Quantitative theory of blogging
Once you start blogging, it turns out you can get quite addicted to your daily hits, which is a count of how many people come to your site each day, as well as to the quantity and quality of the comments (my readers have the best comments by the way, just saying).
WordPress even lets you see which things people read, and how they searched google to find your site, and what they clicked on. It’s easy enough to get excited about such statistics, and the natural consequence is an urge to juice your numbers.
What is the equivalent of Major League Baseball steroids for bloggers? I have a few suggestions:
- Post about something super controversial, i.e. something that people care about and are totally divided about. Once I heard a sports talk radio host give away this trade secret on his show, when he said, “okay folks let’s talk about this next question, which when polled was split down the middle 50/50 among people…”. I think I hit on this once when I posted about how I think math contests suck. Lots of strong feelings both ways.
- Post about something involving people that others consider kind of crazy. Once when I posted about living forever, I was kind of responding to this idea of the Singularity Theorists and their summit. Turns out some people don’t want to live forever, like me, and some people really really want to live forever. It’s like a religion.
- Then there’s the celebrity angle. My posts about working with Larry Summers have generated lots of traffic, although I like to think it’s because of what I said in addition to the star power in the title.
- I’m convinced that adding images to your posts makes people more likely to find them. Maybe that’s because they appear bigger when they are shared on Facebook or something.
- If you are fed up with people arguing with each other on your comments pages, then another totally different way of getting lots of hits (and even more comments) is to post about something that allows people to tell a story about themselves that probably nobody else wants to hear. For example, you can write a post entitled, “did you ever have a weird experience at a doctor’s appointment?”. I haven’t done that yet but it’s tempting, just for all the awesome comments I’d get.
- Finally, you can go lowbrow and talk about sex, or even better give advice to people about their weird sexual desires, or even better, make confessions about your weird sexual experiences. Also haven’t done that yet, but also tempted.
I’m a data modeler, so of course it makes sense that I’d try to test out my theoretical signals. So if you see me writing a post in the future about the sexual adventures of me and some nutjob celebrity (update: Charlie Sheen) when we went to the doctor’s together, complete with graphic pix, then you’ll know to click like mad (and comment, please!).