Tag Archives: blogging

Disobedience of the Law

raif-badawi
Actions have consequences, breaking the law is not a consequence-free game.

This is pretty much guaranteed to piss off just about everyone who reads it, I’m sure, but I recently got into a discussion on a forum with someone who was incensed over the jailings, beatings and executions of atheist bloggers in Muslim countries. Yes, it is likely that most people reading this agree that the laws in these countries, often based on Sharia law, are distasteful.  That doesn’t stop it from being the law of the land.

See, there are lots of people, particularly in the United States, who are wholly misinformed about their place in reality.  They are sure that everyone on the planet lives under the Constitution of the United States and shares all of the rights and privileges that we do.  They are wrong.  Our laws stop at our borders.  Anyone who lives outside of our borders has to deal with the actual laws and rights available in their own little corner of the world.  I fear that a lot of people who spend time online with those in the western world get deluded into thinking that they have these magical rights when, in reality, they have nothing of the sort.

It’s usually not the people that quietly stop believing in Islam and live their lives privately as an atheist, those people don’t get caught very often.  It’s the idiots who go out of their way to antagonize the society in which they live and blatantly shove their apostasy in the face of the authorities that bug me.  Just because you don’t like the law doesn’t mean you don’t have to follow it or pay the consequences.  And these people knew the consequences, in almost all cases, they lived in the society for their entire lives. They openly violated the law and then were shocked when they were carried off to jail for whatever punishment the country deemed proper.  This didn’t come out of the blue, nobody was surprised when the authorities showed up on their doorstep and even if they did, ignorance of the law is no excuse.  People need to stop acting stupidly and stop pretending they have rights they simply do not have.

Don’t give me the “civil disobedience” line either.  Civil disobedience is not a way to break the law and get away scott free.  In fact, the whole point of civil disobedience is to break the law, get caught and be prosecuted, such that you bring attention to the injustice of the laws themselves.  If you’re not willing to suffer the consequences of your civil disobedience, then you’re just being a coward.  I’m willing to bet that none of these bloggers ever gave a moment’s thought to what might happen to them if they were caught.  This isn’t civil disobedience, this is abject stupidity.

People like Raif Badawi, who openly flaunt their violation of the law and get what they have coming to them are not victims. Yes, I think the laws under which he was sentenced are idiotic, that means somewhere between jack and shit.  If he wanted to speak out against Islam, his first move should have been to get the hell out of Dodge, maybe going to Canada where his wife and children now have asylum.  It is not bright to punch the society in the nose and then pretend that you shouldn’t be held accountable for it.  Whatever happens to him is a tragedy, that doesn’t mean it isn’t entirely legal.  No matter how many times Amnesty International claims he’s imprisoned for “exercising his right to freedom of expression”, that doesn’t mean he actually has that right.  People need to disabuse themselves of that silly notion.  It’s nonsense.

So please, before anyone screams about how horrible and awful it is that people in other parts of the world ought to be able to break the law with impunity, realize that you and your local rights and privileges mean precisely dick to the situation at hand. Let’s deal with reality as it actually exists instead of pretending that your political fantasies have any bearing whatsoever on the situation.

All the News That’s Fit to…

newsI got an e-mail today asking why I don’t usually post about current events and news stories very often on the blog. Certainly, I used to, back in the day, but of late, it’s become a rarer and rarer thing.  I think it’s a fair question and deserves an answer, but I’ll do it here on the blog, rather than in e-mail, if anyone else is curious about the same thing.

1.  Most of the news stories that I’d want to discuss end up on The  Bitchspot Report Podcast.  I have to come up with a minimum of two stories per week and often, I end up finding 5-6 of them, depending on the week.  Therefore, I’m already doing lots of new stories, just not here.

2.  My lead time around here is so ridiculous that by the time most of these stories would come up, they’d no longer be topical.  Currently, as I write this on 5/1/14, my next regularly scheduled blog opening is July 7th.  That means that I’m writing blog posts at least 2 full months ahead of time, not counting the Horror Show Sunday posts that are already fully written and scheduled through October or November.

