Friday, August 8, 2008

Why you shouldn't blog

I have been blogging on Math pages for almost a year now, and I also have a blog on StumbleUpon which is older, larger and has more subscribes. While I don't claim to be expert blogger, for this visit problogger, I do have some experience I think might be useful to those who are thinking about starting there own blog. Some of the points in this post are specifically for math blogs, but most of them are true for any blog.

It doesn't matter how many post you write per month and how long are they, it still takes time to blog. Do you really have this time? Also, the more popular your blog becomes the more comments and emails you will get. Do you have time for answering?

The first thing to think about before opening a blog is what are your goals. A lot of blogs ate opened with dollar signs in the eyes. People know that it is possible to get an income blogging and they try to become professional bloggers. Such blogs usually close after three months. The reasons for this are different, but for a math blog to be closed in such a way there is only one reason - there is no way enough people will visit it to make it profitable. Math is just not poplar enough.
For me the blog is a way to relax a bit and it also helps me to organize my thoughts. I wouldn't mind to earn something from it, but I don't believe that it will happen.

Every blog should have a topic. The topic doesn't have to be very specific, but it must be there. your readers must know what kind of content you usually post. For a math blog there are seem to be three options:
1. Math - you are writing posts about mathematics, you proof theorems, explain formulas etc. Such posts are full of math and a very hard to write, because there is no easy way to write math formulas in posts. Also, only someone who studies math will read such a blog.
2. Ideas - instead of writing formulas you can write explanation of different mathematical ideas, or write posts about math history. Such posts require very little math and a written to be readable by someone who doesn't know much about math. Depending on how good you write, you can get a lot of readers. The problem of this approach is that if will likely end with you answering endless email and comments from people who don't know much about the subject but are eager to contribute some "groundbreaking" thoughts.
3. Personal - Instead of writing about topics you like, you can use your blog as a diary. This is a very popular way to blog, but it requires the ability to write interestingly. Be warned however that this will also put your life before other people and make it possible to gather a lot of information about you.

People you rather not meet:
This sounds not very nice, but unfortunately this is how things work on the net. From time to time you will meet someone whom you really would prefer not to meet. It seems to me that such people are only around one percent of all the people I know online, but it happens. Such people usually fall two categories:
1. Spammers/SEO - a lot of people try to make money online, but some of them choose ways which the rest of us don't like. I am contacted from time to time by people who ask me to review/link there site/blog, and I am getting spam comments ocasionally. The spam is easy to deal with, and for the reveiws Ia hve a simple policy - if I like the site/blog I am asked to review/link I write a short post about this. Otherwise, I don't do anything.
2. Over productive people - some people have too much free time and think that so do you. So they will send you so much emails/comments than you will feel buried by it. This is rare but happens. I am not speaking about those who email you daily - I am speaking about those who see nothing wrong in 10+ email each day.
3. You offline friends and other people you know offline - I am not saying that you don't want to meet them, but depending on the theme of your blog and your personal charasteristics you might prefer nobody you know in your offline life to know that you have a blog. Especially if your blog is a personal one. I am sure that you don't want your boss to read your personal blog....

Lack of feedback:
This one probably sounds strange, but unless you have a lot of visitors nobody will comment on what your write. If this continues for long enough you will start thinking that blogging is meaningless and purposeless, because you will see no result of your work. While I cannot say that this is a serious emotional challenge, it certainly exists. It can be felt especially well when you get an email or a comment thanking you for a post you wrote, you discover that something was missing.
For me, the most annoying aspect of this is that my posts about Linux get more comments and page views than any of my math posts.

The bottom line:
Despite writing a post of why you shouldn't blog, I must admit that I enjoy blogging a lot. It is fun, and it allows me to meet new interesting people. I am sure that the more time I will continue blogging the more new people I will meet. Also, I know that some of my posts were helpful for others. So if you are thinking about starting your blog, consider the points above and give it a try. It also might be a good idea to blog on a private blog for a month or two in the beginning to get some practice, but this is your choice.


Beans said...

A nice way to remain undiscovered is to not link anyone else! Or anywhere. (So it is possible to make a private blog). I can't claim to have ever received that many emails though. :p

I know what you mean about offline friends. I hope that my University friends never discover my blog! Some people at my University do read it but I don't know who, which sometimes worries me. But then again others who read it sometimes talk to me about it, which is OK as long as I'm on my own. One thing I realised is that I don't mind my lecturers reading it!

Blogging for me has been a massive learning curb, which is why I recommend it. It helped my English writing skills and my Maths too. (I made sure to name it "Me Or My Maths" for a reason!)

Anatoly said...

Hello Beans,
Yes, without any links it is hard to really get noticed. But this makes blogging much less interesting. Without visitors a blog is just a diary, but a diary which is open to everyone.

I also sometimes feel that I don't want my university friends to discover this blog. As far as I know nobody in the HUJI university reads my blog and since it is in English there is a good reason to believe that this will not change.

A good point about writing skills.. English is not my native language, so writing a blog helps me a lot.