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I'm involved in Blog Explosion now, to try to get some visitors to this thing. The basic idea is that you surf other member sites, for 20 seconds each (they have a way of enforcing this) to earn credits that get other members to surf your site.

Though you can buy credits outright, I'm doing the surfing thing right now. This has two benefits. The first is that I can broaden my horizons a bit, and see parts of the blogosphere I might never get to otherwise. The second, and most important, is that I get to see other blogs the way my new visitors are seeing mine.

I've learned a lot from this, in only a few hours of surfing.

  • You're only as good as your top article

  • If a user can't figure out the theme and purpose of your blog in 20 seconds, the visit was wasted, and he'll never be back

  • 20 seconds is an eternity if what you're looking at is uninteresting

  • 20 seconds goes by in a flash if what you're looking at is interesting

  • if it's not "above the fold" (visible in the first unscrolled browser page), most visitors will never see it

  • Links not above the fold will never be clicked by most users

  • An attractive look goes a long way towards getting people interested - and an unattractive one gets them watching the timer instead

  • The bare-bones "wall of text" design can be more attractive and draw a visitor in if the content is at least a little compelling to the visitor

  • If a page is too "busy", the new visitor sees nothing

  • Sidebar content is invisible until after a visitor has decided he likes your blog

  • Sidebar content is ignored until after a visitor decides he will be coming back

  • Ads that are relevant to the topic can be interesting content in themselves. Ads that are not just keep other, more valuable content, below the fold

  • Diary entries about your bad day at work or your dog are just annoying until after a visitor decides he likes you and will be coming back

  • Pictures, profiles, and personal information has the same effect as diary entries

  • Random, scattershot marketing like BlogExplosion are great for getting "eyeballs"on the page, but getting them to return and to tell their freinds about you is the only thing that will build readership. A second visit, or a recommended visit predisposes the visitor to want to like it, and to explore the sidebar and below the fold. Word of mouth is and always will be the most effective marketing tool.

You might wonder what this is doing on this site. Am I just violating my second point above? Well, no, not really, though I bet a lot more of you BlogExplosion visitors stayed with me this far than would have otherwise. No, this is tangentially related to the theme of this blog. First, marketing skills are very important to many aspects of an independent life. In a society and economy where division of labor is a vital element, marketing - from your product, to yourself (such as at job interviews), to your opinions and advice - is a tool of independence and advancement.

Second, if you think that there is some conflict between "pure" art, or writing, or political punditry, and "crass commercialism", I want to give you some food for thought. Commercialism isn't crass, in and of itself, though it can be in specific instances. Commercialism just is. It's how we live, it's how we exchange value for value with other people. It's the inherently honorable corollary to being productive. Saying that you don't want commercialism to "pollute" your work is saying that you want people to appreciate what you do - to appreciate you - without providing them any value that they would gladly trade for. It's a profoundly greedy orientation to the world.

And finally, this kind of analysis of marketing overlaps considerably with some very intersting theories about how we learn, about how we filter, sort, and evaluate information we are exposed to. And learning is very much a part of what this blog is about. Learning is a key to every aspect of this blog - Life, Intelligence, Technology and Freedom. There's a link in my blogroll called "Creating Passionate Users" that has a lot of information about getting users interested in a software product, which a blog essentially is, but also a lot of more general information about how we learn and process information in our heads.

See, I didn't link to it in the article. I want you to go over there, down on the right, and look at my blogroll to find it. That way I get you to explore below the fold a bit, and to show you something you wouldn't have looked at otherwise. Maybe that'll be enough to get you to come back again some time, or to tell your friends.

Well, your 20 seconds are probably up by now, thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.


it's actually thirty seconds : )

i've found that most people blogmark or blogroll me, and only stay for their thirty seconds before returning at a later date on their own time.

i'm thinking of removing myself from blogexplosion, because most people seem to simply be interested in their own credits.

Posted by marie b. at Tuesday, May 10, 2005 07:54 AM


Yes, people are interested in their own credits, that is the explicit reason why they are there. It's your job to entice them to be interested in more.

BlogExplosion is the starting point, the "welcome" sign on the door. You have to provide something they want once they're in. That you get anyone to blogmark you and return is a sign that you are doing something right. Afterall, they don't have to do that to earn their credits.

Posted by kylben at Tuesday, May 10, 2005 08:04 AM

Welcome to BE, it definitely made a difference for my blog, when it came to visitors. It got my blog on more links and other blogs. You may want to check out Blog Clicker:
It's the same thing as Blog Explosion, although I like BE more, I use both though.