3.  The other issue, and I suspect the biggest one, is that there really isn’t that much new under the sun.  I’ve kind of talked about this a little on the podcast, but most stories that we cover are just minor variations on stories we’ve already covered.  It’s more clergy molesting kids, it’s more stupid school districts trying to shove creationism into the science classrooms, it’s nothing hugely different because religion really doesn’t change.  Virtually everything that I might do has been done before, only the names have been changed.

Now I have thought about saving one day per week, just in case an interesting story came up, but by and large, when there’s nothing I’m overly interested in talking about, I’d just have to write something quickly or reschedule a different article to fill that hole and that’s a hassle.  It’s just easier  for me to fill the holes as I come to them and not go back and mess around with a good thing.  I currently have almost 50 articles written and scheduled here, that’s more than 5 articles per week on average over the next 9 weeks and I committed back at the beginning of the year to keep it to 4 articles a week.  That didn’t go so well, did it?  I’m honestly writing 6-7 articles per week, every week.  It’s not a bad thing, there’s lots to say, but most of it doesn’t fall under the major breaking news story heading.  If I find something that I feel I have something to say about, rest assured that I’ll pound out a post about it and fit it in somehow, but for the rest, I recommend that you take a look at The Bitchspot Report Podcast. It comes out every week and we spend a long, long time examining the news in great detail.  It might just scratch that itch for you.

Is This Really Blogging?

bloggingThis really has nothing to do with anything important, just an observation I’ve made over the past couple of days as I’ve run across a bunch of sites that are essentially doing the same thing. These blogs will quote, usually in full, a news story or article and will add virtually none of their own content, maybe a sentence or two at the top and a sentence or two at the bottom.  Otherwise, the entire content is quoted from elsewhere.

I don’t know, that kind of bugs me.  If you’re not going to write your own content, why bother blogging at all?  Why not just be a link-farmer?  It isn’t like they’re trying to get hits for ad revenue or some other nonsense, they’re clearly staying on topic and they have something, although not much, to say about the subject matter.  It’s just that’s all they do, day in and day out, copy a story, say a few words and move on.  If you don’t have something worthwhile to say, if you’re just stealing someone else’s content, which is essentially what this is, why don’t you stop wasting everyone’s time?

Now sure, I don’t have to read it and mostly I don’t, I just keep stumbling across blogs that are doing this and I really don’t get it.  Anyone else want to try explaining it to me?

Spreading the Blogging Word!

marketing-spread-the-word1Every once in a while, I take a look into blog and/or podcast promotion and am always extremely disappointed by what I find.  I write and podcast because I enjoy it, it’s a hobby and I don’t really measure my success by hits, although to be honest, I do surprisingly well, at least here on the blog, on those rare occasions I bother paying attention to the numbers.  However, where I am always stumped with regard to blogging is what I can do to get the word out to people who are going to come and be dedicated readers of my content.

See, that’s the thing, I don’t want random eyes who will appear once and never be seen again.  I want people who will come back day after day, week after week, because they want to read what it is that I’m writing.  That’s why I totally reject sites like Reddit and StumbleUpon because those do not produce the kind of readers that I’m looking for, they produce a burst of hits, people who are just grazing the Internet, with very few worthwhile quality visitors.

I find I really have two fundamental problems and it’s somewhat surprising what they are:

1.  I’m not selling anything.  Online promotion is generally focused on people trying to make a buck, particularly through ad revenue. They all want eyes and clicks, they don’t care about their content.  You will notice that there isn’t a single ad on the Bitchspot Blog, nor do we have any ads on the Bitchspot Report Podcast.  Our YouTube channel is not monetized and never will be.  Every single time I have gone to an SEO forum or group or community to ask what to do, I am either met with crickets as soon as they realize I’m not selling something, or with derision.  Apparently the only reason to have hits on the Internet is to make money.  If you’re not trying to stampede everyone you can find to your site to make a buck, they don’t want to talk to you.  I suppose that’s not surprising because their only methods revolve around writing attractive crap that makes the search engines sit up and take notice because you’re stuffing every trending keyword into your content that you can.  I don’t just want eyes, I want the right eyes.  I’m not going to modify my content for people who will not appreciate it.  Another suggestion is to run around to all of the most popular blogs and whore yourself out in their comments.  Why would I do that?  Believe it or not, I actually read blogs because I like their content, not because I want to self-promote.  There isn’t a  blog that I visit where I don’t personally respect and enjoy what is written.  If you’re on my blog short-list, it’s because I find you interesting, not because you get a lot of hits.  Content matters, in fact, it not only matters, it’s everything.  I am not going to go to a blog I hate and post there because I want to milk their success.  It’s not going to happen.  I’m not a dishonest little shit and maybe that’s my problem, most of these marketing gurus have zero integrity, honesty or virtue.  They just want a paycheck.  I guess I’m just too moral for them.

