Tag Archives: Blogging

Me, me, me! — blogger policy

MEMEMEThis is a post for all you folks who are “me, me, me!” advertisers. You know who you are. Or sadly, maybe you don’t. You are the folks who send me emails saying “Check out my blog….”. Often these emails are just software generated generic stuff which I obviously delete.

Even if you add a small personal note to your email, it is the wrong way to get other bloggers to visit your site. It either shows a lack of common sense or worse, a blatant “me, me, me” blindness. If you want me to visit your blog, interact with several of my posts in an intelligent way — in the comments, not an email. Show me that us that you are really reading the posts and talk about the posts themselves. Then, if any of the readers or me find you interesting (or thoughtful), we may visit your blog.  That is the correct way to get readers on your blog — well, at least here.

The same goes for those of you leaving vacuous “me, me, me” comments. If it is obvious that the only reason you are commenting is to get me to your blog, and you do not interact with my post in a genuine way, I will not only not visit your blog, I may delete your comment for violation of my comment policy.

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Rees & Sabio: blogging for our kids

Rees & LantzTomas Rees is the author of Epiphenom – a blog which reviews scientific articles on religion. Last week, Tom (right) met my daughter (the photographer) and me in Brighton, England during the last leg of our couch surfing adventure.

It is always fantastic to meet people in person after years of chatting on-line and Tom was no exception.  He kindly treated us vagabonds to a fine lunch and we discussed our families and blogging.

Tom and I have different religious backgrounds: unlike me, Tom is a natural atheist — someone who never embraced religion as an adult.  Yet Tom and I share a common motivation concerning blogging on religion: we both began because of our children. See my previous post on “My Son’s Tears” and below is Tom’s account.

When Tom heard of proposals to introduce more religion teaching in his children’s schools there is the UK, he decided to start researching for evidence of how such a move could be harmful to his children. Tom is a science writer and well versed in evaluating research (see my 2010 post on him here). He started reviewing articles on the effect of religion on children,  and posted his findings on a forum.  But to reach a wider readership he decided to start his blog.

Tom’s blog is excellent and I’d recommend you reading his stuff.  Heck, type “Rees” or “Epiphenom” in my search tool, and you will see lots of posts where I refer to his work.  Tom states, in the true spirit of science, that his opinions on religion have changed a bit since he started blogging — but I will leave him to tell us more about that perhaps later. He has slowed down posting recently due to being very busy with his family but he keeps putting stuff up for us occasionally.

Questions to readers:  Why did you start blogging?  Do you remember the day you decided?

 

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Deceptive Blogging Stats

Dora the Explorer

Yeah, Great Stats!

Web advertisers measure their ad’s success by number of clicks — this is closely associated with sales. But unlike ads, just because someone is clicking on one of your blog posts, doesn’t mean they are “buying” your stuff — it doesn’t mean they are reading your posts (yet alone affected by your writing).

I love WordPress and can only write about the stats they offer bloggers, but I am sure some of the principles carry over to other blogging platforms.

Clicking on your WordPress control panel’s “Site Stats” will offer you three “Most Popular” stats and “Daily Visits” by which to try to figure out if people are reading your blog. All four sets of statistics are deceptive.  Don’t believe them. Below I tell you why:

(1) Most Popular Posts

If you look at my “Top Posts” since starting my blog in 2009 (>900 posts), the list reveals the vacuous nature of these stats. Below I list the top five visited posts and in brackets I tell you why they are probably “popular”. Note, none of them are popular because of what I wrote:

1) Fighting Dragons & Santa [for a great pic of Santa: 40,000 hits!]
2) Hindu Gods Iconography [for pics of Hindu gods]
3 Hinduism was my Undoing [great pic of Lord Ganesh]
4) Was Jesus a Coward [google search: Jesus & Coward]
5) Ambulance Snake: Bible Literacy [google search: Bible Literacy]

Heck, my “Buddhist Hemorrhoids” post is right up in my top twenty — what do you imagine brought “readers” there?

These “most popular” posts have very few comments and thus showing people aren’t there for content. Some statistical blogging software (not-free) shows how many minutes a person spends on a post, which would tell you something meaningful.

(2) Most Popular Search Terms:

Now look at your “Most Popular Search Terms” — the terms searched that brought people to your posts.

My top all-time high ones (in order) have been:
santa (26,000), ganesh (14,000), dora the explorer (10,000), buddha (10,000), hinduism (8,000), jesus (6,000), shiva (6,000), mushroom cloud (5,000), Wanderer above the sea of fog (5,000), reincarnation (5,000), celtic cross (5,000)

You get the point.

