Thoughts on a Blank Blog

I’m one of those annoying bloggers who claims that she doesn’t do it for the traffic. I do it for the love of writing. I’ve said many times that I would enjoy blogging just as much if I only had one dedicated reader – that I would rather have ten regular commenters than a hundred RSS subscribers.

And that is true.

90% true.

Deep down in that little part of the brain that sits as a red-clad devil on my shoulder, I am a bit of a traffic whore. I challenge you to find a blogger who really, truly isn’t the same. I love the comments and I adore it when new people find Bright Meadow, but (and don’t tell anyone I’ve admitted to this), I also adore it when my subscription count goes up. I have made a conscious effort not to check my stats (page views, hits and the like) because that way lies madness and blogging for the wrong reasons, but the other week I got a taste of what it was like to start over…And I didn’t like it!

I wasn’t even starting from scratch as I was able to lure a chunk of my regular readers over to my temporary blog through a sneaky RSS/Feedburner redirect and blatant flooding of Twitter and Facebook with the new link, but to all intense and purposes (as far as the Great Google Cache was concerned at least), Bright Meadow 2 was a new blog. One of the gazillions started each day that are destined to live for a few weeks and then die, like so many glittering internet mayflies.

It was something of a shock to go from a moderately high traffic and well loved blog to a blank slate, but I’m always one for looking on the bright side of life so I decided to take what I could from the experience. Now I’m back where I belong over at Bright Meadow, I’m going to take a moment and think of the good bits, and the not-so-good bits, about being on a fresh blog.

The nice stuff:

  • No spam. Seriously. Instead of the 400 pieces I was getting every hour, I had zero, yes ZERO, in the week and a bit I was live on that domain. I’m once again hammering the spam and it is so demoralising
  • The joy of seeing the number of visits climb steadily from zero to … where they ended up. If I had been genuinely starting from scratch, this climb would 1) have been slower and 2) required more work on my part, but it was gratifying to see it none the less. It meant my loyal readers were still loyal and it was nice to see. I could have got seriously addicted and hung up on those numbers though
  • No expectations. My archives, whilst I am intensely proud of them, do give a certain legacy to what I write. I have to take care not to repeat myself, or do myself an injustice. A blank slate is refreshing
  • Finding a lovely plain template to use and forcing myself to decide if I really needed that sidebar plugin or widget? When I do get Bright Meadow up and running properly, it’s going to be a lot less cluttered

The not-so-fun stuff:

  • Knowing I had readers that wouldn’t know to follow me because they didn’t know what was going on as they read the site the old fashioned way and they didn’t follow me on any of the other services I use
  • Not having my archives! I put so much of my life online and there’s all the interesting snippets I roast… Plus I hate to seem like a newbie again. I’ve got archives stretching back to 2003 for Pete’s sake! I’m starting to get a reputation and I’m starting to be proud of that. I’ve worked hard for it, so I want to be able to enjoy the authority of my words
  • Part of the not having archives meant that I had to think much more about the impact of the single posts I was writing. On Bright Meadow I can get away with the odd mediocre post because I know that there is a wealth of other stuff to captivate and win me new readers. On the new blog, what I wrote was it. If a new reader didn’t like it, they had nothing to persuade them to give me a second chance
  • Not having any page rank. Page rank isn’t something you think of on a daily basis – at least I don’t – but having a decent rank does mean that searches find their way to me. At the moment people aren’t coming to BM2 via searches! (Though a search for Bright Meadow on Google does return this site on the first page of links, so not bad for three days!)

Nils is right when he argues that getting rid of stuff and non-permanency can be very liberating. I’ve only just started to accumulate stuff in my house in the past year or so after years of student nomadism, but I remember how nice it was to be able to pack my entire existence into the back of a car in a morning and be gone from a place by lunchtime. Then again, I like having stuff around me. I like having a settled feeling. I like to feel at home.

I like that I am “home” again at Bright Meadow. I enjoyed the experience of having to start over with a blank blog but would I continue the experiment? Not unless I had no other choice. I have become attached – perhaps far too attached – to having archives, authority and readers. I still hold that I would write/blog if I had no readers but it wouldn’t be as much fun. We’ve all heard this a time or five, but I blog for the connections it makes. I get such a buzz from watching people have fun in the comments and I enjoy getting to know the community that is forming.

What to take from this? I’m not sure. If you are an established blogger I suggest you treasure your domain and your archives and value the work you have put into them. Trust me – you will miss them if/when they are gone. I cannot stress enough the value of regular backups! If you are a new blogger, take from it that we all started where you are now. It should be fun. Enjoy what you are building and it will show – treasure your readers because without them, it’s a lot less fun I assure you! And if you don’t blog? Well, take from this whole thing that we bloggers are stupidly attached to our blogs and get very protective over them. Without them we are actually rather boring people.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on a Blank Blog

  1. Imagine meeting you here. And now, of course, it looks as if I’m the one frantically checking for links and trackbacks. I assure you, I’m subscribed here and thought I’d pop in.

    In any case, what I want to say is I did miss you when BM went down and I’m happy you’re back. It’s remarkable, there’s been a lot of talk about permanence recently, especially after the sudden death of two bloggers from the tech scene. Now even Winer and Scoble are wondering what’ll happen with their virtual footprints after they’re gone.

    I just like reading your stuff, archives or not. Keep writing and you’ll be fine. In with the new!

  2. It was fascinating to see this play out and then read your thoughts on the whole thing.

    I think I had got in to a rut and was planning to snap out of it around the same time this happened, so I have half done what you did but on purpose (rather than as an emergency measure due to the host).

    I couldn’t ditch the archives and start at nothing though – as much as I want to mix things up, you’re right about being attached to the archives. In the same way I horde all of my photos even though I know where are lots and lots of awful ones. My Flickr stream is a chronological record of what I’ve uploaded and it contains lots of photos that I don’t particularly like any more or that in retrospect, I can see faults with or would have processed differently. However, I have no intention of changing them or deleting them. The old photos and old blog posts are a record of how I was in years gone by so they stay put even though i want the future to take a different course. They’re good to use as comparisons in future years.

    Good luck with your de-cluttering too – There’s definitely a lot to be said for simple and elegant.

  3. I am a bit of a traffic whore. I challenge you to find a blogger who really, truly isn’t the same

    Hello! 🙂

  4. It makes us, it’s a record of who we are even if at first glance it doesn’t seem that way. By that, at least for the more sentimental of us, keeping what’s been written is akin to having memories that shape us to be not just the bloggers we are, but the people we’re supposed to be.

    Losing all that. Well…Hakuna Matata. 🙂

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