2.  I honestly do not have the time to spend the majority of my day finding readers.  This seems to be an issue and I somewhat touched on it above.  I have no time, nor interest, in running around posting comments on the “big fish” blogs, in hopes that some of the smaller fish will follow me home.  I also don’t have time to be creating new content for every social media site on the planet.  It’s bad enough that I’m on Facebook, Google+, Tumblr and Twitter and my posts and podcasts do go to each and every one of them, but somehow, I’m expected to go through each of these sites and create new and special content, just for that site?  Who has time for that? Honestly, I find Facebook so utterly pointless that I may not actually log on for months on end, usually I’ll only bother because I get an e-mail that someone has left a comment or given me a like.  Google+ is somewhat better, at least they have communities that I can interact in, but even though I have identities there for the blogs and the podcast, it does very little to actually funnel readers back to the blog, which is what I really want.  I think that I have spread myself far too thin already, having to juggle the relatively few social network sites I do and there are dozens more that I could be on but I don’t think they’d give me any better rate of return than I already get.  I’d actually be much happier deleting my Facebook account, getting off Twitter and spending 95% of my time here but you don’t get found that way, do you?

There just doesn’t seem to be any way to reasonably do what I want to do, to find those dedicated return readers that care what I have to say.  Maybe they don’t exist, far too many people have a short attention span online after all and I’m alone in my interest to cultivate long-term fans.  I know I’m not alone in this, I’ve watched vjack over on the Atheist Revolution post plenty of articles in his search to find the worthwhile reader too, it’s just sad that for people who produce so much content and I hope that it’s good content, a lot of us get rewarded with relatively few hits, especially compared to those who are loaded chock-full of ads, selling books and whoring themselves out for SEO.

Damn I hate being one of the few respectable, responsible and honest bloggers out there.

Reddit: People Need a Clue

RedditI was having a discussion on a Google+ group and people still seem utterly enamored with Reddit and it’s ability to funnel a huge number of hits to your blog.  Sure, if all you care about are raw hits, if driving traffic, just for the sake of having traffic is all you want, then Reddit will bring you that in spades.  However, that’s not what I want.

I want quality readers.  I want people who are engaged and involved, people who want to discuss the topics I post about, people who want to debate, people who are going to tell their friends and come back day after day.  I want people who are long-term readers.  I do not want people who are just churning through Reddit content, covering the Internet like locusts, consuming but not giving anything back.  Sure, you might occasionally pick up one or two decent readers now and then, but the percentages are absurdly low.  Being involved in Reddit or StumbleUpon requires you to put in a lot of effort, without much significant return.  It just isn’t a good cost/benefit ratio.

But then again, I have to wonder why anyone would want a mass of visitors who spend less than 30 seconds actually looking at your content.  That’s the average I’ve ever had from a Reddit hit and, from talking to others, that seems to be pretty standard.  So not only are they just performing a hit and run on your site, they’re not even reading what you write!  The people just don’t care!  If they don’t care, why would you want them?  At best, I guess if you were trying to make money off of raw hits and ad revenue, you might not care if anyone is paying any attention to your content, but for most serious bloggers, myself included, we want quality hits with interested readers who either agree with us, or who disagree and want to debate us.  People who just pop in, care nothing about the content, and just leave again are totally pointless as far as I’m concerned.  Otherwise, maybe these are just shallow bloggers who just want to see lots of hits so they can tell themselves that someone out there likes them and they’re popular.  That’s not true either.

So we return to the oft-asked question, how do you draw in active, interested participants who will read what you write, who will enjoy (or despise) what you blog about and who will come back over and over again?

That seems to be a question nobody has an answer to.

The Secret to Driving Blog Traffic

trafficSince I’ve started paying a little more attention to traffic in the past month or so, I’ve been reading people’s suggestions for driving more traffic to your blog.  There are no end to blog posts out there, especially from people who want to make money from page hits, for getting a lot more people onto your blog.  I’m part of a Google+ community for blogging and these things are posted almost continuously.

