My thoughts on Blogs

Writing that survey was fun. It was so interesting to determine what I most wanted to know about other people’s experiences with blogs. It was also interesting, as people commented on the survey, to realize that both my questions and answers were so limited by my own experience that I didn’t even include possible responses that other people needed to describe their experience. The whole exercise was really eye opening.

I was prompted to write that survey because of an exchange with Mel on a post she put up recently. At the end of the post she asked the this question: Which matters more to you? Visitors or page views?

In my response I mentioned that page views could be less of a representation of people participating meaningfully with a post and more the product of people needing to go back after clicking a link. I personally look more at how many visitors come to my blog, not page views. (Interestingly, I generally get about half as many visitors as page views, so people are either leaving my blog open and it’s refreshing, or they are coming back to check something later? I’m not really sure what’s happening there, but I’d love to know.)

Mel responded to my comment, saying that she has links open in the same window because she herself doesn’t like when links opened in a new tab or window and does’t want to do that to other people. This got me wondering how other people felt about it. I have links open in a new tab, but if most people don’t like that, I’d gladly change it. After all, it doesn’t really affect me where tabs open on my blog, I’m not the one clicking on them. So if most readers prefer them to open in the same window, I’d do that.

It’s understandable that assertions like the one I just made, and even my survey in general, bring up questions about propriety and blogs, and what we owe our readers. I think most of us would argue that our blogs are our own spaces and we don’t owe our readers anything. So why, if I wouldn’t survey people about how to decorate my home, would I use the responses about how people like to consume blogs to change anything about my space?

As I mentioned at the intro to my survey, my main motivation for putting it up was curiosity. I read a lot of blogs and since I interact with so many on any given day, the little things start to feel bigger. I think the fact that I consume most of my blogs on my phone makes those little things bigger still. Captcha isn’t so annoying on my computer, but on my phone it makes me want to tear my hair out. I know that for me, there are some blogs I don’t comment on and the main reason is Captcha and I have always wondered if others feel the same way. I thought a survey might make that a little more clear (though I recognize that 69 respondents does not a representative sample make).

A lot of the questions on my survey ended up being about bigger blogs, the ones that use certain strategies to drive up page views (I’m assuming that is the main purpose of the teaser paragraph in the RSS feed, to make readers open the page to finish the post), or that have to take extra precautions like using Captcha because their spam situation is unmanageable otherwise. I know that some bloggers have ads on their sites, or use (or hope to use) their stats and metrics to make a name for themselves as writers, and they set up their blogs so that page views are maximized. As a very small time blogger, these are just not issues that I have to worry about. They only affect me in that I’m exposed to them when I’m in other people’s spaces.

And I suppose some of what I’m curious about is how those little strategies affect the overall experience on a blog. When we’re taking steps to drive up page views, or when an outside entity is managing our ads, what does that do to the way people experience our space? I have started to associate some blogs with the banner ads, or other kids of ads, that I frequently see there. Those ads absolutely affect the way I feel about a blog and how I interact with it. I wonder if other people have similar experiences, and if the people who have ads on their site realize that it can absolutely affect the way a person feels about their space. (I’m not saying it affects the way all people feel in a space, but I’m also assuming I’m not the only one who is affected.)

I’m also not quite sure how ads on blogs fit into the metaphor of a blog being like our “home” on the Internet–a place all our own. If my home page is my living room, and I’m inviting people there to spend a minute or two, are margin and banner ads little billboards that I have hanging on the walls? (This makes me wonder if some day we’ll be selling space in our homes for people to advertise constantly, maybe in exchange for wireless Internet or media access of some kind?)

It’s true that my blog is my own personal space, but at the same time, I am writing on my blog because I want people to read it. My blog is basically a giant invitation for people to come to my “home” and hang out for a while. It’s true I would never change the look or feel of my house to please people who don’t even live there, but I do try to make it look nice and inviting and I do try to provide food and refreshments that I think people would enjoy when they come over. (And I will admit that I make decoration choices with the hopes that others will appreciate them.) Some aspects of my blog are the parts of my house I wouldn’t change, but other details are like the refreshments: if I can provide what people want, I’ll try to do that.

Many of you probably noticed that I didn’t write a question about whether light writing on a dark background (ahem) hurt your eyes. I didn’t include that because I had a feeling the answer would overwhelmingly be Yes! Please for the love of all things holy change your background! and I wasn’t ready to change my theme. But then Belle made the suggestion, and others have too, so I thought long and hard about it and for the first time in years and years, I started scrolling through WordPress.com’s free themes. I found one I liked well enough, and made it into something that feels like home. I realized that the most important thing for me on my blog is having a customizable header, but that the rest of the aesthetic wasn’t that important to me. Enough people had mentioned that the white on black strained their eyes, so I finally decided to change it.

