The Measure of Success
October 27, 2007

A couple of things have happened here at Red Monkey over the last week. One, my recent post about Martin Anderson, whilst not garnering a lot of comments, has been getting a ton of traffic (for me) from Stumble. That same post has also aided in my being tagged a Thoughtful Blogger by Alan from The Thin Red Line.

I read over and over again in the blogosphere, that you have to pick a topic and stick to it if you want your blog to succeed. Those people generally define success in number of people subscribed to your Feedburner or how many unique hits you get per day.

Certainly, when I taught first-year writing, I told my students the same thing for their papers. Pick a topic, narrow it down into one argument. And certainly the people who treat their blog this way have a kind of coherence that Red Monkey does not.

The problem is, with a blog, we don't know how long the full writing will be. A paper of 5 pages, of 11 pages, has limits defined by the length. You can't fully explore the effects of birth order on how a person responds to the education system in five pages without redefining your goals into "I'm just giving an overview." Even in a paper of 10 pages, you might just concentrate on how middle children need a different kind of attention in school than oldest children, youngest or onlies. It takes something larger to discuss the "whole" issue.

I don't know how many pages my blog will be. It's a different beast.

I do not have a mind which stays focused on one topic for very long at a time. As a child, I rejoiced in the idea of the Renaissance man and the jack of all trades. My mother had a distinctly different take on this, believing that specialisation was the way to go and she used to say, with her disapproving voice, "Jack of all trades, master of none." And then give me that raised eyebrow look that said, "You can do better than that."

However, it was the fact that I could both teach freshman writing and design websites and act as our departmental computer consultant which landed me my teaching gig. And it was the fact that I could both be copy writer and knew web design that landed me my last job. People like the fact that they can get a "2 for 1" deal. And, while there are times that you need a specialist, the more specialized the need, the fewer jobs there are for that need.

My blog brings in people interested in a wide variety of things. Some people check in periodically for sketches. Some for photos. Some for stories. Some for commentary. Some disappointed people come looking for those damn Red Monkey jeans of which I'm so sick.

By the numbers, this is not a wildly successful blog. But it does serve my needs ... a place where I can write things and discuss what is important to me ... and know that at least some of it gets read and shared.

And since this is the third or fourth time someone has graced me with a Thinking Blogger award, I know that my blog serves the purpose for which I originally created it: making myself and others think.

That makes this a successful blog to me. I don't need more than that.

Thanks Alan!!

Posted by Red Monkey at October 27, 2007 10:38 AM | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


AJ said:

This is incredibly random, but I have to say that I love your red monkey logo!

October 28, 2007 8:35 PM


Moonshadow said:

Hi, Ender! Hey, I'm all FOR random. My personal blog is probably about as random as it gets. I want a place where I share whatever it is that comes up at any given time, my refrigerator sans magnets with "whiteboard" (comments) and all! My own little newsletter that I don't have to pay postage to deliver. To have people check it out and then comment makes it all worthwhile!

Congrats on the recognition!

October 28, 2007 11:38 PM


Bobbie said:

Ender, one of the appealing things about your blog is the multifaceted subject matter (which is not the same as "random"). Another is your coherent thinking. Another is your writing style.

Onward & upward!

October 29, 2007 3:17 PM


MsDemmie said:

Well done - it is well deserved - I too like the randomness of your posts and your multiple choices of subject. You post nearly always make me think or smile - both good things.

October 29, 2007 10:27 PM


Jack Payne said:

You're right, Ender. Rifle shot focus, on a central theme, is all-important. You'll note, all the great novels, for instance, are focused in this single, targeted direction.

Red Monkey says: You miss my point, Jack. Most blogs are not novels. Some are, and that's a completely different creature. Red Monkey is a smattering of this and that; it's bird shot scattered around a cluster of ideas and themes. And that is fine for a blog. It's not so fine for a novel and it would be disastrous for a short story.
Blogs which are "rifle shot focus" are fine for what they are. But some readers and some bloggers are looking for a more full experience and not always a focus on just one interest. I suppose, in a way, that some of us are looking for blogs to stretch us in ways we don't expect. And if a blog focuses on just a single theme, then there is somewhat less capacity for stretching in unexpected ways. Not that it can't happen, but that it's a little more likely to be stretching in one area only.
Actually, I very much want to thank Moonshadow and Bobbie and MsDemmie for commenting on how much they enjoy the "multifaceted subject matter" here.
There is a really good, solid place for single focus blogs. I just don't happen to believe that the best blogs are single themed. The best books generally have multiple themes as well, but they have a coherent storyline which neatly ties them together. With a blog, hopefully you have a persona which ties it all together.
But the measure of a blog's success is not necessarily reliant on rifle shot focus.
November 1, 2007 1:39 AM
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