You know what they all conclude the secret for  driving traffic to your blog is?  Lying.  Yes, that’s right, lying.  Doing whatever you can do, saying whatever  you can say to con people into coming to your blog, whether they stick around or not.

Want some examples?  Those are easy.

How about guest posting?  Now I may be naive but my opinion on guest posting has always been that if a fellow blogger needs help, is going to be out of town or is too busy to write posts for a while, I’ll jump in and write some content to help them out.  It’s not about me, it’s about producing the best content for their blog and being a good blogging neighbor.  But no, apparently I’m wrong, the whole point of guest blogging is to get yourself hits.  Fuck the blog you’re writing on.  You should find a blog with a bigger readership than yours and write a link-ridden post that makes your blog look good in hopes of getting a bunch of their readers to become your readers.  I’ve written plenty of guest posts in my day, but you know what I’ve never done?  I’ve never asked anyone if I could do it, I wait until I’m asked.  Why would I waste your time, space and bandwidth trying to get hits on my own blog?  It seems stupid.

How about controversy?  That seems to be on everyone’s list.  Do something specifically to piss people off.  Talk about dishonesty!  It’s one thing to write a post that creates controversy if it’s something that you really feel, it’s another to find a topic people feel strongly about and purposely write something that makes them mad so they swarm like locusts all over your blog.  Now yes, controversy sells, we know that, but running around kicking babies just to make them cry seems a bit absurd.  I can honestly say that I have never written a blog post solely to piss anyone off.  Sure, lots of what I write has that effect, but not that purpose.  Believe it or not, I don’t go out intending to be a dick.

One of the newest I’ve seen is Triberr, a site for people who will go around and post links to your posts, so long as you’ll reciprocate and post links to theirs.  Keep in mind, these aren’t people who are going to read your work ,decide they like it and then personally recommend it to others, these are just link farms.  They don’t bother to read anything  you write, they just post links by rote.  I find that horribly dishonest.  My word means something to me, if I’m going to put out a link to another blog, it means I’ve not only read it, I found it valuable and I am personally recommending it to others.  This is just dishonesty galore.  There is another one called JustRetweet that does the same thing.

The same can be said of randomly following people on Twitter in hopes that they’ll follow you back.  I put this into the  same category as paying for Twitter followers.  I find this mindless, but then again I’m not trying to look impressive, I actually want the people who follow me on Twitter or Google+ or Facebook to be fans of my work.   I’m looking for readers who are actively engaged members of my particular community.  There are so many people who follow me on Twitter and get offended that I don’t follow them back, but I’m just not going to do it unless I look at your timeline and see if you’re saying anything I might care about.  The overwhelming majority do not so they do not get followed.  The ones who try to advertise to me anyhow get reported for spam and blocked.  Honestly, although I shouldn’t, I believe that if I’m going to follow you, I’m advocating what you’re saying in general.  I’m agreeing to some degree with what you’re posting or tweeting.  If I disagree with everything you say and everything you do, why would I follow you around and attach my name to your crap?

Finally, the old StumbleUpon and Reddit trap.  This is an issue because they really don’t produce the effect that I’m after.  You can post your own articles on StumbleUpon or Reddit, or get others to do it for you, and yes, from time to time you’ll get a huge number of hits as your site gets flooded with link-monkeys.  However, the overwhelming majority of them won’t even read your article, almost all of them spend mere seconds on your site before moving on to the next link.  They won’t read, they won’t comment and they won’t be back until the next article that gets Stumbled comes along.  This is utterly pointless, except to those who make a few cents for everyone who clicks on the page.  For those of us who are content providers, who actually produce articles that we want people to read and respond to, there’s no point in StumbleUpon or Reddit and it becomes dishonest when you get groups who just go around Stumbling each other’s posts to avoid getting Ghost Banned.

So maybe that’s my problem, I’m unwilling to be dishonest.  I’m unwilling to screw other people over to get hits.  I’m unwilling to mislead people down a primrose path because I want more hits.  All of these methods could be useful in some small way, I suppose, right up until people want to use them as get rich quick schemes.