(3) Most Commented On:

Lastly, WordPress offers a way to see which of your posts have been most commented on.  And though more helpful then the two above, this is also deceptive.

My top four have been:
a. Is Evolution just a Theory
b. What is your Greek-Philosophy Type
c. Why Yahweh Kills Innocents
d. Redefining Atheism

So what is the problem with weighing these too heavily.

(a) Few actual commentors:  These numbers may just involve a back and forth between a few people arguing.  And they count the author as one of the commentors (which is often half of the comments).

(b) Unimportant posts: These posts may not be the ones you care about at all.

(4) Total Visits

Since the total number of visits to your blog are compromised of the problems I list above, these too are not very instructive.  I may seem like a hypocrit on this issue since I have many site trackers at the bottom of my right column, but I put these up early in the game. Now I just have them there for curiosity sake and to remind me of how easily we can be fool by superficial numbers.

Interestingly, WordPress offers a great graph showing daily visits in too bars: one showing the number of unique visitors, and one showing the amount of views.  This shows you if people are clicking through your blog, I think.  Any thoughts?

Conclusion:

Understanding statistics is hard stuff — people are tricked by them easily. Mere numbers are deceptive. For instance: just because the majority of the world believes in Astrology, doesn’t make it either interesting, deserving of further attention or right. I would reconsider weighing the your WordPress stats carefully.  For just as we teach our children that being “popular” is a superficial judgement so are our common evaluations for the impact of our blogs.

Question to readers:  How do you think deeper and evaluate the quality of your blogging rather than looking just at the statistics I list above?

triangle_end_tiny

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Threader Challenge

Threader“Threaders”

I was going to coin a new word, but as you can see to the right, it already exists.  So I am going to coin a new blogging use for the word: “threader“.

Threader (noun): a blog commentor who does not have their own blog — their sole blog participation is on threads.

I love threaders. Not everyone has the time or desire to run their own blog. For unlike us bloggers, threaders probably have a much healthier, productive life! 😉

I am very happy (and privileged) to have threaders who participate on Triangulations. But a challenge with threaders is that they can be difficult to get to know. And here at Triangulations, I contend that getting to know someone on a personal level is probably as important as getting to their ideas. Indeed, I wonder if you can really understand a person’s ideas if you don’t know their lives.  Ideas can be separated from lives, but they never are.  Idea serve people’s lives in different ways.

Threader Challenge

If I have linked you to this post, it is because I am challenging you to either:

    1. Put the link to your blog in your profile on Disqus, Blogger, Facebook, or Google.  And if you have a blog, be sure to have a fairly detailed “About” page .
    2. If you don’t have a blog, set up a blog and just make it a one page blog with information about you.   If you need help thinking of things to share, consider using my “Share Thyself” tables if you wish.

Obscure Threaders

Some threaders love hiding behind obscurity.  They enjoy throwing out cute teasing aphorisms to sound wise and yet not spell out their ideas.  Please consider some degree of blogging transparency.  Share yourself.

Question for readers:

  • Are you a threader?  What do you think of this post?
  • Have you shared yourself on your blog?  If so, why not?
  • If you don’t have a blog and prefer to only be a threader, has this post moved you a little closer to consider at least putting up a 1 page blog: an “About” Page?

Note: Pic source here — for more on what I feel about bait, see my post on Roadkill Theology.

triangle_end_tiny

 

 

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Please Build an “About” Page

AboutIf I just directed you to this post, it is because you are blogless commentor or a blogger without an About Page.

I completely understand why a person wouldn’t want to have their own blog — blogs are a lot of work and not everyone’s desire.  But if you are spending a lot of time commenting on other blogs, may I make a compromise suggestion: put up a simple About Page.

Instead of a big, time-intensive blog, simply build an “About” page and leave the rest blank.  Go to  Wordpress.com (my favorite) or at www.blogger.com or other free blogging sites and get a blog and just set up that page and tell us about yourself.  That way when someone reads your comment, they can click on the link under your name, and then quickly go read a page or two about you so they know more about who they are taking too.  Such sharing makes conversations much more interesting.

If you are already a blogger and don’t have an About page, please consider building one and sharing a bit more about yourself.

Resources:

For folks without an About page, here is how to format an “About” page:  Blogger folks see here and WordPress folks see here.

