Saturday, October 20, 2007

Art Imitates Life

Art Imitates Life

What makes a blog successful? Over at Making Light, Patrick Nielsen Hayden points us to a post at John Scalzi's blog wherein Scalzi eviscerates a "how to make your blog successful" article. As far as I can tell, these people count blog success by number of hits. The advice they give is how to network to get more hits. I don't really get this.

When I started blogging, lo, those 5+ years ago, it was because one of my best friends, Cranky Professor had pointed me to the now sadly-defunct Invisible Adjunct. At the time, I was in the process of returning to academia, and was myself experiencing the woes of adjuncting. After a short while, I was commenting at lots of blogs, and it seemed only polite to set up my own place where I could hog all the space I wanted, rather than hijacking other people's comment threads. So Blogenspiel was born. I still wish I'd given it a second 'g' for phonetic reasons.

The first readers, and some of the people who are now RL friends, were also readers of IA's blog. As we read each other's blogs, we also added new blogs we'd found through each other to our blogrolls, and made new blog friends and acquaintances. Or at least I did -- I can't really speak for anyone else's process, except that it seems to me that mostly this has been pretty organic. I suppose this could be called networking, but really, it's much more the way we meet at conferences when colleagues who are also friends introduce us to other colleagues who are also friends. Unquestionably the professional connections are important, but I still differentiate between meeting as colleagues and meeting as friends who are also colleagues. But then, I'm kind of a sad person in that I don't have all that many friends who aren't connected through academia. When I was married, I did, and I still have friends through X. I've started to meet a larger range of people in the last year or so, especially in the sf/f community, but even there, most of the people I know are connected to the academy in some way. Hell, I met Teresa Nielsen Hayden at Kazoo last year, and I probably wouldn't have met her otherwise, at least not till LDW makes good on this promise to take me to a con -- maybe Worldcon in Denver? (I'm thinking the SFRA paper might not happen. I have good ideas, but my dean will shoot me if I present a third paper this year before getting a medieval article in press!).

Somehow, while all that was happening, a bunch of people started reading this blog. The numbers have gone down as I've stopped writing as regularly -- and probably as I stopped writing about my divorce and job hunt? But I figure people aren't reading as much because there are lots of other interesting people out there who are writing regularly. I'm also not reading as many blogs, nor am I commenting as much, mostly because I am still feeling very overwhelmed with the living of the new T-T life -- which I still haven't managed to chronicle. Part of this is not being able to objectify some of the constant drama at SLAC, especially in my department. Part of it is just that I feel like, even though I've got 13 hours of face time in classes a week, a couple of new preps, and committee work (not to mention a whole passel of advisees), I am now in a position where I really have to show myself and the world that I am a productive academic type. I don't have the excuse of a constant job hunt or a long commute anymore (even though my time has been sucked up by other things!).

But anyway, I don't consider this blog any more or less successful than I ever did. It just is. Ironically, however, I'm giving a paper on blogging and networking this year. One of the points I'll be making is that blogging, even anonymous blogging, can do wonders for one's career. It's not why I started blogging. That was about feeling like a medievalist in the wilderness. At SLAC, I still feel that way. But whatever my intentions, blogging connected me to a wonderful group of medievalists, some of whom are now participants in a locked-down work blog; it reconnected me to some old and very valued friends, one of whom gave me my first opportunity to present a scholarly paper; it connected me to another bunch of medievalists who became RL friends, and who also invited me to present with them; it connected me with another RL academic service opportunity, which I really enjoy -- and through that, to a number of book reviews; it's given me a collegial community with which I can exchange ideas about teaching and from which I can beg for help with readings; and it has inadvertantly garnered me an invitation to fill in at a prestigious conference where I'd never have dared to submit. So ... from the points of view of the people Scalzi complains about, I guess the blog has been a route to their kind of success. But it wasn't planned. I just wanted not to feel so damned isolated. Funny how things work.


Steve Muhlberger said...

Back on Wed. my blog got 1000 page views. Is this success? I know for a fact that a large proportion of my hits, on any day, are people finding a picture I've used thru Google Images -- and they are almost never original pictures. (Recently lots and lots of people have been looking for a specific pic of Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra. *Lots* and *lots.*)

There are all sorts of reasons for blogging but one of the more creditable ones is that you can put a thought out there and maybe somebody will find it and value it. It happens to me all the time and blogging is one way of returning the favor.

More later, perhaps.

undine said...

Some of those "how to be successful" blog articles are really about "how to make money from your blog." From your last paragraph and everything, yours is a rousing success even if it isn't doing what the $$bloggers want.

What Now? said...

The numbers have gone down as I've stopped writing as regularly -- and probably as I stopped writing about my divorce and job hunt?

You know, my numbers went way down once my ugly St. Martyr's tenure drama ended. At first I was a little hurt -- Aren't I interesting when I'm not miserable? -- until I realized that I've frequently done the same thing, that there are blogs I read avidly and daily while the person is in the midst of a crisis, and once that the crisis is over I swing by maybe once a week. Not that I'm not still interested, but there's not so much potential for breaking news. Makes sense, really, and IRL relationships often work much the same way.

Ahistoricality said...

Since Ahistoricality went on semi-hiatus, my hit count has remained fairly steady. I don't know whether that's a sign of my success, or an indication that most of my traffic always was from random Google searches.

My RSS readership has gone up, though. That's one of the things I love about RSS: it allows someone to keep tabs on an infrequently updated blog without a lot of effort.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

I should probably re-do my bloglines. As it is, I don't ever think to check it, and there are far too many things I'd read even if I didn't have them on there.

Belle said...

Since you're one of my first and daily-checked blogs, I can only say that I find your stuff very satisfying. I'm not a medievalist - I do modern - but it's nice to have other scholarly minded things to read, bounce around ideas, that kind of stuff. And my own blog was created along the same lines; it just seemed normal. And I'm now hooked.

As to hits... I have no clue how many people look at my blog. Nor do I have much interest beyond those who comment - the numbers don't mean much. I care a lot if someone likes my stuff, comments, lurks for pleasure or whatever.

Your comments on being at a SLAC ring true for me too; I'm the only non-Americanist at my institution in the humanities OR social sciences. So the blogs give me solace and company.

So thank you.

Ancarett said...

I never really much check my stats for the blog, much. I do know that it counts for very little compared to a lot of other stuff I have out there on the intrawebs such as a very old compilation of Everquest stories and some tips on writing HTML).

Like you, I'm not writing my blog to get noticed, to get rich or even become famous. I'm writing because it fulfills something in my life and it helps me stay connected with a lot of great people.

timna said...

I've been reading and blogging less lately, too, but I still feel connected even if it's weekly and not daily. Blogging definitely got me through the job search when I couldn't chat with colleagues at work.

Someday I would like to meet up in RL but I'm not at any of the same conferences...

Another Damned Medievalist said...

I think we're at least on the same side of the country now, Timna!

Belle, that's nice to hear. Thanks!

Dr. Richard Scott Nokes said...

We probably would never have met if not for your blog, so from my perspective, it's been very successful.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Likewise, Scott!

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