This posting is my Christmas self-indulgence: its about this blog and the act of blogging.
I started blogging almost a year ago: first entry 21 January 2005. Since then Ive averaged slightly over one entry every two days. This essay is about the blog itself.
Editorially, I try to vary the approach. So if I wander off into philosophy, or geek talk, I try to come back to earth with postings about finance, or down-to-earth examples of practical simulation. The blog is divided into categories:
Assumptions: 4 entries
Reality subsets: 24
(presumably I forgot to categorise the rest…) The division is simply to help me make sense of the material later on: its somewhat arbitrary, and most entries could fit into several categories. I explain elsewhere what the categories mean.
In the first full month there were 67 unique visitors (1354 hits); in November, 424 (7874 hits). (The highest month so far was actually September with 834 unique visitors, but some of these were spam – the hits total was only 5971.) I get between 50 and 70 visitors a day, though many of those are robots of one sort or another. An estimated 169 visitors have added the site to their favourites. (Or favorites.) So far Ive had 383 referrals through Google, 52 from MSN, and 94 from Yahoo. (Over the year, the top search phrase was my name… not sure what to make of that!) Top referrals from other sites have been 84 from OReilly Radar, and 79 from the CEO Blogs List, a site which I commend to anyone. Periodically my Google Alerts or my RSS reader comes up with references to my own postings on other peoples sites, which is always nice.
John Battelle told me that his Searchblog grew in jumps: periodically the readership figures would jump because of a mention somewhere, and then they would fall back again, but never all the way back: each time he was left with a higher readership. On a smaller scale, this is my experience too.
One of the things you do see, as a webmaster, is the amazing number of spiders out there: some days it seems as if everyone is launching a new search engine with some novel twist. Not to mention the sinister ones like Cyveillance, scanning your site to make sure you dont infringe someones copyright or libel Coca Cola. But then if you put something on the internet, its there for anyone to read. Ive had one bad attack of a sort of trackback spam, but it was relatively easy to cure by banning a series of IP addresses.
Why blog? I do it for myself: because Im interested in the subject: because its fun. Whatever. I dont set myself targets or treat it as work. New stories and agnles about simulation are contantly coming up, and many of them are really intriguing. The subject has such wide application to so many aspects of our life today: yet 100 years ago it scarcely existed, unless you count the arts, particularly the theatre. Although this is definitely not a self-advertising blog, I do find that blogging feeds back to my day job – Im better and more confident at that as a result. (I include my blog address on my professional emails, but I have no idea if any of my companys clients read the blog, or what they make of it.)
My main sources for postings are Google Alerts, other blogs (via an RSS reader), and occasionally items in more traditional media. Another advantage of the blog structure is that you can write about what you want, when you want: on paper you would feel more pressure to put it in some sort of order. When you are only filling up a database, order is something that can be left until later.
I suppose I spend about 30-60 minutes on the blog every other day: something like that. The key is little but often. Its sad to see people who start blogs full of good intentions but then die away, or get no further than a painful entry every two weeks: but part of the attraction of the format is that you can do what you want with it.
I now find that I have a site which a few people seem to read, and comment on. This is slightly worrying, but mostly pleasing.
Being read means that I write with a greater sense of purpose and responsibility. I do feel that simulation takes place in many different silos, and that people working in one field may not be aware of what is going on in others. So the blog may have a serious role in cross-fertilisation of ideas. But its main purpose is selfish: to educate myself. I enjoy finding new things and thinking aloud about them. However, I now feel that I have to think more sensibly, and be prepared to defend my views!
I think Im something of a blog bore. I try to persuade other people with interesting minds that they too should have a blog. (Yes, Mark, this means you.) Not the very personal got up this morning and had breakfast type of blog, but a subject blog, something with a theme that other people can learn from or respond to. What I think people like is the writer grappling with ideas: the interaction between the two. To learn something, but also to have some sense of the personality behind the blog, providing this is not too obtrusive. We are all curious. (Well, every intelligent person is curious, even some who arent very intelligent.) Without the personality of the blogger, you just have a textbook. Too much personality and you have a diary that doesnt interest anyone except your maiden aunt or your stalker.