Monday, April 11, 2011

To blog or not to blog

I've been writing Rondam Ramblings for nearly eight years now. It started out with no clear purpose, and now eight years on that's still pretty much the case. At various times I've written about science, programming, politics, religion, philosophy, current events, travel, my personal life, and short links to things that seemed cool to me. If I were starting this project today I'd probably be doing it on FaceBook, but when I started RR, FB didn't exist (and it didn't open to the public until much later).

Along the way I've picked up thirty-four followers, and a few regular contributors have come and gone (mostly gone). I have no idea who most of you are or why you decided to subscribe, though I'm grateful you did. There is no greater reward for a writer than to be read. But it seems to have been a very long time since I've posted anything here that generated much interest. The last time anything really seemed to resonate was last October (and I don't want to make a blogging career out of taking pot shots at people).

Keeping up a blog is a non-trivial amount of work, and it is becoming less clear that Rondam Ramblings is worth the effort. If you thirty-four people, whoever you are, are still getting something out of this I'm happy to keep it up. But if you've moved on and just not bothered to unsubscribe then I'm going to redirect my efforts to other venues. So if you're still out there please let me know: send me an email, leave a comment, or just click on a reaction box, if for no other reason so I'll know what kinds of things I ought to be posting here, or if it's time to turn the page. Either way, thanks for listening.


ruben said...

Ron, do you know how many of us follow you through RSS? I would say you have many more than 34 followers.

blackks said...

I follow your blog through RSS.

Started following a couple of weeks ago when Hacker News linked a rambling on Lisp.

Are you requesting feedback on your posts?

Justin said...

I read everything you post, and I enjoy it! Please don't stop blogging! (I read via RSS)

Danston said...

I enjoy reading your blog, also via RSS. (Also, I wasn't sure which checkbox indicated that I would like to continue reading your blog posts.)

Ron said...

> Ron, do you know how many of us follow you through RSS?

No idea. I don't even know if it's possible to know that.

> I would say you have many more than 34 followers.

That would be great if it were true, but why do you think that?

> Are you requesting feedback on your posts?

Sort of. I just want to know what if anything I'm posting here is of interest to people. I've been trying to gage that by looking at what posts generate comments and clicks on the reaction buttons. The "Five things PG is wrong about" post generated 56 reaction button clicks, 19 comments, and two or three new followers. That pales in comparison to 249 comments on my "CSS should not be used for layout" post back in '09, and even more on the followups. (That post continues to generate comments even to this day, which never ceases to amaze me. I usually don't let them through now because at this point no one has anything new to say.)

By comparison, nearly everything I've posted since October has gotten just a half dozen or so comments and clicks combined (and not infrequently zero). It's hard to reconcile that with any theory other than that what I'm writing about is not of interest to the 34 or however many people are ostensibly tuned in, particularly when one of the available choices on the reaction buttons is "Boring!"

So yes, I'm requesting feedback, but not because I need my ego stroked. It's because I see my readers as my customers and I'm conducting a market survey: what, if anything, should I be writing about to make it worth your valuable time to read it?

@Justin: Thanks!

@Dan: I'm open to suggestions. I had a "Read it" button a while back for people to click to let me know they had read something but didn't have any particular reaction to it, but nearly no one used it (except on the one occasion when I specifically asked them to, the last time I did this sort of survey. That was back in October of '09.)

Anonymous said...

Posts per week:4.0
Last updated:12:23 PM (2 hours ago)

According to Google Reader you have more than 34 subscribers using Google Reader alone. I am one of them.

ash said...

I've just checked in Google Reader too. For me it shows 278 subscribes for the following feed:

I like your blog. I would prefer more technical posts. But your link-posts about political stuff is usually very interesting too :)

Unknown said...

Yet another RSS reader. Like at least one other person mentioned, I started reading in relation to Lisp, but I enjoy reading what you write on most any topic.

That said, don't stick around 'cause of us - if you care to share, I'll read it, and if you don't, well, that's a pity.

Mike Ellery said...

RSS subscriber (via firefox, Regular reader. I'm a technologist, but I enjoy the broad topics you try to cover here.

I'm not sure FB (as you suggested) is actually the right impedance match. First, it requires a directed social graph (I would have to "friend" you, and you likewise) just doesn't feel right when I simply like to tune-in regularly to hear what you have to say. Maybe something like twitter is a good fit, although the 140 character thing is a bit of a limitation!

Anonymous said...

Measuring your readers by the number of Blogger followers is hugely underestimating them. Even if I had an account, I would still follow you through RSS. I would guess that for every Blogger follower you have 100 RSS followers.

I follow very few blogs, maybe three or so. I follow yours because you often have interesting things to say (like the cruise ship/yacht post) and have a point of view that is valuable to me. I don't comment because I haven't had anything to add. The lack of comments is not a sign of lack of interest!

