Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Ask HN: Has attracting a blog audience become harder?
276 points by personlurking 263 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 177 comments
I used to blog for several years, several years ago, and was able to build up a "large" following, for a small-timer at least (over 10K visitors/mo). In recent years, I've made two slightly niche-subject blogs but find it nearly impossible to get a following, even though I'm dealing in the same general subject matter, quality of posts, research, and media integration.

As of a few years ago it seems like to have a successful blog one must be cross-posting to 6-7 social networks at the same time (ie, for sharing to be frictionless). When I post my newer blog posts in relevant places online, people actually say they like the content, yet visitor numbers don't reflect such sentiment in a sustained manner. I have hundreds of posts, but retention is very low (1 visitor = 1 view, then they leave).

Is the only option these days to be cross-posting? It seems share buttons on each blog post aren't frictionless enough. Either I'm a bit delusional about the quality/interest level or blogging has become a lot harder in terms of audience capture.

I've blogged (https://sheep.horse/) for about 10 years now in a minor way and monitor my logs pretty carefully. This is what I have learnt:

* Most of my post get single digit views - not daily, in total. Posting on Twitter or Facebook only helps a little. You can't force people to follow your writing.

* I publish RSS and Atom feeds but almost nobody uses them. I ended up removing the social media buttons on my site because they sat unused. The only posts that go viral are the short, simple posts with inflammatory headlines. I don't want to go down that route.

* Occasionally a post will be linked on Reddit or Hacker News. Then the post will get thousands of hits but this tails off quickly. After a couple of days the traffic will go back to normal - I see almost no retention. It is actually quite hard to predict what will be take off and my attempts to promote my work to these sites myself have been completely unsuccessful.

* The best way to capture traffic from Reddit or Hackernews is to catch the eye of a star poster on these sites and have them post the link. Otherwise nobody will care. (Any star posters here? Feel free to post my stuff)

Blogging (and running a website in general) is not popular these days because so much of the oxygen is taken up by social media or sites like Reddit where people can make their points easily in a controlled environment. Time has moved on and unless Facebook collapses I don't see blogging coming back in a big way.

>The best way to capture traffic from Reddit or Hackernews is to catch the eye of a star poster on these sites and have them post the link. Otherwise nobody will care. (Any star posters here? Feel free to post my stuff)

Eh? I have been reading HN for years and never once have I looked at the username of the person who posted a link, unless someone in the comments makes a reference to them. Do other people do that? What is the mechanism by which someone's star quality affects the number of people who click the links they post?

It only takes about 5 points for a post to make it onto the front page early on. You may not care, and I may not care, but if 4 people out there do care, that's enough to get that post promoted.

You don't notice the poster and neither do I. But some posters carry enough cred (or have enough friends) that anything they post immediately get a bump out of the incoming links slush pile.

That's not counting the people who use multiple accounts and bots to push up their content (probably not a problem on hacker news but rife on reddit).

> But some posters carry enough cred (or have enough friends)

Is that really true? Look at tptacek's submissions:


That's a very solid list of submissions. Every fourth-or-so submission has hundreds or thousands of points. If you feel that's not great... Dunno. You're using a different yardstick than I am. That looks a lot like people consider his name to add credibility.

I absolutely know of at least one group of friends/colleagues who are all active on HN and whenever they see each other's posts will upvote them. I've stayed away from them (other reasons) since before I found out, but when I heard it explained why I'd seen them frontpaged a few times.

Interesting that they are not triggering the voter ring detection.

5 up votes is not enough vigor to trigger the rigger trigger

Maybe it needs some more rigor?

It will probably trigger dang into looking into it now.

This got me thinking if there was an addon for that, and not surprisingly there is:


Works fine on Chrome, now I can see everyone's karma while browsing the submissions and commenting.

You can use hnapp.com (or various other tools) to build an RSS feed of someone's submissions - e.g. http://hnapp.com/rss?q=author%3ADiabloD3%20%20type%3Astory.

Nearly the same insights here (http://beza1e1.tuxen.de/).

My conclusions: If you want to get a big audience you have to hustle. Post every blog on every social channel and so on. This is not the game I want to play. My motivation to blog is to clarify and archive my thoughts. Sometimes it is useful to point someone to an old blog post instead writing a log comment.

Going for a blog with a big audience only makes sense if it is a funnel for selling something. Books, courses, app, etc. Having your core followers for some interaction is nice to develop new stuff. Blog about a topic, get the feedback, work it into another book/course/app. Blog about different topics and test which of them evokes the most reactions.

dude, you're gorgeous

I don't see the same result on my own blog (actually a wiki).

I've posted hundreds of how-to type topics over the years. I started simply recording instructions for myself that I didn't want to forget. Most of those posts get single digit traffic, some of them get an early boost on Reddit, but a few of them gain popularity via search and those ones stay popular (a couple of them has been popular for a decade).

I can never predict which will gain popularity and I often don't know why they stay popular. I hear odd stories on some of them such as an associate at a store sharing it with a customer.

I often look at my site stats and try to monetize the pages that are getting a lot of organic traffic. I've had mild success with that. Most of those pages get their traffic from Google but a recent article (which got a bump from Reddit) is getting 16% direct traffic. It's hard to tell why. I highly doubt people are typing in my very long URL.

I've never figured it out so I write to help people and some of that becomes popular.

Yes. The days of people typing in a URL directly to go to the place they want are history, and Facebook/Twitter have entirely supplanted the feed readers of the aughts.

Normal people will only visit a small handful of web sites and follow outlinks from there, before immediately retreating back into their context: wherever a Google query takes them, an aggregator like HN/reddit/Facebook, and social media like Instagram/YouTube. It's nearly impossible to get people to regularly go to a domain to which they are unaccustomed.

About your blog, IMHO a little re-styling would help a lot. I do like minimal layouts, but the serif font doesn't quite work for me.

Also, maybe add some structure? Your blogs seem to cover a broad range of topics. I am mostly interested in technical articles, but I have to actively filter out the stuff that I'm interested in (by reading the titles and guessing the topic; this takes quite some mental energy and might hold back readers from subscribing).

Allow me to be mean for a minute:

Agreed, the font on the homepage nearly killed my eyes.

Then "Here you will find various projects and musings. No information about sheep or horses though - sorry about that."

Why is it called sheep.horse then? I am not even getting into how that seems like a spam domain to sell viagra or whatever.

Then there are publications about anything and everything. There is no topic.

And when I am reading an article. There isn't ANY link to other articles. You should have "most viewed" or "related" articles. People can only close your blog, there is nothing else to do on that page. No wonder they bounce.

To conclude, the headers on top are barely readable.

>"Then there are publications about anything and everything. There is no topic."

It's a blog. In this case the topic is the author. That was really common in when that one was started and I enjoy that kind of blog over one designed around a very narrow interest any day. As Andrew pointed out, though, Facebook and others have captured a lot of people's attention and pushed personal blogs into the periphery.

Thanks for your comments, I understand what you are saying about the font - I am experimenting with Tufte-style layouts and that is the font they recommend. I've noticed that it looks much better on MacOSX than on Windows based browsers.

I also know what you are talking about with the related articles. I have not yet implemented such a feature in the software that builds the pages but it is on the to-do list. However, on my old blog I did have such a feature and it was rarely used.

Part of the ethos of my site is to make the article text king and minimize everything else. That is why the header is so small and I haven't prioritized a bunch of internal links on each page. I have no ads and have nothing to sell so there is no monetary incentive to capture readers.

I have noticed that the header is stupidly small on mobile - I'll get around to reworking this one day.

I do get a kick out of knowing people read my stuff, but I am usually irritated by the stupid tricks other sites use to squeeze one more page-view out of you so I refuse to follow the same dark path.

As a blogger, my experience has been different from yours, but I sincerely appreciate you giving us the information you gave us above (in your top comment). Let me suggest the following in place of your current intro:

"Hi, I'm Andrew Stephens, a programmer living in Boston, USA. This is my blog of random musings. You can contact me via email, Twitter, or LinkedIn."

But only include those contact details IF they can actually reliably get hold of you that way. If you ONLY check your email, then ONLY list your email and not the other two. (Your current wording suggests "good luck with that!")

People can figure out for themselves that there are no comments, that this page is your index, etc. Those comments add zero value and just give a wall of mostly useless text.

If there is a funny story behind the URL, you could include a really brief synopsis of it, such as "I bought this URL because I was inspired by Jeph Jacques' walmart.horse stunt to get a .horse domain." That would do a lot more for your blog than saying "Sorry, no info on sheep or horses."

Be careful with font recommendations that aren't really geared for the web! Tufte is pretty particular about the fonts in his book, but they don't transfer well to the web. I also liked the tufts-css style, but ended up rolling my own, so that the widths worked out to be a bit more typographically "acceptable" (shameless plug for my blog layout: http://www.cachestocaches.com/2017/3/complete-guide-email-em...)

That is a pretty sweet theme. I was going for a more spartan look, without a menu down the left hand side. I even debated not having a header but that seemed a little too bare.

Thanks for your comments.

The styling is based on Tufte CSS, which I like quite a lot for longer works. I agree it looks out of place amongst modern sites but I am sticking with it for the moment.

I totally agree on the scattershot subject matter. Some days I like writing about C++ and Boost, and some days I just like ragging on a terrible film. Perhaps I should split the blog into different subject areas but judging from my logs it would make very little difference to the way people use my site.

I'm sorry, but I heartily disagree re: style. I love it. I was just about to write a comment to commend it. Love the way you handle underlines, the font is pleasant, the sidenotes are awesome and I like your background color.

I do agree that the some structure would help with retention, if you're interested in that.

You article about hiring a C++ developer made me chuckle on the interviewees' answers; apart from the "virus" one I've also heard all the others - and had the same thoughts. You'd think that one would prepare a bit more before being interviewed, but I guess that's more common that I expected.

By the way, I really liked your interview questions; very straightfoward and to the point.

