If you were to take a random sample of successful blogs, you will find that, irrespective of their subject matter, country of origin or background, they are all likely to share a number of common characteristics. Good writing is easy enough to identify; whether it's biting analysis, insightful discussion or just sheer wit, content is very much king. Other characteristics that would probably lay on this list would be the blogger themselves, whether it's their personalities, depth of knowledge or background as would the topics that are being discussed.
Yet, whilst the writing and the writer are by far the most significant factors, what is often overlooked is that the regularity of the posts themselves is of substantial import. Whilst quantity rarely makes up for quality, all the blogs that I read have a(n approximate) consistent posting pattern1. Without trying to sound too tautological, a predictable routine results in regular reads; expectation is a useful tool in hooking readers. Imagine the impact of a missed publication of a daily newspaper or the Olympic games being delayed by a 6 months or so. Or to continue to stretch the realms of believability, what if you couldn't rely on their regularity? Suffice to say, their popularity would suffer somewhat.
So if a regular posting pattern is so important, how do I explain my utter failure at adhering to my own advice?
Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I enjoy blogging. I enjoy writing and enjoy having a platform to talk from. And yet, my last few main posts are about or have accompanied site redesigns rather than being more interesting fare.
The problem is that when it comes to blogging, the decision involves more than deciding what to write (about). As with all things in life2, there's a cost as you have to weigh up what the benefits of writing that blog entry are against what you're giving up to do so. The time it takes to write that post on "Why Google bought YouTube" is time that could have been spent on development, watching a movie, spending time with family and friends or rather amusingly, reading someone else' blog post.
Getting back on track
What makes procrastination so tempting is the way I write posts. I probably spend far longer on blog posts than many; I admire people who write off-the-cuff as it were but my style is more deliberate. The other factor is that I write as much for myself as for anyone else. That this blog is read by others is a nice side effect but, strictly speaking, not the main driver. The problem is that often, I would start writing a post on a topic, gathering up information and evidence for and against a given point, writing the introduction, bits of the middle and the end and then, having been satisfied with the process, leave it there. Definite room for improvement there.
One possible solution may be to tie your hands. Making a public commitment, that is removing options or at least removing some of the incentives, can make decisions easier. So here's mine; I'm going to write at least on a bimonthly basis. I'll try to aim to better that but at the least, there'll be a post every two weeks.
Let's see how this plays out…
- Note that I used the word consistency. Different blogs succeed with widely different posting patterns. Some like 37SvN and Kottke manage to deliver on a daily basis whilst others have a less vigorous routine. What's important is a predictable pattern and not the specifics of the pattern itself, though there would be a strong correlation between post frequency and readership. [back]
- As Netscape found out, simply being on the internet doesn't make you magically exempt. [back]