Photo by Dustin Jamison
A friend just asked “How popular are the links on your Five Short Links posts compared with your ‘regular’ posts?“. This seemed like a good chance to share some data, so here’s a rundown of who reads what, and what drives me to write the posts.
I get 25,000 unique visitors on a typical month, and around 35,000 views. I also have around 4,000 RSS subscribers according to Feedburner, but I don’t know how many of those are actively reading my blog. My biggest traffic sources are search engines, then Twitter, Hacker News, and Reddit. I’ve found I write three kinds of posts, and their traffic patterns are very different.
Show and Tell
When I’ve got a topic I want to tell the world about, I’ll put together a post with some examples and a bit of background on why I think it’s important. A lot of these end up with just a few hundred views, maybe a few thousand if they end up shared on Twitter, and occasionally I’ll end up with tens of thousands if I really hit a nerve. My recent post on Google’s geo APIs has racked up 42,349 views over the last few weeks, largely thanks to a stint on the front page of Hacker News. My post on distrusting data scientists never made it onto a big aggregator like that, but was widely shared on Twitter and through specialized blogs, and has had 13,792 views since it was published. The post I did on name analysis is more typical, with 2,871 views since it was published.
These articles usually take quite a lot of time to research and put together, which means I can rarely do more than one or two a month. I write them because I can’t help myself! I’m passionate about my work, and I love having a platform I can use to grab people by the lapels and rant at them.
The easiest posts, and so the most frequent, are my short link digests. I have a large list of blogs I follow through Feedly, and I often run across interesting articles while I’m searching on technical topics, and from the folks I follow on Twitter. I also find the ‘newest’ page of Hacker News full of neglected gems. A lot of my favorite links never make it to the front page, which is usually heavy on controversy and unkind to interesting-but-unsensational projects.
I’ve been collecting links for years, and copying Nat Torkington’s Radar post format (plus 25% extra) gave me a fun way to share them with the world. The posts don’t get a massive number of clicks, the last three posts got 66, 61, and 91 views total, but people seem to like them. I end up having a lot of conversations with folks I never would have been in touch with, and it feels good to shine a light on projects that deserve more attention. My favorite result is seeing a startup or framework get picked up by a publication with a much bigger audience, since I seem to have a decent number of journalists and other bloggers following my posts.