Something I usually ask when interviewing is the difference from C and C++ - specially if the résumé lists "C/C++" instead of separating both - as many people view C++ as a "C with classes".. which is not a fifth of what modern C++ really is.

Thanks. Rentention is the big one. It's the problem - the lack of it - I notice the most. But I tend to agree with your assessment as a whole. Of all my blogs, past and present, and the thousands of posts on them, one single post got real traction. The reason? It got reblogged a dozen times, always with a link back to my blog as the source. Obviously none of that was in my control.

But I'm not after traction like that (although it'd be nice). I just want to reach an audience that cares.

What was the previous domain name? Why did you decide to change it to sheep.horse?

No big mystery - I used to own WordPress blog at sandfly.net.nz but when I moved countries I gave up blogging for so long that my domain lapsed.

Once I finally decided to start up again using my own platform I needed a catchy name that would be sure to draw traffic. Naturally I couldn't think of anything so ended up with sheep.horse because I think .horse domains are hilariously stupid.

Maybe .horse is brilliant because everyone owning one thinks they're in on some kind of joke.

It's kind of like those giant sunglasses.

Not a terrible business plan.

It worked on me :)

>Blogging (and running a website in general) is not popular these days because so much of the oxygen is taken up by social media or sites like Reddit

Do you think blogging on Reddit/Facebook/Medium/Whatever is not true "blogging"? Much of your audience is already there.

HN is a different story.

BTW, the font looks huge on smaller desktop browser windows: http://i.imgur.com/08ntU0K.png

(Most of the time, I use half my screen for the browser and half for my terminal)

Yeah, the style is a little weird on smaller screen sizes - this is not intentional. Another thing to fix.

If most pages get single digit views you should look into your SEO. I wrote blog posts regularly for my last employer.

We didn't promote them at all, but they got 30-500 views a month just from Google search. A lot more when someone linked them.

Maybe it depends on the topic? I'm not seeing the same numbers for other types of posts.

I closed my blog last year, after more than ten years of creating admittedly uneven quality content. The impetus for me was that I was getting relatively good traffic but engagement was non-existent. I came to the conclusion I wasn't really getting anything out of it anymore, as far as I could tell neither was anyone else, and general IT blogs are a dime a dozen.

Absolutely, attracting a blog audience has become harder. The collapse of Google Reader, followed by the rise of Youtube and social media has caused this. You just don't build an audience for a blog anymore. You build an audience for your social media channels instead, and your blog becomes part of the content you share. It's now a delivery platform only.

So the question becomes instead how to a) attract social subscribers and b) get your content shared. Your content needs to cut through a lot of noise to get noticed. With very few exceptions I would say the answers for most blogs would be

1) produce content regularly, like clockwork

2) specialize into something unique to attract core followers first, you can always broaden later

3) compete with the big guys either in quality or in click-bait generation

I wouldn't branch too far out as far as cross-posting to different social networks is concerned. Identify 1-3 platforms and really engage people on those. Don't just spew links into the void.

I share your experience of blogging for 10 years before letting my blog go into neglect. I was a science blogger, and in 2007 we were a very small community of educators, PhDs, and science enthusiasts (I was an enthusiast). It was really exciting then because everyone knew each other and we had a yearly "Science Online" conference where just a few hundred people would show up and hang out. Then twitter, facebook, and the blogging world exploded. My traffic went up, but my engagement dropped to zero. I would gladly trade the traffic for thoughtful conversation.

It reminded me of the BBS days, where communities were small and local and we'd get together at the mall or house party to meet one another in person. Then everyone went to WWW, and suddenly I was just another post in a thread of hundreds.

I'm not sure how to get those small, close-communities full of engagement back. The best I have now is hanging out in-person at my local gaming shop and chatting with the locals on facebook.

10! Years!

You kept it going for so long and shut it down.

I guess you grew the blog in a different era (internet time). Can you give more info on how many people you had and how it tapered off?

If you wanted engagement, can you have added engagement features? (Q&A section, call to action to ask questions, announcements of open chats etc)

> You kept it going for so long and shut it down.

Sometimes it's just time to move on. In the early days things were different, everybody had a blog, and you had no trouble making mutual connections. I met interesting people, had interesting discussions, sometimes you'd meet fellow bloggers at events and find out you're subscribed to each other. One time, I spent a week of my holidays at a famous tech blogger's house, on a whim, even though I had never met the guy before.

People moved on to other platforms, but I never built a social presence, nor did I do anything to really grow my audience.

> Can you give more info on how many people you had and how it tapered off?

Traffic wasn't that great by modern standards. According to Google Analytics, a good post would generate maybe 10-20k within the first month, and then taper off sharply. A bad post would not generate more than a few hundred eyeballs. My stuff was never monetized, so I didn't track visitors that well. Sometimes I saw there had been a crazy spike like months ago ;)

> If you wanted engagement, can you have added engagement features?

It's a matter of commitment. If I ever start anything again, that would definitely be a focus.

I wish your post weren't true, but it hits the nail on the head on all fronts.

There are a variety of reasons why I think blogging is no longer as visible as it used to:

- People don't read long form as much as they used to. Especially considering the content that gets popular on the Internet are now images, videos, short messages, there is less of an audience for long form writing and content producers are more focused on the lowest common denominator.

- Hyperlinks used to be a valuable social currency, not as much anymore. People are more inclined to use search engines or social media to find content, which is kind of lame because recommendations via links from the authors themselves are much more relevant than algorithms.

- Social media and large corporations have made it much harder to get people to leave their platforms. Instead of being an entry point, they want to be the destination for content.

- There is simply too much garbage out there, and curation/aggregation for quality content is nearly non-existent unless you already know the right places to look. Otherwise you get fed the same garbage as everyone else, or trapped inside an algorithmic filter bubble.

> or trapped inside an algorithmic filter bubble.

This is how I feel these days.

Google has asks sites not to link to other sites or do so only with a nofollow tag. So finding a relevant site can largely only be done from Google who controls the ranking of sites.


Getting page views for well written and original content (especially tech topics) is not hard, in fact there is a severe dearth of good technical writing. How often you post, how many sharing options you provide should not be what you optimize for. Optimize for writing original, well informed content that shows domain expertise. Such content has no problem attracting an audience. But the problem with writing such content is that it's pretty time consuming.

Let me share my own anecdata. Three of my posts got significant attention when I posted them to my blog, around 30k pageviews and now I get a few thousand views every month from search engines and people sharing my posts on social networks. I don't spend any time promoting it, only post to a couple of subreddits initially, that's it, (and HN where my posts did not gain traction so far) .

Posts :




Especially the first post linked above has gotten most of the attention and now ranks on Google for python multiprocessing and multithreading related keywords. My blog is clearly not very popular by HN standards, but it has given me a good understanding of what type of content has no issue attracting attention as explained above.

Edit : You might find the following post by Nate interesting, it talks about how to choose topics to write about (among other things) : https://www.nateberkopec.com/blog/2017/03/10/how-i-made-self...

30k for a successful blog post is not a lot though. Your average youtub-er personality considers anything less than 100k+ views per post not as a major success.

Eg. Digital Foundry (tech related) gets on average anywhere between 30k and 140k views per post. The successful ones are over 100k. https://www.youtube.com/user/DigitalFoundry

Development related blog posts never get super high traffic. You can't compare an article about some python topic to YouTube video about a mass market consumer tech product.

He's right.

It's decent. A great post will get 30k view the day it's published on HN and goes on the top page.

A post that can't make the top page (too niche, not buzzwordy enough, not good enough, etc) can still rank on Google and get 30k slowly over the year.

It's really about the topic. A classic "Another Uber Self Driving Car Accident" is of interest to a population 1000 times bigger than python multiprocessing.

I used to read literally hundreds of blogs via RSS, but I have stopped doing that completely for no particular reason I can think of. Today I read zero blogs. Of course I still read lots of random blog posts from google search results or on HN, but I won't become a regular reader anymore.

I used to have ~100 blogs I followed in Google Reader, then when Reader was killed I drifted away from many of them. I wonder how many authors lost large numbers of readers because of that sad event.

Reading these comments makes me think of a crazy conspiracy theory: Google killed Reader to promote search.

The common theory is they did it to boosts Google plus. They wanted you to follow blogs interest on G+ rather than more directly via Reader/RSS.

The driver was financial. Google cited (03/2013) a user decline [0]. You don't need a conspiracy or more reasons to shutter the service.

> "While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined."

[0] https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2013/03/a-second-spring-of-c...

They also killed iGoogle in the same year, and that's what I used as my daily RSS feed. From Wikipedia: due to "the unforeseen evolution of web and mobile apps and the erosion of the need for the site", whatever that means.

While not exactly as strong as a conspiracy theory, I think they were well aware of what they were doing, and RSS was in the "best if absent" feature category.

Same scenario for me. FWIW I switched to using http://www.ighome.com/ which more or less replaces the functionality (not affiliated in any way, just a user).

However, that would imply Google had some sort of coordination between teams...

I think you may be on to something here. I bet it was a data based decision...

Yeah I wonder if Google realized that people were reading long form content (much of it hosted off Google) without ads. Thus their own audience was being shunted off-site without revenue.

That interpretation only makes sense if you think Google would rather have more good little click monkeys than organizing good content...

From the lack of quality search results and the infestation of ads if you don't use an adblocker, I don't think that interpretation would be too far fetched.

Reader didn't have enough active users to keep it running.

Reader didn't have enough active employees to keep it running. Nobody inside Google worked on it any more, so it was just a zombie product running on inertia.

Reader's active users, though, tended to be influencers who read a lot and shared what they read with their friends on social media. So they still drove traffic, just by a different mechanism.

Many of the people I followed on Reader moved to Twitter after Google took it down and mimicked its social functions there. I'd wager they're still either using RSS readers or jury-rigging Twitter into being something like it.

