Two milestones to talk about today. Firstly, this is the 1’000th post on NFB. Secondly, on current averages, the total hit count for the site should comfortably breach 100’000 before the end of the year. A nice average has been achieved on a daily basis over the last few months, so I’m pretty satisfied with that.
Rather than offer thanks to everyone who helped out with all that (the girlfriend, the friends, the Twitter buddies, the casual reader, you know who you are and you know that I’m grateful), I’d like to do something a bit different with this post. I’d like to talk the time to talk about blogging and my own experience with it, in the form of a basic Q&A, with some questions asked over the last few years, other thought up by myself. So, without further ado:
Why did you start blogging/Why do you blog?
Initially, as soapbox, pure and simple. I often found myself discussing media or politics with friends and family, finding I had a lot of opinions, that I liked to put forth and argue about. After a while, I began to think I should write some of them down in a place that wasn’t just a Facebook status.
If I ever describe my work on this site, I tend to call it a “hobby”, and that’s what it really is now. I’ve spent a depressingly long amount of time unemployed over the last few years, and NFB has been a useful tool to alleviate boredom and encourage creativity.
Contrary to what some people might think, I don’t actually spend that much time on the site. I write most articles in an hour or less, maybe longer if they’re quite large or for an outside site. The number of posts I put up nosedived when I actually found a job, so NFB isn’t a gigantic part of my life, just a nice outlet for my writing addiction.
Honestly? Because it was one of the first results when I put “blog sites” into Google. I liked the look of a few other sites I saw using WordPress as well, and the sign-up process was very quick and straightforward.
Why the basic theme?
I’ve thought about changing it a few times, but ultimately I just can’t be bothered with the reformatting. None of the options I’ve considered over the years has been just what I wanted, and I’ve always thought I’d miss the simple layout of the current theme. In the end, I wanted the writing to stand out, not the way that it was presented on a screen. The basic black and white is good enough for me.
What have you gotten out of it?
If you mean money, just about nothing. I got free entry to a Limerick FC match once because of a guest article I wrote for Lovely Left Foot, whom I got attached to because of this site. So, I guess I’ve made 10 Euro out of NFB.
I’m sure plenty of people start off blogs with dreams of becoming a million hit a day site or being “discovered” by some wandering publisher, but that was never something that I aspired to. I wanted an outlet and I got that, a place I could write and state opinions, challenge the opinions of others and have that work read by an audience, no matter how limited. That’s more than enough for me.
Why do you write such varied posts?
One of the only rules I made for myself when I started off this site was “Write whatever you want”. I had lots of things I wanted to talk about – military, history, politics, reviews of movies and books, random musings – and I didn’t want to limit the site to one thing or be one of those people with multiple blogs. That’s resulted in a site that can seem a bit random – Israeli geo-political strategy one day, animation reviews the next – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I simply have more than one interest I want to talk about.
You realise you’re a terrible speller right?
Oh yes. This isn’t just from lack of competence in the art of spelling, though I’m not that great at it, but also because I’m not a good typist. I never got close to mastering that art, and have continued to type with my two index figures for years. I type fast and make constant errors, most of which I catch on subsequent read-through’s and corrections. But, things always slip through.
I will allow myself one excuse, which is the inefficiency of various spellcheckers I employ. Caught between American and British grammar, inability to recognise any error to a word not in its inbuilt dictionary to begin with, failure to spot a word misspelled into a different word, all these things happen a lot. I like to think I’ve gotten better at grammar and spelling as time has gone on, but I still find myself re-editing past posts at a constant rate.
I tend to be pretty forgiving of this flaw with others and all I can ask is the same courtesy.
(PS: Case in point, I just edited this post a day later because I had a spelling error in this section. Naturally.)
Why do you delete abusive comments?
This has only happened a handful of times (like, four times total) on the site, but has drawn some comment from people who think I’m being overly harsh or counter-productive. I tend to support a Cracked forums-style moderation policy, which is quite strict on issues of constructive engagement and lack of, well, “asshat-ery”.
If you are abusive to me or someone else in a comment, it’ll get deleted. If you throw up a copy/paste style ramble on any topic, deleted. If you have critique, let me have it, but make sure it’s instructive. If you want to have a discourse, go for it, but leave the snide jabs at home. I’ve been called a Nazi sympathiser (for criticising the Easter Rising), a liar (for defending Ireland in WW2), been told to “get a life” (for the “It Is Not War” series) and had pro-abortion rants thrown at me. Whatever it is, I don’t like it and I don’t have to tolerate it, or allow such nonsense to have a place on my site. NFB isn’t a democracy and you don’t have unlimited free expression on the internet. If that bothers you, you don’t have to stick around.
Why don’t you put scores on reviews?
I tend to agree with Zero Punctuation, in that I find it hard to put a numerical value on a complex opinion.
Why don’t you use pictures in articles anymore?
I used to do this a lot, especially for the “Decisive Battles” series, but eventually found that the finding, copying and inserting of images was too annoying. WordPress’ big flaw for me is the way it handles image insertion and the editing of images, so as time went on I just dropped it. I know this means walls of text with no breaks, but I’m willing to live with that.
How did you wind up writing for all those football sites?
It was a roundabout process. Someone on the Cracked forums, where I post as “crazylegs” (old nickname) linked Debatable Decisions around. I followed them on Twitter, and they RT’ed a call from Simon Furnivall of Lovely Left Foot looking for new guest writers. I “applied” and next thing you know I was writing regularly for them. That led on to a few pieces for Back Page Football and becoming a regular judge on Debatable Decisions itself (and, fingers crossed, may result in more opportunities down the line for other sites). Much more than that though, I’ve made a good few friends thorough that whole process.
Are hits that important to you?
Kind of. I like that my total hits per day has gone up on a gradual trend, it’s the best kind of feedback. It’s a nice encouragement to continue writing and WordPress has a decent stats page for every blog that breaks down the numbers really well.
It’s nice to know that people are reading and are interested in what you have to say. That’s why they are important to me.
What are your current ambitions for this site?
To continue on with a good amount of new content per week and to continue to increase the readership. Beyond that, I’d like to continue branching out to other sites like I do with LLF and Debatable Decisions, perhaps on other topics.
The very distant ambition I have is to self-publish a collection of articles, probably one of the series like LOTR or Ireland’s Wars, as a Kindle title of some sort. This is something that plenty of bloggers have done recently and would be an interesting experience.
What advice would you give to new bloggers?
- Write whatever you want.
- Don’t get too hung up on theme and format.
- An article/post series is a good way to attract interest and maintain a punctual publishing schedule.
- Drop any dreams of mega success. It’ll come if it will come, but most likely won’t.
- Don’t overload posts with pictures, unless that’s the entire point.
- Get on Twitter. It’s a fantastic tool for meeting like-minded people, promotion and finding writing opportunities.
- Don’t go too link crazy with your posts. I made a blog Facebook page for that exact reason.
- Don’t write crazy, outrageous stuff just to get attention.
- That “About” section is something most visitors will click on. Fill it out.
- After a while, have archives.
- Constructive criticism is great. Abusive criticism is to be ignored.
- Never take it too seriously.
That’s about it. Here’s to the next thousand posts and the next 100’000 hits.