My process looks like folowing
- Choose the subject (usually a very small topic or algorithm)
- Study it deeply for at least a weak, sometime months.
- Start writing the post, learning is still happening.
- Finish the post. At that point I usually have a very good understanding of the topic.
Never think that you can't write about a subject because you are not an expert. You may not be an expert but there are more people who know less than you and they will find the post worthwhile.
Anyway, this caught my attention:
> Since starting a normal job (haha) it’s gotten harder to write on Sunday evenings, since that’s when the work email starts
Don’t do this to yourself.
Especially finding your voice. I still don't feel like I've figured that one out. My problem is I started blogging after working as a developer for 20 years so I want to talk about a billion different topics.
But the quickest way to become successful in this field is to write a ton about 1 specific thing and then suddenly you're "that guy" about the topic you're writing about.
- Submitting your articles to publications is a very easy way to get a lot of free exposure. For example, my most successful post  generated 36k views and 1.5k medium subscribers in the first couple of weeks just by being accepted to HackerNoon.
- Collecting email addresses is extremely easy. Design a pretty CTA image that links to your email sign up form. Bonus points if you'll create a free guide or some other giveaway. This makes Medium about 95-99% as effective at building an audience on a custom blog. The post mentioned above generated about 200 email signups over time, which is pretty good for free exposure I wouldn't have gotten otherwise.
- If you're interested in growing your own publication, you can easily request good stories written by other authors(one click on a menu under each post). That gives you free content and audience, if you want.
- For me personally, Medium's editor significantly lowers the barrier of entry. Something about the well designed WYSIWYG format takes away the pressure and makes writing more engaging. Besides it's easier to publish short-form content. Many of my posts start out as tweets that ended up being too long, or as HN/Reddit comments I'd like to share in a better format. 100-200 word Seth-Godin-style posts are easy to write regularly and medium's format encourages you to do that.
- You can always export your posts from medium into your personal blog. That's what I do for mine. Write on medium to gain free audience and exposure, repost to your website, then promote posts from your site on twitter/reddit, thus still keeping all the benefits. You can even cherry pick your best articles - use medium to generate a ton of posts without any pressure to be good, and publish the ones you're most proud of on your site.
And this is on a no-name website not optimized for SEO at all. The SEO arms race has been going on so long that we've reached a point where, if you're a good writer, it's easier to follow Google's guidelines than try to cheat the system.
Medium and other blog sites are basically a guest blog, except you're not getting paid for placement. Google ranking is everything and posting on medium does nothing but hurt you gravely
Absolutely. I've written two blog posts on PostgreSQL on topics that, in my opinion, weren't well covered and often misunderstood by its users. Both posts show up on the first page on a google search for "psql cli" and "postgres timezone".
I honestly never understood this whole fuss about SEO. In my opinion SEO is about good content. Good content over time will spread, which will result in a higher ranking.
I see no other way you could be front page ranking just by publishing.
What is the disadvantage of writing more of a shorter 'teaser' story on medium to funnel traffic to your blog?
Is that what you do with twitter and and reddit (funnel to medium)?
Either way, for me, the benefits of anything that makes content creation easier way outweigh the possible SEO penalty, so I don't really care.
I don't see the point of writing teaser stories on medium, I doubt they'll get accepted into big publications, or bring you a lot of traffic. For me, Medium articles are meant to close email subscribers, and the future emails I send can direct people to my site.
I've got started on twitter only recently, I post there for fun, writing practice, and sometimes I just share links to whatever project or post I want to promote.
Posts submitted to subreddits link to my main site.
I don't usually bother to manually promote medium posts anywhere other than submitting them to publications (because I might as well promote the main site).
Same here. Though I did not really end up getting 36k views just 10% of that. Before Hackernoon, my read count hovered around 300-400, though I would like to believe it will grow.
