Saturday, March 10, 2007

Atrios thinks I suck

Atrios gives some valuable advice, at least in a what-not-to-do kinda way, on how to be a popular blogger. This may surprise you, but poor chuckling has studied the question extensively. Before you die in a fit of laughter, or more likely shake your head sadly at the pathetic vanity of yet another blogging nobody, let me hasten to add that after studying how to become a popular blogger, I decided not to.

Nevertheless, Atrios very much is a popular blogger so his advice is as interesting as it is valuable. I will comment briefly on each of his points and then add a few that he failed to mention.

1) You don't post often enough... Oh, and truly excellent, original, and important content.

Duncan is kind enough to give us two key points for the price of one. Chuckling’s crack team of statisticians crunched the numbers and found that it is indeed true that popular bloggers post a lot. But we could find no relationship between popularity and quality or originality. In fact, for those who post more than once a day, the correlation between the number of posts and their quality is illustrative of the law of diminishing returns.

2) Your page design sucks.

Ha, is about all I can say to that. Atrios’s own site is readable, but isn’t about to win any design rewards. Sites like Glenn Greenwald’s or Digby’s are eye-gougingly ugly. Granted, there are many that are unreadable, but beyond that chuckling’s band of design experts could find no correlation between design excellence and popularity. If that were so, poor chuckling’s site would be in the top 10 percent, easy.

3) You need to get some mad blogwhoring skills.

I’ve no doubt that this is true.

4) Your blog actually sucks.

Yes, in so many cases, that truth hurts but it stands. Still, there is too much excellent writing out there to make an absolute connection between quality and popularity. Blogs like Gall and Gumption or Writhe Safely are good examples of high quality sites with little traffic relative to the big blogs.

5) You post all your best stuff as diaries at Daily Kos.

I wouldn’t know anything about that, but if you substitute Alicublog for Daily Kos, there are more than a few prominent commenters who could probably cop to that.

6) A sizable chunk of your content involves complaining about people not reading or linking to you.

I can see how that would be a turn-off. Atrios apparently gets a lot of people harassing him for publicity. That’s unfortunate, but I guess it goes with the territory.

Chuckling, as mentioned above, spent some time a few years ago researching how to create a popular blog. Unfortunately, or not, I have neither the gumption nor the attention span to do what it takes. And for me it’s a question of ethics as well. I just can’t see the writing that comes naturally to me ever being very popular in the blog format, even if I were to raise the quality significantly. So I would have to be artificial in order to be popular. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that it is necessarily bad for other people to seek popularity by giving the masses what they will pay for, it’s just not me. Nor am I saying that popularity necessarily equates with poor quality. Many people’s natural inclinations gibe with large swathes of the populace and good for them. But again, that’s not me. Here at chuckling, we only hope to tell little stories, be they by prose or by photo, that may amuse guests such as yourself. That and it's just good writing practice.

Anyway, in addition to Atrios’s valuable lessons on how to be a popular blogger, I’ll add a few of my own.

1) Be one of the first.

Those who were there when the blogging was new have a nearly insurmountable advantage. The boundaries of the format are now well established and the early settlers long ago homesteaded on the highest hills. In order to start now and become popular, you’d better follow Atrios’s number 3 and unleash some awesome blog whoring skills. A shitload of advertising and perhaps a corporate sponsorship may be necessary as well.

2) Join a well-established circle jerk.

Most popular blogs regularly link to the same group of other popular blogs. This increases their traffic as well as the number of sites that link to them. This strategy has been carried to ridiculously cynical extremes by the right wing nut cases. They are quite open about what they are doing. On the left, I think it developed more organically. In the early days, there weren’t that many bloggers and it was natural for the like-minded ones to link to one another. And since most (maybe all for all I know) of the popular lefty bloggers are decent people, they regularly link to writers they like with no requirement of reciprocation. Nevertheless, it would be a good strategy to identify a well-established circle jerk and start yanking its members. Many people will have decent enough manners to give you a wraparound, especially if you swallow.

3) Specialize in attacking someone famous

Everyone who is famous has a lot of people who hate them. Pick somebody and ridicule every move they make or word they write. If you can do it with either élan or over-the-top vitriol, a ready-in-waiting audience of tens of thousands will eagerly visit your site to see the famous schmuck cut down to size.

Since we’re speaking of Atrios, I’ll admit that it occurred to me that one could become popular by making a specialty of attacking him. There are probably people out there doing that from the right, but I don’t think anyone has made a full time job out of doing it from the left. I’ve made critical comments about him on a couple occasions and got a lot of feedback, both positive and negative, so I know the audience is there. That, however, is not the kind of person I am. And although I am critical of Atrios here and there, in general I like him and agree with the great majority of what he has to say. It’s just that I am a critical person and when someone has an opinion on hundreds of issues, there will be some with which I disagree. A follower I am not.

Anyway, that concludes professor chuckling’s lessons on how to be a popular blogger. We can all probably agree that it’s best you ignore them.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Random note from the cave

You may not know this about me. I admit it’s a bit embarrassing, and it may even be true. I have very good reason to believe that I am the last person in the continental United States who doesn’t have cable tv.

Now I usually count that as a good thing and tonight I was reminded of why. I went out to a happy hour after work and ended up in one of those bars where there is no possible place you can sit that is not facing a television, and this one was tuned to Lou Dobbs on CNN.

My memory of Dobbs was from the old days when news was more news and less entertainment and he was just another grave gray personage reporting the doings of the day’s market. I’d read that he was now a right wing nut case, but this was the first time I’d seen him since the devolution. Fortunately, the sound was off, but it was obvious from his pinched angry face that he was a Nutzi propagandist. So I was a bit surprised when the headline read “Iraq Plan already a Failure?” Well, duh, I thought, but I didn’t expect a prominent right wing nut case to state the obvious, even as a question. But then the graphic changed to “Democrat’s Iraq Plan already a Failure.” Not even a question mark. Cable? You can have it.