For those with scant information about themselves, I offer some helpful outlines on sharing your demographics, your philosophy, your theology and more, here on my “Share Thyself” post.

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Comments & Post Length

Personal blogs are abandoned at a rate of about 60-80% within one month of creation and the vast majority of the longer survivors don’t last much more than two years (source). I have beat the average–blogging for more than three year now.  I am motivated to continue in several ways:

  • the joy of writing
  • personal projects
  • learning and challenges
  • community
It is comments on my blog that supply the later two: community, learning and challenges. I love comments. When I view blogs that have no comments, I wonder to myself “How do they keep going?”. But bloggers vary in how much they value comments (see the poll to the right).  I think famous bloggers are not motivated by the number of comments but by the number of views or by revenue generated by visitor ad clicks.  But for us mere mortals, I think comments and views are the major ways we evaluate our blogs’ outreach value.  Of course the joy of creating is a large motivation for some even without significant comments or views.  But comments also matter to me.  So I took some time and looked at comment issues.

I compiled n spread sheet to evaluate my comment frequency. I found that  the average number of comments on my posts has been about 12, and with a mean around 10.  The most useful information would be “unique commentors” per each thread so as to eliminate a long thread of just two people arguing, or a thread crowded with my comments.  Also, not all comments are equal — we all value some commentors input more than others.  Given those caveats, here is a summary of my comment stats:

  • ZERO comments:  9%
  • 1-4 comments: 15%
  • >10 comments: 49%
  • >20 comments:  16%
  • >30 comments: 7%

I am extremely grateful to my commentors. I hope to keep nurturing them. I think length of posts will scare away many readers and commentors — especially without images, diagrams or charts.  Unless someone is an amazing writer or revealing excellent new ideas or information, I am not motivated to read a long personal blog.

I decided to get the stats for my top 10 commented blogs (see below) and see how many views they had and how long each post was.  I found none of those posts went over 700 words.  To obtain a word count, I cut and past my post here.  For example: this post is about 415 words long.

Question to readers:

  • How have you thought about increasing your posts’ comments?
  • Do you try to limit the length of your posts?

My top 10 commented posts:

Post Title Comments Views Length
 Why Yahweh Kills Innocents 110 529 564
 Redefining Atheism  84 189 225
 Credal Belonging 71 332 639
 Religion and Drugs 70 990 415
 Your Violence Policy 70 1232 168
 Who is a Christian 70 291 297
 Metaphorical vs. Literal Truth 64 218 562
 Foreskin Decisions 57 605 660
 Astral Projection 56 257 578
 Atheists who prefer Hell  52 556 509

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Ephemeral Morphs: our posts and our lives

How do you write?  I am always pleasantly surprised that my posts morph unpredictably.  I start writing with some hint of purpose but the post quickly seems to take on its own life — leaping forward as my earlier words wisp away.  I will often jot down several paragraphs of ideas, impressions and conclusions, and then rewrite them several times.  I won’t open them again until a day or more later:  cut, paste, rewrite that material until it is indistinguishable from the original.  I may repeat that process several times over several days. It is never the same post or the same me writing it — I love it.

The continual changing makes it see odd to stop and hit the “publish” button — for if I thought my last version was better than the first, then perhaps I should just keep coming back to it day after day.

But is it really “better”?  Sometimes I actually have past copies to compare to the new-and-better versions.  And when I compare them, I sometimes lament the loss of the unpolished, simple original.  Sometimes I wish I could at least snip out some of the flavor of my raw jottings and add them to the latest version.  But usually, it is too late to go back.  My older fun tones don’t mix with the new fun tones — damn, why can’t writing be all of us at once.

So it seems blogging very much reflects my mental life in general.  Though I am continually “me”, of course, this dumbing hallucination is belied by reading past writings.  And though I may be tempted to identify with my present thoughts, I am humbled to know they may not be mine tomorrow.  And though now feels better, I savor the past and always wish she’d come back to enliven my now.

OK, today’s post is a bit out of style — but hell, we should allow that, no?

Question to Visitors:  How does your writing evolve?  Have you sensed anything like I tried to sketch here of the parallel between your ephemeral-self and your writing?

HT to photo artist.

