Monday, December 08, 2008

If You Build It, Will They Come?

People sometimes ask me for advice about blogging. The last time that happened, I promised I would write a post on the subject. But, as I sit down this morning to compose it, I find I am full of doubts. After all, am I the right guy to ask? This blog gets about 25 visits a day (easily two of those are by me). That's hardly a very successful blog. If my goal is traffic, I'm doing something wrong.

I use blogging primarily as a way to develop my thoughts in a relatively disciplined way. A good journal or diary is usually written for posterity. That is, it is written on the assumption that one day people will want to know what you were thinking along the way to your great works, and that forces you to write better than you would if you were just writing for yourself. Blogging provides a less presumptuous version of that constraint. You still have to imagine a reader, but not your own future fame.

And this is really the main advice I have. Whether you are blogging by yourself or as part of a group, let the content drive the project.

One way to think about this is in terms of your time commitment. Don't spend too much time at the beginning thinking about how the blog will look. It takes literally minutes to set up a blog. Already from the first hour of your blogging life, most of your time should be spent writing content. You will learn a lot of tricks along the way, and eventually you may have the sharpest blog online. But without the habit of contributing interesting content (by your standards) it's not really going to mean anything.

My advice to would-be bloggers, then, is "just do it": set up the blog without thinking too much about what it is going to look like or who is going to read it. Contribute often, but keep the posts short. Get into the habit of writing brief notes for public consumption about things that interest you. You'll never regret having that habit. And you won't know what "go the distance" meant until you do. The blogosphere is a field of dreams.


Iris said...

I love your blog! I'm an almost-PhD (final submission next week)and I find your blog challenges my thinking and my writing. Keep going. (And BTW, your own visits don't usually count when your site traffic is calculated.)

Thomas Basbøll said...

Thanks, Iris. It's always great to know that people are getting something out it. (I hope I didn't leave the impression that I'm disappointed by the traffic. I'm definitely going to keep at it.)

All the best completing your dissertation. It always makes me smile when I hear of someone finishing the thing. Good work.