On Blogging

Not too long ago, I got a “like” on one of my posts from a blogger I hadn’t run across before. Out of curiosity, I jumped over to her blog to see what she liked to write about. Turns out she’s a Christian. Which is fine — I certainly have many Christian friends, and several of them even “like” my posts from time to time. But I understand why they do it. With this person, I didn’t get it.

I still don’t know what caused her to hit the “like” button, but I’ve started to get suspicious of that kind of thing. I’ve noticed that there are number of people who seem to blog simply to see how many followers they can attract. I’ve been amazed at how many followers some blogs get, especially since many of them are pretty new. How do they get such high readership? And then, I’ll often see that their posts have almost no comments on them. What’s up with that?

I assume that many of them scour the internet for blogs that they can follow, whether they blog on similar topics or not, just hoping that they’ll be followed in return. But what does this really accomplish? Does it really get quality readers? I’m not so sure…

And while I’d love to have thousands of followers, I’m much happier having actual dialog on my blog. I’ve never gone out looking for readers. The people who have come here have usually found me in WordPress or Google searches, or I’ve made an actually substantive comment on their blog, and they’ve come over here in response. This has made the growth of my blog a very slow process, but it feels more genuine to me. I’ve gotten this audience for the right reasons.

I was glad to read two other blog posts in the last two days that kind of echo what I’m driving at here. My friend Nila wrote this post about the merits of having something worthwhile to say, rather than focusing on a writing schedule. And someone in the comments section of that post linked to this article on “slow blogging.” In other words, thinking about what you want to say before you rush to say it. It’s refreshing (to me) to see that not everyone is being swept away by all the meta reasons to have a blog, but are still interested in conversation.

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76 thoughts on “On Blogging”

  1. I too have had “likes” and “follows” from individuals that are totally puzzling. Their blogs have absolutely nothing to do with the subject of mine.

    I do agree that some are just looking for more activity because in reading many of the comments on their “About” page, I see many people “thanking” them for following.

    The blog-o-sphere is a weird world.

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  2. I am the same Nate, and I’ve also noticed I get follows from random bloggers who look like they are just trying to build a crowd. I’d say maybe about 30% of my follows are that.

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  3. It is both odd and fascinating to see some of the likes and follows that occur (for me too).

    I don’t know if you are like this with your posts, but I’ll get an idea and start a post (just the germ of an idea usually) with the intent to finish it one day. Oy. I think I have 20 such unfinished posts!

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  4. Oh, I’d hate to think that you would think I am commenting, liking, or otherwise engaging with you on your blog *simply* because I wanted you to follow me (which I do, you know, want you to follow me πŸ˜‰ ), but even if you do, that’s okay. Because it is true.

    I do want a readership and if I have to entice you to do that by engaging with you, then I will.

    But at the same time, I’m a blog reader, too, as well as a blog writer. There are many places I visit on the web that may seem, to some, rather unrelated and random. But I have a lot of interests. I’m a fire ecologist working as a GIS specialist who happens to write speculative fiction in my spare time and I also like taking pictures and I’m an atheist Mexican American married to a New Zealander. Oh, and I’ve always wanted to go to the moon. I may ‘like’ a post on someone’s blog because I liked a picture they used. Or a quote they included, or maybe even because of something they wrote. But rest assured, if I hit that button it was because I appreciated something on their blog post.

    Yes, I agree that there are many (way too many) bloggers that are just doing the ‘like’ thing to get folks to ‘like’ their pages in return, but also consider they may actually be ‘liking’ those posts because they do. πŸ™‚

    And I do love your blog, Nathan. I came to realize my atheism from a very different place and I find it fascinating to read of your view point having been so involved with the Christian community. A little scary, but very illuminating. So, thanks for maintaining your blog.

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  5. I don’t “like” many, but follow several, yet without assigning my email.

    why?

    because I’m lazy and a jerk, and like to shirk the system.

