How Blogging Evolves
Blogging is in transition.
Many of us who have practicing blogging for awhile are becoming incredibly aware of the limits of the web as a medium for communication.
We have so much inside ourselves that we want to communicate, but our ideas end up getting caught in a technology that hasn’t changed very much since I was a teenager.
Yes, blogging has definitely gotten more widgets — but the most important decisions I usually make on my blog is turning all of the little functions off. Essentially many of us are blogging in the same way that we did ten years ago. The only difference is how we get the blog posts out, which these days is mostly by Twitter.
I turned off the Facebook ‘Like’ button, because as much as I loved the large number on the top of my posts that resulted from people pressing it, the actual traffic to my site was negligible. This is because Facebook wants Facebookers to stay on Facebook where they can be shown ads and click ‘Like’ on photos of girls/boys they will never sleep with.
Regardless, all of the smart people I know are leaving Facebook anyway.
Blogging needs two things to make it more successful as a platform:
Bandwidth is a term that we cybernetic yogis use to convey the depth of an information transfer between two humans. F2F (face to face) is universally the highest definition, holograms are the next (but are kind of hard to find in the world right now — soon enough) next is 3d video, video, still photos, audio, and then finally text.
Blogging tends to find itself in one of the lowest bandwidth ranges — text. The good thing about text is the low bandwidth means that it can travel much farther and faster than higher-bandwidth creations. A tweet can be read by 5000 people instantly, a blog post by 2000, but a video will probably only be played by 200, and F2F only conducted with one person at a time.
This results in an ecosystem of how we interact on the web. As my blog grows in popularity, my threshold for F2F has grown with it. Whenever I say ‘Wheels down in X-city’ I commonly get dozens of requests to connect — hardly any I can answer because F2F takes an incredible amount of energetic power, especially if it’s a one-way conversation.
**2. Dimensionality. **
Dimensionality is how smart the blog is in relation to its readers. For example, not everyone who comes to my work is in a place where they want to read about cybernetic yoga. They might want to time-travel back to when I was writing about how to reduce your possessions to less than 100 things.
This is where the intelligence of the web itself needs to evolve, I’m not sure how much blogging or even my own ability to curate the content can correct for the huge variables involved in breadth of the knowledge that readers who stumble across this blog may have.
To generalize, my blog used to have some pretty solid content for 20-somethings who were uncomfortable with their jobs — but over time my content has shifted to a place where I imagine my core audience is centered on Silicon Valley futurists.
What if people who needed my ‘how to quit your soul-sucking job’ posts could get be shown that content instantly? What if the people who really needed to declutter a desk could be shown that content instantly? What if the people who want to learn mental cybernetics could be shown that content instantly?
A lot of the tension surrounding my blog right now is the fact that decluttering-desks people are accidentally stumbling across posts on mental cybernetics. Not everyone is in the same place, it’s a big leap from clutter to maintaining your 3rd brain.
I think blogging systems will need to learn to adapt to this level of dimensionality if blogging is going to evolve.
I’ve been blogging on Far Beyond The Stars since October of 2009, since then my strategy has changed a lot. I’ll take the rest of this post to point out some ways in which I’ve changed my blogging strategy.
1. Business strategy entirely F2F (face to face).
I used to get my blogging knowledge from places like Problogger and Copyblogger, which I’m not linking to, because after a few months of experimentation I realized that almost everything those sites teach you is wrong. Everyone still thinks those sites are popular because 80% of bloggers have been trained (like little blogging puppies!) to suck up to established authorities in the off chance that they get linked to by an ‘A-List blogger’. The reality is that when I was linked to by Problogger last month it resulted in a grand total of 34 click-throughs.
If I do need intelligent advice on getting traffic to my blog, I commonly will buy Corbett Barr three beers or some good Scotch and ask him his honest opinion about my blogging strategy. The next best thing to buying Corbett drinks is reading his blog.
The lesson here is that all of my learning these days is not being done from blogs, instead I’m reaching out to people who I respect in real life. The highest bandwidth is real life, so if you want to learn how to blog successfully, the #1 strategy that you can employ is to meet a successful blogger in real life. Obviously this is hard to do, I commonly get upward of dozens of requests for drinks when I land in any city.
Start by reaching out to bloggers who are around your same level and in your city. For example, one of the first bloggers I met up with was Ash Ambirge in New York — now we’re both rockstar bloggers. Why? Because we supported each other until we found success.
Getting access to a rockstar blogger/entrepreneur F2F is difficult, but can upgrade your success at an incredibly fast rate — if you’re open to their suggestions.
2. Stopped caring about stats.
When I first launched my blog, I was obsessed with how many people read my blog posts. I’d click on google analytics three times a day (even though it only updates once a day!) I know, it seems silly now. Anyway, now I don’t care about stats so much.
I’d rather have a small group of enthusiastic readers than a large group of confused readers.
When you write for the masses, you end up writing stupid posts that no one cares about. One of the most surprising elements of transitioning from writing about minimalism to writing about augmented humanity/the cybernetic yogi lifestyle is that my blog traffic has actually gone up (though, I’ve only checked it once this month).
Why is that? Because blogging success comes from pushing your own personal edge. Too many young bloggers are trying to write what they think other people want to read, instead of writing work that actually challenges themselves.
Culture exists on the fringes. The center is boring, and secretly everyone wants out of the mediocre middle.
**3. Pushing audience interactions to higher levels. **
Many blogs will encourage you to ‘join the conversation’ in a place called “The Comments”.
“The comments” is where your good ideas and time (your most valuable commodity) goes to die. The reason for this is no one actually sees comments, because it’s generally assumed by the majority of smart Internet users that the commenting section is a place where the low-life of the Internet go to play.
Many people go straight to the comment section of larger blogs and post a “me too!” comment, because Darren Rowse told them that posting comments on other blogs is the #1 way to build your blog audience on his aforementioned blog that should be re-titled Unproblogger.com
There are two more important ways to “join the conversation” (whatever that means.) These two ways are guaranteed you put your interaction in a space where others can actually see it.
**1. Respond on Twitter. This way all of your followers can see it, and check out whether I’m really awesome/lost it themselves and weigh in on Twitter. When your followers see you responding to creators on Twitter, they will learn how to respond to your creations on Twitter, thus bringing more attention to your work! Yay!
2. Respond on your blog. If you read something online that really blows your mind, one of the most powerful actions you can take is to respond on your own blog. This can be as simple as linking to a post “this post made me think.” or can be a 2,000 word exposé building on the awesomeness of the material that you’ve been reading. They call it The Web for a reason, there are hyperlinks connecting everything. If you avoid hyperlinking out from your blog, no one will ever know your blog exists.
Both of these are what I consider ‘high-level’ interactions on the web. You know how in the middle ages all of the kings and royalty had great parties in the castles while all of the serfs got to sit outside the castles and live miserable lives? Twitter and blogging = building castles. Dwelling in comments or on Facebook = rolling in mud while we giggle at you from the castles. The good thing about modern day royalty is you don’t need to be born into the castle to stay there, all you need to do is launch a blog or sign up for Twitter.