Posted by Tara at Tuesday, May 10, 2005 12:14 PM

Excellent post. Those are some great tips. I've actually broken a few of your rules, but I agree for the most part.

Posted by JJ at Tuesday, May 10, 2005 01:11 PM

Thanks, Tara, I'll check into it. Good luck with the journalism career.

And thanks, JJ. I hope it helps. Don't worry about going against any of these, they aren't rules in any strict sense, just observations. They're just some out of many considerations in designing a blog. Use them as they apply to you, don't if they don't.

If you have any additional tips, or observations, feel free to post them in the comments here.

Posted by kylben at Tuesday, May 10, 2005 01:24 PM

Great tips and well-said.

Posted by dbctan at Wednesday, May 11, 2005 06:03 AM

Here's one...
Write clearly. l33t5p34k and aLtErnAtiNg CaPS are simply nauseating.

Kylben, here's a linkback:

Posted by JJ at Wednesday, May 11, 2005 08:31 AM


Fortunately, I didn't run across any of those in my BX surfing. When I read "write clearly", I thought you were going to nail me for my numerous typos. I need to work on that.

Thanks for the link. Do you know how to do trackbacks? Putting the link in the comments is fine, I'm just curious how many people know about or use trackbacks, and what people's opinion on their value is.

dbctan, thanks for the nice words.

Posted by kylben at Wednesday, May 11, 2005 08:52 AM

Not sure about trackbacks.

Posted by JJ at Wednesday, May 11, 2005 10:32 AM


Trackbacks are a way to put a link to your blog into another blog, usually when you have a link in an article you write. It's like making links a two-way thing, instead of just in one direction. I think it is one feature that makes the "blogosphere" an interconnected sphere rather than a collection of points.

On this site, they would appear in the box below. If you want to try it, go ahead and click the "this form" link in the yellow section under "trackbacks" (just below the comment box). Fill out the form with the url and a description of your article, then click the button, and it will automatically appear here. If your blog software supports it, you can do it from your site without ever having to come here to do it. (Don't worry about messing it up, I can delete it if you do.)

I know WordPress supports trackbacks, but you'll have to check with them for how to do it. There's a more advanced technology that lets you automatically send trackbacks to articles you link, without having to do anything manually. My site supports both ends of that - I can send them automatically, and I can accept automatic trackbacks from others.

Posted by kylben at Wednesday, May 11, 2005 11:11 AM

hmmm. I completed the form.

Posted by JJ at Wednesday, May 11, 2005 12:15 PM


I added one for your link. Here's the information I used in the form:
Article URL:

Article Title: Blogging Tips, Etc.

Excerpt from article: Looking for tips on better blogging? Kylben offers some sound advice.

Your Blog Name: The Churning
What happened when you clicked the "add Trackback" button? Go ahead and try it again if you want - it would help me to work the kinks out of it. I can delete any duplicates.

Posted by kylben at Wednesday, May 11, 2005 12:28 PM

Tried again as a test. It says "Your trackback has been received properly."

Posted by JJ at Wednesday, May 11, 2005 12:35 PM


Did you get "received properly" the first time too? This last one may have been a case of it automatically screening out a duplicate. I'm going to delete the one I put in, so you can try again clean. If you want to, that is. Thanks for the help in any case.

Posted by kylben at Wednesday, May 11, 2005 02:43 PM

Cool. It worked. Rock on.

Posted by JJ at Wednesday, May 11, 2005 07:46 PM

Ah, finally, good. Thanks for sticking with it.

Posted by kylben at Wednesday, May 11, 2005 07:50 PM

I saw you on blog explosion and decided to read further...but I would like you to kno w the next numbet to click is 666....coincidence?;)

Posted by stemily at Thursday, May 12, 2005 10:24 AM


I guess it means I'm the most powerful blogger in the 'sphere! (What's the emoticon for megalomaniacal laughter?)

Posted by kylben at Thursday, May 12, 2005 01:22 PM

Intriguing - people are also attracted to similar interests. I won't stay long at a site that has to do with motorboats.

Posted by kara at Monday, May 16, 2005 08:40 AM


You've got a nice blog there. You had me hooked as soon as I saw the link to APOD right at the top. I put your link on my personal "daily" list.

Posted by kylben at Monday, May 16, 2005 09:07 AM

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