Wednesday, March 9, 2011

When You Don't See Me

There's a real danger that comes with writing a blog, and that is the fact that you start to get into a mode where you obsess over whether or not people are reading and what they are reading. Truth be told, this is a natural thing. Let's face it, I wouldn't write semi regularly if I didn't think it mattered to someone, but wow, you can get really wrapped up in this if you're not careful.

In some ways, the best and worst discovery I've made has been to see the Stats screen for TESTHEAD (for those who don't actively use Blogger, there's an option that was enabled in June of 2010 that allows blog posters to see who has visited their blog and from where and at what time of the day. I've learned some interesting things due to this... for starters, the U.S. the U.K, Canada, India and the Netherlands are my most active readers (well, I can assume testers in those countries :) ). The second thing that I've learned is that, while I can generate a lot of readership by posting a lot, I seem to get more hits and reads when I don't post! Huh?! Why is that? Another interesting thing is that, when I don't post to twitter, I get more followers during my fallow periods than I do when I post regularly. To steal from Merlin Mann (I do this a lot, just get used to it if you haven't already)... "what are you following? I'm not here!"

I think I've got an answer, though, and maybe this realization will help some people out there. What posts of mine are causing spikes in traffic and average readership when I'm not here? In general, they are articles that I think are good and interesting, mostly introspective pieces and active reviews (my How We test Software at Microsoft reviews had low numbers of reads while I was doing it, but they have spiked considerably since I finished the project. The reason? Alan Page and others saw what I did, and said "dude's nuts, but give him credit, he did it!" and they've linked to them. And those links are what are bringing in the traffic (and yes, I know this because of the Stats page, bless and curse it :) ).

So what this tells me is that, while I get a lot of hits when I make a lot of posts, I get as much or more traffic when I write something that resonates with people, and sometimes, I can do that better when I'm not frantically scrabbling to make a bunch of posts (which I think I tend to try to do just because I like the energy this blog pulls out of me). At the same time, I think there's times that I post because I'm excited about what interests people, and many times, my trying to follow up on that is actually less successful because I'm chasing what I think people would be interested in reading rather than the things that I actively learn, which is really the whole point of the site.

Matt Heusser talked about giving up Twitter for Lent, and I thought that was interesting. I decided to do something similar, not so much because of Lent (mainly because I'm not Catholic and I associate Lent as a Catholic tradition), but because I think it's time to retune and get my real bearings for this blog again especially in light of what tomorrow is (those who are regulars may be able to figure out why tomorrow is special, others, you'll just have to wait ;) ), but for 30 days after tomorrow, I will be mentally avoiding the Stats pages. Will I be dying of curiosity? Possibly. But I think I need to wean myself from it, because I don't want to be writing stuff because I want the page hits (well, OK, who am I kidding, of course I want the page hits :) ), but more to the point, I want the page hits because I'm writing something compelling, not necessarily something that I think people will flock to read. the subtitle of this blog is "the Mis-Education and Re-Education of a Software Tester". It's been my continued education and my willingness to share it that's been the consistent theme of this blog, so I'm going to make sure that that remains the focus. It'll be interesting to see what I come up with in the ensuing month, without the stats to guide me. Here's hoping you'll join me on the journey, It'll be interesting to see what you actually find interesting :).

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