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Couch Surfing Europe

I’m off to Europe for a month-long Dad-Son vacation. My son is 12-years-old and has just finished 6th grade. He and I will land in Amsterdam and then slowly, with no real plans, make our way to Munich.  After the trip, we will return to debrief with my wife and daughter for a shared whole-family vacation on the beaches of New Jersey. Then in 2 years, my plans are to do the same with my daughter when she is 12-years-old — a Dad-Daughter vacation to a country of her choice.  Insh’allah
When I was 19 years-old I went to Europe to study German and then hitched (without money) slowly to India. This will be a much safer version of that trip for my son and I. We will start our journey with some Couch Surfing in Amsterdam. If you haven’t heard of this organization, check it out. When I have told friends and acquaitences of our plans, the vast majority say they’d be scared to death of this sort of trip and would never do it. I can only laugh — people’s intutions are so different from each other. Sure, there is danger — I guess I know that. But we worry about dangers, people’s opinions, uncertainties and then, next thing we know, we are old and then we die. A life of worry and properness — yuck!

I wager folks visiting this blog are not a reflective sampling of my social circles. But let’s test that wager: In the poll, let us know how you would feel about such a trip.

Our trip will actually begin with a meet-up in Philadelphia with a fellow blogger  and commentor who I met on-line through this blog — “A Time to Rend”.   We have kids the same age and plan to do some rock climbing together. This will be our first person-to-person meetup.   Have any of you met up with folks you have met through blogging?

 Since over the next month, I am not sure how much I will blog, I thought I’d put up this post to explain my possible sparse posting. But who knows, I may still wake every day at 4 am and find blogging the best activity until my son wakes up.

If you have any suggestions for things a 12-year-old boy may enjoy in Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, southern Germany or Austria, let us know!

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Consider hiding your links

For bloggers and commentors who don’t know how to use HTML, I am writing this short post to teach one important HTML tag to help beautify your comments. If you share a link in your comment without using  HTML, it looks a bit messy like this:

Sabio: Please consider visiting my blog : https://triangulations.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/blog-talk/

But with a simple HTML tag or two, it cleans up nicely to this:

Sabio: Please consider visiting my blog

Here is how to do it:

  • Step 1: type the HTML skeleton  <a href=””> <a>
  • Step 2: add the URL <a href=”address here“> </a>
  • Step 3: add the words <a href=””>words here</a>
  • Final Product: <a href=”address here“> words here </a>

So in our example, the final product would look like this:

Sabio: Please consider visiting <a href=”https://triangulations.wordpress.com/2010/07/26/blog-talk/”&gt;my blog</a>

The code may look sloppy, but once you submit your comment, the blog makes it beautiful.  NOW you are an HTML Coder!  Congratulations!

Finally, let’s add two more beautification tags – the bold tag (<b></b>) & the italic tag (<i></i>) . If you add the bold tags around the word “Sabio”  and the italic tags around “Please” your comment will now look like this:

Sabio: Please consider visiting my blog

Isn’t that gorgeous?  It may look scary when you put it all together, but with a little practice, it comes easy. The advantage to learning these simple HTML tags is:

  • It beautifies the comment.
  • People may not copy and paste a link, but they will click on it.
  • People may respect your comment more because you took time to make it attractive for readers.

Go ahead, practice the HTML and leave a link in the comments!  And FYI: I made a simple diagram to say the same in another post here.

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Comment Thread Management

Your Favorite Comment Management

Blog Authors (BA) have different methods of interacting with comments on their posts’ threads. Below are a series of three polls for you to tell us your favorite thread management methods. Of course I have my favorite methods (as you’ve seen) but maybe I will change my opinion depending on opinions I hear from commentors on this post. So thank you.

BA Censoring:

  • Approval Screening: Some BA hold all comments for approval. Thus having comments that seem to ignore each other.  Though frustrating for commentors, the BA can thus totally control content and the BA’s controlling is invisible.
  • Deletion Screening: Some BA do not censor comment before posting.  Instead, they only delete those that grossly violate blog comment policies AFTER they are posted.  This can make the BA look mean.
  • No Screening: Some BA don’t delete anything. Any language, any accusation, any content is allowed in their threads. “Freedom of Speech” is their motto.
BA Timing:

  • Continuous Interaction: Some BA continuously respond as the comments unfold in the thread.
  • End Thread Interactions: Some BA waits for most of the comments to be in before saying something
  • Rare Interactions: Some BA rarely, if ever make comments.  They prefer to leave the thread space for commentors.  They may, for example, they may only respond to direct questions.
Grouped or Individual Replies:

  • Grouped Replies: BA combines his/her replies to several commentors thus sparing followers from getting many e-mails.
  • Individual Replies: BA feels each comment deserves and individual comment reply.

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