I get so sick and tired of being part of the human race sometimes.

 

So Now What Do I Do?

NW_LogoAs anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows, I’m not driven by ad revenue (I get none) or blog hits.   I don’t write for any particular audience, I write what I want to write because it’s something that interests me and I feel I have something to say.  The sad fact is, the composition of many of my articles here is oxymoronic.  I am a conservative atheist.  When I write about conservatism, I tend to drive away the atheists and when I write about atheism, I tend to drive away the conservatives.  That’s a bit sad, considering that the statistics I’ve come across indicate that around 20% of self-identified atheists also hold conservative views.

That said though, now that I’ve been more active on Google+, I’ve seen a lot of atheist bloggers wanting to know how to draw more readers and vjack over on Atheist Revolution wrote a really good article on getting your blog noticed.  If you’re not reading vjack’s blog, you ought to be.

Anyhow, I had looked over vjack’s list and I think there are a lot of valuable ideas in there and I wanted to steal them shamelessly take a look at them one by one.

1. Install Google Analytics or an alternative system for monitoring traffic to your blog. This should be the first thing you do, so go do it now.

That is certainly a good idea and I’ve had it running on my blog for a while now, I’m just not sure how accurate it is.  I’ve had other traffic monitoring plugins on the blog and none of them seem to say the same thing as Google Analytics.  Just using the basic WP Stats system, Analytics reports 75-100 fewer hits per day than Stats does and they’re both supposed to take the same things into account (weeding out multiple visits from the same IP, etc.)  I don’t know that I’m getting accurate information and worse, judging only from the Analytics dashboard, I just don’t get the kind of quality information that I get from Stats.  It doesn’t tell me, for instance, what search engines people used, what terms they typed in, etc.  Yes, I know I can get a lot of that by going to the Google site, but isn’t the point to make my life easier, not more difficult?  At the moment, I have both running on the blog and am comparing the results.

2. Now that you have a way to track your traffic, it is time to make it easier for readers to subscribe to your blog. You are going to want to set up FeedBurner. You can find additional information FeedBurner here.

Yup, I’ve have had Feedburner for a long time but I don’t find that a lot of people are using the RSS feed, either content or comment.  I suppose that’s not surprising because I rarely ever use RSS either.  Someone was complaining on a Google+ podcasting community that people were just going to their site and listening to their podcasts there instead of subscribing through iTunes and therefore, they didn’t have a good metric for measuring how many people were listening.  I really doubt that, beyond counting page hits, anyone can ever tell that I’ve listened to their podcast because I listen to *ALL* of my podcasts while sitting at my computer, going straight to everyone’s website.  I don’t have a long drive every day and every podcast that I listen to, I listen with my wife, who clearly isn’t in the car with me anyhow.  They’re really not useful for me and while they might be useful for a certain segment of the population, they aren’t the panacea that a lot of people make them out to be.

3. Time for a bit of self-reflection. Why are you blogging? What is it that you are hoping to contribute to the atheist blogosphere? Does your blog clearly reflect these goals? Will a first-time visitor understand what you are trying to do and be able to quickly and easily find answers to his or her questions? Who is your intended audience, and what sort of voice will your blog have?

I think most people understand my voice, it tends to be pretty pissed off.  I started this blog as a place for me to bitch, thus the name.  News flash for the feminists who think it’s some misogynist smear, it’s my “spot to bitch”.  Get over yourselves.  I think I do what I set out to do, this is a forum for me to make my opinions known.  What it isn’t and was never intended to be was a place built specifically make money or turn myself into an atheist icon.  I don’t play the hero worship game, I don’t want to be a hero to millions and admired by atheists far and wide.  This isn’t a stepping stone into the celebrity circuit, speaking at conferences, writing books and making a bundle.  That said though, I don’t really want to just talk to myself, I can do that without posting my thoughts online, so attracting some sort of an audience is important.  I just don’t want to blog specifically for that purpose, I’ve tried it before and I hated it with a passion.  I write what I write.  I just wish I could find more of the audience that wants to read it.

4.  Search Google and Bing for your blog and make sure it is listed in both. If it does not appear, you will want to submit it. You can find information about submitting your blog to Google here, and here is information on submitting to Bing.