> Collecting email addresses is extremely easy. Design a pretty CTA image that links to your email sign up form. Bonus points if you'll create a free guide or some other giveaway. This makes Medium about 95-99% as effective at building an audience on a custom blog. The post mentioned above generated about 200 email signups over time, which is pretty good for free exposure I wouldn't have gotten otherwise.
If possible, please expand on this. I have zero email marketing experience so really want to start something on that end. Any links/tutorials on building a CTA image and adding on a blog post will help.
Just photoshop together a pretty image inviting people to subscribe.
My free guide cta looks like this:
Put together a short pdf in your area of expertise, and offer it to email subscribers.
Sometimes I simply send people to a landing page that looks like this:
Keep it simple, minimal information, promise value, address potential objections, show a signup form and a big subscribe button.
Here's some good advice on putting together a simple landing page:
If you're interested in email marketing in general, I highly recommend Alex Becker's courses. I don't know if HN audience will like him, but I've learned A LOT from this guy and I love his tutorials. You can find his introductory course here:
Feel free to email me if you need more advice(firstname.lastname@example.org).
Ask HN: Has attracting a blog audience become harder?
This keeps the blog interesting to me, but means that the vast majority of my traffic is search engine based, rather than folks who are coming to my blog to find out what Dan thinks.
It's a tradeoff I'm willing to make, and have even blogged about: http://www.mooreds.com/wordpress/archives/2188
My blog has month-long gaps. I have accepted that. It has a few popular pages which produce occasional spikes. Mostly, it is a long-form storage of my opinions, where I can refer people to.
Love the idea of "long form storage of opinions". I actually think everyone should blog. If you can write a email, you can blog. Writing clarifies the thoughts, IMHO.
I've always just kept a single blog but this coming year I'm experimenting with a new blog to see if it makes sense as something apart from my (mostly) tech-related blog.
Totally agree! It's the same as nicheing as a contractor/consultant. People don't want generic stuff, they want focused expertise.
That said, my career has been the main source of fodder for my blog and that career has been a general technologist (with a web/unix focus), so that's why my blog meanders.
If I consulted again, I'd probably try to narrow the focus to what I wanted to work on, because, as you say, focus == commercial success.
That's a new normal, I suppose. Definitely is for me as a reader.
These days I pretty much follow only one blog directly (Slate Star Codex). Everything else I get to through search, HN, meta-blogs (so-called "planets") and social media. Though when I find an interesting post, I often then check out the entire blog.
Just one data point, but I'm under impression this way of reading is common.
If you writing fluff sure, but if your writing great content the title is less important. Good work sells itself. 90% content 10% title just my 0.02.
That said, I think that totally owning your location online is totally worth it.
I mean, I was just looking for a quick solution in college so I can't blame myself, but I do want to run back to 18 year old me and kick my heels a bit for creating such a big chunk of technical debt I doubt I'll ever actually fix.
That may not get the result you personally want, but it is completely do-able.
It's http://blog.calebjay.com/ - I forgot I actually have the blog set as a subdomain, not an endpoint. It's been a couple months since I've done anything with it... man, it even still has the bluehost default favicon X(
1. You have much more control about how your words are presented on your own website. Got an interesting idea for a style? Know how to code some neat features for the site? Want to avoid ads or calls to donate or subscribe altogether? Go for it, you've got the power to do just that.
2. You're not under corporate control like you'd be on a 'platform' and can't be as easily bullied off the internet by angry scumbags in a social media lynch mob. Oh sure, it can still happen if you annoy people that much (see, a certain far right website that had trouble finding a host recently), but you're still more protected than on a service that cares only about saving its own reputation.
3. If you don't like the service, you can move elsewhere and keep the same URL, theme and content.
4. All money made via the site goes to you rather than a middleman.
5. And well, it's really closer to what the internet should be in general. We should be supporting people who setup their own sites and ventures, and who don't merely help walled gardens become more popular or dominant online.
Plenty of reasons really.
