365 Journal Entries

Capturing life's momentary events


Why 365?

This was just an experiment. An experiment in writing.

If you're going to improve your writing what better way than writing daily. If you have a mini-deadline of a daily post, even better.

Most self-help books will tell you that writing daily, regardless of the subject, is the way to improve your writing skills. All writers write daily, are compelled to write daily. Maybe it's some kind of disease or a curse.

I didn't just want to write drivel (although it turned out that way), I wanted to write interesting stuff for people to read. The goal was to take subjects that people may not initially be interested in and try to make them absorbing. Tell a story. Everyone likes a story. I do.

Sometimes I found that pictures helped. Just a small stamp-sized picture can capture interest and draw people in to the story, at least enough to read the first line. So the blog went from simply just text to text and a picture.

Who goes there?

How can I tell if people are coming back to the blog? By the number of hits on the page. I found out early on that if I registered with Google's Ad-Aware program, they'd keep the statistics for me. I can go online anytime to see how many hits the blogs are getting per day, week, or month.

For example, the last month of the blog (December 2005), Google recorded 953 hits. The first month, January 2005, there were 562 hits. Some months only showed 200 hits. Over the year there were 7,178 visit's to the blogs. That's nothing, most sites get that in a minute.

And that was another part of the experiment, would I be able to see an appreciable increase in traffic? If I kept the post interesting (i.e. embellished), would people come back for more? Back when paper was the only means of communication, sales distribution was the only way to tell if readers enjoyed what you wrote. You'd only know after you went through the effort to write, print, and distribute. Today, monitoring hits on a web page is easy and free.

This wasn't really meant to be some scientific experiment. But really, unlike years ago, publishing today is simple. Everyone does it. The volume of reading material on the Internet is staggering. Instead of having a few people write columns in a small town newspaper, we have millions publishing daily, hourly, by the minute. But what are they writing about?

Content

It's mostly drivel (and I include myself in this). Try this. Click on the Next Blog button on the upper bar of this page. Read the first paragraph of the next random blog Google serves up. Count the number of sites in the next 10 that you actually can read. Then count the number that are enjoyable to read. Most is drivel. Nothing really. You'll find run-on sentences and poor punctuation, if any punctuation at all. You'll find abbreviations that are impossible to understand. Often the writer provides no capitalization, which could at least give a hint of when the next sentence starts. It's hard reading, at least to me.

Of course, most of the blogs are not intended for anyone other then themselves or maybe a friend or two. Point is, it's public. Comparing blogs to the old days of paper publishing, imagine if everyone wrote a random paragraph and had it printed in the New York Times each day. That's the equivalent of what's on the blogs.

Comments

Initially I got excited about all the comments I was receiving from the blog. I set up the blog to send me comments by email as soon as someone posted them. Then I began to notice a pattern. Each time I posted a new entry, comments were posted almost immediately. How can this be? What is happening?

Looking more closely at the comments revealed that they were all similar. They'd go something like: Enjoyed your blog, now check out mine. All of the comments contained links to their sites. The language sounded almost mechanical, if insincere. Then I realized that these are auto-posted comments.

Popularity on the web is similar to school. The more people that know your name, the greater your status. It's the same way on the web. The more traffic you get on your site the higher the rating and the greater potential to sell products. Auto-poster software can monitor blogs and automatically post a comment with their own link to route people to their site. Their web of influence becomes greater. They are the electronic equivalent of parasites in the animal kingdom. I had to disable comments.

Blogger fixed this with the requirement to verify using a "captcha." I explain it here. Once fixed, I enabled comments again.

But all in all this was a fun experiment.

...dave
Every experiment proves something. If it doesn't prove what you wanted it to prove, it proves something else. -Einstein

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