A couple of weeks ago, more or less, I stumbled on a post by Matt Mullenweg in which he discussed the seemingly arbitrary logic governing what gets a lot of attention online. Work really hard on a piece that wrestles with something you think is important, he notes, and you may end up getting a trickle of attention. Post something offhand on a whim, and it may get a ton of exposure.
In his view, there are two unhealthy responses to this state of affairs. One is to despair and stop writing. The other is “to deconstruct the elements of what makes something sharable and attempt to artificially construct these information carbohydrates over and over.”
The third way that Mullenweg offers is to write for two people. Write for yourself and write for “a single person who you have in mind as the perfect person to read what you write.”
That’s not bad advice.
Around the same time I read another post that, together with Mullenweg’s, got me thinking about this blog. I lost track of that post, but happily Alan Jacobs recently linked to it. It was a post by Frank Chimero that concluded in this way:
“So, I’m doubling down on my personal site in 2014. In light of the noisy, fragmented internet, I want a unified place for myself—the internet version of a quiet, cluttered cottage in the country.”
That closing metaphor makes more sense if you read the whole post, which I would recommend. You get the idea, though. Jacob’s own post also helped clarify some of the thoughts I’d been having about my online presence.
So what, then?
Like Chimero, I’m doubling down on this site in 2014.
Some of you may remember that a few months ago I commented on the relatively light posting on here throughout most of 2013. Circumstances haven’t changed all that much. I’m still too busy with a number of commitments. That said, I’m thinking of how I can weave some of that work into the life of this site, something that was only possible when I started thinking along the lines suggested by Chimero and Mullenweg.
So here is a rundown of how I’m thinking about my online presence in 2014.
A while ago I created a Facebook page for this site. There I provided links to posts, but I also linked to other articles I thought worth passing along and wrote an occasional Note. Given the way Facebook seems to be handling Pages–limiting reach to encourage people to pay to promote posts–I’m thinking of pulling the Page altogether. If it stays up, I will use it strictly to publish posts from this site for the convenience of those for whom Facebook is primary newsfeed.
My presence on Twitter is pretty low-key, and it will stay that way. While I know many smart, articulate folks that thrive on Twitter, I’ve concluded that I am not one of those people. I’ll mainly use it to provide links to posts that appear on this site and to pass on links of interest. I’m sure I’ll occasionally have a few exchanges with the aforementioned smart, articulate folks too.
I will in all likelihood use my personal tumblr only to peruse content–mainly design, typography, art, and the like. The tumblr I created to catalog the Borg Complex will probably stay active. I have no particular problem with tumblr, except that it does encourage the tendency to be little more than a relay in the network. Other than that, dropping off of tumblr is mostly driven by the desire to consolidate my online presence.
And that is a good segue to talking about this site. In the admittedly selfish spirit of using this site in the way that most benefits me, I’m going to start including tumblr-style posts alongside the more typical posts. While the focus here will definitely remain on technology, you may start to see some other aspects of my interests and personality work their way in. You might also notice a few design tweaks to make this feel more like a personal website.
I should also take a moment to say that I’ve not done a very good job of responding to comments over the last couple of months. My apologies to those who have left comments and have not gotten a reply. I read them all, but regrettably I don’t always have time to reply. I hope that doesn’t discourage future comments, as I truly do appreciate the usually very thoughtful replies I get.
I hope all of this amounts to something that you too find useful, and if you’ve got any ideas related to any of this, I’d love to hear them.
14 thoughts on “Rethinking My Online Presence for 2014”
Yes, I like that concept of the ‘ideal reader’ very much. My blog is themed around mental health and I generally don’t stray too far from that topic – I spin off at tangents occasionally, for example when politicians do something particularly absurd, but otherwise I focus on my own, and what I observe of others’, experiences of being well/unwell. The main reason I blog is because there is a difference between the writing I do which only I will read, and writing I do for my ‘ideal’ (and possibly putative!) reader. The former is OK as narrative, as a record of what I’m going through, but there’s something about ordering my thoughts for publication which makes the latter transformative – healing – cleansing – whatever I need it to be.
“Work really hard on a piece that wrestles with something you think is important, he notes, and you may end up getting a trickle of attention. Post something offhand on a whim, and it may get a ton of exposure.” So true, from experience.
It’s kind of disheartening when something you put a lot of work in to and are really proud of doesn’t get the attention of a post you uploaded on a whim. I really hope we can both achieve the online presence we’ve hoped for. Good luck!
You’ve really struck a chord with your opening paragraph. I’ve also wondered, after spending a good chunk of time crafting a blog post, why it gets no traffic. But I’m a teacher by trade, and writer by hobby, and getting attention online isn’t necessary to pay the bills. Now THAT would be stressful!
I am honored if a post receives attention, but I find solace and intellectual exercise in the process of writing.
Good luck in revising your online presence!
Yep, that’s pretty much my situation and how I look at it. Teacher by trade, this site is avocational. Quite frankly, I’m genuinely surprised from time to time that people drop by to read and even engage.
Reblogged this on Mindful Stew and commented:
This is a great reminder that in the dense world of digital communication, you may write something great and it could get lost in the crowd, ignored, or not receive the traffic you feel it deserves. I’ve asked the same questions addressed in this post many times, and I’ve come to realize that my desire to engage in the writing process, the intellectual exercise, is enough for me. I’m honored and grateful when people comment here nonetheless.
Happy Blogging! New post coming soon:)
Don’t take down the Facebook page! I’m not the most faithful reader, but of all the views I’ve given the blog nearly 100% are through Facebook.
It is dumb what FB is doing Re: page views and profit. But, at the same time, I really think it’s a neat feature that takes not that much time to do.
You’re not the only one to tell me that FB is the way you keep up with this blog, so I will continue posting links to new posts on there. Thanks for letting me know. I imagined there might be some people for whom FB was a convenient way of following the blog, I just didn’t know for sure.
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for your post and sharing links to others thoughts on the subject. The observation from Chimero is spot on and gives some words to similar feelings I have. Beyond the fragmentation of online presence, however, I am also tired of the advertising.
Yep. I really hate that ads show up on this site, too, but I’ve never quite gotten to the point were I was willing to pay the fee to WordPress to get rid of them. I might just bite the bullet, eventually.
I haven’t found WP ads to be that distracting. They are, however, making FB increasingly irritating.
Thank you for this post. It really helped me clarify my own thoughts about blogging. My best posts, in my opinion, are not the ones that get the most hits. I love your image of “information carbohydrates”. I am blogging ultimately for my own sake and the handful of others who read what I write.
Just wanted to clarify: “information carbohydrates” was Mullenweg’s phrasing, not mine. But it is apt.
At 76, I write as much for me and the love of writing as I do to get read. But at 76, I also write to publicize my eBooks. I have two blogs, two Facebook pages and two twitter accounts. Why my publisher wanted my writng genre’s kept separate. Then there is Google+. And oh yes, I forgot Pinterest. A bit too much don’t you think. I do too.
So thank you for your thoughts. What has helped me reorganize has been using Facebook as the main posting arena and I am learning the art of hashtags. I am also planning to figure out how to combine the two blogs, Facebook pages, and twitter accounts. At the same time I do understand the idea that my books sell to two different audiences. Ah well. .
Anyway, thank you for adding to my thoughts and I pinned this post of my Blog Better Board. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/147141112799627852/
Yes, it is too much, at least it would be for me, although I know this is what publishers seem to be expecting from authors. Best wishes in making all of this work for you! Thanks for pinning the post.