If you want to do this long-term, get your own domain and distribute your content elsewhere if needed. E.g. on medium you can post articles from your blog and it links back at the bottom if you think Medium is important for your audience, announce posts on Twitter, Facebook, have RSS feeds, ...: bring the information where the users are, but have the central source of it under your control. Pointing the domain at a service is fine, it enables you to move if there are issues.
For Medium I use a custom domain so I still own the URL. And all links to my content are to a URL I own. When I inevitably move to a new service those links will continue to be valid.
But it gives me 95% of what I want for free so I won't complain too much.
Technically you make a publication and THAT gets a custom domain. Which is a little weird but overall works. The publication portal looks a million times better and has way more configuration options than a basic user profile.
Here's mine and what it looks like: https://blog.forrestthewoods.com/
I would not have been able to sell one of my blogs if I had used a platform like Medium or Tumblr.
I've also seen someone's blog get deleted on a different hosted platform without warning and no way to recover the deleted content. If you don't control your application, you are at the mercy of another, unknown person's decisions.
I don't like landing on Medium posts. That kind of centralized, fast-food publishing monoculture isn't what the WWW is supposed to be. I don't comment on or "like" anything on Medium either. If it were a relatively small site, it wouldn't be such a problem, but it's becoming inescapable now.
I think that tech culture needs a revamp where people start to focus on DIY freedom again: blogs, websites, OSes, hardware, RSS/Atom (vs. AI feeds), etc.
You could also install Discourse on a subdomain (quick docker-based install on a $5/month server) and use that for comments.
My blog is quiescent right now (I discovered I'm an essayist rather than a "blogger"), but it goes back to 2000, albeit quite messily from the first platform conversion I did. No platform has been around that long. Goodness knows the platform where it started is long gone and forgotten by almost everyone.
Ultimately though, I chose to run one on my own for the mere satisfaction of "owning" it. Maybe it's, uhhh, like how buying a house is thought to be a step up compared to renting an apartment? Something like that. There's also that feeling where I feel like I'm only half there if it's under a platform like Medium or Tumblr.
I admit the benefit of being on a network like those are bound to be helpful: if you're looking for them. Eitherway, I thought I could just cross-post things anyway if I ever wanted to.
If you want good advice, follow Jeff Atwood's post on the subject: https://blog.codinghorror.com/how-to-achieve-ultimate-blog-s...
1. "Titles are 80% of the work" describes how much effort he puts into the title, and how much he suggests.
2. "Titles are 80% of the value" describes how much value readers personally get from your work, regardless of whether they share it or not.
3. "Titles are 80% of the signal that determines whether a blog post is shared on social media" describes how much they drive sharing, and suggests that a good title is worthy of a non-trivial amount of thought.
I personally feel he was trying to say #3, and definitely not trying to say #2. But he literally wrote #1, and somebody might be deluded into reasoning as follows:
If you ought to spend 80% of your time on the title, and if it's responsible for 80% of the sharing, and all you care about is sharing, then it follows naturally that you want to put 80% of your time into it (#1), and that since you only put 20% of your time into the content, and since it only contributes 20% to whether you get ephemerally famous, it needn't provide more than 20% value to the reader (#2).
But despite that, I feel he was trying to say #3 only.
Don't get me wrong, a good title will draw me in, but the content better match my expectation if I am to come back for another post.
But then again, that might not get as many retweets as, "Titles are 80% of the work." Popularity is merciless and entirely orthogonal to quality.
Ironically, the title of that post is the very click-baity "How To Achieve Ultimate Blog Success In One Easy Step".
More to the point, that post was written so long ago that it nearly pre-dates Twitter and Facebook. It preceded the shuttering of Google Reader by six years. Jeff has great writing advice for sure, but the way that content travels online has changed drastically.
Does that excuse writing click bait titles? No. But the author wasn't advocating doing that.
Titles can be written to be intriguing without being sensational or misrepresenting the content.