Do I expect other people to change their blogs because their readers want them to? Absolutely not. But I didn’t mind doing it. I want people to read what I have to say, and I’m not going to put up barricades that prevent that from happening, at least not when I can help it.

My blog is small. No one wants to advertise with me. I have no reason to maximize page views. While I would love to have more exposure, I’m thankful that my little corner of the Internet can remain completely my own–I don’t have to make choices based on anything other than my own preferences, without worrying about stats or metrics or spam bot attacks. I want my Internet home to be inviting. I may not change what I say, or how I say it, to appease others, but I will make it as aesthetically inviting as I can. I hope, with this change, I’ve done that.

Do you consider your blog like your home? Are any of the choices you make about your blog fueled by anything other than your own personal preferences? Do you feel like ads change the “feel” of a blog? Are you glad I got rid of the white on black color scheme 😉 ?

18 responses

  1. The new look is lovely! Sorry for speaking up, but I do enjoy reading you and hate that my bad eyes could not handle the white on black. I’m relieved I am not alone! I am tempted to post a survey for my readers on posting frequency and topic relevancy. I used to have at least three hours a day to blog when at my boring corporate job. Being a SAHM is far more demanding than any corporate job ever was, though, and I find my blogging time to be very limited. You have inspired me to reach out to my readers! Thanks!

    • I want to do a similar survey. If you do yours, would you mind adding post length? I have a feeling mine are a bit long. I’d love to know if people prefer around 800 words (a standard mag page) instead of 1000+ words like I tend to write.

  2. Very pretty new look. Though your old blog theme never bothered my eyes.

    I will say that you make a lot of assumptions, and I think that is based on your limited experience. And you admit as such, but then continue to make more assumptions, and they are all nefarious in nature. I think that was interesting.

    For instance, I provide a teaser in rss to protect other writers. My content is stolen a lot, which is a problem usually only for me. But I link to a lot of other blogs, not just with the Roundup. What was happening is that not only was my content being stolen, but every week, everyone who was linked to in the Roundup found their rss feed stolen and run into a spam site. People who could have slid under the radar were now being picked up, and even if they took down their blog, their content was living on in the Internet. It was a huge mess.

    I posed the question at a conference, and the solution given was to (1) drop down to a teaser rss because it’s less enticing for spammers and (2) put the links whenever possible down the screen. Hence why there is ALWAYS a lead-in to the Roundup and I never begin with the blogs.

    So, yes, there is a strategy, but the strategy would be to protect other people’s content.

    So I guess I’m curious why the assumptions were that everyone does things for personal gain. When — equally — the reason could be that it works best for the blogger or makes the blogger happy or is there to protect readers or enables the blogger to write their blog.

    • I had no idea that excerpted RSS feeds protected writers from content being lifted! I stand corrected. I just assumed it was to drive people to the site because the only bloggers I know who do it are bigger bloggers who have other writing gigs on the internet and/or in print. I’ve never dealt with stolen content and didn’t know that RSS feeds contributed to that problem. Sorry for my erroneous (and evidently nefarious) assumption. Now I’m curious if that is why most people have excerpted RSS feeds… Either way I appreciate knowing because it will bother me way less to click through on the blogs I follow that do that, now that I know why it might be. Thanks for educating me on that.

      As for my assumption being nefarious, I don’t know if I agree. I think my assumption makes perfect sense and it may be true in some, if not many cases. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to drive traffic to a blog, and I don’t think it’s nefarious to assume that if the ten or so people who I see doing it are also the ten or so people who have ads up and/or have other writing gigs (which I know requires touting stats and metrics), I don’t think it’s nefarious to assume the two are connected, especially if I’m not decrying the practice. I don’t know. Just seems like a loaded word for a not-so loaded assumption.

      • Still hate the teaser RSS. I don’t think your assumptions were “nefarious”. I started reading blogs when I was going thru infertility. Mainly blogs of other people going thru it. Now expanded to blogs about parenting. I don’t think I read any blogs that I didn’t originally find thru another infertility blog. So while I get the whole copyright content thing in my idealistic view I keep thinking people are writing bc they need an outlet not so they can have a brand they need to protect. The spam thing sucks though. Although the vast majority of blogs on my reader don’t of the teaser thing do they apparently don’t have the spam issue. At any rate I tend to avoid the teaser blogs in my reader and read them only say via a link on Mo’s blog (which used to serve as my “reader”) which usually means I don’t read every post, just those that sound interesting and aren’t pushed down off the visible list before I see them. I tend to read every post in my reader just bc it’s so easy.

