Thursday, July 5, 2007

Blogging: The First Six Months

I started this blog on about January 1st of this year, so the passing of the six month mark last week seems like a good time to reflect a little on what I have experienced.

First, blogging is hard work if you want to be serious about what you write and provide scholarly commentary. For many people, I suspect, blogging is just an opportunity to rant and let off steam, hurt people they don't like, and try to prove how smart-mouthed they can be, usually evincing a mostly childish mentality and poorly informed and often dishonest commentary. This is especially true in the world of politics. Several biblioblogs occasionally cross over into political comment and I have been sorely tempted on several occasions to do so myself, but happily I have been able to restrain myself. I try mostly to stick to my blog realm, diverting from time to time to some other loosely (very loosely) related topic.

I am struck by several difficulties I face in blogging. First, this sort of blog is very time-consuming, and I have very little free time after taking care of job, home, and writing career. Second, in order to run a successful blog, you are supposed to blog frequently, as close to daily as possible, even if it's only a short post. I can't believe that more than a week has gone by since the last day I posted something. It seems like just a day or two ago that I added the entries.

Third, the essence of good blogging is generally short pithy remarks and some occasional lengthier comments or essays, sometimes broken down into multiple posts. I don't enjoy writing small comments or short essays that much. I love the challenge of large books around important themes and it can take a couple of years to do a book. But I am coping for now. (However, I am trying to decide what book to do next. Several subjects are competing for my attention, and I am having a difficult time deciding what I want to do first. At present I am thinking about working concurrently on two or three related books.) Another problem with writing short entries that read well is that they are harder to do and take more time than longer entries that are less focused. As George Bernard Shaw (I think it was) wrote to a friend once, he apologized for writing such a long letter as he didn't have the time to prepare a shorter one.

Perhaps the biggest problem is building and retaining an audience. A failure here could be quite depressing. Here it s too soon to gauge the concern. Prior to getting ready for my first post, I prepared a lengthy essay, divided into several parts, figuring that I should start off with a solid scholarly issue and that multiple parts would bring readers back. The topic was on a theoretical lost source for the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate and the Jews and Pilate in the Gospel of John. I had hoped that this would establish the biblioblog version of "street cred." I was quite disappointed at the lack of any comment or notice to the article.

In January, after I finished writing the article, I e-mailed announcements to a list of people who had read my books and corresponded with me. I also collected the names and email addresses for several related blogs and sent out notices. Several were kind enough to give me a plug

In any event, for the first month, my site counter source said I had 1000 page loads and 543 unique visitors. Of those unique visitors 79 represented return visits (some of which could have been by the same visitor on more than one occasion.) By way of contrast, my web site which had been in existence for several years but which was rarely updated unless I had a new book or article to post info on, had over 1700 page loads in January with over 900 unique visits, of which only 38 were return visits.

At the end of June I decided to look at my monthly figures for each of the first six months. From February through April, the number of page loads and unique visits on the blog began to dwindle month by month. My web site, on the other hand, continued to draw about the same numbers as I did in January, however, although there was some modest fluctuation. In May however, things started to turn around. May and June both showed significant gains in the number of hits and in June the blog had more page loads than my web site. The number of return visitors began to rise also.

At the beginning of July, I got some nice mentions in the Biblical Studies Carnival and the first couple of days in July showed significantly more traffic and return visits than my daily averages for May and June. So at the moment I'm on an upswing, and I hope I can build on the momentum. This, of course, means I have to continue to provide interesting posts on a more frequent basis. Tough order.