Monday, August 13, 2007

Getting people to read your blog: blog cred

This is a response to someone at BCC complaining that he does not get enough readers at his blog. I sympathize with this problem. The chess blogs have become a confusing jungle. Luckily there are patterns, an emergent social structure in the chess blogosphere ecosystem. Basically, there is an ever-flexible and expanding hierarchy of credibility and influence.

How do you get "blog cred"? At first it may be intimidating trying to break into this weird subculture. However, you are in luck in that bloggers as a rule are nerdy, lonely, pathetic people. We want friends. We love it when people leave a friendly comment, or even better, an amazing post with kick-ass content. A particularly insightful, funny, or provocative post will send ripples through these pitiful social networks, putting you on the map instantly. Also, blogging is not a zero-sum game: if your blog does well, that doesn't mean that mine won't do well. Indeed, if you have a great blog and it links to me, I'll get tons of blog spillover from you. So, the more the merrier!

These features of the blogosphere should relieve any worries that there are "barriers" to you moving up in the blog cred hierarchy. Anybody can get blog cred. It just takes a little work, but luckily no money.

The following is a list of ways to get people to read your blog, roughly in order of importance (and I assume the items apply to all types of blogs, not just chess blogs):
1. Be patient. It will take a few months, most likely, to get to levels of readership you want.
2. Post frequently. At least once a week. Of course, if you have nothing to say, don't publish scat (see #3).
3.Provide consistently good content. It will get you noticed. In an ideal world, this would be number 1.
4. Let people know about you, but not with the pathetic 'Hey check out my new blog; hey why didn't you cross link to me?' Rather, post helpful comments at well-established blogs, comments that make people want to find out who you are (Loomis is the master of good comments).
5. Do something original that involves other people. Review other blogs. Post about other blogs. The first-and-only axiom of blogger-psychology is bloggers are pathologically narcissistic.
6. Respond promptly to comments. When someone posts a comment on your blog, especially a substantive comment that obviously took some time to write, respond quickly. Don't wait two days, as it will be taken as a snub. If you moderate your comments, get them published promptly. Nothing kills a conversation better than waiting 24 hours for a moderator to post the most recent responses.
7. Don't have intrusive ads. Nobody is reading your blog anyway. Consider putting in ads once you get more than 500 readers a day.
8. Submit your best material to carnivals. If the entries are good, the well-established bloggers will see this, and bring you into the loop, where we want you anyway.

The above will get you lots of readers, pretty quickly. Feel free to add additional suggestions in the comments.

There are a couple of other options. One, being a GM or IM will get you readers. This is partly just mystique, but also they tend to satisfy condition 3.

Another option is to form a stable community of bloggers (e.g., the blogger crew, or the Knights Errant) whose individual members come and go. This is a double-edged sword, IMO. You don't want to end up creating a creepy incestuous community with a lot of ego stroking and weird membership requirements.

Stuff added later
9. Be controversial. This almost always generates a big response from people and gets you noticed. Be careful with this, as you don't want to be too annoying. Intelligent controversy is always fun, though.


Blogger David Glickman said...

Right on! Readers are earned and you need to work at it. Readers are not an entitlement. For those who complain about not getting enough feedback, give some. You get what you give.

I would add to your list, "Link to other blogs you find interesting. They'll find you."

8/13/2007 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger likesforests said...

"One, being a GM or IM will get you readers." -- I don't frequent GM blogs because they're often too busy to converse with average players, and while their content may be good, it pales in comparison to what I would find in a well-prepared book.

8/13/2007 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Panelas said...

Here is some aid and comfort from a very successful blogger.

8/13/2007 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger Loomis said...

I appreciate the compliment on my comments, though I wasn't in it for popularity. In fact, I commented a few blogs anonymously before I even had a blog -- It was because you didn't allow anonymous comments that I signed up and had a blog to begin with!

Personally I view the chess blog community like a circle of friends. I tend to think of people that comment on my blog as friends rather than readers. That still makes it sound like the blog is written as some kind of popularity contest. What I really mean is that chess and chess blogging acts -- for me -- as a common backbone for interaction with good people.

I think if you sit down with the mindset that you're going to go comment a bunch of popular blogs in order to increase your own popularity, that you're a little off the mark. I love the comments on blogs as they really help tie the community together. But I think one should comment a blog out of an open-minded, open-hearted desire to be a part of the community. In fact, I think most people comment this way.

While we're on the topic of comments, I have always wished blogger would implement a feature that allows you to see all the comments of a particular user. This would be a very useful feature to me.

8/13/2007 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Temposchlucker said...

To me having readers is not a goal in itself. I'm very happy if my readers give relevant comments, since it helps me to formulate my thoughts, which is the main goal of my blog.