Same here... I then moved to Bloglines, which was also closed down eventually. (Or maybe it was the other way around? Not sure which one closed down first.) I now use feed.ly, but I really don't read blogs as much as I used to.

> but I have stopped doing that completely for no particular reason

Death of Google Reader and migration of corresponding contents to other medias (especially social media?)

Like others have said, when Google Reader disappeared I stopped following RSS feeds directly, and moved to aggregators like HN and Reddit.

I think it's something to do with the rate at which content is being created today. Ten years ago following 10 blogs that interested you was a no brainer, but there's just so much today that it's hard to follow anything in particular when you are interested in everything. Heck, even sticking to aggregators only like HN and Reddit I'm still saving a lot more links to read later than I'm actually reading.

Thus I only subscribe to blogs with at most one article per day. Most have an average of one article per week or month. For the use case of following rarely-posting very-techy blogs, RSS feeders are still great.

I think there was a kind of collective blog exhaustion people went through around 2010-2013. My final tally was several dozen, it was hard to keep up, so I read less and less. I used Opera as my RSS reader, and when I switched from Opera 12 to Firefox (the next version of Opera switched to WebKit and got rid of all the good Opera UI features), I did not bother getting another RSS reader.

Recently I started subscribing to a couple of blogs again on my phone (Holo Reader on Android is great). Reading blog posts during downtime or while on the train does not feel like a distraction. I am also planning to start blogging again.

If you miss Google Reader - Digg Reader is the closest I've found even if it isn't so pretty.

Have you seen InoReader? It's very Google Reader like. I don't do social media of any sort and I rely on InoResder quite a bit.

I have no affiliation beyond a regular account there.

To reference TRON Legacy, I'm rockin' the pager.

Oh man, I used to be an RSS junkie for webcomics of all things. I don't read any of those anymore, but I assume they're doing ok with Patreon.

I get 3,000 visitors a day to my blog. Here are some of my tips:

* The more content, the more opportunities people will have to find you

* Quality content builds brand. When people search google and remember they got something good from your site last time, they may be happy to find you can help them again

* Tons of optimization should be considered such as: Clean URLs, fast page load times, canonical URLs, A+ on your TLS score, mobile friendly, zero http errors, user friendly, only 1 h1 tag per page, number of keywords per page, no broken links, readable fonts, colors easy on the eyes, no flash, etc.

* Building your brand or blog's brand is important to spend time on. Make guest posts on other blogger's blogs, be active on social media, get other bloggers to give you quotes or stories, give talks at events, etc.

* Watch your analytics. Your most viewed blog posts should be your best blog posts. Keep improving them. Can you explain it better now? Are there typos you missed before? If your traffic is coming from specific keyword searches, does your post satisfy them?

* Spend a considerable amount of time on your title. When you look at impressions vs clicks, you'll see far more people see only the title of your page and not the actual page at all. In fact, if your page is trending on social media, many people will just share the article with ONLY looking at the title.

* I focus on long-tail or niche Google searches as the primary way to drive traffic. I write about adventures in IT type of stuff. Almost all of my content can be consumed, now or later, or years later. If you're blogging about current events, you have a small window of time where your blog post is relevant, then you shouldn't really expect traffic after that window closes.

Essentially, blogging should be a part-time job if you want to get any real traffic to it. The old days of "blog and they will come" are far behind us.

> Keep improving them. Can you explain it better now? Are there typos you missed before?

Are you essentially saying to go back and rewrite/improve old blog posts? Just for clarification.

Yes. Example. I had a series of articles that I expected people to read in order, but found that the 3rd one was getting more traffic than all the rest combined. That's because people wanted to know something specific about that subject and found my page through Google. Well that page acted as a very poor entry point to the subject so I improved it by rewriting the article to look better as a standalone article instead of just making sense in a series.

The goal is to give quality content and make your readers satisfied. If they bounce off your page and go back to Google search results, Google takes note of that and thinks your site isn't serving its purpose.

I can share my experience on why I stopped having an RSS reader and keeping track of blogs, it kind of summarizes also some opinions from old avid readers I know.

TLTR: Lack of good content, and amazing alternatives.

- Huge backlog: I used to track 2k+ blogs on Bloglines/Google Reader, it was nearly impossible to read everything, but the collective mind of the internet made easy to keep track of what my close friends were reading using delicious and I could easily keep up with good content.

- Lack of good content: Once delicious was losing interest, I started to rely on Twitter to find good content, again unsuccessful. Thanks, today we have Reddit/HN to filter this, but getting a click from HN won't make me "subscribe."

- Good alternatives for tech content. Today most conferences dump their entire collection on YT; I'd rather watch a 45mn lecture on 2X on youtube or listen to an excellent podcast than read a long blog post.

- Audibooks =)

In the long run, it's almost impossible for individual text blogs to compete with such social validated content and curated content.

edit: typos and grammar

I just use Twitter to find articles to read now instead of RSS.

That plus I check HN/a few specific subreddits/WSJ for articles I want to read, then I usually put them on Instapaper to read later on my phone/kindle.

Same, i recently decided to overhaul my RSS addiction. I did a ruthless curation of my RSS feeds and picked only a select few that i truly enjoyed. Then, i looked for the publication's Twitter and added the accounts to the relevant list.

The upside is i no longer feel compelled to finish reading everything in Feedly. Before, the unread markers was distracting.

Am I the only one who thinks it might have gotten harder simply because so many more people are producing content these days?

That's why other commenters say they get their traffic from r/programming or HN. You are a blog in a sea of blogs and other crap.

I'd say more specifically - things that need explaining are created slower than blogs explaining them. The are still great writeups about many things, but unless you're writing about new web frameworks, it's just not that easy to find a topic in a popular development area.

Of course you can still post about something you learned and bring some new traffic, because you explain it in an accessible way. Or you may write about something on a company blog. But if your aim is to create new, unique tech content, the chances are there's already another blog post, 2 SO answers, and a few relevant mailing list posts on the topic. We're constantly accumulating tech knowledge and mostly we're running into the same problems.

I started blogging a few months ago https://dailyhealthpoints.wordpress.com/ Each article requires me to read on average one science paper, and I spend also quite some time on editing.

Now I have 300 subscribers but sadly it doesn't have the same success as a blog I started ten years ago. That blog was focused on tech and startups. It didn't require any research, every post was only 30mn to 1hr of work, and generated a lot of views and comments.

My assessment is that people moved on. Instead of writing sharp comments on blogs, they would write on Facebook or Twitter. They are attracted by shiny Youtube videos. If they want to see nice pictures, they'd spend time on Instagram instead of going through your gallery blog.

Even the fact that I write long comments here on YC, like many other users, take time away from blogs.

I have changed my strategy and now instead of publishing often, I will only publish twice a week. I will increase the quality and also spend much more time in promoting these 2 articles. I can reformat them for Tumblr, Medium, cross post on various other sites. Also I don't plan for a massive audience anymore. Having ~1000 quality subscribers is more than enough!

I actually see the rise of social media as a double edged sword when it comes to blogging.

On one hand, you have people spending more time updating their feeds.

On the other hand, it also means people are less compelled to start a personal blog describing their day to day lives (remember the days of livejournal?).

there are three pillars of "editorial content traffic generation"

  - social
  - search
  - newsletter
it does not really matter which with one you start

a) first you need to get one of them right

then b) "the strong feed the poor", convert them from one channel into the other. and yeah, if you do it baldy (i.e. newsletter popups, constant reminder to follow you on fb, ...) 99% will hate you, but you can iterate on the 1%.

the big questions: why do you need the quantity? if you do not have a quantity traffic dependent business case (i.e. adsense) then a few people who value your input can be more rewarding then 10 000 skimming over your content and clicking away the newsletter popups & follow me on fb call-to-actions. the strategy follows the goal, "lots of traffic" in itself is a poor goal.

Good points.

With the former blog, I had the social part mostly down since I told every person I could about it, and sometimes wrote 4 posts per day, and this eventually helped with search. There was never a newsletter but many signed up to receive posts in their inbox.

The biggest problem is the age-old one: if the right people saw the blog(s) then it'd be more of a hit. Since I mostly write for pleasure, as I mentioned in another comment, I don't need huge quantities of people reading what I write, but it'd sure be nice to be appreciated (to go from 1-10 views per day up to 100). With the old blog, I'd be "disappointed" if I only got 500 views per day. Now I'd be happy with 75-100.

I'll look at how to reinforce the pillars you mention. Thanks

I wonder, is "social" not practically equivalent to "Facebook" these days and dwarfs all other (including search/newsletter)? Except for niche cases...

I believe by social, he probably meant cross posting links to social media as a form of marketing.

It's tricky though, because Twitter is a micro-blogging service, and Facebook has Groups and Pages.

Have you considered video blogging instead of a text based blog? If you are anything like me you are reluctant to put yourself in front of a camera because let's face it, most of us visiting HN are probably not fashionistas with the best hairdos but I have considered it because I think this is increasingly a more popular way to blog. Video blogs offer greater accessibility and appeal to the laziness of human beings (including myself) with respect to attention required.

Personally speaking I would be more likely to follow your technical vlog channel on YouTube rather than a text based blog. The problem for the blogger is the increased production value investment required compared with a text blog. Not only do you have to create the script, you must edit video and do other things that are probably not your primary interest. Code snippets become screen share videos etc. I think this can make video blogging highly time consuming but if done right it's probably easier to get views. Text blogs are appealing because it's all you need to do is write the content and put it up. We coders like the idea of writing code and putting it up and getting success but anyone who's started a startup and made something knows that never works, there's a whole bunch of other 'business stuff' that needs to be done in the same way a vlog requires more 'production stuff' to be done.

I find the vast majority video blogging long-winded and rambling. This isn't particularly surprising, since it's much more work to shoot and edit a video to be short and to the point than it is a written work, but unless there's a particular need for visuals and motion I really prefer reading.

