Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The not-so-vast readership of Gordon's notes - and why I keep posting

I get emails when a reader (infrequently) comments. The author deleted this comment, so I'll keep it anonymous ...

Say, is it not odd that you don't have a bunch of readers reading your blog? You have been writing this since 2003 and nobody comments or reads it? Is this even real?

Oh and I figured out how I reached your blog. I was looking for "nobody reads your blog" on google and a comment from your blog showed up on the 47th page.

Its sad and funny at the same time...

I wasn't able to replicate his search results, but unless we're post AI this was a bio post, not a bot post.

It's a good question [4], but there are a lot of blogs that go unread. So mine is not that unusual. What's unusual is that it's been persistently unread for 7 years. So the real question is - "why would anyone write 5,494 posts that nobody reads?" (@9,000 if you add Gordon's Tech) [1]

The short answer is that I read both of Gordon's Blogs. As I wrote back in 2007 ...

... my own very low readership blogs are written for these audiences in this order:

1. Myself. It’s how I learn and think.

2. The GoogleMind: building inferential links for search and reflection.

3. Tech blog: Future readers who find my posts useful to solve a problem they have that I've solved for myself.

4. Gordon's Notes: My grandchildren, so I can say I didn't remain silent -- and my tiny audience of regular readers, not least my wife (hey, we don't get that much time to talk!) ...

Later, when I integrated Google Custom Search, my history of posts began to inform my Google searches. My blogs extend my memory into the wider net.

So that explains why there are 9,000 "John Gordon" posts.

As to why their aren't many comments/readers, I can imagine several reasons ...

  • There's no theme. Gordon's Notes follows my interests, and they wander. At any given time there will posts that most people find boring, repetitive, or weird.
  • I'm writing for someone like me, Brad DeLong, Charlie Stross, Emily L and others of that esoteric sort. That's an uber-niche audience.
  • I have no public persona (I write using a pseudonym)
  • I like writing, but I don't work at writing. I'd have to work a lot harder to write well enough to be truly readable.
  • I don't market the blog.
  • I update my blog at odd hours, and I'm slow to respond to comments.
  • I have an irregular posting schedule.
  • I don't right about areas where I'm really a world-class expert because I keep my blogging and my employment separate.
  • I often write about the grim side of reality (that is, most of it).

That covers the bases I think. Except ...

Except, it's not quite so simple. It turns out I do have a few readers -- I'm guessing about 100 or so [3], not counting a larger number who come via Google [2], but certainly counting Google itself. Some of my readers are bloggers with substantial readership, and sometimes they respond to what I write.

So I do have an audience after all, it's just very quiet.

See also:

-- fn --

[1] Why do I share thousands of items via Google Reader? Because that's a searchable repository of things I find interesting. Another memory extender.
[2] I don't have a stellar Google ranking, but it's not bad 
[3] About 80 via Google Reader alone, where I share these posts.  There's also Emily, who comments over breakfast. A lot of my posts come out of our discussions.
[4] It wasn't clear when I first posted this that I like the question. I think it's a good question and I think it was meant well. Sorry for not making that clear. I've added this footnote.

Update 1/6/11: Based on comment response I probably have more regular readers than I imagined.


Anonymous said...

Thanks - I started reading your blog after DeLong mentioned one of your items - now I've started following your shared items in Google Reader, after seeing that I'd already read over half of them, and should have read most of the rest.

Mayson Lancaster

Anonymous said...

Thanks - I started reading your blog after DeLong mentioned one of your items - now I've started following your shared items in Google Reader, after seeing that I'd already read over half of them, and should have read most of the rest.

Mayson Lancaster

Anonymous said...