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  6. Thanks Nila! And please know that I didn’t have you in mind with this post! We’ve been commenting on one another’s blogs way too long for me to think that about you! I agree — there are a number of different things I’m interested in, and I’ll sometimes like a post for all kinds of reasons. In fact, I recently “liked” one of unkleE’s posts, even though I disagreed with his main point. I just appreciated the way he came to his conclusion, even though we come to different conclusions about that particular topic.

    Honestly, the person that made me think about this the other day may have genuinely liked my post too… but I know I have run across some of these “traffic junkies” before, and it made me think of it.

    But thanks for the kind words about my blog! I really enjoy yours too, even though I don’t always comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Slow it down even more by choosing the option that closes you off to Search Engines.

    Now, if I am going to have to think before I wrote I might have to quit. :p

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  8. I’ve been amazed at how many followers some blogs get, especially since many of them are pretty new.

    That’s perhaps a marketing campaign in action.

    (Yes, I’m sometimes cynical).

    I see a similar pattern of likes and following. I usually do check the blog of the follower/liker. And sometimes I even add it to my RSS feed. But at other times, the blog turns out to be so far removed from my interests that I am left wondering.

    I’m pretty sure some of it is marketing. There are probably some “likebots” and “followbots” out there attempting to drum up interest.

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  9. I have watched this blog go from 274, BK (before Kathy) to 319 as we speak – that ain’t bad! It would be nice if more than a handful commented, but you have to figure that some might be here just to learn and feel they don’t know enough (yet) to say anything. I cut my commenting teeth on Think Atheist, where there were always a dozen or more topics all going at the same time, so it was just a matter of finding one I knew something about, and jumping in – it was easier than with just the one topic at a time.

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  10. This girl you mentioned that you followed – it wouldn’t be TruthTangible by any chance, would it? Because if it was, she’s sincere. TruthTangible was formerly chialphagirl, whose blog Ark got me kicked off of about this time last year. And I was the good one —

    Here’s what she had to say today: “I think I will let Arch stay until he causes his own offense this time. I may have judged him too harshly by the company he keeps. πŸ™‚” – I don’t have to tell you who she meant by THAT!

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  11. I was going to like and leave, but I guess that is like dinning and dashing. I share your sentiment: I would rather an active commenting community of 30 people, than a following of 300 people who say nothing. It really comes down to the reason why we blog – I like to share and sharpen my ideas. No sharpening happens when no one comments. I guess there are other reasons for blogging, but I really think in this ‘critical belief’ area of the blogosphere, we blog to be challenged.

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  12. @sulfen — thanks! I didn’t know that, but it makes total sense.

    @arch — no, it wasn’t her. I do remember chialphagirl, though. Glad to know she’s still out there.

    @Rafols — thanks for the comment! I agree with you. While I enjoy getting my thoughts down, it’s really the ensuing conversations that interest me. And yes, this blog is proof that engaging with people on these issues can eventually lead to change.

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  13. On WordPress, I find that people will “Follow” your blog for similar reasons.

    I blog for several reasons, but it has never been for numbers — I could care less. But I do like commentors — but I only enjoy certain types of commentors. I am picky about the friends I keep and who I invite to my house too. Likewise, I value commentors the same — I don’t seek to have a large number of commentors just for the number sake.

    If commentors contribute no interesting thoughts or just want to hear themselves talk, like f2f people, I ignore them. Or worse, I discourage them from returning by being frank.

    Recently, I have very pleasant things distracting me and thus no desire to keep cranking out content. So I am doing a “Poetry Sunday” series to hold things in place until I am inspired to spend time generating stuff. I enjoy that a great deal. I since I write since I enjoy writing, that is fine.

    I enjoy your writing style, Nate, so I still subscribe to your posts. Debating the Bible has long ago became a big yawn for me, but I realize that for Christians who doubt, this sort of blog is highly valuable. Keep up the good work and the great writing.

