Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Meta-Post: 500

According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks have been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned...

This statistic is courtesy of the New York Times (via the Union-Tribune) from June 14th, a timely feature since I've recently been pondering the practice of blogging myself, and this post is one I consider a milestone: my 500th.

7.4 million out of 133 million is a small percentage, right? Yet the article further clarifies that most of the traffic is for a much smaller subset--50,000 to 100,000 of those 7.4 million are getting all the love. Amongst that group, maybe 10 are making money and harvesting notoriety. I kid about the 10, but I know the number is shockingly (or maybe it doesn't shock you?) low.

When Julie Powell decided to blog about her quest to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's The Art of French Cooking in one calendar year (the subsequent book, Julie and Julia, will become a movie this summer) the blogosphere was still in its infancy. And by "infancy" I mean like six years ago. Weird to think that posting a private diary on the internet could become commonplace so quickly, but that's the technological age for you.

When I read about Julia's blog, I thought I'd found my calling. I mean, I don't know anything about French cooking, but I figured I could write movie reviews, and...other stuff. It would be like my own little column. At the time, I was about to adopt a baby from China--surely that would provide some lively subject matter. Little did I know that "mommy blogging" was one of the fastest-growing niches in the blogging world. This would become abundantly clear when a friend suggested me for a KPBS show on "mommy blogs" in May 2006, when I was still quite new to the game (mothering and blogging.) One of the three guests makes a nice living from her blog, and since I've just told you how rare that is, you know I was in illustrious company just by sheer, dumb luck.

Nothing really changed after that. I kept on writing my little (and not-so-little) posts and some really, really nice and patient people left encouraging comments when I was done. I know these are really nice and patient people, since most of them have no need to butter me up, as I can't do a thing for them. That is, besides continue to write my little speculations about the weather and whatnot, and continue to hope that someone will like them. (And, let's be honest--hope someone will like ME.)

But I do write this post with some pride, knowing that I have hung in there longer than the average blogger--I've posted consistently in this space for nearly four years now. That feels like an achievement to me, though of what kind, I can't be sure. I haven't made any money from it. I haven't gotten famous. I HAVE made a few friends this way, some of whom I would certainly never have met otherwise. That is satisfying to a social soul like me, and even more satisfying when you consider that writing is a legendarily solitary pursuit, just me and my buddy Jack Daniels, if you believe the hype.

If I had wanted to "grow" my blog, I have gone about it all wrong, according to Blogging for Dummies and other reputable guides. My first mistake is not having a consistent theme. Sure, I launched the blog as an adoption journal, and while I am proud of my China travel posts, and the few adoption-related topics I've pursued, let's face it--I'm too much of an attention slut to stay focused on my baby, delicious though her exploits may be. My posts are all over the map, rambling from topic to topic like a nomad in the desert of my imagination, searching for oases with sparkling pools and one achingly lonely palm arcing over the sand...

But I digress. I have never updated my links, and several of the ones I have are dormant. (See above.) That's a rookie mistake right there. I don't have an e-mail address on my page, so people can't respond to comments I leave on their blogs. (Being difficult and inaccessible is also textbook bad.) I don't advertise my blog anywhere, or have a link to it in my e-mail signature. I don't run contests or sponsor give-aways or have guest bloggers (though I'd like to.) I get overwhelmed just contemplating the public relations aspect of a blog. Which is weird, because I'm not one of those shy and retiring bloggers who wants to keep my thoughts private. I don't have password protection; my blog is not invitation only. I delight in scrutinizing the little map that tells me where in the world my readers come from. But I am either not following protocol or I'm dead boring--after nearly four years, I can count on just a few comments for each post, not the dozens that my peers (if I may call them so) have cultivated.

It's not that I don't love comments--oh, I love them like cherry pie. Any blogger will tell you that comments are the crack we'd like to sizzle over our spoon every day. But soft, Readers, have you noticed? Economy of expression is not my specialty. Funny, pithy, SHORT posts get the most comments. When and if I'm funny, those bits are cushioned in pink, puffy, insulated layers of exposition. I'm not sure I can get to funny without the pink, puffy layers, and I enjoy that puffiness so. If I couldn't have it, I'm not sure I'd blog at all, and then what would be the point? Notes Richard Jalichandra, CEO of Technorati, "There's a joke within the blogging community that most blogs have an audience of one." And this one--she loves her some of ME.