I use to offer language tips via unrefined videos when YT was a baby, and those were "popular" but then I felt weird about having my face plastered online in such a public way and eventually took them down.

But you're right. The production quality and time investment for doing video blogging is steep these days. If I had the know how I'd definitely consider it.

I've noticed video blogging becoming more popular. Unfortunately, I find it more difficult to deal with as it requires wearing headphones and is also very slow. There's one popular YouTube video presenter whose work I sometimes look at and I always end up feeling that I could have read the same content in less than half the time.

My personal view is that people are not used to read blogs anymore, everything has moved to few big social networks. Medium is popular too, but it's more of a HN bubble thing.

People share and like things on social media for their headlines or agenda.

While I'm crying the blogs are dying out, I have noticed myself checking and finding new ones less and less too, despite having HN as my only social media.

Coincidentally, I recently felt the urge to do a braindump and write a few blogposts. I had learned new things, and it was hard finding that knowlegde, combining sources etc, so I thought I should share it. It is technical content targeted at developers.

My last blogpost was four years old, I wrote it on my company's website, were it got buried after a redesign.

So I opened an account on Medium and did my braindump there. I want to write three posts, have published two now, the last one yesterday. I promoted each one with a single tweet.

I have been happy with the response: the first article got 1000 views, the one posted yesterday already has 4000 views on the first day, probably because it has a broader topic. I got many retweets and likes, and I'm an absolute n00b on twitter. My first post got mentioned in a vlog.

I didn't really know what to expect, but the response seems very good to me. So I do not really share your observation: It seems that there is demand for good technical content. I did spend quite some time researching the topic and trying to write it well, as a non-native english speaker.

I do think good content has to add something new and interesting, shallow or promotional content will have a hard time attracting readership, as there is too much of that.

p.s. last post is at https://medium.com/@MaartenSikkema/using-react-redux-and-web...

I used to subscribe and ready many blogs about a decade ago - all in Google Reader. When that died, so did my blog reading habits, and I never went back to reading a specific blog on a regular basis.

Nowadays, I only visit blog site when they come up as a Google search result. Even then, single visit to get the info I want (usually a programming or business related thing) then I close the tab and never go back to that site. I cannot remember ever bookmarking a blog home page for later reference in the past few years.

No slight against those blogs - usually brilliant content written by smart people. It is just that I don't have the time these days to stop and read article after article on one particular site. We are just so flooded with information these days that I see it akin to fishing in the ocean. It is no longer worth spending the energy to just try and catch particular sort of fish - I just throw the line in and see what comes up and make do with that.

As an aside, it will be interesting research to see if the death of Google Reader had an impact on visitor stickiness to blog sites. I know in my case, it completely changed the way I consume blog content altogether - I wonder if it was the same to others?

I've been blogging for a couple of decades at this point. Yes, it has definitely gotten harder to attract an audience.

It does depend on the sort of blog you're running, though. Information-heavy blogs addressing actual urgent needs still do OK if they're appropriately promoted. More opinion-focused blogs do much less well unless they're very unusual in some way.

(Sweeping statements, obviously.)

This is more or less correct now a days.

People don't want to read opinions anymore, they like to read information unless they are looking for something specific.

But if they are looking for something specific they want opinions and in that case their readership ends there.

For example :

If I want to know about how to setup a water sprinkler and make optimum use of my gardening equipment, I would look for sites which provide that information and stick with that site seeing it is providing me information on my gardening needs. But if I want to buy a water sprinkler I might just google for people who bought it or have reviewed it and once I am done buying I will forget about that site.

Well, my blog (http://taoofmac.com) has been around for 15 years now, and like many people have pointed out in other comments, people get their news and opinion pieces by social media these days -- so I've long had RSS-to-social services relaying new posts (sometimes with the odd glitch) and made an effort to add more images now and then.

In the end, though, I'm doing it for myself. Readership and viewers tanked when Google Reader went away and never really recovered, but I've had quite a few popular items that reached the homepage here, plus a steady set of "popular" items (usually some of my link lists for Python or visualization libraries, or some especially pointed, timeless piece).

I don't think blogs can get much traction these days by themselves, on Medium/LinkedIn or not. But I also have long since stopped caring about having an audience in the hundreds of thousands :)

Keep writing for yourself, I certainly enjoy it ;-)

> Has attracting a blog audience become harder?

I've been involved with the Internet virtually since it began, and we're now in its third phase. The phases:

1. Forum for technical discussions and data transfer.

2. Soapbox for social communication.

3. Virtual mall.

The "virtual mall" identity is now so strong and all-encompassing that if you're not selling something, people begin to distrust you -- the opposite of the instincts present in phases 1 and 2, where you were distrusted if you were selling something.

So my advice is to write blog posts that include links to relevant (or irrelevant) products. This strategy assures that, regardless of the blog's content, the fact that it links to products or services assures that someone, somewhere will reciprocally link to it for purely commercial reasons.

I know this sounds cynical, but it's true -- nothing assures an audience as reliably as linking to a product who cares about your link and who -- for self-serving reasons -- is willing to link back.

I get appeals almost daily from commercial interests to include links on my site to their products -- on a payment basis, of course -- or reciprocal links, but I've always turned such requests down. Consequently, my website is now located in a kind of purgatory reserved for sites that haven't caught a train to the present or exploited their content (and their audience) to the fullest.

The artifact under discussion: https://arachnoid.com

I just subscribed to your purgatory feed. :)

Thanks! If you were to read only one article, read this one:


I write for a very specific niche (psychology: https://mikolajczyz.com/news/ or https://couplespsychology.com/) and I guess the blog posts have shorter "exposition times" lately. Years back it was the context that seemed important - citations and general neighborhood, referrals from other blogs, people emailing the links. And search engines that followed. Nowadays it's more about the instant spikes of social media powered traffic and then just Google. Even hugely popular content at a time eventually receives almost no visitors from social media.

These are just impressions though. I believe it is harder to attract returning readers now.

It seems with the wealth of blogs out there people either gravitate to those with the greatest quality or unfortunately, to those with the worst quality. The former in order to learn from the best the internet has to offer and the latter in order to just disconnect from this difficult world and embrace the pleasures of dumbness and the absence of cognition. Those in the middle will have difficulties and if one of them has mightier goals, he'll be sad seeing the disconnect between his ideal and reality daily.

I used to create blogs with hopes of gaining 'financial independence' because I idolise those many and reproducing gurus gallivanting around the net space, those who told me it is possible despite the disclaimer "only if you work under an unspecificied amount of hard work". But I'm tired of trying again and it is probably my fault that things didn't pan put well. Right now, I try to write like I used to; I write because I love writing even if my skills are abysmal at best.

Though, aswering your question, it's indeed getting more difficult but escalating difficulty is all that happens when the rack and pinion of progress and keeps moving.

I've blogged for a bit over 5 years now about programming in general - 53 posts at irregular intervals (https://henrikwarne.com/). I get around 250 to 300 views per day on average, with 1.4 views per visitor (all stats from Wordpress' standard stats).

Whenever I write something new, I submit it to Hacker News and Reddit. It's pretty hard to get on the front page of HN, but a few of my posts have made it there. That usually means a few thousand views. On Reddit (Programming) it is easier to get on the front page, and once there the posts stay there longer (around 24 hours). I also tweet the posts, but pretty much all traffic from Twitter comes due to being on Hacker News or Reddit, not from my own tweets.

The traffic isn't evenly distributed. Most posts get almost no traffic, and one gets maybe a third of all traffic (probably because it shows up in searches a lot): "5 Reasons Why Software Developer is a Great Career Choice" https://henrikwarne.com/2014/12/08/5-reasons-why-software-de...

I think there are other valid reason for blogging apart from building a following. It is a great why to organize your thoughts and "discover" what you think about some issues. Also, hopefully some of what you write is helpful to other people. Another reason is when looking for work - in my experience it helps to be able to point to your blog and show what you think and what you are interested in.

One more thing. I still enjoy blogging, but it takes me a lot of time to write a post. I think some people underestimate the work it takes to write a post.

> Is the only option these days to be cross-posting?

No, it's SEO. For me at least. I don't follow blogs, but I find the same blogs over and over again, when I search for specific keywords.

The thing with blogs is: Usually, I'm looking for specific information right now. I need answers. I'd never sign up for a newsletter, because in a few weeks, I might've grown beyond this already.

I have been blogging for over 15 years on a same domain. I was getting about 1000 unique views a month and perhaps 1 cup of coffee in Adsense revenues. But my blog had no focus, just random low quality posts with occasional decent post.

Around 5 years ago, I decided to clean up my blog. I also decided to use a different domain, and used "proper" 300 redirects, or so I thought.

Anyways my traffic dropped significantly, then I messed up even more up moving my blog back to original domain.

Now I am getting around 50-60 unique sessions a month. I don't really share on social media very often, and once again my blog is a sort of journal. I intend to keep it that way for now.

Maybe I'm decrying the old dying medium, but my experience matches many sibling comments.

I started blogging over 15 years ago (when you didn't unanimously call them blogs yet) and it was mostly a personal log. When I started studying I had a more focused topic but still personal anecdotes (well, sometimes even both in the same post, naturally) and it shifted more and more towards bigger, more technical articles the more I transitioned into "proper" work experience. Then at some point I decided to not post small oneliners anymore, only medium-length pieces. But as much as I have stopped regularly posting daily (or even weekly or monthly), at least 2/3 of all the blogs I've read have stopped as well.

Links (sometimes with comment, often without) are shared via Twitter and Facebook (and for a shrinking minority, G+), commenting and replying is a lot easier there. This could all be my little filter bubble though (or my interests have shifted that much, but I don't really think so) - so I think I might be following more gaming blogs (that have frequent posts, averaging 1 per day) than my old mix of tech/PLT/Linux/personal aquaintances (those especially have stopped blogging).

