The Blog Turns Six

The Thinker by Rodin

It was exactly five years ago today, on December 13, 2002 that I penned this short blog post. Thus began my blogging adventure. Back then, I had little idea why I wanted to blog or where Occam’s Razor would go. In fact, I had no idea whether I would even keep the blog. I did know that my friend Lisa already had her blog. She seemed to be having fun with it and it looked like the cool new thing to do. In addition, since I work in the IT field, it seemed like a good way to understand and emerging technology. Therefore, rather haltingly at first, I began scribing my little posts and wondered if I would be both its writer and its sole reader.

It took a few months for the blog to get its moorings. Eventually I discovered that in many ways my blog would be the anti-blog. Those few blogs that existed in 2002 tended to consist of short posts. They contained frequent misspellings and were often rife with grammatical mistakes. Moreover, blog posts were more likely typed streams of consciousness optimized for the web than examples of structured thought. I could see their usefulness in allowing the common person to share his thoughts with those outside of his regular communities. I could also see their advantage as a way to promote the timely sharing of new information. Even then, I was not sure, given that blogs were likely to expand exponentially whether my little blog would garner any attention at all. I was just one tree in a very big forest. Fortunately, I was one of the first planted trees. I hoped that in time it might make a difference.

I got the writing bug in my youth. I let my interest lapse due to the painful necessity of being both a parent and breadwinner. Blogging allowed me to reengage my inner writer. Yet I found it hard to write blog posts that were mere streams of consciousness. Soon, I found myself editing my posts. Eventually one edit would not suffice. I wanted them polished. Soon I had discovered a pattern that worked for me. Each post would be an essay on a particular topic. I would take the time to write something thoughtful and well crafted. Moreover, I would endeavor to offer perspectives or insights that I felt was largely lacking in other blogs.

Once I finally got around to metering my blog in 2004, I was happy to get thirty page views a day, and giddy when I hit fifty a day. As the years rolled by, I kept raising my expectations. Over time, my blog’s traffic did pick up. By the standards of the more popular blogs, mine was a speck of sand on the beach. Over the years, as more of my content became searchable, my traffic picked up in a generally linear fashion. Fifty page views seemed lame. I wanted a hundred page views. It was not until this October that I caught some lucky breaks. The editor of Washington Monthly noticed my post on their blog and mentioned it on their site. In one day, I had more than one thousand page views. Moreover, for reasons I do not wholly understand, moving my blog out of Movable Type and into WordPress doubled my traffic. A recent posting on YouPorn also has driven a lot of new traffic this way. Lately I have come to expect between 400 and 500 page views per day.

Yet it was just a year ago that my blog was deep in the doldrums after being mysteriously and unceremoniously yanked from Google’s search engine. I had no clear idea who to petition. Eventually though I solved that problem. The following SiteMeter chart gives you some idea of how bad things were. Last December I eked out a mere 1078 page views. Now I can sometimes generate this traffic in two days. Throughout 2007, I saw a steady progression in my traffic. October became something of a turning point. November was a record month with almost 14,000 page views and over 10,000 visits. Any animosity I might have felt toward Google a year ago has vanished. It continues to bring in the majority of my new traffic.

Occam’s Razor SiteMeter Statistics Dec 2006-Nov 2007

So here I am five years and 757 posts later. I have published nearly 850,000 carefully edited words these last five years. How large is that? To use one metric, the English version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace is approximately 560,000 words. I expect by the time this blog reaches its seventh birthday that I will have passed one million words. How many bloggers can truthfully say they have published so much original content? My guess is I am one of a hundred or less.

Whether this blog means anything is hard to say. It obviously means a lot to me, given the amount of time I spend writing and editing posts. I only know when a post was well received when the reader leaves a laudatory comment. While certain posts (principally on topics like pornography) regularly bring in about a quarter of my traffic, the bulk of my readers are reading other posts. Some posts that I am particularly proud of (which can be found in my Best of Occam’s Razor category) may only average one page view a day. Still, multiply that over the life of this blog. I can conclude that many of my best blog posts are read thousands of times. The typical author sells only a few thousand copies of his book. Yet I can get as many readers from a single blog post. At this point, it is likely that some of my blog posts have been read over a hundred thousand times.

When I was young, I aspired to be a published writer. It seemed like it would be much more fun than being a hard hat or an office drone and it appealed to my sense of vanity. I still have that aspiration. Yet in many ways, my blog has validated the concept that an author can be self-published wholly online. Sadly, it does not pay the light bills. Aside from marginal Google Adsense revenue, I get no royalties. Yet at least I have the satisfaction that I am being read. While I am unlikely to ever generate the volume of a highly trafficked blog, by writing quality posts about enduring topics I have found a way to exist below the radar of the popular blogs yet feel like the blog is succeeding in its mission.

With the blog at age six, it is harder to find novel topics. However, I still take considerable satisfaction from blogging. I will endeavor to maintain my standards and your interests in the years ahead. Happy reading!

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