Also I think there is some implication that "clickbait" articles are either uselessly short, rehashed or outright stolen and exist purely for the ad impressions.
That said, I think some of Andrew Chen's titles are right on that knife's edge of sounding like stereotypical clickbait, despite his articles being too well thought out to be truly in that category.
I think naming things is hard... at least that's my take on it.
I often find that a variable/function/class that is harder to name than to use or implement while programming. I expect the issue would be a little more prevalent in writing. You want something short, not click-baity, memorable and with the right connotation. I could see that taking more effort than writing the post.
When putting an idea in words, the less words you use, the more effort it takes.
I myself write fairly long and well-researched essays but I also spend quite a long time to figure out what the title should be. That doesn't take anything away from the time and effort I put in.
The more famous you are, the more cryptic you can be but to most it's just a fact of life that you need to spend time making your content easily shareable.
I understood what he meant I think most do.
But what's the deal with "write the title last" and his examples all start with the title?
I often write a placeholder title, write the essay, and then at the very end, spend a good chunk of time iterating on titles until there’s a good one.
It isn't uncommon for me to handle blog posts that way as well, or even paid freelance articles if no title was provided. You put in a title that suggests what you are talking about, then you write the piece, then you try to figure out what the most important detail is or the most compelling hook or the shortest way to make the essential point.
Writing good titles is quite hard and good titles often grow out of the piece after it is written. You get to the end and you have written multiple paragraphs to give a good lead up and then your final paragraph draws a conclusion in a way you didn't have in mind when you started. And therein lies clues to a good title.
I fairly often pull ideas for a title from the last paragraph or two of a blog post. And I usually don't know what that last paragraph will be until I have written the entire piece.
all I noticed was:
>"Titles are 80% of the work, but you
write it as the very last thing.
It has to be an compelling opinion
or important learning"
>"Most of my writing comes from
talking/reading deciding I strongly
agree or disagree. These opinions
become titles. Titles become essays."
>"The best example of this in
my work is 'Growth Hacker is the
new VP Marketing' which started
out as a tweet with 20+ shares, and
then was developed into an essay
1. Attract people with titles like this one
2. Make your blog popular (???)
3. Put advertising
Thanks for reading this post!
PS: How I made $100,000 a day with one weird trick
(Long sales copy follows)
"I used to not make money and now I made $20K! This system is great!"
If you act now it will be only $10!! And we chare you $300 a month later.
PPS: Does anyone know why they always use the word weird trick? The author comes across as super unbiased that way? LOL
If the goal of your blog is purely to establish yourself as some authority on topic(s), do you then have to build audience numbers like he has? Is it common for a lot of people doing this to also do talks at conferences, etc?
If your goal is to monetize the blog, then I think his points matter. Titles matter, attracting readers matter, establishing an email list matters. However if you just want to share opinions and ideas or work you did I don't think a lot of his points matter.
Whenever I fool myself into thinking HN is above petty ego bullshit this kind of thing reminds me how mistaken I am.
Because the snide one-liner post wasn't a productive contribution to the discussion. And that would be true whether or not the blogger was prominent.
Quora is also remarkably corrupt and has a habit of banning people who speak out against bad practices in venture capital.
> So I flipped to his feed, and sure enough, there'd been a post in November about him being in the hospital. I was never shown this post.
How does she know that she was NEVER shown this post?
Isn't it possible that she didn't scroll all the way past a few 100 status updates, and the friend's hospitalization post was #101 in that scroll list, and she just didn't make it that far with her limited attention span?
Secondly, in reference to the story you are commenting about, she says in the thread that she always consumes her feed until she sees repeats. Not to mention that she says none of the people in that social circle saw the post. At some point, if Facebook is pushing something down that many spots, it is the same as never showing it. Everyone's attention span is limited.
I hate him. Idiot! Fuck this guy
Although the editor has a tough job, I don't think anyone would say that they're doing more work than the person who wrote the piece.