Actually, my hosting company sends out weekly reminders, sponsored by Attracta SEO Support to continually update sitemaps for Google, Bing, Ask and Yahoo, to check that your blog isn’t blacklisted, etc.  In fact, in thinking about this, I just went and updated all of my sitemaps.  Certainly it’s important to be listed on search engines and, for a lot of the subjects I cover, I’m among the first couple of entries on Google (the only search engine I use).  Every post is optimized for SEO, has a meta description, etc.  The only thing that pisses me off about this are some of my weekly features, like Horror Show Sunday and TV Thursday, it bitches at me because I keep using the same focus keywords.  Well duh!

5.  Does your blog have a blogroll in which you include links to some of the atheist blogs you read on a regular basis? If not, now would be a good time to create one. Other bloggers like incoming links, and this can be a great way to get their attention.

Certainly, although I will admit I’m very unhappy with how I do it currently, but I was even more unhappy with the way it was done before.  Blogrolls take up a lot of space in the sidebar and I try to keep the things that are important to see toward the top and the things that are not drift toward the bottom.  Most people don’t look at blogrolls so I put it in a pulldown, just to minimize it’s size.  I’ve seen people with RSS-feed blogrolls and while I think those are cool, you can see my above comments on RSS feeds and it will still only display a few top entries anyhow.  Anyone have any better ideas?

6. Plan to write at least one high-quality post containing original content per week and as many as one per day.

I write every single day, I don’t think I’ve missed a day in almost a year now.  There was a time when I write 2 posts a day, every single day, but not even I am that crazy to keep it up in the long run.  Certainly, the comments that I get from people who read my blog say I’m writing things they want to read, I just think that, as I said before, I think that combining conservatism and atheism has a detrimental effect.  I think a lot of atheists expect that any blog about atheism is going to come from a liberal perspective and that any blog about conservatism is going to be religious.  I just had a discussion about this very thing on Google+, where someone posted a video on crazy things the neo-cons did in the Republican Party, but used the word “conservative” throughout.  I corrected him but he told me that it wasn’t possible for conservatives to be atheists and even if they were, that’s their problem, not his.

7. Consider whether Twitter is an appropriate platform for promoting your posts and interacting with others in the secular community.

Of course, I have Twitter, but to be honest, the returns usually don’t justify the effort, I’ve found.  It’s difficult to have a decent discussion, you certainly can’t have an intelligent debate, if  you just sit and watch one of the major hashtags, like #atheism, you find that it’s just an echo chamber, people posting pithy comments over and over again that really don’t mean anything or achieve anything.  That said, my blog and Tumblr accounts do post every new thing I do to Twitter and I use Buffer to post back articles 5x per day, at least when I remember to load up my queue.  So far, I’ve seen little new traffic that I can identify from Twitter.

8. Make sure you understand how the commenting system you are using works, the limitations associated with it, and whether it might make sense to replace it with a third party option like Disqus or Intense Debate.

This is where I have a big problem.  Both Disqus and IntenseDebate have massive failings, both have been shown to be glitchy and prevent some people from posting at all from time to time.  I’ve had an ongoing issue with IntenseDebate where I cannot delete spam comments on the blog without disabling the ID plugin first.  I’ve asked ID what I should do, they don’t  care.  I’d much rather have a superior commenting system, one that is WYSIWYG, allows quoting other comments, etc., but I don’t think such a thing exists for WP.  I’m not wedded to either of those systems, I just don’t know that there’s a better way to do it.

9. Submit one of your best posts to the atheism subreddit at Reddit and share a few on Facebook or Google+.

There are problems here, and we’ve discussed them a bit on Google+.  Now I have accounts on Reddit, StumbleUpon and Google+ and I use all of them to some degree.  My blog automatically posts to StumbleUpon every single day and I’m not sure if there’s a Reddit plugin that would do the same, but in both cases, unless you are Stumbling a bunch of posts that are not  your own every day, and I know this is especially true of Reddit, you get downgraded or even shadow banned from the site.  They don’t like self-promotion.  Therefore, you have to run around and enter a bunch of blog stories day in and day out and I don’t have time for that.  I guess I can go around and just Stumble every single blog post on every single blog I read, but that strikes me as dishonest.  These are supposed to be articles that impress you and not every article does.  A bunch of us thought about Stumbling and Redditing each other’s articles every day, but that suffers from the same problem.  Not sure what to do with this one.

