The perils of blog-writing

I think writing a single-author, regularly-updated ‘subject’ blog, other than one on cooking (where you at least have the advantage of being able to constantly cook different recipes), must be uniquely challenging, particularly in the area of retaining a long-participating readership. Unlike a personal or news blog, which can draw on natural repositories of new content, a subject blog has to have something to say about the same thing again and again, regardless of whether there is interesting news on the subject or whether the person’s thinking has materially evolved. The result is that most subject blogs I’ve read become somewhat tiresome after a while in one of two ways.

1) The writer starts saying the same thing again and again. This is useful to a point, because it develops a broad and varied way of approaching a similar topic, so that a large number of people have a chance of finding an explanation they understand or relate to. And it’s nice for new readers. But once you’ve been a reader for a while, and you’ve seen a number of the variations, it becomes dull. Only a small percentage of entries will have anything novel to say, and it becomes not worth following the blog.

2) The writer tries to branch out into things they don’t know as much about, or tries to be deliberately novel or controversial on their main topic in a way that they previously weren’t, and starts saying obvious, naive, or stupid things. Of course, one’s opinion about what’s obvious, naive, or stupid may vary, but getting out of your subject area or taking deliberately contrarian positions that are also really naive is an easy way to sound stupid to people who are better-versed in the subject. I’ve run into this a couple of times with transportation/urbanism blogs that I used to like, and it makes me sad, because usually I think the person has a lot of smart things to say, and I don’t really want to stop following them, but I just can’t tolerate the stupid.

People definitely read blogs for different reasons, so disagreeing with the blog author may be an upside for some. Personally, I read blogs to hear thought-provoking ideas in areas I’m interested in, and secondarily to get new information on those areas. I don’t read blogs to get into huge debates, so reading blogs that I constantly disagree with that way isn’t fun for me. Nor is reading blogs that have started repeating themselves — they no longer provoke interesting thoughts.

So, my hats off to people who can continue being novel and smart for long periods of time on the same subject, or who figure out ways to evolve their blogs so that they continue to be smart and engaging in a different area or manner. Long may you blog.

Comment overflow (temporarily) halted

After sorting through the overwhelming mass of spam comments I’ve been getting, I figured out that most of them were attached to one of two or three old posts — presumably posts with keywords or PageRank that the spammers liked. It didn’t look like closing comments on those was going to be a huge issue, so I did, and the comment level is back down to normal and I’m able to find and approve new legitimate commenters. I’ll probably keep doing that periodically to keep the volume level down, at least until I change hosts/upgrade WordPress and can install Akismet or some other actual effective spam-catcher.

So, sorry if I threw any of your comments away; try again if you were having issues and I should be able to approve you.

Rearrangement

I reorganized some blog categories this morning. I’ve been a bit lazy about adding all the categories I want, because it requires more effort than just tagging a post (but also forces you to actually reuse the same categories again and again, so you don’t end up with tagging issues like having “geekyness” and “geekiness” both as tags) so I went back and added some.

I also moved Cycling into its own top-level category. It’s by far my most heavily-used category (except for “Personal” which is a default category), and with all the recreational cycling and Waves to Wine stuff I’ve been doing, I wanted to have a category for that, which didn’t fit into its previous home under Transportation Alternatives. The category structure is more complicated now, but it reflects reality better.

I also moved the categories and links around, so that “links” is at the top now and includes a link to my Waves to Wine personal page. You can donate there, and I’d love to start getting some donations (W2W is less than three months away now, and I’m doing formal base-building to prepare for training, which will start in July), so if you have a spare few dollars and want to donate, please use that link. I really am happy with any amount of donation, so don’t feel it has to be a lot. If you have any trouble donating let me know. I haven’t tried to use their system yet, but hopefully it’s pretty good.

updated webpage

I updated my webpage last night, which I evidently hadn’t done in a couple of years. That’s hard to believe — time has flown. But the content was showing its age, and links to my gallery and blog (which have been set up and working for almost six months now) now exist, which should help people find them.

Working with the static content of the webpage was interesting, and lent insight into why many popular websites have essentially become blogs. Tomato Nation made this transition not long ago, and while I was dismayed at first, I really don’t miss the old site arrangement now (except for the giant tomato graphic) because all the content is there and the updates show up right at the top, all without Sars (I would imagine) having to do anything more than open a posting window.

The fact is that most websites have always been interesting primarily for little chunks of content, and that said chunks are most interesting when they are either new (something blog posts handle much better than “New!” graphics) or old and popular. It’s easy to put or keep your popular chunks in posts, and add a list of the popular posts to your blog front page. So the blog (especially ones that use software that leans to the CMS side, like WordPress) really handles pretty much everything you would want in a website, with the possible exception of other specialized content like photos, which can be easily set up in Gallery or similar and just linked in to the front page.

I’m not sure if I’ll do that. There’s a certain appeal to the old-fashioned pages too.

I also added a lot of blogs to my blogroll. Some of them are ones I’ve been reading, but that aren’t on my syndicated feeds list on LiveJournal for some reason, and some are ones I’d bookmarked and forgetten about but would like to read more often. Most of them seem to be about cooking or cycling. Not entirely surprising, but there are a few others.

Oh boy

The spambots have discovered my blog. Suck! Now I have to see if I can get a plugin working so I don’t have to moderate by hand. But while I am, thank you WP for the Mark all as spam option!

Metacomment

Somehow I managed to miss a few comments that had gone in for moderation. They should be visible now. Comments, yay!

Just a reminder: comment here at the site, not on the feed on LiveJournal. I’m not notified about comments on the feed, and they’ll disappear in a few weeks when the syndicated post expires. Just enter your name and email in the comment form (email does not appear! I promise!) and a comment, and hit post, and I swear I’ll be more timely about approval.

On the subject of meta, the label for the drawer where we keep the labelmaker at work is ‘metalabel’.