Traffic to my blog has increased by 250%

It’s especially appropriate that I am writing this post today, given that yesterday I got more page views in a single day than I ever have before. That makes me really happy.  This blog has been one of this year’s biggest successes.

You know, ever since high school I’ve wanted to be a blogger. I like to opine. I have tons of thoughts. And I have a fairly charming confessional style. But sometimes it has felt like my efforts were doomed. The heyday of blogging is, admittedly, over. And even if it wasn’t, I really have no idea how to find an audience.

However, if you look at the following graph, you can see that I must be doing something right:

BlogTraffic

What you’re looking at is a roughly 3x increase increase in monthly pageviews between this year and the equivalent month in 2011. The absolute numbers are still very low (I doubt that I have more than 100-200 actual readers, even if I include people on RSS feeds [who wouldn’t necessarily be counted in these statistics]). But there is a hugely upwards trend!

BlogTrafficbyYear

As you can see, this blog has been on WordPress for four years. And, in each of those years, traffic has at least doubled. No longer do I make jokes about how the only people who read this blog are my friends. That’s just not true anymore (though I am surprised, and gratified, by how many of my real life friends do read it).

The biggest reason why traffic has spiked recently is that I have been posting much more frequently. Early this year, I got tired of losing readers due to non-activity, so I decided to commit myself to writing three posts every week. And, to a large extent, I’ve been able to meet that goal.

BloggingStatsByYear
Note, this also counts posts to my Livejournal, in the years before I started this blog.

But, by itself, increased posting volume would only account for about half of the roughly 250% increase in traffic this year. The rest of it is either due to new readers or more dedicated readers (ones who read more pages per visit). And I feel like it’s probably the former. God knows where you come from, but I am very happy to have you. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m trying to consciously grow the readership of this blog. That’s one reason I’ve become so much more active on Twitter and Facebook lately. I’ve also been commenting much more often on other blogs. However, if I’m been doing this right (and I kind of feel like I am) you probably haven’t noticed this. And if you have, then you haven’t interpreted it as self-promotion activity. (And I don’t think my social networking activity is really that self-promotional. It’s mostly just an extension of what I’ve been trying to do with this blog, which is have fun and form connections with people.)

Anyway, I don’t know whether my traffic will continue to grow exponentially, but…err…I really hope it does?

(Yes, I do realize that these statistics are woefully inadequate. Up until recently, WordPress only measured pageviews, not unique visitors. Now that I have Google Analytics, I should start getting much better data).

I dunno. Let me ask you. How did you find this site?

Taking This Blog To The Next Level

I’ve been maintaining this blog off and on for about four years, ever since the summer of 2008. Prior to that, I had sporadic blogs on wordpress and livejournal since my senior year of high school (spring of 2004). I’d start one up, post a few times, and then lose interest (and whatever miniscule number of readers I’d garnered). Even this blog had gone into the death cycle a few times. After a few months without posts, my readers drift away and when I come back to it, I have to start anew.

At the beginning of this year, I decided to get serious about this thing, and to post three entries every week. And for 37 of the last 38 weeks, I’ve managed to do exactly that. The result has been a doubling in traffic for each post and a tripling in overall traffic. The response has really been gratifying. For the first time, this blog has some kind of momentum. I haven’t done much work to publicize it, other than cross-posting to Twitter and Facebook, because, honestly, it was enough work just to write three substantive posts every week.

However, I’ve come to the point where I want to go out and start chasing down some new readers. The fact of the matter is, updating this blog is the same amount of work whether there are fifty readers or five thousand readers, and I’d kind of prefer to have the latter. Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to do anything crazy or crass, but I have taken a number of steps.

  • A month ago, I went through all my posts and picked 50-100 of the best ones and put links to them along the right side of the blog (so that people who enjoy one post can just glance over and find some other ones that they might enjoy)
  • I went through this complicated procedure (using a 3rd-party service, CloudFlare) to install Google Analytics on this site, so I can see how many people are visiting and where they’re coming from.
  • I’ve started a Tumblr, and I’m planning on cross-posting some or all of the new content on this blog to my Tumblr.
  • I updated my bibliography and put links to all my stories that are currently available online.
  • I’m planning on getting out more and being a bigger part of the community. I read tons of blogs and see tons of interesting stuff, but I’m lax about linking to it and talking to it. I want to write more posts that reference the ongoing conversations in the science fiction field and more posts that draw attention to other people. Part of this is self-serving (you don’t get noticed unless you notice people), but part of it is that I just really want to be a part of the online community. For me, this blog isn’t really about selling anything; it’s about connecting with other people. Oh, as part of this effort, I’ve also updated my blog-roll (to the right, below my top posts), so that it includes all the blogs I follow.