I'm rather disciplined in the blogs I read myself. Otherwise it is just too easy to waste your time. If it is about discussing for the sake of discussing, I'm out. A blog must add something to my chess improvement, otherwise I don't read it. BCC's blog being the only exception:)

And there is a social and encouraging effect. Readers become a "sort of" friends which help the machine going. The exchange of knowledge, experience and stuff in a social structure like the knights is very effective. For instance BDK hires a coach and shares his experience which saves me money, which I use for Hansons book, with knowledge I share again.

8/13/2007 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

My list is more of a commentary on what other people do that get me to notice them, that get everyone to notice them. I think the bloggers with more readers do these things naturally, not as part of some Machiavellian plan. Indeed, that can backfire, as bloggers desperate for attention that they haven't earned yet are very off-putting.

In particular, no way it seemed Loomis was leaving great comments to get readers at his blog (which didn't exist!). But de facto, leaving kick ass comments made people want to find out more about him. Quality speaks volumes in the 'sphere.

No pressure Loomis :)

I should say when I first started blogging, my threshold for posting comments was lower than it is now, as I really wanted people to come visit me. There's nothing wrong with that. That is one main point of a blog, after all, to have people come and visit.

Some people are so naive as to think that they will get all sorts of readers just by making a blog and writing, without letting anyone know that it exists. This post was really meant to point out what you actually need to do to get more readers of your blog. OTOH, people with blog cred don't usually come off as someone who gives a shit about blog cred!

I'm already starting to get sick of the term 'blog cred.' And I was so excited about it at first.

8/13/2007 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

PS This post was really aimed at beginners who want people to know about their blog. THis is a tough place to be: you spend tons of time making posts, and like five visits a day (all your own), and zero comments. It is only natural and perfectly reasonable to want some readers.

Of course Tempo doesn't worry about it, as he is well established as one of the main chess bloggers. Loomis, too, kicks so much ass he doesn't need to worry about it. But I was writing the people starting out, who are average writers, average chess players, coming into this now HUGE chess blog ecosystem (probably nearly a thousand blogs at this point). And it will only get more congested, what with carnivals and the like starting up.

8/13/2007 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger Pale Morning Dun - Errant Knight de la Maza said...

"This is a double-edged sword, IMO. You don't want to end up creating a creepy incestuous community with a lot of ego stroking and weird membership requirements."

Bwahaha. Too late!

Allow me an opinion on the matter. Chess blogging is for me about three things: money, power, and fame. In the two years I've been posting I've amassed untold fortunes, obtained one GM norm, and had my exploits at Cannes profiled in GQ magazine. You gotta keep it sexy and flashy. The less substance the better. There should be absolutely no discussion of the endgame. Keep yourself at the center of the discussion at all times. Quash dissent. Rule with an iron fist but show some benevolency (sp? who cares, I'm rollin'). Occassionally post a game and smack down other people's analysis. Quote Silman frequently. 1. e4.

8/13/2007 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...


8/13/2007 05:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good stuff - although some of this advice is like "Be brilliant." Which is much like chess teachers giving the advice "Play good moves." Yeah, well, duh, if I could do that already I wouldn't be asking for advice in the first place. :)

8/13/2007 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger Nezha said...

but..but.. I thought if you build it, they will come!?


8/13/2007 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger Pawn Shaman said...

Blogging is like doing it with ladies. It takes a lot of work to get anything good. Nobody else really cares so just enjoy yourself and five minutes twice a day is about perfect.

Also I read on a completely unrelated blog the other day about what makes a blog a blog? Which begs some interesting questions. What seperates blogs from sites? Can commercial blogs still be blogs? Some food for thought is all.

8/13/2007 11:31:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Derek: luckily this advice is much easier to follow. The only thing a monkey couldn't do is to post good content. That is where the subjective ineffables come in, but it is still easier to learn than getting good at chess!

Pawn Shaman: I sort of agree. It is best to write as if nobody is reading. I started, and continue, to write about how much I suck at chess, my confusion about topics that others seem to know a lot about, and then I'll throw in some random quotes from the greats.

Also, I hate to say it, but provocativeness sells. Some of the most meteoric rises in the blogosphere have come from people pissing everyone off. Then, if they are any good, people end up respecting them and they are in.

8/13/2007 11:41:00 PM  
Blogger Pawn Shaman said...

I think youve stumbled onto the small but growing subdued success of the chessosphere. Its not easy to piss people off when writing about chess. Aside from personal attacks, loosing too many games is the only way people get fired up. As far as I know we havent had a blog circle tournament yet so I guess well remain chill.

8/14/2007 08:31:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

nudity. nudity will bring the people to your blog. but it has to be female nudity. a pic of a fat hairy guy playing chess won't do it. (hence, no pictures of me)...

