On blogs

El Cnutador, Going Postal
© El Cnutador, Going Postal 2018

As devoted puffins may notice, I have spent quite a lot of internet hours to date. From the times of 56k modems all the way to what BT laughingly describes as “best” internet, I have participated on many weblogs and forums on the subject of technology, politics, radio controlled modelling and everything in between. The life and times of a web log are varied and interesting, but they very often follow a discernible pattern.

In the beginning, there is either a gap, some enthusiast in a room running a server off their home computer because they wanted to talk about Pokemon stories or whatever. Or write otherkin adult tales. And there was nowhere else to do so. ISPs began clamping down on this kind of home hosting, mostly because it was hammering bandwidth if the amateur site got popular, and they could charge more for “proper” hosting.

In other cases, a new weblog was formed by the exodus of disgruntled users from an existing blog. Perhaps the site admin got a bit too much ego going on and began banning commenters they disagreed with, and deleting comments, or the user base just got annoyed with the weblog’s technology. Either way, there was disagreement and the userbase drifted off.

The weblog, if it is of any worth, then begins a period of growth. New users arrive, comment counts go up, article submission improves or if it is a vanity self published weblog, the site admin steps up to write more and more content. This is one of the most interesting periods of a site, and can make or break it. Many site admins get overwhelmed, or again, get that ego boost and become heavy handed on moderation.

Then, there will come The First Spat. Veteran poster A will take umbrage at Veteran B, or Noob C. There will be a period of flamewar, culminating in a flouncing off by one or more posters. And quite possibly that modern evil, the “doxing” – linking someone’s anonymous screen name to a real world person, often including an address, phone number and employers details. The remaining veteran posters will then spend a few days of “WTF was that?”. The disintermediated nature of online discussion means there is very little downside to calling someone a cnut. Whether they’d do that in real life is extremely unlikely. People can get very very angry online, because of the limited perceived consequence to themselves.

The site admin, and most likely the veteran posters will then try to have some posting guidelines. Not quite a mission statement or the sadly now ubiquitous and hollow “values”, but at least some statement of what is permissible to post on the blog.

This will stabilise things for a time, usually at which point the site admin is thinking “this is a lot of work and the hosting bills just keep on going up and up. Is it really worth it?”. Given that most blogs are run as a hobby, not with the express aim of earning enough to live on, the next stage of monetisation is a decision not usually taken lightly by the site owner.

That said, there were many cases in the dotcom boom where entire userlists of email addresses were sold to marketing companies, with no legal comeback. Small clauses in the terms of service were pointed out – “we keep your data safe, until we want to flog it”. More acceptable monetisations are to introduce ads on the site, which are greeted with a variety of responses, depending on how intrusive they are. Popups are universally regarded as utterly self defeating as they wind up the users no end.

Sometimes donations are solicited, which really is quite a fair way of doing things. The site admin may allow “superuser” access to certain parts of the site, get to read articles a short time earlier than the freeloaders, and so on.

At this point the site admin will now try to do some search engine optimisation to get more visitors, as more visitors == more advert monies. With the advent of Twatter and other social media, the profile of the site gets pushed subtly. Sometimes a particular article can bring a whole lot of new attention to the blog – see the Slashdot Hellmouth article. It really caught the attention of non bloggers and drove huge amounts of people to the site.

This period of growth then leads to the other pernicious downside of running a popular blog – trolling. Back in the day, trolling was a subtle art intended to draw the responders real opinion on something, see El C articles on the Internet passim. But increasingly in our “progressive” state, it is something like just spitting at the wall. However, it still drops the signal to noise ratio and for a blog this is poison. You also get the spammers, “hot live girls”, “make money fa$t” type links and these also have to be dealt with too.

We are now at a stage of the blog being successful, people log on frequently, the site admin is having enough revenue to make it worth their while, or at least not so expensive they no longer bother.

But out there in userland things are not quite so comfy. Arguments have been made ad infinitum, disagreements buried among the sensible. A kind of hive mind permeates, there is no point being controversial because there will be an almost automated assault on the poster who puts their head above the parapet. Even new thinking or arguments still follow a sort of “metoo” template. Even bloggers that think themselves as individuals are somewhat NPC’s at times.

Posters get bored, the thrill is gone – that hot 20 something you married has gotten fat and lazy in their 30’s, and posters drift off elsewhere.

This is the point where the blog begins to die.

Aaand then… GOTO START.

At this point I would like to thanks Swiss Bob for his endless efforts in keeping us puffins in line, and keeping GP going. As you can see from the above, it takes hard work and a fair bit of tact and diplomacy to keep a weblog up and running. Go on, give him a fiver, or more, today!

Before posting #TayTay pics, funny cats or the like, perhaps take the time to consider the above, and post your opinion on this question: Where do you think GP is, in the above cycle?

© El Cnutador 2018

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