Last year, I made a retrospective post, and I titled it “A Blog Grows Up: DaedTech Year in Review for 2012.” I think I did this because a lot of other bloggers seemed to do it. And one of the big themes of last year’s post was that I was becoming a real, non-faking-it blogger. This year, I’m making a retrospective post largely because of my own personal neurosis when it comes to symmetry and gamification. In other words, I’m doing it because it presents an opportunity to evaluate myself and compare metrics.
This sort of odd introspection is telling, and it’s the reason this year’s title is exactly four characters different from last year. One character change is in the year (2013 vs 2012), and the other three differences go to “blogger” instead of “blog.” Last year, the DaedTech blog grew up; this year, I grew up as both a blogger and as a person who maintains a blog. The blog itself isn’t a lot different. I’ve updated a few plugins and changed the theme of the blog to be more mobile-friendly. I won’t win any UX awards, but I’m staying reasonably current in the limited time that I have. There have been no real game changers in terms of the way the blog looks.
And yet, the results from blogging is once again dramatic. In 2011, my followers were in the tens. In 2012, I was proud because I had changed that to numbering in the hundreds. I had gone out and interacted with other people, exchanged ideas, created a social media presence, improved my posting cadence and all sorts of other things that I mentioned in the linked post. I had figured out how to bolster my readership by doing all of the right things — all of the things that an experienced blogger will tell an inexperienced one to do. In a sense, I had faked it until I made it.
This year, I’m humbled and flattered to report, my regular following went from hundreds to thousands. Last year, I was ecstatic to report that 2012 had resulted in a tripling of my traffic, but in 2013, it increased by a factor of 10 from 2012. If the trajectory of readership in 2014 realizes even half of gains of previous years, next year will see DaedTech record a million unique visitors. Whereas last year I attributed this kind of growth to all of the effort that I had put in to figuring out how to attract followers, this year I attribute it to a variety of factors, not the least of which are persistence and luck. I’m fortunate in that some of my posts have become extremely popular and also in that I have a great base readership that’s very supportive. (Thanks, everyone.)
Ebooks and Course Authorship
Last year, I talked about a number of improvements to the blog. These were things like social media interaction buttons, tagging scheme, feed provider, etc. These improvements were invaluable, and they set the stage for the blog to be taken seriously. This year, I focused instead on improving the brand behind the blog. Actually, scratch that “brand” talk. I focused on improving myself and my credentials. I established a relationship with Pluralsight and began authoring content for them. I have two courses that are aimed at a relatively advanced .NET developer, which, in spite of their narrow focus, are highly rated. I am also starting work on a third course about home automation, and I’ve booked arrangements for the Pluralsight author summit later this winter in the hopes of trading tips with other authors to improve my course quality. If you aren’t improving, you’re rotting, as I once said in one of the Expert Beginner posts (more on that later).
Speaking of expert beginners, I also have put out a couple of ebooks. One was a simple republish of the “How to Keep Your Best Programmers” post. The other came as a result of my editor’s and my effort to restructure a series of posts into an actual, polished work intended for the ebook format. Both of these ebooks (and another one coming soon from my “Intro to Unit Testing” series) have been published by my friend Zack through his Chicago, 1071-based startup, Blog Into Book.
In last year’s post, I used an unordered list to outline all of the things I’d done to make DaedTech have a more successful blog. This year, I’ll just say that starting to author courses for Pluralsight and publishing ebooks have been huge successes for me. These things, combined with my own career transition, have significantly impacted the blog. I’ve recently made the jump from a developer and architect to CIO, and I feel that this has helped me offer an interesting voice on subjects running the entire technical gamut.
Expert Beginners and Optimism
A major catalyst for the blog’s popularity has been the Expert Beginner series and subsequent ebook. A fairly large number of you, to whom I am extremely grateful, have supported my by purchasing the ebook. A jaw-dropping number of you have read the series of posts and offered encouragement and positive feedback. I’d be misrepresenting the situation if I said that this series wasn’t the lion’s share of the reason that the blog has grown so much in the last year.
I’m honestly thrilled about this. I’m thrilled that so many people recognize what I’ve described as “expert beginnerism” to be one of the most subtle yet important impediments to progress in our industry. I’m also encouraged to think that I’m not crazy in thinking about this, since it’s resonated with so many people. At the time that I wrote that first post, I seriously thought that I might roundly be dismissed as some kind of malcontent and crank. I thought the expert beginners against whom I was railing dominated our industry to such a degree that my opinion would be unpopular. And yet, it was widely popular, instilling in me a sense of intense optimism that probably seems out of place from someone that wrote such cynical posts. The fact that all of you see expert beginnerism and have disdain for it means that we’re on the right track to stomping it out.
And it isn’t just readership or purchase of the ebook that encourages me. It’s the fact that my Twitter alter-ego, the Expert Beginner, has such an enthusiastic following. It is from this account that I tweet some of the most alarming, depressing, maddening, amazing, infuriating and downright surreal things that I’ve heard in my time in the industry. The fact that hundreds of people commiserate with me, including people with industry influence, cheers me up immensely on a daily basis. The more frustration I express with stupid things I’ve heard in the industry, the more that people express implicit solidarity. It renews my faith in developer-kind.
Blogging Lessons Learned
This year, I’ve learned that nitty-gritty posts about technical details tend to bring hits to the blog, but not regular readers. Regular readers, at least of this blog, seem to be drawn in more by posts about office politics, broad ideas, interactions and other big picture items. However, to have any cred as I write the latter style of post, I think some of the former style of post is necessary, lest people ask, “is he technical?” I need to learn where the sweet spot is here, but the main thing I’ve already learned is that I’m more of an op-ed blogger than one writing instructional posts. At least, that’s what I’m doing when my posts are best received.
Below are my most popular posts of 2013 in terms of readership. In this post from 2012, there was a dead heat between instructional posts and op-ed style posts. This year, not so much.
- How Developers Stop Learning: Rise of the Expert Beginner
- The 7 Habits of Highly Overrated People
- How to Keep Your Best Programmers
- How Software Groups Rot: Legacy of the Expert Beginner
- Getting Too Cute with C# Yield Return
Here are the countries in which DaedTech is most popular:
- United Kingdom
This year, I’m omitting the referrals except to mention them anecdotally. The stats don’t appear to be especially accurate. For instance, Hacker News referrals don’t always register properly in my analytics for some reason. I can tell you that the biggest sources of traffic that aren’t regular readers or RSS feeds are Reddit and Hacker News. I get a good bit of referral traffic from social media as well, and still plenty of hits from googling.
Finally, A Word of Thanks
In the end, I’d just like to thank you all for reading. Everyone has precious few hours in the day, and I’m flattered that you choose to spend some of them reading my blog when there are plenty of other things you could be doing. I’d also like to welcome the influx of traffic resulting from my recent stint at Hacker News and thank those readers for subscribing to the feed; giving my posts a chance; and for all of the retweets, mentions, upvotes and comments. I haven’t necessarily had time to respond to everyone the way I like due to the of volume of traffic/comments, but please know that it is nevertheless very much appreciated.
So thanks again, and have a great 2014!