A couple of years ago I asked myself that question, did some research and came up with the What the Blogosphere Wants More Of list shown at the bottom of my right sidebar. Since that time, as the chart above shows, my blog’s popularity has increased steadily: 1500 people subscribe to my blog via Bloglines (the leading RSS subscription reader) or Rmail (the leading RSS e-mail subscription utility) alone. According to Sitemeter (the leading web traffic utility), my ‘average’ reader spends 2m30s reading my blog. That’s several times the blogosphere average, and collectively (excluding my subscribers, whose reading time is unknown) people spend between 60 and 70 hours per day reading How to Save the World. That’s pretty astonishing, as it’s more than the attention some community newspapers get*. Talk about responsibility!
But in the past year or so, some newer blogs have surged past mine in popularity. One of my favourites is Kathy Sierra’s blog Creating Passionate Users. Kathy recently asked her readers why her blog has become so popular. She has received over 100 insightful responses.
For those who don’t have the time or patience to wade through them, here is my synthesis of what her readers said, in approximate order of frequency and passion of mention:
I can hear some well-established bloggers, both A-listers and those struggling in obscurity, reading this list and dismissing it. “Not my style”. “Not edgy enough”. “Who has time for this?” “I do this, it’s just not appreciated”. “Doesn’t apply to my genre of blog”.
But this is the future of blogging. Not off-the-cuff simplistic echo-chamber rants about things the author doesn’t really know anything about, but instead, journalism as invitation to knowledgeable, actionable, interesting conversations. In this kind of journalism, insight trumps mere cleverness, what it means is more important than what happened, and collaboration, consensus and resolution are valued over scoops, scandals and vituperation.
If you’re a blogger (or any other kind of journalist), try this: Score yourself honestly on a scale of 1-10 on each of the twelve criteria above. Then, for any criterion for which you’ve scored yourself 7 or less, identify one step you could take to improve that score. Keep the list in front of you while you write your blog posts. My list (gulp) is as follows:
Criterion #1: Re-read each article as if it were my side of a conversation. If it’s stiff, forced, or strident, loosen it up.
Criterion #2: Don’t publish any articles until their readability scores are in target range. It should average less than 20 words per sentence, with a readability score >60 and grade <11).
Criterion #7: Think about the readers who are going to collectively spend 60 or 70 hours reading this article. Ask myself if I’m giving them enough to reward their attention.
Criterion #9: Without compromising honesty, focus on what’s possible. Be kinder to my readers. Don’t make them work so hard.
Criterion #10: If I’m writing about something I know little about, or writing just to organize my thoughts, be upfront about that and ask myself whether my synthesis, my second-hand information, is really more useful than simply directing to readers to people and written work by those who know much more about it than I ever will.
Criterion #11: Make it shorter. I need to become a much better, more ruthless self-editor.
With so many bloggers out there, it’s getting harder and harder for new bloggers to get attention. Kathy has shown that it’s possible, and how to do it.
The toughest of the twelve criteria, I think, is #4. By its nature, journalism is first-person stuff, and rehashing other people’s news and material just isn’t enough to be truly and consistently original. The only advice I would presume to give (and to take more often myself) on this score is to get out more.
I see blogging morphing considerably in the coming years from interactive journalism to genuine conversation. When that happens, the rules will change and a new set of criteria will apply. In the meantime, my kudos and thanks to Kathy for being a great role model for successful blogging. Thanks, too, to her thoughtful and articulate readers for telling us why she is such a great one. And most of all, thanks to my own readers, for their patience as I strive to become one, too.
*The number of ‘inbound blogs’ (other bloggers linking to me in the last 6 months) per Technorati has dropped off. However, David Sifry of Technorati has acknowledged that this drop-off doesn’t make sense and is investigating. If you use Technorati data to assess your blog’spopularity, stay tuned.
P.S. Readability scores for this article: Average Words per Sentence 12. Readability 50. Grade level 9. Getting closer!
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Archive by Category
My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2023)
--- My Best 200 Posts, 2003-22 by category, from newest to oldest ---
Hope — On the Balance of Probabilities
The Caste War for the Dregs
Recuperation, Accommodation, Resilience
How Do We Teach the Critical Skills
Collapse Not Apocalypse
'Making Sense of the World' Reading List
Notes From the Rising Dark
What is Exponential Decay
Collapse: Slowly Then Suddenly
Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Making Sense of Who We Are
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Post Collapse with Michael Dowd (video)
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Requiem for a Species
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
If We Had a Better Story...
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Hard Part is Finding People Who Care
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
A Short History of Progress
The Boiling Frog
Our Culture / Ourselves:
A CoVid-19 Recap
What It Means to be Human
A Culture Built on Wrong Models
Our Unique Capacity for Hatred
Not Meant to Govern Each Other
The Humanist Trap
Amazing What People Get Used To
My Reluctant Misanthropy
The Dawn of Everything
Why Misinformation Doesn't Work
The Lab-Leak Hypothesis
The Right to Die
CoVid-19: Go for Zero
The Process of Self-Organization
The Tragic Spread of Misinformation
A Better Way to Work
The Needs of the Moment
Ask Yourself This
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
May I Ask a Question?
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
Learning From Nature
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
Making Sense of Scents
An Age of Wonder
The Truth About Ukraine
The Supply Chain Problem
The Promise of Dialogue
Too Dumb to Take Care of Ourselves
Republicans Slide Into Fascism
All the Things I Was Wrong About
Several Short Sentences About Sharks
How Change Happens
What's the Best Possible Outcome?
The Perpetual Growth Machine
We Make Zero
How Long We've Been Around (graphic)
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
Loren Eiseley, in Verse
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self, and Free Will:
No Free Will, No Freedom
The Other Side of 'No Me'
This Body Takes Me For a Walk
The Only One Who Really Knew Me
No Free Will — Fightin' Words
The Paradox of the Self
A Radical Non-Duality FAQ
What We Think We Know
Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark
Healing From Ourselves
The Entanglement Hypothesis
Nothing Needs to Happen
Nothing to Say About This
What I Wanted to Believe
A Continuous Reassemblage of Meaning
No Choice But to Misbehave
What's Apparently Happening
A Different Kind of Animal
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
How Our Bodies Sense the World
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
Mindful Wanderings (Reflections) (Archive)
A Prayer to No One
Frogs' Hollow (Short Story)
We Do What We Do (Poem)
Negative Assertions (Poem)
Reminder (Short Story)
A Canadian Sorry (Satire)
Under No Illusions (Short Story)
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
Only This (Poem)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
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While clarity of message is important, all I ask is that you don’t get too upbeat and cheerful in your presentation.
Thanks for your excellent hints. Your post made my day.
Thanks for sharing this info. The Flesch and Flesch-Kincaid details are common guides for engaging with a broad audience. First came across them, via my great advisor – Bill Swenson, while writing my Master’s thesis.Your other tips are great as well. Thanks for a succinct reminder. Also, have you seen this article: “How to Wow’em Like Steve Jobs” at http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/apr2006/sb20060406_865110.htm ?I thought there were some crossover items in there.Barry
This is a very good post.
I thought about blogging for a long time. Your blog is one reason why I took the plunge. This article reminds me of how sharing knowledge is valuable. I’m glad I saved it to del.icio.ous. At this moment, imagining any single blog being read 70 – 80 hours is amazing! I have subscribed to “how to save the world” for 3 months. I am among the uncounted. I use a different reader than Bloglines. Your thoughtful and clear approach, Dave, is always welcome. This particular post offers worthy and actionable goals. I’m also big believer in stealing ideas. We’ll see what happens! Thank you –