Thursday, March 10, 2022

Reshaping the future of this blog.

It is sometimes suggested that the average life of a blog is 100 days. When I started tracking back the links quoted on websites which contained that assertion I became less and less confident that there is any real science behind it, but I do have the impression that few blogs last longer than two or three years.

This one has been going since 2005. In that time it has had well over two million pageviews - though of course I have no idea how many people have visited, as that could be two million people visiting once each or ten thousand people who have each visited an average of ten times and read an average of twenty pages each time. The reality is probably somewhere between those scenarios. A widget on the right hand side of the blog under my brief bio and contact email gives the live and uncensored total number of pageviews the blog has had since 2008 and a graph of daily traffic in the last couple of weeks. 

On a very bad day this blog gets a couple of hundred page views, on a typical day about four hundred. Occasionally I get spikes of traffic where there are literally thousands of pageviews. As long as there is that kind of readership it is worth my time to write it.

However, it is perhaps time for a review of what the blog is for, what sort of content I should post, and how I try to engage with readers.

When I started this blog at the suggestion of my friend Iain Dale as part of my campaign in the 2005 General Election, political blogs like this one were at the cutting edge of the use of the internet by people involved in politics to engage with others and use the internet to publicise themselves. Over time, a lot of that engagement has moved to other platforms such as Facebook.

I have a presence on Facebook, but I put more effort into this blog because the figures from the traffic counters mentioned above tell me it gets more visits. That may, of course, be a self-reinforcing policy.

Various elements of the content I post were originally put here for a range of different reasons. Originally this blog was a kind of political diary and I have always been quite open that one of the things I use the blog for is to promote my political agenda, 

The music spots started as "music to relax after campaigning" during an election season. It was originally only my intention to continue them for a month, but I was given some very positive feedback - face to face - by a colleague who said he and his wife really liked listening to the music I was posting, and I found I enjoyed selecting and listening myself to the music items I post, Much to the disgust of one or two of my political critics, but the traffic stats do support the theory that many of the people who look at this blog do like listening to them.

The "quote of the day" is deliberately a mixture of three things - topical quotes about a current political issue, statements from great thinkers designed to get readers of the blog to think, and uplifting material.

The blog stats tell me that over the years I have published 8,800 comments - that's not counting those which were caught by the SPAM filters or which I refused to accept. For quite long periods I operated the blog with comment moderation turned off: unfortunately some people did abuse that, particularly one or two trolls who could not resist putting unpleasant comments about the deceased on obituary tributes. After one such insult to the recently departed was seen by and upset the dead person's family I resolved that I would never, ever allow such a thing to happen again, and that's why I turned comment moderation on again last year after a comment on an obituary post last year which I deemed unacceptable.

The difficulty with comment moderation is that I have to take a positive action to let a comment through, and as I do have quite a lot of other things to do this has sometimes caused undesirable delays in approving posts,

It is very noticeable that a lot of web pages and blogs have stopped taking comments at all. I am having a very hard think about how to encourage engagement from those who have something constructive to say without getting into online spats with trolls.

Hint - I do not regard myself as having any duty at all to provide a platform for people who want to indulge in ad hominem attacks against me, my friends, or the leadership or prominent members of my party, but I have a weakness for things that are genuinely funny and an interest in constructive debate. Put in a comment which I think is actually funny and I will probably laugh and approve it even where the same point made with snide remarks questioning my integrity would be instantly deleted. 

Put in a critical comment which goes for the issue rather than the person, and you can see by looking at past comments there is a good chance that I will let it through even if I disagree. However, if you have a go at me personally I will usually just hit the delete button.

I am hoping to put out a Survey-Monkey reader questionnaire in the not-too-distant future to see if there are any things on this blog which regular readers particularly appreciate or would like to see more of (constructive suggestions only, please.)

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