The only sub-area of blogging I know of that has reasonably healthy communities of regular readers (vs. only people coming in from search or Reddit) is for communities of bloggers based around some programming languages. Language-specific aggregators like http://www.juliabloggers.com/, http://www.planet-rust.com/, and http://planet.lisp.org/ have regular readers. Unlike Reddit and HN they don't depend on getting upvoted; if you blog regularly on the topic, you can ask for your blog to be included, and the aggregator then pulls your posts via RSS (if you sometimes blog on the topic and sometimes on others, you can make an RSS feed for just the on-topic tag, and ask for that to be included).

It's possible something similar exists in other areas, but these PLs "planet" aggregators are the only high-quality blogging communities of this type I know of that still exists.

Anecdote agreeing with the OP. I used to get 10k visitors a month in 2015, that dropped to 7.5k in 2016 and currently get about 5k a month even though the niche I talk about has gotten more and more popular (Neo4j). Nearly all my posts are technical and link to source code. Maybe there are just more bloggers about Neo4j. http://maxdemarzi.com

I remember reading your blog a few years ago when I started out with Neo4j. Great stuff!

I did some automation for my blog: https://medium.com/@wanquribao/wanqu-5-english-tech-startup-...

Auto publishing to ~10 different channels, including weibo, twitter, fb, iOS push notification, chrome push notif. ...

It works.

I really liked your write up on indiehackers.

I am not Chinese, but I can use google translate.

If I wanted to use some of the Chinese based channels you use, what would be your recommendation?

You can start with Weibo. You can get a Weibo account with a phone number or email address. Many famous US brands or celebrities have a Weibo account nowadays. Some of them have more followers on Weibo than on Twitter :)

Some may argue that Wechat's official account is better than Weibo in terms of reaching users & engagement, as every Chinese internet user is on Wechat now. But it's tedious to get an Wechat official account: https://admin.wechat.com/

Old school email newsletter may work for reaching well-educated Chinese internet users. However, Chinese people don't use email much. Again, everyone's on Wechat.

As another commenter has said, people don't bother with blogs anymore. Seems that Facebook pages are the way to go for engagement. Instagram too, if your content works for the medium. I think Twitter is good for some niches, but its popularity wildly varies by country.

Dramatically sad as you can't get more walled garden than that, but that is the future we built.

Facebook is worthless, less than .1% reach in some cases unless you pay for ads to reach your own audience

Exactly. They hold your stuff hostage: that is the future. Not exactly 'net neutrality'!

I think it has. But in contrast to some other people's reports, I continue to get regular hits to many of my posts on my largely ruby-language focused blog. Often (but I don't _think_ always) they come from links in Stack Overflow answers.

I am not trying to 'monetize' it any way, so not paying attention to that, or to 'engagement' or whatever. But happy my posts are helping people, and effecting the dialog and shared understanding of rubyists.

I do think it's gotten harder to get blog attention, everyone just looks at facebook pretty much.

The most popular posts on my blog, that continue to get ~10 hits a day, include:

* ActiveRecord Concurrency in Rails4: Avoid leaked connections!

* Non-digested asset names in Rails 4: Your Options

* Struggling Towards Reliable Capybara Javascript Testing

* You never want to call html_safe in a Rails template

(I guess the popular ones are all Rails, not just ruby. I do sometimes write about ruby not in the context of Rails).

Put your blog on on .onion address on the tor network. I get far more traffic from within tor to my hidden service than the exact same copy of the site on run on the clear web.

How much of that is humans? The Tor network is smaller, so I'd expect crawlers to make more passes.

Probably a fifth or so based on watching logs when I kept them (I do not keep logs now for the hidden service). But even accounting for that I get more human traffic to the tor hidden service. The list of public, interesting, tor sites is low. So if you get your site included in any of the curated lists it funnels a ton of both bot and human traffic your way from curious explorers.

Tor hidden service public websites are like how the web was in the mid 1990s. Web rings, curated lists and indexes, and people literally surfing the web. It's really refreshing and non-commercial.

My blog also doesn't get too much attention. And it was always like that. I was writing in a couple of places, a couple of my blogs, and on a corporate blog. My most successful blog post had about 10k of visitors across the first year.

I also noticed that the average session time is about 2 minutes, sometimes is just too short to read through a blog post. So I assume that people come there just to get a solution to a problem they have, not to read through all the text.

Another thing is that over 70% of my blog entries are from two posts, a tutorial like ones. And this is only because someone found them informative enough to place a link on stackoverflow, and some other places.

At the very beginning I wanted to earn on the blog enough to work only on the blog. In reality that's impossible for a technical blog, and instead I just treat it as an interesting part of my CV.

> I also noticed that the average session time is about 2 minutes, sometimes is just too short to read through a blog post. So I assume that people come there just to get a solution to a problem they have, not to read through all the text.

Does your website actively ping back to the server to determine how long a visitor remains on a page?

I use the simplest thing like Google Analytics

Google Analytics 'session duration' is not what you expect it to be.

Yeah. When a visitor goes from Page-A to Page-B, only then, GA counts it.

If the visitor gets to Page-A and gets out, GA doesn't count it.

Maybe it's the niches. What was your old blog about compared to the new ones?

Also, the sheer amount of material you have to compete with for people's attention is insane these days.

I also wonder if most people still read long articles. Do people prefer video or podcasts over lengthy articles?

The old one and the newer two are about understanding foreign cultures. The old one was about a particular country while the newer ones are focused on vibrant major cities. I know if I focused on tourism, I'd get more of an audience but since I blog for pleasure (and like digging into national identity, urban planning, historical changes and the arts), I prefer to produce content that interests me rather than write for clicks.

I also wonder about the same things (re:last two lines you wrote). I'd love to make a podcast, like 99% Invisible, but who wouldn't?

I haven't encountered this. I've got a blog ( jacobmartins.com ), mainly writing about Go and sometimes distributed systems.

I usually put my posts on various social media, but the only ones that really have an influence are Reddit, sometimes hacker news and Twitter.

I usually get around 5k pageviews a month. Around 2 visits per visitor (+ ~30% getting cached by CloudFlare). I have a stable rising tendency of visitors, even when I don't post new articles for a long time (month-two).

In my opinion it's really important to optimize for search engines. A huuuge part of my page visits come from google searches.

I have just posted a long post that probably will be located near the bottom because is lengthy. So here is a short one with my 2 cents: 1) I like to read quality post, I think quality is the main source to sustain a post. 2) Don't shallow your post if you want to have an open road for future success. 3) Your post is a drop in an ocean of knowledge in which content is interrelated. Perhaps you can be successful posting in a niche but I think that niche won't last. 4) I think that in the future quality post will get more recognition.

I downvoted that post not because of length but because it genuinely looked like it's auto-generated by a spam/content summary bot.

I find it surprising that a bot can create such a post!, anyway I use to change password randomly to create new account in HN, it seems a downvote move me to change my nick and start anew. Anyway I find the post of math and programming very interesting but you can always get better.

Please don't create throwaway accounts repeatedly—we ban those. Hacker News is a community site, and so relies on some amount of identity continuity in its membership.

Yup for me, and since seems like everyone here is linking their own blogs as example, the one I'm talking about is Bigish Data [1].

As of now, I get about 50 views a day, but mostly because of google searching. I wrote an article about how to use Genius's API [2], posted it on Reddit, and at this point, searching "Genius API" on Google leads to that article. To me, that seems like the only way I've been able to get people looking at the site.

But frankly for me, I don't really care about getting having a specific blog audience. I'm totally fine with having people read the articles and hopefully help them with what they're doing. I've actually gotten comments and emails about helpfulness which is fun for me, but not important to have a bunch of.

Secondly, I like just writing when I have the idea for a new project or post rather than having to write very often with a subscribed audience.

Finally, this blog has also been used for me as a sort of resume for companies. So helpful for them to read the articles so they know what I've been doing and seeing results other than me having to just talk about my knowledge. On that note, I'm actually out here looking for a new job, so if people see this and like what you see, I'd be totally down to talk and see what you guys are building.

1 - https://bigishdata.com 2 - https://bigishdata.com/2016/09/27/getting-song-lyrics-from-g...

> When I post my newer blog posts in relevant places online, people actually say they like the content, yet visitor numbers don't reflect such sentiment in a sustained manner.

Niche content is way more long tail than you imagine, and retention is near impossible. I usually don't add an RSS feed to my set until I notice I've read a couple of posts by the same author. That's a really leaky bucket, when you consider the ways an author can fall out of it:

- the content is not my niche - the headline isn't punchy enough to get the click - HN fails to notice your post amid the ever-growing din - HN notices, but I don't do any reading that day - I fail to notice the author has a pattern of quality worth subscribing to

Unless you're writing books, appearing on podcasts and giving keynotes, blogging may be more of a write only medium than a tool for self-promotion. Which can be fine; my personal blog is for two audiences: Google, and hiring companies. I don't track subscribers, but based on my own lax writing rate, I assume I have none =)

I've had a blog since 2009 (https://www.thenaterhood.com/blog). My personal network (classmates at the time) were, and still are, my biggest officially subscribed base as far as what I'm able to track with minimal effort.

I've been posting much more regularly this year - once a week, versus periodically, as a way to vent some of my frustration with the current state of affairs. Otherwise, I've been doing pretty much the same - post it then tweet it, Facebook it, and LinkedIn it. Being regular I've seen has drawn more attention than anything in the past. With a once a week post, I have more re-shares and more clicks than I have before. Part of it may also be that I'm doing less of just spouting things into posts, but doing a lot of research and linking out to my sources.

What's interesting about having an audience though, is that they seem to be harder to track these days. Most of my personal network uses adblock, ghostery, or other similar extensions to stay off the radar, so their visits don't show up. I know they're happening since I use trackable links when I share and the number of clicks is far and away higher than the number of visits Google Analytics logs. It also seems people are less likely to give out an email address or subscribe to a blog feed since it pops up on social media. I used to get the periodic new email subscriber, but I haven't had a new signup in years now.