If I only get a few comments ("Don't knock rationalizations. They're more important than sex." "Oh, I don't know about that." "Really? Ever been a week without a rationalization?") at least they're nice. I guess if I were some big, famous blogger with a huge following, I'd have trolls. Shudder. I'm way too tender-hearted to handle that. Yeah, that's it. Or maybe it's just hard to get anyone to care--7.4 million is still a lot. Laments "retired" blogger Judy Nichols, "I just wanted to post something interesting and get people talking, but mostly it was just my sister commenting."

Funny thing: my sisters don't comment. Nor my brother, father, mother, or any other relatives (except hello, MIL and FIL!) I guess they figure they're forced to listen to my rants in real life, so they've done their time. Many of my close friends, the ones who loyally tell me they love my writing, don't read the blog, and probably don't even remember that I have one. Am I bitter? Nah. I mean, yeah, I probably was for a while. But over time I've realized that reading blogs is a very particular pastime, like rollerblading or cross-stitch. Some people may admire it from afar without the slightest inclination to get involved. That seems as it should be. It's really not personal.

Looking back at my first post is bittersweet for me. My self-consciousness fairly oozes from every comma--it's like I've decided to make my living dancing in my undies on a Webcam, but in giving it a go, I find I'm kinda shy. By the second or third post, I see my style emerging--lo, I have a recklessness that seems to say "This may be the internet, but I know for a fact no one but my husband will ever see it." Once I started getting comments like "Hi! I love your blog--want to buy some steroids?" I tamed that devil-may-care abandon. Now if I dance in my undies, they are cotton with lots of coverage.

There has never been a day when I thought about quitting the blog. I just don't know how to quit you, Blog! If a week goes by without a post, it's just a hard week, or one so fabulous I never sit down. I tend to post 2-3 times a week, though I have dabbled in greater frequency through NaBloPoMo, which began as National Blog Posting Month but now goes year round. I do think the daily practice sharpens me, and I've done some of my finest work in "31 Posts in 31 Days" on the theme of "Lists" and "Food." But that kind of discipline is very difficult.

So why do I do it at all? After four years, it's pretty clear I'm not going to be "discovered" like Lana Turner at the soda fountain. For a while, I imagined publishing a collection of essays from the blog, but I'm not sure there's a unifying theme. So, I think I blog because of this:

I like the practice. My whole life, writing has been my JOB, no more so than the 11 years I was in grad school. Seriously, if you declare that you are writing a thesis, and then you don't write one, you are "not in good standing" and you get booted out. They take away your job and your purpose for being, and that's a lot of pressure. But here, I can write five times a day or once a week, a few lines or several pages. No one clucks over my sentence fragments. My topic sentences are fine. The posts are not followed by evaluations with poor penmanship that break my heart. The more I write, the more I like it, and liking it makes the writing better.

I like to be acknowledged. Publishing a blog on the internet is a public act, whatever its magnitude. Maybe I'll never truly know who's reading my posts, but traditional writers usually don't know, either. The point is, someone might be reading it, and that means I have an audience. Whoever you are, whether I've ever said it in person before or not--thank you. I don't take you for granted, Readers. If I didn't know you were there, I'd still be writing in 79 cent speckled composition notebooks like I did in college, and shelving them neatly in my closet when they got filled.

I hope I can persuade you to stick around for 500 more posts.


Stephanie said...

Congratulations my friend, count me in for another 500!

The Wades said...

I adore you! Is that a little strong? Sound stalkerish? I don't mean it in a weird way. I just truly LOVE what you have to say, and I am so happy I discovered you from a simple good search on dragonfruit. What you write--how you say it and the places your mind wanders speaks to me. Thanks for letting total strangers like me read. I would buy ANY book you wrote. I think you're that fantastic. Know what? Even the comments you leave me are a pleasure--and funny! You'd scream like a rabbit? How hilarious is that!

Congratulations on 500 posts! Quite and accomplishment, my friend.

:) Michelle

Aunt LoLo said...