        As to the other Q, I like long posts. I usually surf for an escape and having a nice juicy long post to read is great. I sometimes get disappointed when opening a blog post to find only a couple lines or a pic.

        Also I read your blog only on my phone so it looks the same to me.

      • Apparently I’m also full of nefarious assumptions. Who knew? I’ve always assumed it was a pageviews thing too, as the blogs I tend to see this done on are blogs that tend to have ads up. It’s good to know there is another reason for it, but I also think that this is a perfectly reasonable assumption to make because sometimes this IS the case.

        I hate teasers and only click over from my reader about 50% of the time.

      • I use the term “nefarious” because the reason behind your assumption was personal gain. It wasn’t something meant to protect others.

        If the people you’re seeing do it have blogs that were around in 2008-ish, I would guess that a bunch switched over when I switched over and encouraged everyone else to do the same. It was a HUGE problem before Google changed their algorithm. Spammers look for full feeds. They funnel these feeds into spam blogs. When I had a full feed, my blog posts — in full — were everywhere. But this became the case every single week (since my feed had been hijacked) for every person I linked to in the Roundup. 4 blogs per week times 8 years… that would be a lot of stolen content if I hadn’t switched to a partial feed. As is, if you Google phrases in the middle of my post, you will likely not find my post in other spots. If you Google phrases from the top part of my post, the part that goes out in the partial feed, you’ll find it in lots of places. But back in 2008, if you Googled certain people’s blogs, they were unfindable because the spam blogs knocked them off the rankings. So if you scroll back through my blog to find those posts when we were all discussing the problem, there were a lot of people who went partial feed in an effort to protect other people’s blogs. It was the equivalent of a condom: it doesn’t stop you from having a virus, but it stops you from passing that virus on to others. Partial feed doesn’t necessarily protect your blog from being scraped (well, it does, though no system is perfect), but it definitely gives a level of protection to others.

        Google has done a lot of work to penalize spammers in the past few years, but if you’re serious about protecting your own content as well as doing your part to protect other people’s content (if you’re someone who links to other blogs), you should do a partial feed.

  3. Love the new look!

    Mine is a smallish blog. I choose partial feed to avoid getting scraped. It’s a time suck to get that cleared up.

    I have ads to help pay for the costs of hosting, design (Keiko and Kymberli rock) and other ways I’ve invested in my blog. It would be nice to make a living doing what I love, but I haven’t found the model that works for me yet. Maybe there is none, and I’m coming to terms with that.

    • I understand that. Hosting and design stuff aren’t cheap. I’m about to officially close down my self-hosted blog because I can’t afford the simple $12/month to keep it up. Sucks, but I don’t write there anymore anyway, so it’s what I have to do. I think it absolutely makes sense to use ads pay for hosting and design. I hope some day it pays for more than that! 😉

  4. Love the new design. I didn’t find your blog HARD to read before (obviously, I read and comment regularly), but it was uncomfortable for my eyes…this is refreshing—a lot like a cozy living room of a friend I’d want to spend time in 🙂
    Now if you had written in pink, or had MUSIC on your blog…we would never have become friends.
    I’ll freely admit I know nothing about nothing so I have no idea why people do RSS teasers, or have links open in same vs. new tabs, etc… I just chose the default versions for my blog, without giving it much thought.

  5. Ok, I love the new look, but it’s so different- kind of bittersweet 🙂 I desperately need a new look for my blog- I actually have a wordpress site set up, but I’ve just been too overwhelmed to figure out all the logistics of switching over- and I’m sentimental. It was so interesting to read the results of your survey- I was in the majority of most of your questions.

  6. I read a lot of blogs on my phone- especially while I am pumping. It is super annoying to comment on my phone though- so some of your page views may be me opening your blog and reading, but then clicking “mark unread” to come back later to comment. That’s also why I am so far behind in commenting sometimes! 🙂

  7. Hm…interesting comment feed above about partial feeds. I had no idea. They drive me totally nuts, but like you, I think I’ll give ppl a bit more of a break on it now. Still not convinced I need to do that to my blog for security reasons, but then I guess I’m just not big enough?

    That being said, I started the “wordads” on my blog maybe 6 months ago on a trial basis to try to cover my costs for hosting/domain stuff.

    GAH, that sentence just made me check on PAIL and it expired 5 days ago, sO i just paid $26 to re-up that while I figure out what to do with that space.

    At any rate, last August I made $20 from the wordads impressions, and in April I was up to $47. Not enough to live on, but more than enough to at least pay for my blogging (I have 4 different sites I maintain for different reasons). I’m still conflicted about having ads on MCVOT, but at the same time, I’m broke enough that I continue to do it….

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