8/14/2007 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

PS said: "Its not easy to piss people off when writing about chess."

Apparently a newbie. :)

People get pissed off about blitz, openings, study methods, pretty much anything chess related.

(Secret note to person who sent me long promotional comment with a "challenge": no thanks. I'm perfectly happy here. You come off as a used car salesman. Don't oversell: bloggers at your site will become part of the pre-existing chess blogging community, or become a self-contained community of bloggers. Either way, the mainstream blogosphere will thrive and be fine.)

8/14/2007 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Chessloser: definitely. The more porn, the better.

8/14/2007 11:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BDK - on the controversy note - I never cease to be amazed by discussions on Mig's Daily Dirt regarding the world championship. Apparently people have an endless appetite for arguing about who is the champ, who isn't the champ, who used to be the champ, who cheated whom, and what the structure should be. The same guys will post the same arguments over and over, like watching the sun rise in the east. So boring! And so popular!

p.s. If anyone is concerned about their blog becoming TOO popular, a while back I blogged my secrets for keeping your blog obscure. But I won't include a link because I don't want to seem like I'm promoting my blog. Oh wait. Drat. :)

8/14/2007 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger Grandpatzer said...

I'm glad you clarified "scat" with a graphic.

I reserve the right to use "scoobeedeedoobeedeedoo" as filler.

8/14/2007 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

I was wondering if anyone would follow that 'scat' link. I wasn't sure if it was a common term, or solely used by hunters in North Carolina (though I was fairly disturbed by some of the stuff that came up when I searched using the term: apparently there is a whole subculture in love with the stuff, and not in a platonic fashion. Ummm. Gross.).

8/14/2007 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger Grandpatzer said...

Yeah, I know scat. As a kid I checked books out of the library on animal tracks and poo, then went out in the woods to see what critters had been about.

I only dabbled, though...I didn't really know my shit. Insert witty zinger here.

8/14/2007 09:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm late to the party, but I'll comment anyway. One thing that I care about in a blog is a demonstration of good writing skills: an organized thought process, good punctuation, and the ability to string ideas together in a coherent well organized manner. A blog entry is like a tiny piece of journalism. Like print media, it can have its own writing style, but the writer must bring something to the table in terms of ideas. (Commenters get more leeway.) I will not read a blog that has myriad punctuation errors or poor grammar. Sloppy writing translates to sloppy ideas.

There has been some chatter at the CJA to pay more attention next year to chess blogs in the awards process. It is a form of journalism, after all.

Howard Goldowsky

8/15/2007 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger wormwood said...

my two cents: a blog can be whatever you make it up to be. a diary, a journal, a bulleting board, an exercise in creative writing and much more. not everyone will be interested in your particular approach, no matter how fantastic you might think it is. but there will always be some who will, and over time they'll find you if you just can keep your blog going. and as the secret of keeping it going is to write about what you like to write, I doubt anyone blogging for superficial reasons will have the staying power. so, what I think it all comes down to, is that writing a blog is inherently a selfish act. it must be, or it won't last.

keep it real.

8/15/2007 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Blue Devil Knight said...

Wormwood: I agree. That's why I think patience and consistency of posting are the most important factors. Quality of posting is so subjective (quality for whom? it just means posts that others will want to read and come back to).

If someone is blogging just as a personal thing, they should just keep a journal or diary on their own computer. The point of having a blog is to create a public space to let everyone see what you are writing. It is never just personal. So, assuming someone wants their blog to serve this social function (what else could it be?) there are some simple things to do.

New chess bloggers are lucky in a way, as there is a preexisting social network in place. The pioneers had to sit there publishing with no readers for quite a while (look at all the early posts by Sancho, Man de la Maza, etc with zero comments). Thanks to the pioneers!

8/15/2007 12:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate this post, BDK. While I want people to read my blog and give me feedback, I view my writing as more of a diary and a record of my progress. It's very much written for me, and if people find it interesting great. If they don't, well, that's okay too--but I am narcacisstic (sic?) enough that I'll eventually experiment with ways to draw more attention to me :-). I also think my content will improve as I have more experiences in the the circles and as my chess knowledge improves.

My biggest problem really seems to be keeping up with all the blogs (my late reply to your post is a testament to that!). Perhaps I need to look at your post about the "blogroll".

8/21/2007 09:12:00 PM  
Blogger James Stripes said...

bloggers are pathologically narcissistic

Now, now. Be nice.

My blog is really more of a private chess diary that I show the world. I'd like a few more readers, but only if they're willing to argue with me and sharpen my analysis.

Still, your efforts to probe the mysteries is worth considering even for my limited ambitions.

10/10/2008 11:58:00 AM  

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