Those are the main changes for now. There’s no need for you to do anything. However, if you maintain a blog, I’d certainly be pleased if you linked to me in your blog-roll. And if you see something on this site that you think is really good, then I’d be pretty happy if you retweeted or reposted or shared it in whatever venue where you think it might be successful. Also, if any of you want to be my Facebook friend, I wouldn’t find that odd at all: I’m an extremely promiscuous Facebook-friender. Just make sure that you add a message or something so that I know you’re not a robot.

P.S. As part of my new effort, I might as well mention that much of this initiative is coming as a result of having just (two hours ago) finished Cat Rambo‘s online class on expanding your online presence. Cat is a science fiction writer who graduated from the Hopkins Writing Seminars and I first contacted her online when I was thinking about coming here. Then I met her in person at the Baltimore Book Festival. She gave me some great advice then and some more great advice today. The class was definitely worth the money.

‘X’ marks the spot

I’m not sure if anyone’s noticed, but this blog has been super regular for the last three months. After nearly three and a half years of very sporadic updating, I’ve posted an update roughly every other day for almost 100 days.

It’s almost shocking how regular I’ve become. And the way it happened was really simple. I just decided to treat blogging like writing. As you know, I’m very anal about logging my writing. I have daily wordcounts going back eight years, to the summer after my senior year in high school. It was one of the first things I started doing after I finally became serious about writing. Somehow, I knew intuitively that tracking my writing was the first step to becoming serious (well, the second step–the first step was submitting my stories).

But it took me a really long time before I had the brainstorm that allowed me to apply that lesson to my blogging. It was such a simple change, too. I just put a little column in my spreadsheet right next to my daily word-count. And in that column, I put an “X” if I’ve written a post that day. That’s all. I just started tracking whether or not I’d actually posted.

Since then, I’ve been cranking out three posts every single week, for fourteen weeks. It’s not easy. Sometimes (like today), I have to search for something to say. But it’s not that hard, either. Before, I used to lament the fact that my blog would lie fallow for months at a time, but I always found it really hard to actually do something about that. But the problem wasn’t laziness, it was just a lack of accountability. It’s really hard to do something when there’s no visible measure of progress.

I wish everything on my to-do list was susceptible to this kind of tracking. Maybe I should start giving myself an ‘X’ for haircuts and laundry…

Actually, that would probably work!

December = Wrap-up Season, Baby!

I love all kinds of summarization: epilogues, epitaphs, eulogies, back-cover blurbs, New Yorker profiles, obituaries, the closing arguments in lawyer shows, dramatic monologues in which the villain reveals his plan, quarterly earnings reports, monthly bank statements, lifetime achievement awards, Nobel prize lectures, speeches in the locker room during halftime of the championship game, wedding toasts, Year’s Best collections, Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, the Western Canon, boxes of knickknacks stored on the top shelf of the closet, report cards, rap sheets, resumes, author bios, Wikipedia entries – my god, of course, Wikipedia entries…how was that not the very first item in my list – and paragraph-long scattershot lists of disparate items that serve to define the furthest boundaries of a given category.

But the kind of summarization that I like the MOST is the year-end blog wrapup. And with December coming, it’s wrap-up season, baby.

I’ve been somewhat remiss in writing about all the books I’ve read this year, so I’m planning on subjectively sorting them into somewhat arbitrary categories and giving my little takes on them, and probably divulging my writing stats for the year, etc. All kinds of good stuff like that.

I need an authorial persona

 I’ve been thinking about this, quite seriously, for some time. But, before, I always said to myself “Oh, I’m just an aspiring author, no one even knows my name…there’s time to figure out my authorial persona later.”

But that time is now. The internet is filling up with words that I wrote. And every one of those words contains the germ of an image. And that image is growing in peoples’ minds whether I want it to or not. And the time has come to decide what that image will be.

I’m not going to go off all crazy and say that all great authors have authorial persona. But it really does help. I don’t think Hemingway would be very famous if he hadn’t spent so much time being Hemingwayish and hitting up bullfights and fishing for big fish and shooting guns at big animals and volunteering to fight in wars that were none of his business. I’m sure you can think of a ton more examples.