Isn't Mommy Blogging a funny thing? PW and Dooce are the only two I know of that are HUGE, but the rest of us fit in somewhere. I realized, along the way, that I was a Blogger, not just a mom who blogs sometimes. Those are the blogs with nothing but shots of the kids, short explanations...reading them is like going through a photo album...because that's essentially what they are.

I love your writing but, more importantly, I like YOU. That's what makes Mommy Bloggers special - we're here for the friendship. You respond to comments, you comment back...that' why we can't quit YOU. ;-)

Caroline said...

You know I love your blog. I grin every time I see its title go bold in Bloglines. You are awesome for being in that minority of consistent writers. Mine is gathering dust as we speak.

Jen said...

You can count on me, honey! I wouldn't miss this blog for anything. Not only do I get to stay close to you even though you're 3,000 miles away, but it's a damn good read! ;-)

Congratulations on this milestone.

Miss J

katydidnot said...

the funny wrapped in puffy pink is your gift. i love the pink puff as much as the funny. i love how you wander through some posts and seem surprised to be where you've gotten to at the end. it's lovely. and true. if i could get my sisters and mom to consistently comment, i'd increase my comments by like 25%. what is it with them? i don't even care if it's related to the post. tell me i'm beautiful. say you like my pants. anything.

Jennifer said...

Congratulations on your 500th post! I'll definitely be around for the next 500. I love your writing and always enjoy reading your posts. I agree that reading blogs is a pasttime that not everyone gets. My husband doesn't get why I have so many blogs I read. ha!

David said...

While I don't comment much, I love reading every post -- even the ones that poke fun at me.


Jenn said...

Congrats! I am so impressed that you've managed to hold on so steadily. I have lapsed and tried to get back into it and am sad that I won't have the same details with a second child as I did with the first! I love looking at your blog and keeping up on your mommy adventures. Keep on going!!

Ellen said...

I've been with you for the entire ride and your blog has gotten me through a lot. Thank you for keeping me entertained, informed and thinking :)


lisa said...

i'm impressed! 500 is quite an accomplishment and, while i'm not a steady reader, every time i do check in i am so glad i did. here's to the next 500!

lisa (wade friend in nm)

Anonymous said...

Alabama loves a good 500!

Keep it up, or I'd be quite bored at work.

(Tee will send her wishes when she re-enters the country, I'm sure.)


Sam said...

@Steph: Thanks, dear! :)

@Michelle: And have you ever heard a rabbit scream? It will curl your hair! :) You are very sweet, and I'm so glad you decided to Google dragon fruit. :)

@LoLo: Aw, girl, that is nice. :) And I agree with you about mommy blogs. Did you happen to notice who my fellow guest was on KPBS? :)

@Caroline: But when you do post, I love it. :) I'll wait. :)

@Jen: Big smooch! It's true, I feel lucky to keep up with your adventures this way, too!

@Katy: Will you marry me? I'm in love with your comment. And I laughed and laughed about being surprised. So true! :)

@Jennifer: Thank you! :) I appreciate you so much!

@David: Aw, bring tears to my eyes, why dontcha. I might have to marry you, too. :)

@Jenn: Thanks! You'll get back to it--you're a BIT busy these days. ;)

@Ellen: What a lovely compliment. Thanks for being there! :)

@Lisa: Whenever you come by, it's a pleasure! :)

@G: We don't want you bored at work. I'll keep at it. ;)

missq said...

Awesome, Sam! I always love to read your posts. It's perfect for me, because when I don't have time to get into a book that I'm reading, I can steal a few minutes to read your blog and be perfectly entertained. I'm addicted!!

Joan said...

Very impressive. Keep up the good work. Having just written my first travel blog I realise how disciplined one must be to keep it going. My writing seemed to get scrappier day by day. I never miss reading your blog, and always find it interesting or funny. It is also very valuable for those of us who would like to see and hear you 'in the flesh' more often, but it keeps us in touch. The minutiae and trivia of daily life, which you can turn into high drama, or tragi-comedy, gives us a sense of being there. Sometimes I've resisted commenting as I dont want to seem too much like a typical MIL.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom! said...

Of course I will stick around, it is, in fact, my pleasure to be one of your fans.

You are the reason I started blogging (now over three years ago). I don't update links (what does that even mean?) or do the right blogger stuff (whatever it is) either, so I guess I continue to follow in your blogging footsteps. And that? Is an honor.