10. Review #3 above regularly, asking yourself whether you are accomplishing what you want to accomplish. Pay attention to the visual aspects of your blog, the ease of finding information, and the degree to which you are providing readers with something of value to keep them coming back.

As I said before, that’s a great sentiment and all, but I don’t know how well it works in the real world.  I know what I’m posting and I know the inherent difficulties of what I’m posting, but there is supposedly a sizable audience out there and I have no idea where to find them.  One thing I have noticed, from the few conservative atheists I am acquainted with, is that virtually none of them ever talk about religion.   They are political bloggers.  Sites like Secular Right and The Atheist Conservative rarely talk about religion, whereas that’s the majority of my output.  Politics are fine and certainly I do post about it regularly, but my audience just isn’t the same as their audience.  I’ve asked a couple of them if they want to take over the co-hosting seat on The Bitchspot Report Podcast and without exception, every single one I’ve asked has told me they don’t want to talk about religion.

So now what?  I’ve done all of these things, in fact, I’ve done them and more.  I’m on all of the various blog directories, I post on forums, I participate in Google+ communities, I tweet, although not as much as I did in the past.  vjack suggested getting on Pinterest as a means of drawing traffic, but how many of these damn social networking sites does one have to join, how many directions can you split your limited free time, in hopes of funneling traffic to a blog?  Aren’t you just splitting your audience into a million different places?  One thing I refuse to do is get on Facebook, so that’s out of the question.

Honestly, that’s what’s bothering me.  I started Bitchspot as my primary online voice.  Now I find that I’ve got podcasts and YouTube channels and Twitter accounts up the ying yang and Bitchspot isn’t any more popular than when  I started.  It hasn’t found the kind of audience that I always envisioned for it and hoped it would achieve.  What’s the point, beyond the personal satisfaction and letting off steam, that putting time and effort and money into producing a blog gets for you, if hardly anyone reads it?  How do you reach that mythical 20% of atheists when they’re seemingly afraid to talk about religion?  I don’t know, it’s a mystery to me.  Anyone have any ideas?

Blogging and Money

Blogging for a buck

When I heard that JT Eberhart, Chris Hallquist, and Dan Fincke were all abandoning FtB, I was happy, maybe this signaled the beginning of a mass exodus of people who were sick and tired of the Atheism+ nonsense.  Then I read further and found that, instead of leaving over ideological differences, they were going over to Patheos, who apparently pay more.

Damn, I hate to see that.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a happy, healthy capitalist, I love making money and I don’t begrudge anyone getting a paycheck if they can swing it.  However, I don’t know that blogging is really the place to do that.

People will notice that I have no money-making mechanisms on Bitchspot whatsoever.  I do not have Google AdSense.  I don’t sell advertising.  I don’t even ask for donations.  Bitchspot is an entirely free service to which I donate my time and money because I want a place to talk about what I want to talk about.

Virtually everyone I see who has money-making mechanisms spends entirely too much time, IMO, trying to drive traffic to their site.  They’re worried about their Google rankings.  They spend time trying to optimize their posts for search engines.  In fact, while I have no data to support this, I suspect that people who are most concerned about making a buck consider every potential article they could write with dollar signs aforethought.  Given the choice between two different ideas, or two different slants on the same idea, I suspect that there’s a certain pressure to move toward the one perceived to be most controversial or most likely to drag in more viewers.  More eyes mean more clicks and more clicks make more money.  I’ve even seen blogs where they seed in keywords and links into their articles that have nothing to do with what they’re talking about, they’re just there to get more clicks and more money.

Beyond that, you get people who think they have to have a presence on Twitter and Facebook and Google+.  They have to get their messages re-Tweeted and Stumbled and Reddit’d.  They have to carefully track incoming links and trackbacks to make sure they’re being seen by the widest possible audience.  In fact, I’ve seen podcasts, which are just as bad, who specifically ask other podcasts to be on their shows, just to get a bigger audience.  If you won’t grow their exposure, they won’t talk to you.

