Thursday, April 19, 2007

AiB - reflections, self-censorship and changes

Starting the AiB blog back in March 2006 was a bit of an experiment. It wasn’t that I had a particular voice that I wanted to be heard, a burning ambition to see people reading my scribblings.

“In a world where a blog is created every second does the world really need another blog? Well, it's got one.”

But knowing that I was helping to run a technology camp for a group of teenagers that summer, it seemed wise to experiment with the media and get some practical experience, rather than being a complete bluffer.

The experimental bit was to see how visits and page views would take off. I deliberately didn’t go around telling people that the blog existed. I registered it on a few local blog directories, and blog feed aggregators, and made sure that when I commented on other people’s blogs, my name would link back to the blog.

From fewer than 20 hits a day, traffic has steadily increased, with an acceleration in the first few months of 2007. People Google for the strangest topics, and some of the time they click on a like to AiB. Though last April, I remember posting a cautionary cartoon on the subject of stat checking.

CartoonSometimes you post early about a topic and the Google PageRank algorithm decides it likes your post and promotes it up the rankings. If you Google for David Ervine, AiB today still appears as the fifth item, pointing to a post I wrote at the time of his death, referring to Henry Sinnerton’s biography that had been posted a few year’s earlier. Yet, it’s hardly the most qualitative or quantitative analysis available.

Maybe the more you post, the luckier you get! If the Letter to America, Slugger O’Toole or even the BBC decide to link to you, traffic doubles for a day before subsiding to normal levels. And it’s fun to watch your Technorati ranking swing up and down on a daily basis. Breaking through to the top 100,000 remains elusive.

The remit of AiB hasn’t really changed from the first day ...

“An irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology, and the occasional rant about life.”

AiB is of course self-censoring.

I deliberately don’t refer to work or family. But rest assured, I really am called Alan, and I do live in Belfast! And it doesn’t take a forensic investigator to search through Google to work out a bit more about me.

Having not promoted the blog, it’s been fun to bump into friends and even colleagues who have been reading AiB, and slowly put two and two together and guessed that it’s me.

Anyway, this wasn’t meant to be a cathartic post. It’s an announcement of sorts.

From now on, there will be a few changes. I’ll be even busier, so not posting as much. And in particular, I’ll be extending the self-censorship to cover the BBC, and that’ll have a knock-on effect on some other media posting too (particularly comparisons).

The reason? Well I’m not changing jobs or anything too radical like that! But in the coming months I’ll have a much closer relationship with the Beeb locally, and I don’t feel it’s appropriate to make public postings at the same time as having private discussions. (Really just the same principle that means I don’t post about work-related stuff ... other than ranting about the inadequacy of the UK transport infrastructure!)

Self censorship = Better staying safe now than being sorry later.

1 comment:

John Self said...

Posting early on a topic and getting mutual links is definitely the way to increase your hits, as I've discovered with my own blog. I've been surprised to see my own posts ending up in the top ten Google results when you search for some of the book titles I've reviewed - some of them pretty well-known ones that have also been widely reviewed and commented on in the mainstream media. One techophile friend explains this simply by saying that "blogs attract a lot of Google juice." And so it must be. Plus when novelist Susan Hill's blog was acting up for a few days and my blog was no longer linked as a favourite on it, my hits plummeted. I'm now getting a wider range of referrals though so hopefully one lost link would no longer have that effect.

Good luck with AiB Phase II! I'm sure I speak for many when I say I've thoroughly enjoyed the ride so far and hope to continue doing so!