Shareware Beach

Monday, 3 March 2008

Permission Blogging

Filed under: About Shareware Beach — Jan @ 18:14

I started this blog in November 2004. In 2004, blogging was all the hype. Everybody and their dog was starting a blog. And everybody was going to be rich and famous. Well, some people made it sound like that.

I was actually rather late to the game. I don’t like following trends. But I do like writing, so blogging seemed like an interesting experiment. I set up Shareware Beach with the intent to mostly, and only occasionally, write about myself and topics that happen to interest me at any point in time. Since it’s more a personal thing, I never promoted it anywhere. The only link to it I created is on the about Just Great Software page.

More than three years later, blogging has become a normal part of the Internet culture. Many people who jumped onto the hype have let their blogs linger. I knew this from the start, and it’s the reason why I didn’t start blogging earlier: writing something worth reading is hard work.

As I’ve been blogging more frequently in recent months, I’ve also been thinking about the direction my blog should take, and who the audience should be. Writing is more fun when you have readers!

The only real theme of this blog is that it’s written by me. That doesn’t really give it much of an audience, or a way to promote it. I’ve found that in reading other people’s blogs, I tend to get annoyed if there are too many posts about subjects I don’t care about. E.g. I’ve been writing about software development, Thailand and Photography, which are rather unrelated subjects. While these are my main points of interest, many (potential) readers might only care about the software topics, while others might not care about technical stuff at all.

As a reader, in such a situation, I tend to unsubscribe from the whole blog rather than having to skip half of it. Even if I do use a newsreader that makes it trivial to skip entries. I tend to catch up on my reading in the evening. When I’m tired, the mental effort of having to evaluate whether a blog entry is worth reading, and the emotional letdown if it’s on a topic I totally don’t care about, just seems too much. It’s only a tiny effort and tiny letdown. But it still ruins the mood. Like a tiny little pebble in your shoe that eventually forces you to sit down, take of your shoe, and get rid of it.

Another thing I’ve noticed about myself when reading other people’s blogs, particularly blogs I’m not familiar with, is that I often get the reaction “on what authority are you talking about this?” I get it particularly when people blog about a topic that don’t seem to be related to what they do for a living or what they regularly blog about. Even if somebody writes well and I respect their opinion on a particular subject, I might not care about their opinion on a totally unrelated subject, regardless of whether I happen to share the opinion or not. While everybody has to start from somewhere, I tend to put more faith in people who blog cohesively about a particular topic than people who write about whatever hits their mind at a particular moment.

I call this “permission blogging”, after Seth Godin’s “permission marketing”. Bombarding consumers with marketing messages is easy. Getting through to them is much harder. You’ll only really succeed if you somehow get permission first to get their attention. Blogging, even for non-marketing purposes, seems much the same. It costs nothing but a bit of time to publish a blog. The whole world can read it instantly. But nobody’s going to pay attention to your message unless you somehow get permission to share your opinions.

My new blogging strategy is to start several new blogs in the coming months. I’m still working on getting some nice domain names. Each blog will have a well-defined subject. That should give each blog its own audience and give me the ability to promote the blog saying “come read about subject X” rather than “come and read about me”. I do intend to continue writing about my own experiences. But only if it’s relevant to the subject. Relevant personal experiences add to a blogger’s credibility. Both other personal stuff is just personal stuff that might be better left unwritten.

I’m looking forward to blogging more regularly and attracting more readers. I’ve already set up the first new blog. I’ll announce it here once I’ve posted the first article to it.

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