Historical & Future Writing Patterns

Let’s have a look at the what content has been the most popular here on johnbeales.com over the past several years, what I’ve written the most of, and what I’m hoping to write more of, (this is part of the 10 Days to a Better Blog series I wrote about on Sunday, and is a bit introspective).

The two posts that are by far the most popular are ancient: Using VLC to transcode an Axis Camera’s video stream, and stream it out again from 2008, and Transferring OS X and Boot Camp to a New Hard Drive from 2011. In the case of the streaming post, transcoding or transforming video streams from IP cameras for public viewing on the web was a new concept, using VLC, which is free, to do it was very attractive, and there was very little information available on the web about how to turn the stream from an IP camera into something consumable in a web browser. As for the post about transferring to a new hard drive, the post is a detailed step-by-step, and there’s a large audience of people who buy new macs and want to transfer their info. These are one-hit-wonders, though, I could update them, but they would no longer be new. In the case of streaming the answer was “Use Wowza” even when I wrote the post.

Let’s look at content categories that have done well. “How To” content is popular, probably because that’s most of what’s here, but things I write about most often, like WordPress and Javascript, are not consistent leaders. Some WordPress posts have good traffic numbers, but it’s the weird posts like Improving Trac’s Tickets by Milestone Report or How to Update an Updated Subversion Repository from a Working Copy that have generated the most comments, excluding the two hero posts discussed above.

I’ll keep writing How To content for myself, I have some sketched out already, but I should explore writing about weird things a bit more. There are a couple of new categories that might show up here as well: Comment on social issues, (I touched on exclusion of women on Monday), and sometimes Photography, which used to be a lot more active than it is.


Posts two days in a row. Why?

After many months of silence this is the second day in a row that a post has appeared here. Why?

The story starts on May 1 when a tweet by Tim Ferriss about Coach.me, caught my eye, (he’s an investor). I downloaded the app and am trying the “Habit of Waking Up On Time” challenge. One of the suggestions is to replace the habit of sleeping in or hitting snooze with a new habit, which brings me to John Saddington, the programmer behind Desk app. In November John posted 10 Days to a Better Blog! — a series of exercises to get people blogging. I’ve had it bookmarked, and blogging exercises are much more productive than sleeping, so I’m working through the exercises when I wake up. Today’s exercise is to post about why I write. I’ve read ahead and some of them are a bit navel-gazing, like this one.

So why do I write?

I write to avoid forgetting. There’s a sweet spot where I use a technique a few times a year, but not all the time, and it requires some almost-repeated code, often SQL. I like to get those things into a blog post so the queries are easy to find, such as analyzing web server logs in MySQL. Sometimes I solve difficult problems and I don’t want to forget how. My posts on transferring a Boot Camp partition to a new hard drive and transcoding live video streams from IP cameras are examples of these.

There’s a second reason I write: to rant, hopefully constructively. This doesn’t happen often, but it has, this is a blog after all.

The third reason I write is to try to refine ideas. This kind of writing rarely ends up anywhere public, but writing, then editing, helps me figure out things I’m having problems with, from code to business to gardening and beyond.

TechCrunch is a Blog – Let’s Treat it like one

I read TechCrunch almost every day, doing so is one of the best ways to keep tabs on what companies are starting, (and stopping), and general trends in the tech industry.

I don’t always read the comments on TechCrunch, there are a lot of articles every day and I have to work sometime, however, in the comments that I have read recently I’ve noticed a theme emerging. Roughly, the theme is to say something like “This isn’t what your blog is about, so you shouldn’t have written this post” or they say something like “I don’t want to hear about this company.”

For example, last week, Mike Arrington posted Handshaking is so Medieval. Let’s end it. Mike doesn’t like shaking hands. He feels that it spreads germs and feels that we no longer need to show the people that we meet that we are not carrying a weapon. He followed it up yesterday by posting A Revolution Begins: OpenCandy has a Board Meeting and Nobody Shakes Hands, the title pretty much says it all.

After a healthy discussion got going on the original post there started to be some comments like “Geyt over it you stupid queer.” The comments on the follow-up post include things like this:

So the author was thinking “Hmm, slow news day. What should I write about? I know! I’ll write about myself.”

I’ve unsubscribed from your RSS feed. (source)

The editors at TechCrunch also post very frequently about Twitter. This should be no surprise as Twitter is one of the fastest growing companies out there right now, (By the way, you can follow me at @johnbeales on Twitter). With 17 million visitors from the US alone in April, if Twitter does something it’s worth reporting. Again, I find the comment section filled with comments such as:

This just in…TC is still all over Twitters nuts…(source)

ANOTHER twitter story? are you kidding me? What a joke… (source)

And again, we don’t care… (source)

My mother told me on several occasions that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, then I shouldn’t say anything at all, and I am going to paraphrase that for blog discussions: If you don’t have anything constructive to say, don’t say anything at all.

TechCrunch is Mike’s blog, so he can post what he wants, and if he, (or his editors), feels that Twitter is worth posting about, then so be it. He has found a place reporting tech news, but please remember that TechCrunch is a blog, not the technology section of a newspaper, and if Mike wants to have fun once in a while with a handshake revolution, or anything else, it’s his blog. For what it’s worth, I think we all need a little fun & distraction every once in a while.