I’ve been writing on this blog for over a decade, all the way back to my
very first post on April 7th, 2007, about Finding Our Programming Flow.
Not that you should read that, you really shouldn’t, most of my early writing
was terrible. No comment on more recent stuff.
My approach has gotten pretty scale over the past five years or so, and I wanted to
experiment more this year, both in terms of pushing my own writing style and also in
terms of getting broader distribution for what I write.
Towards that end, I set some goals for myself: write at least one post each month,
grow my Twitter followers from 2,005 to 5,000, get advice on writing from smart folks and
actually take their advice instead of being defensive, and, finally, don’t be afraid to run
distribution experiments even if they are a little sketchy (cross-posting to Medium) or weird
(cross-posting to LinkedIn).
How is that all going?
By far the most rewarding thing so far this year has been getting edited by
literally dozens of amazing folks. Some of them have been coworkers I get to
work with at Stripe, others are personal friends, and a surprising number
have been folks I didn’t know at all but reached out over Twitter to help.
It’s been especially humbling and amazing to have strangers be so helpful,
and I hope as I return the favors that some of these will develop into
I’m still learning a lot from each post that gets edited, but a few of
the things I’ve been thinking about most:
- I like to make unsubstantiated side comments, which make me feel smart
but don’t add anything, distract the reader, and make posts even longer.
- I should try to write shorter, less ambitious, pieces.
- I tend to go into third person to sounds authoritative, but then folks lose
my voice and find it less engaging. Stay in the first person.
- I need to contextualize why I’m talking/learning/writing about something.
People want to know why something matters, and I shouldn’t assume folks
will care just because I’ve written about it.
I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more over the rest of the year.
A long time ago I used to get a lot more traffic, and then I uninstalled Google Analytics which
let me remain blissfully ignorant of my traffic’s long demise, but in my last blog rewrite I reinstalled
GA, and my traffic is pretty low.
Over the past month I’ve had about 20,000 pageviews. For new content, it’s exclusively from Twitter
and LinkedIn, and for older content it’s from Google search or direct links.
This makes it clear I should get more serious about redirecting to a consistent stance on the trailing
slash. I have the canonical tag set, but I guess GA doesn’t care about that much. A lot of what is getting
traffic is new stuff I wrote over the past month, but also a lot is stuff I’ve written years ago.
I think that’s pretty cool.
I’ve been pretty focused on Twitter as a primary
distribution medium, and it’s going fairly well!
My tweet storm on stuff I learned last year
is still by far my biggest “event”, driving something like
500 followers (15% of 2018 goal!), and since then I’ve gained
about 270 followers over seven posts. That’s not super reassuring,
as that implies about 38 new followers per post, which would require
writing about 58 more posts this year to hit my 5,000 goal, which just ain’t gonna happen.
My top tweets in last 28 days (tweet storm has aged out) were all new
pieces of content that I wrote and got a bunch of editing help with.
I’m a little disappointed with The physics of Cloud expansion
not getting more traction, because I think it’s actually pretty good
and took the longest to write and edit, but I can’t be too sour about it
given that’s more engagement that I got on anything else I wrote in the last
three or four years.
Overall, I’ve been really impressed by Twitter’s reach!
I’ve also been experimenting with LinkedIn, and I think it’s worked
out pretty ok. Cold sourcing: hire someone you don’t know
did pretty well, which I thought it might given it’s a pretty
reasonable fit for the LinkedIn audience.
So far only my post around stuff I learned last year went
“viral” on LinkedIn, which I think means “expanded beyond my first-degree network”,
and that got a good bit more reach, although nothing too rediculous.
The LinkedIn stuff has been a particularly interesting and easy
experiment to run given I’ve been doing a bunch of cold sourcing for the last year, and
have more LinkedIn connections than Twitter followers.
In theme of doing a bunch of experiments, there are two that I’m particularly interested in,
admittedly of pretty similar shapes. I’d like to try reposting content to Medium and as a
LinkedIn article and see how it goes. I’ll probably try reposting some of the stuff I wrote
in January onto Medium and see how that goes, and then pick a piece of two to publish on LinkedIn
as articles instead of just mentioning them in a post.
Not sure if either will work well, but should be an interesting experiment.
Curious if you, dear reader, have alternative suggestions for distribution!
I’ve sort of given up on social news sites (Reddit, Hackernews, etc), mostly
because it seems like you need voting chains to get stuff to place, and I’ve
not wanted to get into that mess. I used to have some folks who subscribed to
my RSS feed and organically did the voting chain dance on my behalf, which was
pretty great. I don’t think I’ve had a single piece perform well on social news
in literally years.