Me, I just get to write whatever I want to write.  Certainly, if I was looking for a large built-in audience, I wouldn’t be writing from a conservative atheist perspective, being one of the very few conservative atheists out there.  I don’t care if 3 people read an article or 3000, it just doesn’t make a bit of difference to me.  Certainly there is an understanding that some articles, due to their controversial nature, may draw more readership, but to be honest, the most I ever do is, when scheduling articles, I may put those less popular articles on days where I traditionally have a lower readership.  Otherwise, I write what I write, entirely without regard for it’s popularity, because I want to write it.

You know, right about the time John Loftus started Skeptic Blogs, someone asked me if I would ever consider moving Bitchspot to that, or another, central blogging location and my answer was a resounding no.  Not only because of the disaster that has befallen FtB, but I specifically pay for my own servers because I don’t want anyone telling me what I can say or do.  I want the complete freedom to post what I want to post, do what I want to do, criticize who I want to criticize, and not have to worry about someone pulling a PZ Myers on ThunderfOOt.  So no, I would never be on SkepticBlogs, I would never be on FreeThoughtBlogs, I would never be on ScienceBlogs, I would never be on WordPress.com.  Ever.  All the money and readers and popularity in the world just isn’t worth the one instance of “please don’t write that” that may come up.  Fuck you.  I write what I want.

And so, Bitchspot will never be monetized.  It will never be packaged or controlled or written for impact.  It will never be concerned with popularity.  It will be what it is, what it was always intended to be, a place for me to rant at the world and for those people who find that ranting entertaining, fantastic.  Those who don’t.  Take a hike.

Screw Google Rankings

I, along with pretty much every blogger I’m sure, get tons of comment spam.  Most of it is “increase your Google rankings!” and “make more money blogging!”  Just go to their web site and see their free video and you’ll soon be a millionaire!

Who cares?  If they think I cared at all about making money blogging, they’d have to just look at the complete and utter lack of advertising anywhere on the site.  There never has been any and there never will.  I have never made a penny blogging and I have no intention to.  As far as I’m concerned, the second I start worrying about making money off of what I write, I’ll be influenced by that desire and my writing will suffer.  I’m not here to make friends or influence people, I’m here to get things off my chest, nothing more, nothing less.  Anything that may influence me to be less confrontational or to speak less of my mind is a bad thing.

Nor do I care at all about my page rankings.  I’ve never looked.  I don’t care if I’m #1 or #10,000,000,000.  It’s entirely irrelevant to me.  I honestly couldn’t care less.  My blog is not now, nor will it ever be SEO optimized.  While I will admit that I did, for a while, submit articles to places like Stumbleupon, I no longer do because I frankly don’t care.  It doesn’t matter to me if 10 people or a million people read my blog every day, in fact, I don’t really care if anyone ever reads it, I’m not writing for others, I’m writing for myself.

While I realize these are just spambots that go from blog to blog posting identical garbage, it just strikes me as funny, or maybe a bit pathetic, how many people probably care about their rankings or want to make money.  I know there is one notable atheist blogger that I can think of off-hand who does post regularly about “new ways to increase readership and make money”.  So what?  I don’t want fame, I don’t want fortune, I don’t want notoriety, I have something that I want to say so I say it.  End of story.  Anyone who doesn’t like that can take a long walk off a short pier.  I answer to no one, I’m not trying to influence anyone and honestly, I don’t care if anyone likes me.  Read it or don’t, no skin off my ass.

That might sound a little harsh, like I don’t value my readers, which isn’t true, but isn’t the reason anyone reads this blog because they like what I’m writing?  If I have to change what I’m writing to appeal to a wider audience, am I not doing a disservice to those who already like it?  To those who like it, I’m glad you’re here.  I’m glad I have something to say that you want to read, or that I’m saying something that pisses you off enough to keep coming back.  In either case, I’m grateful for people who can make up their own mind and seek out their own enjoyment.  I like go-getters.  I don’t like sycophants.  I’ve never been one, I’m not trying to attract them.

In the end, this is all about saying what I want to say, not about trying to make friends and influence people.  While I have made some really good friends blogging, that’s been a consequence of my writing, not my goal.  I won’t pretend otherwise.  It’s why I will never go out and try to artificially attract readers, why I won’t resort to Facebook or Twitter or other media to get people to tune in.  Like what I say?  Tune in.  Don’t?  Then don’t.

Doesn’t bother me either way.