Reading is a pretty intimate experience. When you read, it’s like someone is whispering into your ear. And, like it or not, words have a bigger impact when the person saying them is somehow enticing to the imagination. It’s like how you pay way more attention whenever an attractive person is speaking.

While authors are not movie stars, being attractive is a not-at-all unhelpful part of authorial persona. It works for Neil Gaiman. And you can’t read about Truman Capote, even sixty years later, without hearing about his author photograph on the back cover of Other Voices, Other Rooms. Unfortunately, that avenue is not really going to do it for me.

Oh, but you might say “just be yourself.” That is not good advice. First of all, there is no such thing as just being yourself. All communication is performance. The problem with the internet is that it’s hard to accurately gauge who the audience is, and what they want. That means that all communication tends to sort of drift towards one of two poles.

The first is anger. Writing to the internet is a lot like shouting in an empty room. You know that probably no one’s listening, but there’s a feeling that if you yell hard enough, someone will hear. And when you’re by yourself its really easy to get all worked up about things. The end result is that you end up being a huge dick, and expending all kinds of words on things that either A) don’t actually bother you that much; or B) do bother you, but which you know shouldn’t bother you.

I think that I tend to avoid the “anger” pole, mostly out of an exaggerated awareness of how one or two really offensive comments could reverberate around the internet and be enshrined forever in my permanent record.

But I definitely fall into the other pole, “cuteness”. For some reason , well over half the things people write out on the internet come out sounding like they’re being lisped by little girls (or boys) who’re missing their two front teeth. Especially amongst SF writers. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism. Although cuteness is grating, it’s fairly unoffensive, and is especially good for covering up self-promotion, an unpopular opinion, or just the fact that you consider yourself smart enough that when you say something you think people ought to not only listen, but pay to hear what you have to say.

And that’s pretty much what I do. I really dislike it. I read the comments I make in blogs, or the posts I make on message boards, and I am horrified. It’s hard for me to see the person who writes those things as an actual person. Seriously, I don’t even know why he bothers. He’s engaged in negative communication, the actual leaching of meaning from the world and from the words themselves. I find his motivations utterly opaque, unexplainable even by the simplistic economic theories that I learned in college (the ones that explain everything).

I need an authorial persona, if only to make the horror stop.

I need about 35-40 more hours in a week

For the past six months or so, during the intermittent periods when I am actually in D.C. my schedule has been to get home circa 7 PM on weekdays, and generally spend the hours from 7 PM to 10-11 reading and eating, and then from 11 PM to 2 PM or so trying to write. The end result being that by Wednesday I am borderline exhausted, and by Thursday I am over the hump and manic/frantic with sleep debt…which I recover in twelve hour chunks over the weekend.

I find this to be a pretty satisfying and productive pace, but blogging is basically last in my list of priorities (behind household repairs and above buying groceries). I do not like this state of affairs! My hope was to make my longish essays on books kind of a semi-regular thing. Unfortunately, each one takes roughly 3 or so hours.

But they seem to get a pretty good response, judging by traffic figures, and I think it would be both professionally beneficial (and extremely satisfying to my ego)  to develop some sort of internet following over the coming years, especially now that I have found a format which I think both suits my talents and is at least mildly interesting. So I am forcibly reinserting blogging into my schedule.

I am going to shoot for one long book post every weekend (probably Sundayish), and one post consisting mostly of several hundred work capsule — well, not reviews — scattered thoughts on the books I’ve read during the past week, which will be accompanied by quotes from said book (the Kindle makes it absurdly easy to extract quotes from things. It is amazing). I will also write this during the weekend, but set it to be posted circa Wednesday. And then I will fill the intermittent space with short little posts like this one.

Just letting you know what is up.

In honor of me importing the entries from my livejournal…I give you the Library of Babel

I whipped up this spreadsheet to give you all a feel for how completely ridiculous a concept the Library of Babel. Please refresh it until you are insane enough to have conceived of that work of genius.

Also, I’ve now permanently hidden all the livejournal entries from my highschool years. Mwuah. The rest are imported here, the ones from before July of 2008

Points for trying?

So, one of the things I said I would do every day is post in this blog. But I don’t have anything to really say today, and I also want to go to sleep. So I’m wondering whether putting up a contentless post is good, because it trains me to post no matter what (which results in more posts and hence a better blog, over time), or bad, because it drags down the overall quality of the blog. My temptation is to say that there are two opposing effects here, and which one predominates will depend on a number of factors, which I could, but don’t wish to, enumerate here.