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  14. I ask myself the same question most of the time. Lately there have been many followers to my site and most of them it is impossible to understand why they followed

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  15. I’m picky about who I follow. If I follow it is because something has resonated with me. And I love reading the comments. Being new and not great at jumping in I’ve held off from commenting (anywhere) mostly because I’m intimidated. But slowly getting over that.
    I’d love to eventually post something that causes conversation but until then I’m happy to have a slow following and get a feel for this my safe alternate universe. πŸ™‚

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  16. New name, new attitude – as chialphagirl, she let Ark intimidate her, as Truth, she laid down the law and said take it or leave it. As Ark himself admitted, she’s wearing “Terminator” shades now!

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  17. Arch, if she hadn’t mentioned it, I would not have known. Deleting her blog because of Ark, I think was an overreaction. It was just enough to ban him

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  18. I think was an overreaction.” – Oh, I agree completely, but she was young, fragile, and new to the give and take of religious blogging, and Ark — well, was Ark.

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  19. I follow people I follow. I have no interest in advertising myself. That’s why I chose the option to close down search engine crawling. Not to say I won’t come back to it one day but for now and that past years, less is more.

    As well, the people I follow well I do it to advertise them. My hope is that those who drop in will see what I’m reading and maybe chose to follow someone I follow. I have those people there for a reason. I see them meeting someone’s need, whatever it may be.

    As for the like button. It can be a great way to let someone know you are there and reading. You might not be able to comment or may get back to it later, but it’s better than nothing to know someone was there. It also can be a great way for lurkers to slowly build up confidence to jump into the fray.

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  20. Maybe we should ask that stone god to be nice occasionally
    Well, as those of us who stalk him know, one of his biggest pet peeves is people who indoctrinate children into their religions (which is pretty much ALL religious people) – she happened to mention she had children —

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  21. Nate,

    People do a very similar approach on Instagram (instablogging.) Instagram is my favorite social media outlet by far, because I love photography and the art and creativity you can convey through it . Plus I’m super intetested in interior design and fashion, and what better way to display those creations than through photography?

    I digress, I know some people literally go through and like everyone’s photos that have hashtags the same as theirs, just to have “likes” returned. (Patrick used to do this to his music clips so he would gain momentum).

    I blog simply because I like to. Yes, I wish I had more followers and interaction through discussion and comments, but I’m just not there yet. And I may never be. Who knows? But I always appreciate when I do get a comment. :))

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  22. Wanted to stop in and say ‘Thanks for Blogging, Nate’. I appreciate your thoughts and perspective.

    I also wanted to throw out an apology to anyone who was involved in my most recent commenting on this blog some months ago. I wasn’t in a very good place in my thought-life, and wrote some things I regretted, and then ran off embarrassed. That wasn’t very nice or adult of me. So, apologies to everyone who was involved and felt, likely, rather snubbed.
    -Josh

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  23. Hey Josh,

    If you are talking about the meaning/purpose post I don’t think you need to feel bad or apologize because I thought you had some good thoughts to contribute and didn’t feel like you “ran off”. Maybe you are referring to another time.

    Anyways, I actually dedicated an entire blog post to that discussion we had had and I mentioned you in it. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping you would have added your thoughts there. (How’s that for pressure. πŸ˜‰ ).

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  24. Yeah, it is a great display of character. But for what it’s worth, I agree with Howie — I don’t recall any time where I’ve thought you said anything worth apologizing for. Glad you chimed in though! You’ve been missed. πŸ™‚

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  25. @susane —

    Thanks for the comment! Yeah, I feel the same way about blogging. I just enjoy getting thoughts out there, and the conversations here have meant an awful lot to me.

    As far as readership goes, it will probably pick up for you. I’m lucky that I’ve connected with some great (and verbose) people, so most of my posts spark a discussion now, but it took a while for that to happen. A lot of my earlier posts didn’t get any comments — and even when they did, the conversations didn’t go on long. Now, nobody wants to shut up. πŸ˜‰

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  26. Thanks. You guys are being more gracious than I was πŸ™‚
    Howie – I’ll take a jaunt over to your place!

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  27. I hate this blog as every time I visit these days that bloody Arch is ragging on me for something or another. In fact, he seems to turn up on every blog I go to. Sheesh!
    This would be a great blog if it featured more Jimi Hendrix and less Arch.

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  28. I am relatively new to blogging, and began only in April this year, so as a neophyte have little idea of the many ploys there doubtless are as to garnering readership. Although I eschew any social media marketing and live more or less as a hermit in the world, I seem to have gathered c.350 subscribers in the first eight months. It has become obvious that only a fraction comment (at around the same levels you get here Nate); and from the site stats, I calculate that only something like a half to two thirds read a new post in the first few days of publication. I therefore conclude that I have about 100 ‘rogue’ subscribers currently: roughly 1 in every 3.5 subscribers.

    For myself, I regard blogging as a writer’s medium which has another somewhat uncertain foot in the social media camp. I take the view that if I can produce decently written articles around an overarching theme (in my case psychological/emotional well-being), then over time readers will slowly accrue. I occasionally stumble across blogs which are bland, facile and poorly written, yet which purport to have hundreds or even thousands of putative ‘followers’. I can only assume these are instances of manipulation via social media, or as others commenting here have suggested, computer programs that somehow skew the stats.

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  29. I’ve been blogging for around four years and have a meager following. I mainly write for myself. It’s cathartic. Sometimes I write a post and a few people will “like” it and when I go over to check out their blog I wonder why. Did they even read it? Certainly based on their posts I can’t imagine they actually liked what I wrote. I suspect that a large part of those who do follow my blog only did so to get an obligatory follow in return. I don’t really subscribe to that many blogs, myself. I only follow if there’s content I appreciate.

    I’m not surprised that your readership is growing, Nate. Barring a couple of recent blips on the radar it’s the friendliest blog on the net. Don’t tell the Friendly Atheist. πŸ˜‰

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  30. @ Josh,

    Like Howie and William I don’t think you have anything to apologize for. We’re all entitled to our opinions and when it comes to religion/faith we can all get a little more emotionally involved and charged than we meant to.

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  31. So, Nate,

    (1) Have you resolved to turn off the “like” button? (I have turned them off, for the obvious reasons you mentioned in this post).

    (2) Do you get e-mail notifications when someone “follows” your blog? (I turned them off too — for the same reasons. I only visit blogs linked to the comments I enjoy – believers, nonbelievers, it does not matter. I like insightful, uncantankerous comments.)

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  32. I think there’s pros and cons to all the settings we can do on our blogs, and certainly turning off the like button is an option if one feels the cons out-weigh the pros.

    I personally think Zoe had 2 very good reasons for keeping the like button. I personally never press like until I’ve read a post fully, and I only do it if there really was something I really did like about it. Sometimes I don’t have much more to add of my own thoughts and I just feel like giving the post writer a virtual high-five for a cool post. I guess I can understand how some people get turned off by it though – I’ve heard some people say it turns the whole thing into a popularity contest. But for me the pros outweigh the cons.

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  33. @ Howie,

    Of course it is individual preference, and I care less what Nate is doing. But I was curious since he wrote a whole post about it and does not mention his conclusion — or I missed it.

    I have a poetry blog too where I turn them off. I don’t desire the virtual high-5s either, especially since those are loaded with the — read me, read me, virtual high-5s.

    But even among comments, a huge percent make comments showing that their barely read the post and are just reacting to the Title of the post, just to hear themselves talk. Or if they did read it, they don’t get the central point but instead choose one or two of their favorite trigger words to react to.

    Getting quality commentors can be tough. I’ve been lucky for the most part. As have you guys, I am sure. The lower quality ones eventually drop out if you don’t feed them, eh?