Even for myself, I don't "subscribe" to blogs anymore. I hate seeing an unread count and all that which most feed readers provide because it feels too much like an inbox. Give me a list of headlines and let me decide what I'm going to read. In light of that, I periodically check in with blogs I read by directly visiting the site.

> they seem to be harder to track these days. Most of my personal network uses adblock, ghostery, or other similar extensions to stay off the radar, so their visits don't show up

You could still track some of them using server logs, and a desktop log analysis tool (like Web Log Storming [1]). As long as they're downloading the HTML, their access will have to show up in the server log. Not as convenient as logging into Google Analytics, but with the amount of spamming of GA lately, I've been thinking more about going back to old desktop tools to solve some of my metrics questions.

[1] http://www.weblogstorming.com/

True. I'm running off Gitlab pages right now so I don't control the webserver, although I could drop a tracking pixel in that loads off a server I do control.

It does make it a little harder to determine new vs returning visitors though. Not impossible, but harder. To me, knowing that is more important because that's how you know you have an audience, versus just a bunch of people visiting from HackerNews, for example.

I started blogging on my own site back in 2003. Many of the topics that I wrote about at the time were on the front page of Google. I took the blog down after I switched the CMS system.

Eventually in 2012 I brought the blog back, but I had lost out on all that time.

When I post something now, it is usually some long tail content that answers a problem people have. I cross post to different social media etc, and I do notice the initial bump in traffic, but it dies off. After a while Google picks it up and I start to get trickles to that post. Over time all of the posts give me several hundred visits a week.

I think its gotten much harder as everyone wants to make a buck doing affiliate marketing. If your intent on making money with affiliate marketing, I think the best way to go is to build what I call a niche engine. If you want a good example of this search for SEIKO 5 Finder. Note, this is not my site, I just came across it from another HN poster a few years back. It has been an inspiration to me.

My question would be: why do you want a following? Personally, I have practically zero views on my blog, but that's OK. I'm writing about niche things that I hope will help anyone who finds themselves in the same situation in the future, and to organize my own thoughts. I'm perfectly happy to have people find occasional posts through Google.

I read this survey results post a few months ago that might help answer your questions. It touches on time, effort, length, format, and frequency of posts. It also discusses content promotion & measurement of results.

Here's their final analysis:

The experts have been telling us all along: focus on quality, promotion and measurement. And we finally seem to be listening. Quality beats quantity. Grow your email list, check your Analytics and promote your content on several channels. We are going in the right direction.

Here’s how bloggers break down:

The average blogger… spends 1-3 hours writing 500-1000 words weekly and usually checks Analytics. The average blogger with “strong results”… spends 2-3 hours writing 500-1500 words several times per week and always checks Analytics.


Posting to multiple relevant sites and social networks has helped my blog to grow. That, combined with a mailing list that I send each post to (weekly-ish), helps drive traffic. Some of the mailing list subscribers share it too. I usually submit new posts to places where I think people will find it useful -- Reddit (r/reactjs), the React FB group, and a couple frontend/JS-specific link aggregator sites. Sometimes HN.

My blog is on a technical topic (frontend development with JS + React), and my posts are all geared toward helping people learn about and solve specific problems. A handful of them do pretty well in Google, and all that in total brings in ~40k visitors/month.

I'm not sure how many people actually click those social sharing buttons. I think most people tune them out, but I keep them around as a measure of popularity/social proof.

I've been wondering about this as well. I just started out blogging (just a personal blog with a ton of opinions and software stuff) and have no idea if it gets an audience or not . I don't really care if I do, besides the feeling that if I look at the stats, it equals talking to a wall sometimes.

But if I see that right, your Blog doesn't have comments (the one linked in your profile). How is that supposed to feel otherwise if those are not enabled?

Perhaps my "talking to a wall" metaphor was stupid. What I meant was that I'd like to see that people actually read whatever I have to say, instead of, well, not reading - in a way that a wall can't hear you - an actual response however isn't needed. It may also be because I don't have one exact subject, but regardless, too early to tell just yet.

Add them. I'm blogging since 9 years now, and I find comments to be incredibly important. If you are doing a private tech blog, the people you want to reach are people that want to follow you personally. With those you really want to talk, and an occasional comment helps a lot against that impression that no one is reading it. Even if it is just once a month.

Though the most helpful thing for a blog such as this is to write it for yourself. But even then, some external feedback helps.

I'm another wall talker. Having managed forums in the past, I don't want to have to manage comments ever again. I blog for myself when I want to scratch that itch. When others find it useful to them, that's awesome. I don't run analytics other than Cloudflare, so I can see that people are hitting the site, but not what they're hitting.

Yeah, not a fan of comments either as they usually (on blogs at least) tend to be of very low quality (or spam entirely). It's not about feedback at all, it's that someone, somewhere, for who knows what reason, actually reads the stuff. I use self-hosted Piwik for analytics. It's pretty cool.

For feedback I have an email address (web@domain) as the author on all of my posts. To my surprise I really don't get much spam. However, I have received some useful comments and feedback thanks to it.

I do https://rocknerd.co.uk . I post every day or two. (Used to be every day, I have a book I'm trying to finish.) It gets about 100 hits/day total. Most posts, approximately nobody cares about. Every month or two I write a popular hit that gets a lot of attention, then it goes back to the mean. I slowly build up an audience of regulars.

But basically it's for my own amusement and that of my friends.

I would say: if you're doing it for the hits, you're doing it wrong. There is no money in blogging. There may be reputation.

Yes, for personal blogs it's much easier to write on Medium or Tumblr then running your own thing if only for the network effects but also the required costs (domain + hosting). Or if it's shorter posts/ideas use Twitter, maybe with screenshots of text in iOS notes for longer ideas.

Unless there is a product I find there is no real reason to do what is needed which is hustling. I find hustling to push your own brand is weird. Most of us are developers. I myself am not trying to "become famous" or anything I just want to share my knowledge and experience the way others have before me.

How do you hustle a product? "Growth hack", post on all channels, target your messages, build a newsletter, etc.

I use Medium as another channel. I usually post a brief summary and then post a link to the full article on my blog.

Yes, because it's now a lot harder to compete with so much noise and more advanced social media. We're actually out trying to solve this problem for bloggers.

Here's a snippet from our "Manifesto" that we wrote a few months ago and use for our "Blog Enhancement Suite" (http://blogenhancement.com if you are curious). It's a freemium SaaS that we actually just launched last week.

Your blog deserves more. Modern social media has forever changed the way content is consumed as readers gravitate towards services that create engaging and interactive posts which offer more than the old fashioned “read, comment, repeat” experience. Today your readers expect more, and rightfully so.

Several years ago we found ourselves working with regular everyday bloggers to help them tackle many important challenges that typically go vastly underestimated, including the seemingly impossible tasks of generating content, building audience and increasing revenue. The big revelation came upon our realization that adding a community aspect not only made a standard blog remarkably more lively and engaging, it also gained several other key advantages in the currently outdated blogging landscape.

We've since developed a deep understanding of online communities; how they come together, how they interact with each other, and most importantly, how invaluable they are to any blog. We are putting this knowledge into action on a wider scale by building something that can help bloggers help themselves, in a way previously only reserved for the few established blogs with big budgets.

We are Snapzu — a small scrappy team made up of developers, designers, engineers, and you guessed it, bloggers, working towards one clear and unified vision — to expand on and improve the blogging experience. We've already created the most robust social sharing and discussion platform, and with our upcoming Blog Enhancement Suite, we strive to make this incredible software available to anyone, anywhere. The time to level the playing field could not come soon enough.

I think people are conditioned to view content and return to the origin of the link, e.g. Facebook, Reddit, News Hacker, because these are the modern feed readers. (The feed is typically dictated by others posting to these sites.)

I've been hosting a blog for around 10 years that has some pretty decent success (in spite of my really infrequent posting). Yes, it is getting harder though I'm not really trying.

The game has changed, and as so many others have posted the heyday of blogs is over. Only certain types of people really care about long form stuff anymore. Those people are hard to reach. So you have to define what success is for you.

Is "success" for you:

1. A big audience? This will be a ton of work and is largely outside of your control. You'll have to be different from everyone else out there and get attention. Not impossible but it's a long uphill road.

2. A dedicated, loyal audience? This is something you can control. If you decide you want a smaller, but happy and loyal following, then start creating quality content specific to a niche group. When people find your site and find this treasure trove of articles they'll bookmark you.

3. Lots of money? If your goal is to make large profits you've got the biggest climb yet. Of course it's not impossible to build a blog in 2017 and make a lot of profit from it, but I personally wouldn't waste my time on such an endeavor.

Anecdotal: at one time I made around $1000 a month from my blog, just from ads. Algorithms changed, the world changed, and in 2012 or so I was super steady at 1k per month. By 2015 I cut it off because I was making around $20 per month with the same ad networks, and... MORE traffic. Things change and you have to be ready for that.

Finally here's something I've been telling bloggers for years. Spend the time on your content instead of spamming. The hours you spent posting links on social media, posting to Reddit, HN,lobste.rs etc is all time you could have spent creating more content.

"Build it and they will come" is still valid in blogging. If you keep creating and pumping out quality content it will be hard to ignore it for long. But it's harder than ever.

Who are getting value from the articles, you, or the readers ?

Getting visitors is like the chicken or the egg causality dilemma, you need to be on the first page of Google. And you can't get there unless you already are there ...

So before you write an article, make sure there are absolute no article on Google, even slightly relevant to the one you plan to write, so you are guaranteed to get onto the first page. Then when you start to get traffic, you have an entrance, where you can put more interesting and relevant content. It will also boost page rank for all other pages on your domain!!