It's understandable that you're questioning the value of the time spent on this blog. I want you to know that I value your blog, and am grateful for the opportunity to read what you have to say. I hope you keep it up!

Jared said...

I agree with a lot of the other commentators. I read your blog because I find it challenges my point of view and is usually intriguing. I find the selection of topics to be THE reason I read it. I found your blog through the CSS/Tables posts but I stayed because of a lot of your interesting takes on religion, politics, programming languages, technology, physics, startup culture, etc.

I subscribe through Google Reader / RSS and if an article is long I will try to read it on the go in Instapaper, so I do not see the little feedback buttons at the end of the article. I try to click them when I read your blog proper, in a browser.

I hope you keep writing since you bring interesting news and analysis into my reading experience.

Anonymous said...

I am another RSS feed subscriber.

Ron said...

> I've just checked in Google Reader too. For me it shows 278 subscribes

Wow, I had no idea. (And, wow, what a well-hidden feature! Even after I knew this was possible it still took me ten minutes to figure out how to get this info for myself!) Who are all you people? Drop in to the comments box and say hello, won't you?

> I find the selection of topics to be THE reason I read it.

Well, OK then :-)

I guess that's good enough for me to keep plugging away at this. Thanks for the feedback!

And if there's anything in particular you'd like to see more (or less) of please let me know.

Anonymous said...

My first encounter with your blog was "Top ten geek business myths." I'm surprised that it was that one that brought me in, actually, since I am not really a business or entrepreneur type. I found that article fascinating nevertheless, and your writing style impeccable. I have since read all of the archives and now regularly read your blog, but I have never commented.

As far as the content goes, the variety is very refreshing. I think your subtitle says it best: "where nothing is off topic." It's almost like a miniature Slashdot, except the comments are of much higher quality, and your counterpart to the "editorials" are actually well-written, well-informed, and never inflammatory. A funny (maybe) fact is that I have officially posted 0 comments in Slashdot, and (now) 1 comment in your blog.

I find all of your articles interesting, but especially those ranging in topic from computer science and practice, to the nature of the universe, to insight into religion in a biological context. You have given me new insight into the principles of evolution and how they may apply to non-organic "organisms".

While I really enjoy your blog and its comments, if you ever find the outlet and subsequent discussion tiring and unpleasant, you should do yourself a favor and take a break. I'll miss it if your blog goes away for good, though.


Wesley Darlington said...

When I see a new RR post in google reader, I read it first. It's one of my favorite blogs. Definitely top ten.

Unknown said...

Hi Ron -

I've been e-stalking you since your Erann Gat days. I really enjoy your posts about politics and philosophy, and the news links are often stories that I've missed (I'm not in the US).

I'm a Python programmer but also a Lisp admirer, so I find the occasional posts about Lisp and your time at JPL and Google interesting as well.

Don't stop just because you feel like there's no-one listening!


Paul Pangrazzi said...

Count this as another vote to continue your efforts; they're appreciated.

I also subscribe via Google Reader and have only responded to one of your posts through an email. I don't comment on posts since I'm rarely trying to publicize my own opinion, but your posts are the type that would prompt reaction (such as this.)

Unknown said...

Hi Ron.

Just to let you know -- I started reading your site about a week ago upon following a rather interesting link from another blog I look at daily. Your blog is interesting enough that I've added it to the list of links I pop open and scan every morning.

Regards, Frank

Don Geddis said...

I read it all. Occasionally I comment. Hell, sometimes I even post.

Have you ever considered that it might not be just a coincidence, that it seems the interest from your readership dropped off, after you let me start contributing posts too?


Anonymous said...

Hey Ron - I'm a Y Combinator alum and met you at a Demo Day. I read regularly and enjoy.

-Jonathan Berger

Unknown said...

Ive been following your blog through RSS, too. I came to notice it through your GoogleTalk on "Quantum Mysteries Disentangled" which certainly caught my attention!
Since I discovered this blog I kept reading it because it is "smart".

Unknown said...

Another Google RSS user here.

ylee said...

I have been reading it for a while, long while it seems. Another RSS subscriber haven't commented yet so this is a first. I greatly enjoy it tho and you should keep it up.

Alex Salamakha said...

I read via google reader and find your ramblings quite interesting. Sometimes they are not relevant to me as I live in Australia and I don't know intimate details of US politics, but majority of your posts is interesting and relevant.
Keep it ip!

Anonymous said...

Subscriber or formal follower doesn't tell the whole story. I've been reading your blog consistently (though not necessarily promptly) for years and never formally made this fact known. No doubt many, many others are the same.

Your blog has actually made a difference in my life! Your gentle atheist viewpoint (as opposed to the hardliners) was useful to me as I transitioned away from irrational religious belief.

I realize I'm late posting this (you having already stated you'll keep blogging), but I still wanted to let you know your blog matters to me.

Ron said...

> Your blog has actually made a difference in my life!

Wow, dude, you just made my day! Thanks!