Knowing the Cards

After nearly 350 blog posts you’d think that I’d have some idea about whether something I write will be popular or whether it will be consigned to the ignominy of the internet dustbin. In my case, a single post tends to be about ~600 words, so if I’ve got my math right, I’ve managed a whopping 210,000 words so far. I should be an expert on what words work by now.

The thing is, I’m not. To this day, I have no idea what posts will be popular and which will be total duds. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “This is total genius!” Only to have the amassed minds of the internet return a collective, “Meh…” Other times, I’ve posted something that I thought was total dreck, hardly worthy of the effort. Only I find that it is very popular and highly recommended by others. So I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t know whether something I’ve written will be well received until after the fact. I guess I’m a slow learner.

Now I think I understand the dilemma of the product developer a bit better. Because I’ve been one and I know that “This is going to be a brilliant product!” feeling. Only to find that no one really gives a damn. And I’ve even worked on products that I personally thought were total crap (at least the code was) and nevertheless the crazy money just kept right on pouring in. It can lead to a certain sense of cynicism. The market is stupid. People don’t know what quality is. No one appreciates GENIUS! OK, maybe that last bit was a little too much Pinky and the Brain, but I think you get my point. There are entire books written on this dilemma.

I’m increasingly convinced that there is no writing or product crystal ball that will tell us what people will or won’t like in advance. So what is a poor blogger to do? Well, I suppose I could take a long hard look at the analytics. That’s feedback of a sort. I can identify the posts that get the most hits and try to emulate those. The problem is, I’ve looked at the analytics and I really can’t tell why people keep coming back, other than perhaps due to some rather idiosyncratic links from more popular websites.

Of course there is an obstinate part of me that really just doesn’t give a damn. What I write is in some sense more for me than it is for you. You know, it’s not you, it’s me. Those words are just bubbling up within, bursting to come out. Whether or not you read them or not is of secondary importance. I’d like to think they are useful, but I really have no idea. When I’m writing on orders from within, I’m able to keep up a prolific level of writing. When I’m letting the beast have full reign, I don’t even feel like it is work. Tom really isn’t there, he’s just channeling the beast. I feel drained afterward. Somewhat used up. That’s a good feeling.

The other thing I can do is look at the people who respond to my writing. They’re riding their own beast of a sort. And apparently my beast sings to their beast. To those folks, at least the ones not trying to cross sell some weird product, I feel very grateful. To put words out into the internet and have someone respond to them is a very powerful thing.

Thank you.

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