Setting the Stage
Oh, how naive I was even 12 months ago (and I have no doubt 12 months from now I’ll be saying the same thing). But before I get to that, I’ll travel back in time a little further.
The year was 2010 and I had just purchased the domain name daedtech.com along with a hosting plan. I was finishing up my MS in computer science via night school and realized that (1) I would have a lot of free time I didn’t used to have and (2) I would miss having to write and think critically about programming and software in a way that went beyond my 9-5 work. So the DaedTech brand grew out of a decision to use that spare time to freelance and the DaedTech blog grew out of writings and ramblings I had lying around anyway and the desire to keep writing.
Why am I talking about 2010? Because 2010’s decision gave rise to the 2011 approach to blogging that I had, which was to write a post, publish it, sit back and say “alright interwebs, come drink from the fountain of my insight.” There were a lot of crickets in 2011, needless to say. My blog was really more of a personal journal that happened to be publicly displayed. 2012 was the year I figured out that there was more to blogging than simply generating content.
What’s Happened This Year
If blogging isn’t just about generating content, then what is it about? I’d say it’s about generating content and then taking the responsibility for getting that content in front of people who are interested in seeing it. It’s not enough simply to toss some text over the wall — you have to make it visually appealing (or at least approachable), engaging, accessible, and interactive. The most successful blog posts are ones that start, rather than end, conversations because they resonate with the community and encourage discussion and further research.
The following is a list of changes I made to the blog and to my approach to blogging this past year, and the results in terms of readership growth and traffic have been pronounced.
- Installed Google Analytics in order to have granular, empirical data about visitors to different parts of the site
- Added interactive social media buttons to allow people to like/plus/tweet/etc posts they liked.
- Made it easier to subscribe to posts via RSS.
- Overhauled the category and tag scheme.
- Started announcing new posts via social media.
- Adopted the practice of writing posts ahead of time and publishing them with a regular cadence (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) instead of popping them off whenever I felt like it.
- Routinely participated in discussions/comments on others’ blogs instead of just reading them.
- Introduced Disqus to manage my comments.
- Enlisted the help of a copy editor.
- Improved the speed/performance of the site.
- Switched from feedburner to feedblitz for RSS subsriptions.
- Developed and/or fleshed out recurring post series (design patterns, practical math, home automation, abstractions).
- Adopted the practice of routinely including images, code snippets or both to break up monotonous text.
These actions (and probably to some degree just being around longer) have yielded the following results:
- RSS subscribers have more than tripled.
- Average daily visits have increased by about 300%
- Page Rank has increased from 1 to 3.
- Trackbacks and mentions from other blogs are routine as compared to previously nonexistent.
- Comments per post average is up a great deal.
- I now receive posting requests.
- DaedTech posts have been ‘syndicated’ on Portuguese (Brazil) and French language sites.
- Referral traffic now frequently comes from sites like Hacker News and reddit.
As far as being a programmer goes, I’ve increased my experience slightly in the last year. After all, having spent the last 14 years writing code isn’t all that much different than having spent the last 13 years writing code. But having been a blogger for 2 years is much different than having been a blogger for 1 — at the risk of overconfidence, I think I’m starting to get the hang of this thing to some extent.
I’ve contemplated for a while doing a post along the lines of “So You Want to be a Dev Blogger,” but have held off, largely because of a feeling along the lines of the one Scott Hanselman describes in his post about being a phony. I may still do a post like that, but I think this is largely that post, framed in terms of what I’ve learned and how it’s humbling to look back at my own naivete rather than “prepare to start gathering the pearls of wisdom that I’m going to drop on you.”
The lessons that I’ve learned and hope to keep applying all come back to the idea that there’s so much more to blogging than simply knowing about programming or being able to write about that knowledge. There are small lessons from a whole smattering of disciplines to be woven in: UX, marketing, SEO, psychology, etc. You don’t need to be an expert in any of these things, but you need at least to be nominally competent. You also need to do a lot of looking around at successful people to understand what they do. It was by doing this and by talking to other bloggers that I figured out the wisdom of various ideas like all of the social media buttons and the Disqus commenting system. None of these things is rocket science and they’re certainly within any aspiring blogger’s realm of capability, but a lot of them have that kind of “man, I never would have thought about that” air to them.
Below are my most popular posts of 2012, and you can see that there is nearly a dead heat between posts that were popular and read a lot when written and posts that draw a lot of google hits:
- Casting is a Polymorphism Fail
- How to Keep Your Best Programmers
- WPF and Notifying Property Changed
- How Developers Stop Learning: Rise of the Expert Beginner
- Static and New are Like Inline
- Adding a Google Map to Android Application
Here are the countries in which DaedTech is most popular:
- United Kingdom
Here are the sources of the most referrals:
- Hacker News
- Stack Overflow
- Stack Exchange
Last and Not Least
It’s fun to reflect back on the lessons that I’ve learned and the fun that I’ve had blogging. It’s always interesting to look at statistics about, well, anything if you’re a stat-head and analytics nut like me. But the most important thing, and arguably the only thing, that makes a blog is the readership. And so I’d like to take this opportunity while being reflective to sincerely thank you for reading, tweeting, commenting, forwarding, or really even just glancing at the blog every now and then. With all of my changes that I’ve listed above, I’ve set the stage to make readership easier, but it is really you and your readership that are the difference between DaedTech as it exists now and the site as it existed in early 2011 when I was speaking only to an empty room and comments SPAM bots. So once again, thank you, and may you have a Happy New Year and a great 2013!