Generalist audience maybe is vanishing but I can see more and more domain niches attracting interest for relevant content like a widespread academia, this being open courses legacy imho. Sure, many blogs would not survive a peer review, but there are more manners to publishing than academic papers only: industrial papers, letters to the community, tutorials, reviews of literature, industry news and conferences, etc. So the point is: find your industry for applications, grow a reputation and you will attract a like-minded audience.

Kate Wagner started "Mcmansion Hell" last year, and it flat exploded. I think that subject matter is the biggest reason blogs take off, and many good subjects are already well covered.

I don't really think there is any trick to it, but the maturity of a blog is what helps. Even after years of being exposed and publicizing your blog, most people still have no idea that you exist. Imagine all of the people who know that Facebook exist. 1 billion people, at least. Instagram has at least 100 million people. That is A LOT of people. Now how many people know you exist? Likely less than 1% of the Facebook OR the Internet. I always like to stare at this map: http://internet-map.net/

It reminds me of how vast the Internet is and how insignificant my website is. Kind of like looking at Earth, compared to the universe. Yet, the visitors I do get, that happen to come across my website? They were looking for me or accidentally discovered me and most of them are usually happy they found me. I get those emails that let me know they are grateful they are to have found my website, or some article that helped them get a job, or just reading an article made them want to write and submit their own article to my website.

I've been running a website (http://www.confessionsoftheprofessions.com) for several years now and I'd say its fairly popular. It is a niche which focuses on jobs, careers, and the workplace. In the beginning, I used to just post everything myself, but it became near impossible to keep coming up with topics, though the topics in this niche are so vast and cover just about anything and everything pertaining to a job.

I remember when my visitor base just consisted of my mom and my girlfriend. 35 visitors was the highlight of my day. Years later, the website is receiving about a thousand people a day and it varies, less or more, at times depending on the month, season, or trends of unemployment or if a certain article is just popular that month or a keyword or phrase just hits what people are looking for, or if Google just happens to change their algorithm to favor my website for that week or month. I have had a few companies submit articles and take out their own Facebook ads to drive traffic to it (their own article). Many factors can play a role in driving traffic to the website and other than what I can learn from the few analytics scripts I have installed, I just accept whatever traffic I get and I am grateful for any traffic. The website has been penalized at least twice, the latter just a few months ago, and without Google, traffic was cut in half (based on a 2-week penalty).

I think just a month after opening up the blog and welcoming posts by others, in essence, creating a community, and it grew in popularity, mostly because when you offer to publish articles for people, they tend to share it as well. Repeat visitors and new authors, the traffic just keeps coming. But it also technically remains as a steady flow. I don't have the resources or money to spend on social media interacting with fans, so I really just rely on my contributors and readers to do the work with a few automated scripts that randomly choose an article every couple of hours and post it to Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn.

I have learned over the years: just keep writing. Google will help you get found eventually. There are articles I wrote years ago that only received a few hundred visitors when first published, yet you can get one day where it happens to go viral. I went in for an interview once and it was so awful that I decided to write about it. It was just the way this woman shook my hand! I could not stop thinking about it that it probably ruined my own interview for me. ( http://www.confessionsoftheprofessions.com/power-of-the-hand... ) In the beginning, it might have had only 300 visitors or so, but then one day, the article went viral! It was probably one person posting it on Reddit or something, and everyone who saw it was curious about it. At the moment, it has almost $10.5k views.

It is certainly easier when you do have a niche. I write tons of articles and I have tons of people contributing every week, every year -- always new names, but plenty of people I've been talking to for years who love to share their articles about investing or real estate or whatever the case may be, so I'm never without an article to publish.

I also stick to a schedule: Monday through Friday, 10 AM. Occasionally, I'll publish two articles in a day. I'm sure that publishing more articles per day will likely drive up traffic, but I feel this schedule just works for me. I write out infographics which take time and spend time ensuring articles are quality and unique. It also creates a queue which causes people to wait and see if their articles get published, which keeps them coming back to check to see when it got published. I also ask for donations which often help articles "jump the line" and get published earlier, though I think I have only had less than 10 contributors actually donate anything. Most people would just prefer to wait the 1-2 weeks that it takes to get published.

It definitely isn't a straightforward "if you build it, they will come." Worst advice that anyone could ever give you about starting a blog, imo. They can't come because they don't really know that you exist. Other bad advice is that you can build a blog and it will just make lots of money. Far from it. You need to have passion for blogging and your niche. Most of your website or your blog's existence means you are doing it for free.

Otherwise, and I am guilty of it: You lose interest. There have been times where I almost thought about giving up, but then I get emails from someone wanting to publish an article on the website or just thanking me for doing what I do, and it keeps me going and sparks that interest and passion all over again.

Don't get me wrong, there are some bloggers out there who have learned how to make blogging a living, upselling Amazon links, writing sponsored posts for companies, signing up for and posting affiliate links, or attracting mainstream companies who want to be mentioned on the blog with links back to their products or websites. It is all in finding the audience, the niche, the traffic, and appealing to those who will pay you to keep doing what you are doing.

You have to keep mentioning yourself and keep trying to show the world that you exist and you have a purpose. Well, not only you, but your website. I definitely don't take all the credit for where the website is today and what it has become, as it has hundreds of different personalities on it, but the website has become a community in which everyone is helping everyone else to gain some exposure. Every new post on the website is a new gateway and there will always be someone out there who is looking for exactly what you wrote: Whether it helps them or if they were just looking to read something entertaining, they will eventually find you.

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself why you blog?

For me it is to make the information available, mainly for me, and hoping it can help somebody else out there.

Interestingly, my blog is dead right now for technical reasons, I was looking on how to do something specific a few weeks ago, something that I hag blogged about. Google wasn't helping (my blog has been down long enough that it's no longer in google cache), so I ended up going to archive.org looking for my old blog and found what I needed right away!

I am reading a few blogs. Mainly tech and cs stuff. I started my own blog recently, also about tech stuff, but only with some problems I faced during my work. My site is not getting a lot of hits, but I noticed that most clicks come from google. Share buttons, email, ... does not work for me. Google is my friend! :)

In case somebody want's to give me feedback on my little blog, please do so: https://blog.jdstaerk.de

I'll try my hand at some feedback.

Your content is the kind of thing I'd search for using a search engine (and for those where I can judge the quality, it seems completely fine), but I don't see a reason to subscribe to your blog in some way. This kind of content (let's call it "tutorials") is only interesting to me if I currently face an issue, it's not something I read for fun or abstract learning. I subscribe to some blogs that have many tutorials, but their content is about a lot of varied things, and the value I get from these posts is discovery of new software or possibilities, not the tutorial aspect. Your blog is in a way more of a Knowledge Base than a blog to me, if that makes sense?

Hey, thanks for your response! :) Yes, you are completely right, it is not a blog by definition. I haven't started it with the intention to be a blog like the OP's one. It is a "google-your-question-and-find-the-answer-on-my-blog"-blog. Thank you for your feedback, it confirmed my "blog-project"-idea :)

And yeah, probably it isn't a blog as per definition, but a Wordpress blog seems like an easy and fast way to setup a little website w/ tutorials :)

Fans of long-form content won't agree, but if you want to be heard, try to engage at Twitter and Facebook. Most of the web readers in this day and age have very little engagement spans, and use diversified channels to consume content. So, in order to attract engaged audience to your blog - you either have to spend lots of efforts of content marketing, or you can simply shift to the medium of popular choice.

When I have to say something long enough to be a blog post, I do a Twitter thread.

I feel Twitter as a microblog works for short updates (really short, 140 char!)

Longer ones can fit in a tweetstorm.

But I think 1,000 word posts deserve a proper blog post of its own. Correct me if i'm wrong, but wasn't that Medium's initial objective?

In my (limited) experience, I've found that I get the majority of my traffic from aggregation sites such as HN and /r/programming.

So writing posts that appeal to these audiences is one way to get engagement.

But I've only been blogging for <2 years, so I can't comment on whether it's harder than it once was.

Well, here is my take on this topic, as a non-blogger(iow, consumer of sorts). Please excuse this not-that-well-written rant in advance.

What do people - in my opinion - search for:

#1 Help & advice on a specific topic (like, how to disassemble a vw golf 1.3 '87 petrol engine)

#2 Specific information (list of vw engines)

#9 Opinions (compatible with their views / controversial, ideally from people they like or hate, but most importantly, already know >> my-favorite-auto-blog : why vw golf I was the best golf ever manufactured || that-fiat-loving-morron : why vw golf I should be banned from the streets)

#999 Random opinions from people they never heard of (some-guy-on-the-internet : 10 best things about the vw golf I generation || some-other-random-guy : 10 most beutiful wordpress themes of 2017)


When you start your blog, you are that random person. I red many great, well researched, well written articles but honestly, I have no idea where I found them nor by whom they were written. Two reasons why:

a) Subscribing to someone I don't know is a risk I'm unwilling to take. I hate spam as much as averyone else. I don't know what you'll do with my email address. I don't want to get notifications about your new cat. I don't want to participate in any of your surveys and I don't want to help you make your blog better. Sorry, a day has only 24h, every minute wasted is a minute of your life you _won't_ get back.

b) I have no easy way to find out if your blog is any good in the first place.

The problem with blogs as a format(incl. video blogs) is that you effectively surrended all the contextual synapses your information is generating - to a search engine. Context has sometimes more value than the actual information. If I red your well-written article about linux kernel hardening, I _do_ want to know your opinion about different security subsystems for example. But what does your blog provide to make this task easier - a calendar? That primitive, useless junk called a "tag cloud"? A href link to an "older" post? Most of you don't even include a list of the most popular or recent articles. You want us - consumers - in this day an age, to actually click through some calendars on your blog an spend - no, waste - our valuable time to search for contextualy related topics? Who else is better at deciding about the context of your information than you - the bloke who is writing it? Can't you be a little more creative and write a system that would actually present all the information you have published since 1985 in a natural, contextual way?

