Meta-Blogging

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted something, although not for lack of thinking about posts. I will say, I’m a bit annoyed at myself–because I’m so behind on my feed reading I see things that are interesting and have a thought about them, but it’s too late! I have some interesting posts in the works, though, but time seems to always slip away.

In any event, I’m three months into this grand experiment (more or less). So, probably a good time to evaluate how things are going. Here are my observations…

1. At least I know what I want to be. My goal when writing a blog wasn’t to state what was going on for that day. Plenty of blogs out there cover what’s going on as it’s going on or after it’s gone on… and better then I could have. Why add another? Do people really care what happened in the U.S. stock market or fixed income market? I wouldn’t read it, so I don’t write it. instead my inspirations were blogs like Going Private, Information Arbitrage, Accrued Interest, Jeff Matthews, and Steven Davidoff. Go peruse their sites. I’ll wait. Ok, back? They have some things in common… they write well, they have experience that breeds original thoughts and analysis, and they post relatively infrequently. Other great blogs are an excellent source for ideas and thoughts–blogs like Crossing Wall Street, Market Movers, The Stalwart, and Deal Journal. This is how I envisioned my flow, and it’s going that way.

2. Finding time to post is hard. When you’re striving to do what I’m hoping to do, it’s difficult to dig into something and be both good and frequent enough. Everyone is different, but my flow is usually as I’m reading something I have an idea for a post and I enter into Remember the Milk. I then search for other information, research the topic, and collect a body of links that help to makeup the progression of my thoughts that appear throughout the post I intend to write. Composing the post usually takes one to two hours and has about five hours of total work put into it. As all this is going on, the landscape changes, things come to light, posts become irrelevant. I was especially proud of my Bear Stearns posts and my Citi post. They were well thought out and topical, but they were hard to come up with enough material to post on.

3. Defining success is necessary to figure out if you are succeeding. Ok, don’t tell anyone I said this, but the one thing I admired about Yaser Anwar was his laundry list of citations from established news sources. So, when Portfolio linked to me, I was ecstatic (and they continue to be one of the main drivers of traffic to me). When the WSJ’s Deal Journal linked to me, I was also ecstatic. I could claim I was cited by both publications. However, in thinking about it, why is their affirmation of my ideas more or less valid than other bloggers? More to the point, why aren’t I more interested in readers expressing some kind of approval or appreciation? As comments and emails started coming in (not in great numbers, I’m not very popular on a relative basis) that become a more intense focus. I saw page views start to jump around and that was awesome. This blog just hit 4,100 hits. Is that good? I have no idea. Sure, when you look at Barry Ritholtz, who has around 100,000 feed subscribers, or Michael Arrington’s Techcrunch, which has nearly 1,000,000 feed subscribers it seems tiny. So, at the end of the day, what have I determined about measuring my success as a blogger and the success of my blog? Not much. I have figured out that the nebulous goal I will set for myself is to be respected, provide valuable content, and not to become a grubber for links or traffic.

4. The blogging community is very responsive. When I write a post, I ensure that I email bloggers that I read and think would be interested. When I started the blog I sent emails, with some repeated langauge, but tailored for each blogger announcing my blog and what I hoped to do with it. You know what? Not a single one responded. Not one. Take a moment, let it soak in. None. So why is this particular section about how responsive the blogging community is? Well, I did get links. Established bloggers linked to me and started using my posts in their posts. I might not have gotten an email back but I became part of the ecosystem. And, when sending a quick note to various bloggers on specific posts, I got responses. That was great. IM’ing with various bloggers and sharing thoughts was great. The lesson I learned was that, simply put, bloggers DO read their email, they will read the site, and they don’t always respond in the way you think. Oh, and do your best to comment and trackback. It’s important.