Well that was just a mean spirited post that you should ignore. I read your tech blog and often find useful Apple and Google info in it-some obscure but very relevant. I am a geek too. I found your blogs in the most unusual way. I am not sure I know exactly how, but I know know when. My sister was dying of stage 4 cancer and I happened upon your blog and read about your brother. I later realized we live in the same state, we both have children adopted from Korea, share the similar political views and are Apple geeks. I often comment about your posts to my husband. Maybe I don't post often, but I do read regularly. I don't work in the medical field, but find your medical expertise interesting as well. Keep posting I enjoy the wide range of topics and often I can relate. I am sure there are others who lurk and don't post either. Julie K

Martin said...

I don't remember how I stumbled upon your blog, however, I like almost all your blog posts although I don't know if being part of a uber-niche audience is a good or bad thing … ;)

BTW, I follow only your Google reader items since I didn't like to get some of your posts twice.

My only wish: Comment subscriptions!

tyrecius said...

I also came in from DeLong's blog and am now a regular reader. Your blog is definitely one of my top tier blogs so I read every post.

As to the lack of comments, you are probably stuck in a low-comment equilibrium. If people don't feel like they are part of a discussion they won't comment. And if there are no comments they won't feel like they are part of a discussion.

I'm very glad you keep writing. On the seeker/persuader scale you seem to be 90% seeker which means that what you have to say tends to be much more interesting and nuanced than average.

John Gordon jr said...

So now I'm starting to feel I have a readership, but it's an intimidating readership.

Julie, I enjoyed the comment. I should have been more clear about that. I think he deleted it because he thought I'd be offended, but it was clearly meant to be humorous and bemused (his 1st language is not English, but I only know that because he mentioned it). Neat to hear our connections, I wonder if we've met at any local Korean culture events (Camp Choson?).

Martin: I've noticed that when I comment using a Google Account (like this one) I get the option to subscribe to comments via email notification. I'm not sure if anyone else sees that.

Jozef said...

The strange thing is that I also do not know how I came to your blog but I added it to my very few selected blog feeds and I enjoy it since then. Thanks!

Martin said...

@John: I always comment with my Google account but I usually don't get the comment subscription tick box in your blog. Maybe a Blogger issue?

Steven Popkes said...

I think I've been reading your blog for about four years, give or take. I was drawn to it for your political commentary rather than your technical commentary.

David said...

Hi... another regular reader here. You're on my rss feed, and I read every post. I like the varied nature of your blog... it makes it a useful source of unexpected & interesting ideas & perspectives.

JGF said...

@Martin: I found a Google article on the comment subscription feature:

Unfortunately, the article is incoherent. It's confusing blog author with subscriber subscription.

Based on a bit of searching it sounds like the Email follow-up comments only works for Google Account email addresses, and that it's come and gone a few times since 2007.

Anonymous said...

I know exactly how I found you: through your Palm posts when I was plotting my migration away from Paul and looking for recommendations for replacement software. (No one, still, has a shopping app that can touch HandyShopper, and the developers there will never release for iPhone, or so they say. Almost enough to make me switch platforms.)

I'm only marginally geeky, so some of your posts are not tremendously accessible to me. Sometimes I read them anyway; they do no harm.

I stay because I find you interesting and I like your voice. You may not polish your writing on your blog, but the results are fine. The timbre resonates, at least for me.

- NancyL

Martin said...

@John: That's strange since I use my Gmail account for comments. Most likely one of many problems with Googles blogging platform. For my own blog, I prefer the power of Wordpress and its extensions.

Martin said...

Ah, comment subscription has just become available. It seems it is only available if you are already signed in when you publish your comment, it is not sufficient just to enter your Google account credentials before you hit the 'publish' button.

JGF said...

@Martin - did you find any documentation on the comment feature Martin? I think it's been introduced a few times over the years, but then withdrawn.

I have been surprised by Google's recent investments in Blogger. I thought they'd finished with it. They finally introduced a mobile view for example.

Dianne said...

I read your blog and have it bookmarked. You think like me - in random spurts and on many topics - this is probably why I like your writing. You probably have more readers than you think.