter I’ve been kept pretty busy outside as well. The upside to this is I’m getting lots of needed excercise and fresh air!
Meanwhile…other things that have been percolating in my brain in the last little while – get ready here comes a list…

  1. I’m getting sick of the first theme I designed. I learned a lot doing it – but it’s a little bit more clunky than I envisioned. Unfortunately I don’t really have the time to do anything about it right now – but I definitely see a new layout down the road.
  2. I’m really liking WordPress and the thought that’s gone into it’s core code. The more I examine it’s innards the more I appreciate the quality word that’s been done therein – even though my noobness means I don’t understand a lot of it :lol:. Nevertheless I like working with wordpress so much I’m strongly considering converting my church website over to wordpress from phpnuke. Along with a couple other things…
  3. I’ve registered a new domain – unashamedsermons.com – which for now points to gohpc.net where unashamed sermons is found. However – I think I’m going to move Unashamed Sermons to a seperate website from my church website again. Unashamed Online is okay but with the integration it really isn’t serving the purpose for which I created it and hoped would take place. It’s a rather clunky place for visitors to find out any information about our church and creates extra steps for people who use Unashamed Sermons to get to the content. By seperating the two I can focus on making unashamedsermons.com the hub for pastors/teachers/and students of God’s word as a resource containing not only my messages but other focused material that fits that group of people. And I can focus on gohpc.net as being the primary information center for my church. I have a few ideas that I think will make wordpress a really cool solution for both instances. If you are a visitor/member of unashamed online don’t worry I’m not going to do anything to it until I have everything up and running with the new ones.
  4. One thing that I’ve had on the backburner for a while is an online catalog of our church library. I was developing a module for php-nuke but since stumbling on wordpress I’m considering scrapping everything I’ve done so far (which isn’t too much thank goodness) and yes you guessed it – create it in wordpress. I’m excited about the possibilities.

Of course while those things are on my mind there’s one problem. The time-factor. My only opportunity for doing these kinds of things it at night after the kids have gone to bed. Oh well, I’ll plug away at it when I can!

My first plugin for wordpress! [cloudy-widget]

Plug[drumroll] yay! I’ve completed my very first plugin for wordpress! It actually isn’t something to get too excited over because I didn’t really do anything original but merely made a widgetized version of a plugin I really liked. It is based on Chris Compton’s plugin called…you guessed it, “Cloudy“! Anyway you can head on over to this page to find out more about Cloudy-Widget!

Launch of Eclectic Excogitation!

YAR! has morphed into Eclectic Excogitation and I’ve transfered it to my new domain www.unfoldingneurons.com. Why “Eclectic Excogitation”? Because I’m a nerd with a lot of different interests! Why “unfolding neurons”? Because it’s a unique way of describing what my domain is going to be about. For now, unfolding neurons is just hosting my blog but more things will probably come down the road. This transfer was quite an experience as in the process I also created my very first theme for wordpress which I’ve called Eclectic-Black. Though I’ve been testing it on both IE6 and Firefox I’m still uncovering a few bugs here and there and there are still tweaks I want to make to the color and layout. I’m a bit of a noob at coding and designing so feel free to comment away on the look of this site 🙂 I’m not releasing this theme to the public yet – but in few weeks I may. I just want to clean up a lot of the css and make it a little bit more user friendly before I do.

UPDATE
At this point, I’m disliking this first theme I created more and more so I probably won’t be releasing it public as I don’t have the desire to “tweak” it anymore.? If I get any requests for it I may take another look at it – but for now it’s got a leftover kind of taste to it…