5. Don’t be afraid to change it up. If you read The Stalwart, you’ll see, essentially, the exact opposite of Information Arbitrage or Going Private. That site, specifically most recent posts, could be easily distributed via Twitter, wheres IA and GP posts could be chapters in a textbook (Accrued Interest is in that category too). Is one better than the other? Nope. The shorter posts are great for thoughts and other brief things, tend to be read (I bet) with higher frequency, and are quick to write. Shorter posts, however can’t convey many of the complex topics I hope to write about. Longer posts are more time consuming, most likely read less frequently, and can be packed with more information. I tend to use longer posts, and have not used shorter posts. This is something I regret. I have thought about posting, once a week, what I call the “Post Pipeline”–the ideas I have for posts and a sentence or two about them. I’ll probably do this at some point, it’s a good compromise, although I am much more open to shorter posts now. Probably will see some more of that here soon.

Well, these are some of my thoughts and some self-feedback (is that valid?). This has been an idea of mine to write for a while, but a two part series on financial blogging was the catalyst. Please, please, dear readers (I’m not even sure a plural is appropriate… OK, I’m kidding) email me and tell me what you want to hear about. Give me post ideas! I’m game. Let’s go.

One last thing, I’m extremely frustrated with my inability to find a good WordPress.com theme… expect the look and feel of the site to change. It’s so hard to find a theme that is visually appealing, has clear links for RSS feeds, and all the other anatomy of a good blog.

UPDATE: Okay … Barry Ritholtz has around 17,000 subscribers… misread the number. I left the original (w/error) in the post.

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3 Comments on “Meta-Blogging”

  1. roger Says:

    djt, nice reflections. finding your voice, your purpose and your own definition of success as a blogger takes time. and, at least for me, has proved to be a moving target over time. i think your post has spurred me to write my own post on the topic (and i will link to you and give you the props, of course). keep up the good work and sharing your thoughts. you are a cerebral dude. best, roger

  2. DJF Says:

    I think this is the first time I have written an article which was a catalyst for another blogger. You raise excellent points. Satisfaction can mean different things to different people; whether it is raw traffic numbers (perhaps for those chasing advertisers); direct conversation with readers through twitter and/or blog comments; or knowing there are fellow bloggers interested in (and linking to) what you have to say. And of course, those who look for all of the above!

    Personally, it is comforting to know what I write can strike a chord, such as your post here. It is also a measure of respect when those more knowledgeable consider what you have to say as important.

    One thing I didn’t say in my article, which was perhaps the most rewarding is that it led to a job in a career from which I had no formal training (no shortage of degrees here, just not in the most employable of areas!). There is no bigger reward.

    I also found your point on email interesting. I use Yahoo mail and it is somewhat bizarre in how it filters mail, e.g. mails I send to myself get spammed, but Mr Onooka Malinga’s and his millions get through. Whether your emails were filtered or ignored is tough to say.

    Getting past the title of the email is half of the battle. I tend to “[]” my name to differentiate it from other subject headings and to show it is not a generic email, although I rarely email bloggers about articles I wrote, I would rather submit them to a relevant Carnival instead.

    I use Scratchback as a link bait tool; if there is a blogger interested in a link to my blog they can pay $25 (which is routed through microlender KIVA) and have a link to their site placed prominently on mine – more so than if I simply added them to my Blogroll. When I get link exchange requests for finanical blogs (averages about once a week) I often direct them to that – if they really thought my blog was ‘great’ then buying a link shouldn’t be a problem. No one who has requested a link exchange with my blog has yet, but it’s a surefire way of getting my genuine interest in them if they did!

    Unfortunately, it’s harder to get someone’s attention by email because of the copycat “Please Link to Me” emails. More frustrating is the time spent on putting together a thougtful email when the end result is a likely instant ‘delete’.

    I find commenting on other blogger’s blogs a better intro for myself, but that too requires effort.

    Anyway – I’ll shut up now.

    DJF


  3. […] Okay folks, I’m not dead. I moved, went for a reunion, and other assorted things. I said before that I wanted to start posting my post ideas… hopefully some of you will enjoy thinking about them while I do. So, without further adieu, […]


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