People produce valuable content daily, but they somehow forgot to care about the context. If your blog is unable to set your article into a braoder body of knowledge and relies solely on a search engine/social media, well, then you get what you ordered. Good luck paying for all kinds of trickery to get your page visits.

As silly as it may sound, my problem might be due to writing about my own interests. I'm not offering help or advice, I wouldn't even say I'm offering specific info (since what I do is more exploratory), and I generally leave opinions out of it.

If I had to explain it, I'm like a somewhat randomized, editorialized Wikipedia for a specific topic. I want readers to click around as if on Wikipedia, so they can gather a wide-ranging, hopefully in-depth view of the topic (in this case, a major city and its cultural/historical context).

First, OT, I'm unable to edit my comment so sorry for the typos, my spell-checker was apparently on holiday. Now, to address your reply, people _are_ opinion-forming beings, its our human nature. We do have opinions even if we try to convince our-selves we don't. Writing a blog without exposing your opinion just so you won't offend anyone is an intellectual humanity-denying crime. Its a form of self-castration in my eyes. If you insist on writing dry, soul-less pieces of wikipedia-like information, maybe blogging is not the right format for you. Opinions are the "sauce" of an article. We are all humans, no-one remembers that colleague who never had an argument about anything, but you do remember that one ahole who always meant trouble, his opinions and world views. You may even miss that ahole once in a while ("yeah, I'm sure would have said something to that manager")

Well, I did write 'editorialized', meaning they aren't 'dry, soul-less pieces of wikipedia-like information'.

Well, no reason to take my comment personally, I don't know your work. I was merely taking advantage of your reply to take a punch at the current wave of political correctness and a special form of auto-censorship disguised as politeness, that's crawling into the blogosphere like a drunken monkey into a liquor factory.. + this sub-thread is OT anyway

For cross-posting you can try ifttt. I'll refrain from the main question, as I'm not qualified to answer it.

Video has killed text. Fair and square.

This is merely my opinion: but yes, and no.

It HAS gotten harder to gain the same amount of traffic you've gotten years ago. No doubt. Back when I ran Windows7Center and Windows8Center (now defunct), we were able to serve 50 million pageviews, gain an Alexa traffic ranking around ~2000 while sustaining a decent passive income from (eventually) doing next to nothing aside from staffing/occasional maintenance/UI updates. Yes, there was luck involved, but there was also much less noise in the whole ecosystem. Less blog-spam, less "Top 7 reasons", less social media presence, etc. However, many of the same issues back then are still relevant now, and the formula for attracting any audience is still largely unchanged.

You'll often hear people say "write original/novel content". But what does that really mean? And is everyone capable of creating such content?

Here are a few things that has always worked quite naturally for me (in the format of "top 4 tips" because why not?):

1) Share something that interests you. Similar to work, side projects, and other ventures, if something truly interests you, you will always do a better job communicating it, have the drive to do it well, and to continue working on it

2) Identify and establish a relation to an experience you have. Tell a story. Humans are largely social creatures, and storytelling has been a part of our history for ages. Stories and experiences are more relatable, not mere fact-dropping.

3) Use your own voice (yes, yes, I know, cliche). I've found what works for me is writing as if I'm speaking directly to my audience. If you were at a dinner table chatting with friends, would you constantly be using arcane, seldom used/big words? Probably not. So what makes blogging any different?

4) Be genuine. Similar to the point above, so much of what we see now is sensationalized, exaggerated to the point where it's so hard to find any truth. Personally, I appreciate honesty, and there are so many people with so many stories to tell, that if people actually spoke up and shared fearlessly, we wouldn't need to have all this BS to keep us "entertained". So I try to share things I wish someone else would have shared to me, things that I'd appreciate.

I've taken a break from running online communities, and been on a 2-year hiatus from blogging on my own blog, which I've never monetized in any way. My last post was October 4, 2014, but I have visitors in the low hundreds, everyday. The total pageviews on this blog has exceeded the low hundred thousands. I do not engage in crossposting, and never on social media, except posting twice or so here on HN, no one in my friend circles or colleagues know I blog except those who actively sought out information on me. I still get very kind and heartwarming emails from all sorts of people for content I put out that I didn't think would help anyone in particular. I still get people who reach out to me and ask about some of the experiences I've shared. Pageviews mean nothing to me, but these simple gestures do.

Sidenote: If you're not simply looking to blog and share with others, but are also intent on your pageview count, along with perhaps selling a product...all of the above still applies, but drip campaigns are also still extremely effective. Collect emails of interested parties and DO NOT betray their trust.

TL;DR: Focus on content, not pageviews. Be genuine and write what interests you, people will come, I promise.

I blog for work. I took a step back from product TechOps (we're a SaaS company) to write for us. We make a service that people like me, an ops engineer, would use. My rules for writing are I write about things that are interesting to me that fall within the general problem space and I don't sell product. I've struck on writing highly technical posts and including code or CLI examples of what I'm doing. If there's code I release GitHub repositories. A reader should be able to take what I wrote and instantly apply what they've learned. You can probably guess those posts outperform other posts anywhere from 2-5x depending on the popularity of the subject matter. If I strike gold we're looking at 20-30x performance.

The next key is promotion. I have a decent Twitter following (>1K) and have developed contacts with people in my profession. I schedule tweets for what I write that I think is really good. Hootsuite and Buffer can do that easily. If I want to strike gold I post to Reddit. I've posted here before but get minimal traction. I don't have enough time to invest in HN and just browse here casually. I spend time on Reddit regularly because of non-tech boards I love. (Hi /r/boston.) If I write something good for Reddit our traffic numbers see a significant spike. Those are the 20-30x performers.

All that said, ask yourself why you're writing. If you're writing for a specific audience then respect your audience. I've taken the talk up approach over talk down. I don't boil hard topics down to telling you what you should do without providing you a how. I'm also respectful of the communities where my audience congregates. That means I stay away from talking about our product. If my name is on something that discusses product I put those on LinkedIn and Twitter once or twice.

If you're writing for yourself, ask yourself again, are you writing for your enjoyment or your reputation? If you're writing for your enjoyment then whatever. Traffic numbers don't mean you have nothing of value to say. Just means you don't have an audience and that's going to happen today with the information saturation we all face. If you're writing for reputation, or because you'd like an audience to engage with what you've written for pure enjoyment, then promotion is key. I've used twitter because I'm on their regularly. My writing is only a small part of what I put onto twitter. I like posting pics of my cats, my food, and witty things I say to my girlfriend.

Wish I could share more and maybe be more articulate but need to work. FWIW, I have had a blog post become popular in the past week. Someone just filed a bug against once of the example repos. Knowing people are reading and inspecting my work to use it makes me happy and know that I'm doing something worthwhile. :)

The classic essay on this subject is by Clay Shirky: "Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality"

As he says:

"Freedom of Choice Makes Stars Inevitable

To see how freedom of choice could create such unequal distributions, consider a hypothetical population of a thousand people, each picking their 10 favorite blogs. One way to model such a system is simply to assume that each person has an equal chance of liking each blog. This distribution would be basically flat - most blogs will have the same number of people listing it as a favorite. A few blogs will be more popular than average and a few less, of course, but that will be statistical noise. The bulk of the blogs will be of average popularity, and the highs and lows will not be too far different from this average. In this model, neither the quality of the writing nor other people's choices have any effect; there are no shared tastes, no preferred genres, no effects from marketing or recommendations from friends.

But people's choices do affect one another. If we assume that any blog chosen by one user is more likely, by even a fractional amount, to be chosen by another user, the system changes dramatically. Alice, the first user, chooses her blogs unaffected by anyone else, but Bob has a slightly higher chance of liking Alice's blogs than the others. When Bob is done, any blog that both he and Alice like has a higher chance of being picked by Carmen, and so on, with a small number of blogs becoming increasingly likely to be chosen in the future because they were chosen in the past.

Think of this positive feedback as a preference premium. The system assumes that later users come into an environment shaped by earlier users; the thousand-and-first user will not be selecting blogs at random, but will rather be affected, even if unconsciously, by the preference premiums built up in the system previously.

Note that this model is absolutely mute as to why one blog might be preferred over another. Perhaps some writing is simply better than average (a preference for quality), perhaps people want the recommendations of others (a preference for marketing), perhaps there is value in reading the same blogs as your friends (a preference for "solidarity goods", things best enjoyed by a group). It could be all three, or some other effect entirely, and it could be different for different readers and different writers. What matters is that any tendency towards agreement in diverse and free systems, however small and for whatever reason, can create power law distributions.

Because it arises naturally, changing this distribution would mean forcing hundreds of thousands of bloggers to link to certain blogs and to de-link others, which would require both global oversight and the application of force. Reversing the star system would mean destroying the village in order to save it."


Concepts and names are kind. To give and example, in a recent post of jeremykun.com blog about math and computing the author explains a concrete case of conjugate prior without jargon. But in fact, if you know what that post is about, that is the magic word aka math jargon conjugate prior, you will find that en.wikipedia gives you many insights and links about that concept. Wikipedia is getting better and better and now there are an enormous quantity of good resources to learn form. Also informative comments, like those here in HN, are making blogging more and more difficult because your post is going to be only a drop in an ocean of knowledge where parts are interrelated. No post should reject math jargon, since those words, like conjugate priors, are the key to looking for rich and complete information about it. To give another example, if someone try to explain monads he/she should not try to avoid the term monad since monad importance relies on is capacity to model many rich and differences sceneries ranging from security to multiprocessing.

Openai or distill aim is to explain or visualize ml ideas, but I think that more than displaying animations or pretty graphics, we need clear concepts and definitions, and to inform the reader that there is no royal road to understanding, you must pay the prize to understand the main concepts, that the only real road to understanding.

To not be categorical, perhaps there should be some posts about explaining in very shallow terms what's the meaning of something, but in the end many times you end up without a real meaning of the concept and you can look hundred of same level posts and waste your time, because the concept required to be framed on its appropriate level.

Edit: Edited for clarify and grammar.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact