Friday, 23 October 2009

Of blogs and blogging


I have been wanting to ask this for some time: why do we blog? Having followed various blogs for some time, I have several theories, and would be interested to know if they're correct. I blog because I love writing, and if the WIP is going badly, or I've finished a chapter, or there's something on my mind, blogging feels like work (although of course it isn't). Currently, I'm waiting for my friendly policeman (he who gives advice on things police-related) to have a spare moment, so I'm writing this. How does anyone else feel about their blogs? And do you mind whether or not anyone responds? And lastly, how on earth do bits of blog get onto Google, apparently within minutes (this last addressed to David or Tim, who know about these things)?

23 comments:

Tim Stretton said...

Is it too flippant to suggest we blog to avoid doing any real writing?

To start with I did it to build an audience. But with no new book in prospect of coming out, anda small group of familiar faces the only regular visitors (most of them live here...), it's hard to make that case any more.

As to the magic of Google, I can only watch and marvel...

Matt Curran said...

This is a timely post for me, Frances, as I've recently called time on my regular blogging exploits, leaving “Muskets and Monsters” as a place to visit less frequently and only when there's some big news to report.

This wasn't something I wanted to do, but was forced to because now I have frankly very little time to blog. But in all fairness, this was meant to happen a couple of years back, hence why I set up “Macmillan New Writers”, as a kind of compromise where I didn't have to blog so much and others could keep the blog going and the readers would keep coming. I love blogging, and I love posting replies and generally being in touch with other writers. It's a shame that I can't do that as much now, but give it a couple of years and maybe a nice contract, and I might be able to return to the good ol' days when you can’t keep me off here and M&M…

Frances Garrood said...

Not flippant at all, Tim. That's one of the main reaons I blog - it's an excellent displacement activity, not least because one is at the computer surrounded by any research, notes etc, so anyone coming in is sure to think the magnum opus is in progress, and will tiptoe reverently out again...

Matt - we all owe you a lot for setting up the MNW blog in the first place, and it's great that you'll continue to keep in touch.

David Isaak said...

I think blogs are actually one of the only useful forms of publicity we can do for our books and career, plus being the closest writers can come to what businesspeople call networking. (Awful word, really.)

I can answer the Google question, but only becasue I took a one-night seminar in Using the Internet to Publicize Your Book (offered by MediaBistro, a good bunch).

The actual Google algorithm is secret, but basically they digest web content into words and phrases, and then send out "spiders" to crawl through that content from each page every so often. (How often? Also a secret. But popular pages are visited by the spiders more often.)

They then rank content by some mysterious system that weights the matching of the words/phrases with the user's search, and also weight it by how popular the page is. I gather that the number of pages lnking to the website is also counted somehow.

So it takes a while for your content to become "visible" to a search, and it takes visitors to drive you toward the top. For example, if you start a blog on, say "weight loss," you will forever be at the bottom of a pile of very popular websites and blogs on that topic.

It took me a few months to climb to the top of the "David Isaak" Google search; there were other David Isaaks out there who were referenced in busier pages. It even took me a couple of months to climb to the top of "David Isaak" plus "writing" (because some people with popular blogs had mentioned me in that context).

On the other hand, if you Googled "Tomorrowville," I rocketed to the top of the list within a couple of weeks. even though you get about 8,000 hits on that word, it just isn't common.

You're lucky in that, like me, you've got a relatively uncommon name. To take another example, Alis Hawkins is the biggest hit on her name, but if she spelled it "Alice Hawkins" she would be buriend under the gazillion hits of the fashion model of that name.

The weirdest thing about Google is the rating relative to page popularity. This means that some keywords and topics are so overloaded already that you can't possibly get to the top, and unto those who have shall be given...

Ann Weisgarber said...

David, thanks for the inside look (well, as much as Google allows) at how some of this works.

I've avoided starting my own blog because I'm sure I have nothing of interest to say and because it can be a time drain. Also, there is something rather scary about posting thoughts and then no one responds. Yikes.

This blog continues to be the one that I check everyday. It's like getting a phone call from a good friend.

Deborah Swift said...

I am a "shortly to be published by Macmillan New Writing" writer and have just started a blog, inspired by this one and by Faye L. Booth's sumptuous site. I suppose the main reason is to network with other writers and to share writing related chat with other people who are slogging away at their books like I am.
And yes, I admit it, it is a good way of procrastinating!

Perhaps too, it might be used to see if there is any mileage or interest in an idea. It also feels more "writerly" than my webpage.

Matt Curran said...

Hi Deborah, and big congratulations on joining the imprint.

MNW is a great publisher and one of a very tiny minority where the authors get behind each other, in terms of pimping books as well as giving support and advice. (We're all pretty new at this so ours is a shared experience.)
I'm sure either David or Tim will set you up here as well so you can post some blog entries, and I look forward to seeing The Lady's Slipper in June next year.

Best wishes

Matt

Tim Stretton said...

Hi Deborah,

If you'd like to drop me a line at emphyrio [at] dragonchaser.net so that I have your email address, I'll set you up with posting permission on this blog.

As Matt says, the MNW community is a very supportive bunch through all the triumphs and disasters of the writer's life!

Deborah Swift said...

Thanks Matt and Tim, it is great to feel part of a community. I am working my way through the backlist of MNW but haven't got to yours yet, currently reading The Incendiary's Trail.

Ann Weisgarber said...

Deborah, welcome aboard, and congratulations on the upcoming publication of your novel. It's incredibly exciting, isn't it?

Keep us posted as you travel through this year of working with Will, making the book the best it can be. If you have any questions, this is a good place to ask.

Alis said...

Like most people, I set my blog up as some kind of shop window/monitoring post so that potential readers could see what I do and, to some extent, how I do it. However, blogging takes such a phenomenal amount of time (I started blogging every day... that didn't last beyond a couple of months) that it's difficult for a writer to maintain a slavering audience that gets daily updates.
I think what mine has become is a place to meet friends, most of whom are other MNWers and all of whom (bar one whom I know in the real world) I have made via my blog or theirs.
As I said elsewhere once, it's my equivalent of water-cooler conversation.
Interestingly, I definitely don't use it as distraction therapy - I keep reading other blogs for that!

Frances Garrood said...

Anne, I don't think it matters all that much whether or not what you say is interesting, so long as it interests you, but I do take your point about time-wasting, and also about not receiving any comments. It's a bit like putting a message in a bottle and throwing it out to sea.

Deborah - welcome, and congratulations on your novel!

David - what's an algorithm?

Len Tyler said...

Like Ann, I don't plan to have a blog of my own - though I admire the energy and resourcefulness of those who blog every day (or most days). I continue to be grateful to Matt, Tim and David for setting up and running this one, allowing me the chance of an occasional post and to catch on on what's happening.

Deborah - congratulations. Will was talking about your book last night - I'm really looking forward to reading it.

David Isaak said...

Frances--an algorithm is a sort of crocodile that can recognize a beat and dance to it.

Deborah--welcome! Your blog is now linked on the sidebar. I'll trot over now and put you on the sidebar on my blog as well.

If you have something of general interest, don't be afraid to cross-post it on your blog and also post it here.

Deborah Swift said...

Thank you everyone for your welcome.I feel really chuffed to be in such company!

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