Asking Why

January 07, 2015 by Gabe | [mmd] |

This week is an uncomfortable reminder of how weird blogging is. Marco Arment's regretful post is a reality check for anyone that thinks they want a popular blog.1 I've put considerable thought into why I write at Macdrifter. I've considered shutting it down hundreds of times. It's nagged me long enough that I decided to ask people blogging in other places about their motivations (see the first in the series here). There's more interviews on the way and I find them compelling.

But blogging is weird. I'm not talking about blogging for money at sites with ads and banners and auto-playing audio. I'm talking about personal blogs. Why do it? I've learned that I rather dislike the spotlight. I actively avoid writing things that might get mentioned by people like Marco. Not because of Marco but because of the following behind a site like his. My least favorite days on Twitter are the ones where I get a retweet from someone with a large following. I've had enough brushes with popular bloggers that I know I don't want their position.

At this moment, I think Macdrifter is a comfortable size. In 2014, the Macdrifter site had approximately 1.2M visits from 640,000 unique visitors that viewed 5.9M pages.3 More importantly, it seems to draw mostly considerate and inquisitive people that make constructive comments. I occasionally block someone but I primarily get smart feedback or informed corrections.2

I mean it when I say that I feel lucky to have people read my words. It's connected me with some of my favorite people on the internet and quite a few real-world friends.4 But it's also veered me into some real wackos that I actively block or avoid. At the scale Marco is playing at, that's not feasible. Just look at his Twitter mentions for one day.

This site doesn't do SEO. It's kind of anti-SEO in its design. I do things that probably anger Google's robots. If you find one of my articles by accident, then good on you. But I also draw very little revenue from this site. Just enough to pay for the server. I don't like the direction of blog advertising but I understand people that want to make money with their words. More power to them. Stats matter for those people. They matter a lot.

If Marco's experience reminds me of anything, it's that my own motivations are not always obvious to myself, let alone 640,000 people I don't know. I spend a lot more time thinking about why I want to write something than I ever have. Asking "why" has killed more posts than asking "how" and I'm ok with that.5

  1. For the best discussion I've heard, listen to the thoughtful Merlin Mann on episode 203 of Back to Work. Gold, as usual. 

  2. It seems crazy to me that anyone would submit their own content to Hacker News. Then again, I also avoid truck stop bathroom rendezvous. 

  3. I hate stats but I run AWStats. I don't measure RSS readers. Stats have never made me do or think anything positive. I implemented AWStats back when I ran ads. 

  4. I met some of my favorite people because of Macdrifter. Now I talk to them every week on Technical Difficulties and Nerd on Draft. I'm fortunate and thankful I published that very first Wordpress site. 

  5. The thoughtful reader may have already asked themselves why I wrote this post. I wrote this because I worry for my current and future acquaintances that think they want to be popular.