I squirted my coffee on this one. He does practice what he preaches, i.e. has a unique and memorable voice.
My take is: good writing and unique voice is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a successful blog. Without these, you won't get much readership other than Google directs (maybe). But no amount of cool writing will get your Advanced Algorithms blog read if it doesn't have useful and interesting informational nuggets.
The problem, as I see it, that a lot of people face trying to write a technical blog is how to divide up what they're explaining into digestible chunks (size dependent on audience, Terence Tao's blog chunk size will be different than your high school math blog's) and present them intermingled with good language. In effect, the language (unique voice, anecdotes, etc.) is the carrier and the chunks is the information and the audience dictates the channel capacity.
The way I do it is to write 500 words a day on some random subjects for no reason other than it's "interesting" on published it on a single page called Notes and Thought. Then I continuously work the various areas of that pages, adding new paragraph, fixing grammar mistakes, and so on. Eventually, one of the section in my page will grow into a essay. When an essay is spun off, I also work on the essay to make sure it's complete-sounding and all polished up. However, they are never actually finished or frozen in time, and they will be continuously updated for the rest of their lifespan. Notes and Thoughts also linked any spun off essay with the original section and an abstract describing the content of the new essay.
Blog posts are temporal in nature, and they never get updated continuously. So a hundred year from now, the blog post will say the same thing, still feel amateurish, and also horrifically outdated.
If you want to know what I am working on: http://kibabase.com/articles/notes-and-thoughts
Blogging is more like a conversation that's very time specific. While mine is more like a book or an encyclopedia of my mind.
If that's not the goal though, then I really like your idea in making this.
Only to a point. People don't edit their blog post a year after they posted. They are mostly meant to be read today.
This also looks like a great way to just get better at the craft of writing. But if you really want to be read, you'll probably at least need a slightly different format than this one.
Notes and Thoughts aren't meant to be read, but it's meant to turn out essays that will be read. Those essays are linked from Notes and Thought and the front page.
Or you can use Wordpress and type each "article" as page rather than a post.
It's pretty much a wiki, as I used markdown and pandoc.
What is the difference between a page or a post? All large essays are already their own page.
I made my blog -- http://nowiknow.com -- into an email newsletter for this very reason. Two+ years in I'm at 80,000 subscribers. It's doable.
And do you think it can be as successful if you only send the email once every two weeks or so? Or does it have to be an every day thing?
New readers.. it's a mixed bag. Word of mouth, content shares, cross-promos, etc.
(And thanks for reading!)
At least for me, the quality of the content goes down significantly if I have to do it any more than once every couple of weeks. Really impressed that you're able to keep it up :)
I started with Wordpress and plan on sticking with it. But I've since made a tumblr for my photos and NYC-related tidbits...and find it much easier to blog on a whim on Tumblr than on Wordpress, despite the excellence of the latter platform. It's kind of amazing to me how the simplicity and constrictiveness of a platform, such as Tumblr (and Twitter, for that matter), makes it more inviting to consistently participate in. And I'd say consistent publishing -- especially in the face of apathy or silence -- is a huge part of building readership.
"And I'd say consistent publishing -- especially in the face of apathy or silence -- is a huge part of building readership." That's absolutely right in my experience.
Ever wonder why some blogs post n times a day?
"My job was to write twelve posts a day about 'media gossip,' which meant anything unpleasant or otherwise intriguing about anyone who had power in any Manhattan culture industry. There had to be enough posts so that whoever was sitting at my old desk at the publishing house, and everyone in Manhattan like her, could read something new when boredom struck."
Excerpt from book by Emily Gould, ex-Gawker, infamous blogger
A friend shared a great bit wisdom a few months back: there will always be someone who is one step in front of you and one step behind you.
Since I look to writing to help others, what if I write for that person who is one step behind (i.e. myself one year ago)?
But that should be followed by: "Guest Blog" (or something similar). Your energy and creativity can still be appreciated by a captive audience in someone else's venue. You can get many of the benefits of blogging without the need for (daily / weekly / whatever) commitments... and make friends or build reputation in the process.
As an example, I run a popular robotics blog myself . Yet, I've also contributed guest articles for IEEE Spectrum , which can have some cool side benefits... like op-ed style pieces in academic publications .
I believe there is something missing from the post though, maybe I missed it though: people shouldn't expect to become instant blog millionaires by writing a few posts here and there about just anything. Consistency (in voice and sometimes in topic) plus a schedule really do make this all work. Except just like the rabbit and the turtle: this is a race best won slowly.
Keep it up!
Every time I see a post like this I feel horrible about not blogging, but it's nice to hear that... I really don't think I'm cut out for it.