Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Archive for August 2010

How to write a successful blog

with 10 comments

Occasionally, I come across blog entries on how to be a successful blogger. These invariably seem to deal with questions like increasing the number of visitors, gaining “followers”, or similar. While this may seem reasonable, as a first impression (and may well be valid for a minority even on a thorough investigation), my take is very different—success is not automatically the same thing as having traffic, but will depend on what one actually wants to gain and achieve. Worse: Some even equate “popular” with “good”—by which token Henning Mankell would be a “better” author than Heinrich Böll…

Below I will elaborate by quoting (with minor modifications) two comments of mine:

The human element…

You are not wrong in that the human element is highly beneficial for writing a popular and easily digestible blog (or, m.m., book/movie); however, we all have to ask ourselves “Why do I write? For whom do I write? What do I want to achieve?”.

Speaking for myself, I would write even if I was never read by anyone—writing has immediate benefits for me on other planes than just gaining readers. To me, a good blog entry is a blog entry that makes me think and gain insight (be it through writing it or through reading it on someone elses blog). Besides, let us face it, if I wanted to maximize the number of visitors, I would be running a porn site :-)

Looking at others, they may have very particular interests, write for a niche-market, or otherwise have reasons to write in a different manner. Britney Spears is more popular than Andrew Eldritch (by a show of hands: How many of you have ever heard of him?), but I doubt that he would wish to become a superstar if it involved emulating her music—and we should all be thankful that he does not emulate her wardrobe.

(http://lorelle.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/have-you-lost-the-human-element-in-your-blog/#comment-928380e)

(Some more information on the benefits I gain from writing.)

For most bloggers, the audience should be a secondary priority.

Yes, for those who want to make money or fame out of blogging, the audience must be a priority. However, let us face it, very few actually have success in this area, irrespective of what they try.

Yes, those who want to spread their messages and ideas to others need to pay attention to the audience: Terry Pratchett has had a greater impact on the masses with his ideas than Kant for a good reason. However, while success here is easier to reach, the overall impact of most blogs is small—and often they just compete over an already-believing choir, on which preaching is wasted, while the heathens go elsewhere.

What then is left? Writing for ones own sake, to learn, to gain new insights (including into writing), polishing and developing existing opinions, exposing oneself to external critique, etc. While writing in a notebook is also a valuable exercise, writing for a blog is a better exercise. And here is the big advantage: These are gains that more-or-less any blogger can reach—unlike fame, fortune, and influence.

My advice to the typical blogger: Write primarily for your own sake, with the hope that others will be interested as pure bonus. Do pay attention to the audience, but do not consider maximizing the number of hits per day to be the main purpose.

(http://throughanewlens.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/why-your-audience-is-like-the-mogwai/#comment-232e)

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Written by michaeleriksson

August 4, 2010 at 2:54 pm

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Comment censorship and comment policies IVb: Discussion of a semi-reasonable motivation for censorship

with one comment

In my last entry, I provided a verbatim quote in German of my answer to an insight-giving pro-censorship commente. Below, I will discuss the core points of the latter comment (in my interpretation and from my perspective).

  1. There are feminists who believe that they have heard all relevant counter-arguments, and simply do not accept them.

    With this I will not argue, but I will note that the lack of acceptance is not typically rooted in reason, but simply in stubborn instance that a pre-formed opinion is the correct one—even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

  2. They have the conviction that neither they nor their opponents can be converted.

    To a large part, this too is true.

  3. They do have a wish to debate related topics with like-minded people—not just as the “club of mutual admiration” that I have so often observed, but also in the legitimate wish to deepen an understanding within a particular framework of feminist thought.

    Again, a legitimate statement. It is questionable, however, how often it applies. Indeed, most feminist discussions I have seen have had a different character, most notably as an attempt to convince others, propagate the feminist world-view, or to just gripe about this-and-that.

  4. These discussions are visited by non- and anti-feminist, who bring up arguments already known and rejected, which, basically, “spoils the fun”.

    (See the “cherry example” below.)

  5. Censorship allows the blog owner to focus the conversation on the subset of issues she wants to debate without the framework it self being questioned.

    While also true, this is very often misleading.

    For one thing, a blog debate is not just something for the participants, but also for other readers, and by suppressing dissenting voices, these readers are given a flawed and distorted view of the overall situation. This is particularly serious, because many feminists state their opinions as facts, misinterpret or misstate statistics, or otherwise act in a way that could easily fool the unwary. Indeed, I was myself long an innocent believer in factually untrue claims such as domestic violence being something pre-dominantly committed by men onto women.

    (Notably, with e.g. the situation in Sweden in mind, it is very important that these dissenting voices are heard, lest the extreme dominance of feminist and politically correct views in media are supplemented by a similar dominance in other channels of information.)

    For another, the debates are often cut off in such a way that the feminists “win”, e.g. by letting the anti-feminist make a statement, allowing the feminist a convincing sounding come-back using a factually flawed argument, and then censoring the anti-feminist when he points out that, how, and why this argument was factually flawed.

Based on these points (notwithstanding the critique given above; in particular, as the counter-arguments I give apply to the great mass, but not necessarily to individual cases) my overall impression of the comment was highly favourable—something that actually broadened my understanding of the issues and perspectives involved. Unfortunately, the general tone of the comment contained several highly derogatory and misleading statements and one highly faulty analogy. This analogy will be discussed as a conclusion:

Wenn ich mich auf den Marktplatz stelle und Kirschen verkaufe und jemand zu mir kommt und mit mir über Gott diskutieren will (irgendeine Sekte), dann schicke ich sie weg. Und wenn sie nicht weggehen, hole ich die Polizei.

(When/if I go to the market to sell cherries, and someone wants to discuss God with me (some kind of sect), then I send them away. And when/if they do not leave, I get the police.)

This is her version of an analogy about blogging and debates in public/private that another commenter introduced. While it may seem plausible on a casual glance, it does not hold up to closer scrutiny:

Comments by dissenters on a blog cannot be compared to being pestered by a sect when selling cherries. A better analogy would be starting a free-for-all discussion in a public setting (which is the case with e.g. a blog, but not, say, emails going back-and-forth between two individuals). Now, in such a public debate, would someone consider it acceptable to call the police against a participant whose only crime was dissent? Hardly; and the common feminist tactics of insults and censorship would be equally appropriate. (Note that while there are cases where calling the police may be justified, e.g. if the dissenter also threatened other participants, this does not affect the analogy—I have nothing against censorship of, e.g., threats on a blog either.)

On the contrary, in order to justify such, it would be necessary to keep the discussion explicitly or implicitly private—in Internet terms, to use email, a mailing list, a blog not open to the public (not hard to set up on WordPress), or similar. Notably, those who only want to stand on a podium and scream into a microphone, with no risk of contradiction, can also put up their own website or write a blog where commenting is simply deactivated.

Written by michaeleriksson

August 2, 2010 at 11:55 pm