I used to work hard to write blog posts on API Evangelist that would have broad appeal with the Hacker News community, and at first I didn't have any luck, after trying to engage with readers on posts, I found myself blacklisted, where nothing I submitted showed up. I lived in some kind parallel universe, all because I argued with a couple influential HN users, who didn't like what I had to offer.
I started a new account for API Evangelist, and began playing the game with a little different approach. I didn't engage with users, and wrote posts with titles that would bring in readers, kept things short and superficial, and had some front-page exposure, which would result in thousands of pageviews, and then would dissipate. This type of storytelling ever really turned into meaningful traffic, an engaged audience, conversations, or brought any value to my overall mission.
Early last year I stopped posting to HN, only occasionally posted a story, but never really used it in the same way that I had before. I was worried my traffic would be hurt, but I went back to work, trying to write meaningful posts, that brought value to my target audience, and supported my mission. In the last year and a half, I've seen my sustained monthly traffic go from 500 page views a day to almost 2000 a day, all by just my sticking to my mission.
The audience that does visit my blog, for the most part engages with me, shares posts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other channels, and I see much of what I write echoed on other blogs, and in conversations I see on social media, and in person at events. This approach to building my audience, and ultimately traffic to my site has been very healthy in helping me obtain my objectives. My goal is not pageviews for advertising sake, it is to build an awareness in the average business person, and the everyday individual, about the importance of APIs.
I’m writing this post because see echoes of HN in another blog DZone, which I don’t actually syndicate to, but because of the history behind my kin lane.com blog, some of my posts still get hand selected by the DZone staff, and syndicated to the blog. Many of these blog posts get some pretty good comment activity, and the other week a blog post I wrote on Google’s hiring process, which got quite a bit of comments, including some pretty trollish ones.
I made the mistake of feeding the trolls, something I don't usually do, but I can’t help myself occasionally, and it made me think of this same illness that many advertising driven technology sites possess. I’m so happy to have my blog, something I know that reaches a wide range of people, not just because of the page views, but also because of the online and in-person feedback I get. The alpha geek crowd is not my audience, and I don't care what they think about what I’m saying, but the trollish comments still get to me sometimes. i quickly shrug them off, but writing about these emotions is one way I do that—resulting in this post.
I’m stoked to have a mission driven blog, that goes beyond monetization through advertising. My audience may be small compared to DZone or Hacker News, and what I do may not matter to a lot of their users, but at least I have purpose that involves helping educate people, and I don’t feel the need to tell people how stupid they are, and that what they do is worthless. I can’t imagine being so lost, that doing that makes you feel better. It makes me sad, but then I get back to work, and move on, keeping on with my mission.
Photo Credit: Jonathan C. Dietrich