    Anyway, still curious to hear Nate’s decisions — we now know yours Howie πŸ™‚

    There certainly are pros and cons, and it is our weighings that illustrate our choices.

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  34. Love that skill you’ve got of taking things to another level Sabio. I wasn’t saying you cared more or less, just wanted to add my thoughts about it like you did.

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  35. I tend to view it the way Howie does. I like the “like” button, and I use it myself for the exact same reason Howie mentioned. And honestly, I don’t even mind when people seem to use it for fishing purposes. I was really just writing this post to discuss the point of blogging. I don’t understand those who seem to only do it for popularity reasons or just simple stat-building. More power to them if that’s what they’re into, it’s just bizarre to me.

    And Ruth, thanks for the great compliment! I won’t say anything to Hemant. πŸ˜‰

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  36. I notice this with ‘follows’ as well. Sometimes I can even tell by a blog’s title (name) that I don’t want to go there. When serious writers who are trying to promote their books follow me, then I know it’s a scam to get me to follow them. It kind of makes me angry because I couldn’t care less how many “followers” I have – I want readers, and there’s a difference.

    Thanks for bringing this up, Nate. And Merry Christmas to you! πŸ˜‰
    C

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  37. You make me think. As it’s the holiday season, I shall steal from Buddy the Elf: “thinking is my favorite!”

    I read here frequently, but respond rarely because your content demands a level of dedication to complex and demanding conversation for which I simply haven’t the time (seriously: when do you sleep??). I’ve learned a lot here, and that’s an invaluable thing. Thank you, Nate.

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  38. arch, you’re a lot of fun. so I checked out COLONstorms nonsense.
    thanks for the xmas cheer. lol.

    isn’t the hate of gay people sickening?
    doesn’t it even make it more vile when they use jeeezzzuuuusss to spew their hate?

    so, i’ll just slap her around until she does ban me.

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  39. lol, so, she already deleted three of my comments.

    xtians get so mad when you spell jeeeeezzzzuuuussss they way they pronounce it
    and they hate it even worse when you end each comment with “HAIL SATAN”

    well, she’s no Nate, that’s for sure.

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  40. So how am I doin’ so far? How did you like the way I turned the tiger and hyena thing around on him?

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  41. well, she’s no Nate, that’s for sure.” – Well, “she’s” a “he,” so — (Line from the insurance commercial!)

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  42. Just saw some of your comments – and you’re SURPRISED he deleted them? I just can’t take you anywhere without a leash, can I? Just kidding! Let’s see how long it takes you to get banned – think we could get a pool going?

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  43. arch, you’re hilarious. how ridiculous that someone would actually believe that norman Rockwell paintings depict the actual reality of life.

    same type of people that believe that father knows best and leave it to beaver represented actually amercian family life.

    so stupid.

    anyway, fyi, Rockwell had gay friends.

    and fyi, colorstorm has sexual issues, his anti gay stance is bordering on the depraved.
    he most likely is a sausage smoker wannabee.

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  44. You are SO getting coal in your stocking! Yeah I know, you were hoping for Brad Pitt – I used to wish for Mariah Carey until she got fat. In the day, she was FINE!

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  45. Well, coming from you, I take that as quite a compliment! Should you see a fat man in a red suit, standing over your bed tonight going, “Ho, ho, ho!” – enjoy —

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  46. Oh, MY! I just discovered this thread – I know, I know, where’ve I BEEN?? and I am laughing my fool head off — Nate, I think one of the explanations for your blog’s popularity has to be the humorous content. . . I mean it! Not to mention your toleration for some of us.. .:)

    I think you rock!! Happy New Year!! xx

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  47. I”m definitely guilty of this, though I’ve since tried to stop. I’ve found I mainly keep writing for myself. I can’t really figure out what I think until I write something out.

    Thanks for stating these points out loud. It needed to be said.

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  48. Hi carmen and Ben — sorry I’m late in replying, but thanks for your comments! And I hope you guys are having a great new year so far!

    Like

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