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Why you won’t get my “2010 in review” from WordPress

This week, all over the world, WordPress bloggers are posting the same automated post, “2010 in review“. It’s WordPress’s summary of each blog’s hit counts, and comes with a health assessment based on these stats. The pretty obvious message: the more hits, the better. Traffic equals success.

Over at Domesticated Theology, Jeremy has been considering the ethics of blogging, and he points out three negative trends. WordPress’s “2010 in review” encourages all three of these:

  • Exaltation of information over wisdom. The conventional blogosphere feedback loop requires maximum post output and hot-topic positioning.
  • Self-commodification. The golden rule: make sure your blog gets noticed by Google.
  • Unwitting participation in marketing. “Most bloggers are contracted to develop content by marketing companies who then use that content to drive keyword based marketing.” You know, I only recently realised that WordPress publishes ads on this blog!

Jeremy has highlighted similar things when it comes to social networking:

You are not Facebook’s customer. You are the product that they sell to their real customers — advertisers. …

Commercial social networks are much less about circulating knowledge than they are about connecting users (“eyeballs”) with advertisers. …

To use these tools is to reinforce, however indirectly, the “advertised life”, the incursion of commoditization ever deeper into human thought and interaction.

WordPress’s “2010 in review” might seem nifty to us bloggers, but it’s actually part of a bigger numbers game, a status quo that’s being driven not by creativity and conversation but by corporate revenue and product-pushing. Every time we blog to get hit-counts, every time we gaze at our stat counters, we become part of this machinery and start to surrender the possibility of being discerning, imaginative and innovative. We become pawns when we could be visionaries.

I know what I’ll be aiming for in 2011. If you’d like some ideas about stepping off the hamster wheel, check out the Slow Blog manifesto.

Categories: Tanzanian culture Written by Arthur

Tagged as:

Arthur Davis

Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.

12 replies

  1. If we were writing for Google, well, we’ve probably been doing exactly the right thing: the word ‘porn’ in Tamie’s post about Twilight has brought in droves of hungry hunters looking for ‘twilight porn’ or ‘cyberpunk porn’!

    Just a note for RSS readers: I’ve chopped out some of the bitchiness you might have read! :|

  2. Arthur; in what way does blogger put adds up? I haven’t noticed anything.

    You have made some good points there. I would like to add a positive spin to it though. I link my blog articles to my facebook page and many of my non Christian friends read and comment on fb about those blog posts….and so its useful as an evangelism / bridge building tool; a tool which I don’t mind if the readership increases.

    Certainly it would be a shock for you to get so many hits regarding porn hunters…perhaps it was a shock for them also to stumble upon your blog… lets pray so. ;)

  3. Hi Craig

    For a free setup like this one, WordPress publishes Google ads at the bottom of the older posts, and displays them to users who aren’t logged in to WordPress — that’s why I hadn’t noticed earlier. You can have them removed for $30 a year.

    I think cross-linking and building a readership can be great things. But there’s a difference between building a readership of commenters with whom we actually have genuine interactions, and accumulating mere hit-counts and click-throughs.

    There are also different purposes for blogging. Eg, the WordPress news posts all get many hundreds of comments and ‘likes’ for providing information about blogging, which is fine, but there’s only a low level of interaction and creativity at work there. I’ve just added a link above to the Slow Blog manifesto, which points to something a bit different.

  4. Thanks for that information about the adds, very interesting.

    Interesting thoughts from the Slow Blog manifesto and I think that it raises some interesting thoughts about why we blog.

    I have 4 blogs. They all have a different purpose.

    1) mencanbeabusedtoo.wordpress.com This highlights the issues of male victims of abuse and has been helpful for myself in working through my own journey.

    2) craigbenno1.wordpress.com This is my main blog which I use to think through and post mostly my faith based thoughts etc.

    3) hackinglanguage.wordpress.com is more of a personal / private blog which I sometimes post as I work through issues of basically understanding Greek.

    4.) imaginativewords.wordpress.com As an aspiring author and someone who wants to be published in the future, I am using this blog as a platform to become known as an author. It’s in the process of still being set up.

    Each blog has a different foundation for being. Therefore I hope that my blogs 1 & 2 will gain as much readership as possible and welcome any method to increase traffic flow to them. The first is for social justice reasons. The second for financial reasons.

    My other two blogs I’m not so concerned about.

  5. But:

    I run a WordPress.org blog. And I don’t have ads. And I painstakingly pulled stats myself from Google Analytics and spent one and a half hours on my post. Does that still raise your ire?

  6. Yeah nah, you keep doing what you’re doing! You’re not working for The Man. This polemic is for others.

    But I’d love to hear what you think, Nathan — is there a ‘numbers game’, and is it a problem?

  7. There absolutely is a numbers game. And if I wanted to monetise my blog I’d play it. But I don’t. So I won’t. People do have to figure out how to turn costly online services into cash cows, and the idea that we should get content for free is kind of bizarre. It doesn’t work on TV. Content has to be government or interest group supported or funded by third party adverts.

    And as an advertiser, Facebook is a marketers dream, because of how far down you can drill into niche interests. Niche blogs are the same. Just some initial thoughts.

    1. Cheers — coz you’re the man to ask, what with your background and all.

      What about stats, then? What would a *healthy* concern for hit-counts look like?

      (You know, I had a switch installed in my head that now stops me from inflicting emoticons on you! Others will not go unscathed, however.)

  8. I think “if your stats are going down you’re not doing it right and/or offending people” is the healthy level of concern.

    And if you’re blogging for traffic you’re probably doing it wrong. Authentic PR/communication these days is all about relationships – I think this is especially the case in the Christian corner of the blogosphere we occupy.

    I check my stats about once a fortnight, and it’s more a case of curiousity than having some sort of success metric. Though I do like the idea of building an audience – I’m much more interested in subscribers than visitors, and possibly more interested in subscribers than commenters (at St. Eutychus that is).

  9. Yep, that sounds good. I think the idea that audience/communication = relationship = subscribers/commenters is particularly significant, and really puts hits/visitors in perspective.

    Similarly, I like the way you’ve spent so much of your 2010 wrap up listing your own selection of content rather than just “most popular”.

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