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Blog on blog [updated 18-Mar-2008]

(See below for updated content) 

[Apologies to B. Dylan, and to Alvaro T.G. AKA Blag]

My first blog was a bust, so I’ve deleted it.  Since then (August 2007) I’ve written 34 blogs, not counting this one, a pace of about 1 a week.  Which makes sense as I don’t write them at work, but after hours and on weekend.

So around November I started trying to see how well my writings were being accepted.  The points awarded were just from one anonymous reviewer, so while useful as an initial gauge of quality and usefulness, I was often surprised that my heavy investments got low points while others hit higher.  I looked at the other feedback – comments, number of views, and the mysterious “Rank”.  I had seen my page views go way up when Craig linked to my blogs at Tech Ed 07 Las Vegas.

I put the values I found into a spreadsheet to visualize trends.  Here’s what I saw:


  • Heavy technical writing such as comments on Unicode, and particularly, comments on an SAP training course, earned many page views and higher rank.
  • Number of comments has no correlation to page views
  • Social topics such as the environment, history of science or organizational mentoring don’t attract many readers

The graph



  • Page views climb over time, with an initial surge, and then more slowly increase.  Those above the “views” trend are hit more than average.
  • Views per day decrease after the initial surge; those over the “views/day” trend are being found by searches, references, etc.
  • The lower axis only lists a few titles.
  • Duration has close groupings during busy times such as Tech Ed, and fallow areas for up to 2 weeks when I had nothing to blog on.

I put the data online via here.

(Here’s the new stuff for March 2008)

A mini-storm erupted beginning (ahem) last week when Craig Cmehil twittered about his decision making process in rejecting many beginner blog attempts, and then allowing Sunayana Madhuri to post the somewhat abbreviated Beginning…!

Richard Hirsch then followed with a blog on The specified item was not found.. He talked about modifying behavior, deciding which content should go to blogs and which to wiki.  I joked with him that his blog should be a wiki.

As you can see from the initial part of this blog (and by the way, I decided to append to this one rather than add a new one to keep from clogging up the blog directory, and also because I can).

My original intent was to measure myself, partly for pride, and partly to see what was interesting to people.  Good blogs get read, and then recommended to others, so the number of views goes up, and then the ranking increases (lower means higher).  But pulling data from the blog summary page and dumping it into a spreadsheet was brain-numbingly tedious.  My work would be more easily done by a program, and it’s entirely possible that the summary report would be reformatted (probably not a high priority though).

I did more work with editgrid, such as my home energy reporting and thought I should update my SDN blog edit grid.  I hate to call this a web 2.0 application, so let’s think of it as a web service.  After I shared a chart with Tom Jung he said he wanted to see more and “management loves charts.” Instead of creating another grid, I added worksheets to my existing page, one for each of some of my favorite SDN bloggers.

Marilyn Pratt has given me invaluable encouragement and advice over the past year, so her chart goes first.  Those of you who haven’t mt Marilyn, try to get to Sapphire/ASUG this year and catch up with her on pre-conference Sunday.  You will be in for a treat!


You can view the raw data on each tab of the online spreadsheet located here:

To fill in the data, I went to each user’s blog summary page, copied the entire text to a file, and then ran this command on my UNIX workstation (you Excel and Access weenies are on your own):

$ grep “^Comments” blag_blogs.t | awk ‘{print $4, $7}’>blagx.t

This give me the 2 columns for views and rank.  I then pasted that into the edit grid, selected the content, and chose an X-Y scatter plot.

This is the impressive Tom Jung’s results (2 in the top 10 all time SDN blogs):

And since I mentioned Blag in the formula above, here is his:


And let’s not forget Craig, who has a huge outpouring of online content, well over 300 blogs.  And I thought I was productive with 40!


And mine: 

Wow, I am not even in the top 3,000 yet.  Still a ways to go to be considered widely-read. 

The way I did this with Excel was to load the data to a spreadsheet, create a graph, copy the graph to a paint program, resize or reformat it for the web, upload it to SDN, and then link it in my blog, or post, or wiki.

With this technique, I click on “get object permalink” and paste that URL into an image tag.  After that, I can update the underlying data, and do not need to go back into the blog to tweak the image, except a slight tickle sometimes to flush the caches.

Finally, here are links on moving your blog to a wiki by my friend Ignacio:


I hope this has given you new (and experienced) bloggers ideas for ways to improve your writing, from the idea formation, to the delivery (more charts and graphs!) to the refinement (responding to editorial comments). 



[opinions expressed are mine, not yours or anyone elses’s]

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  • And also nice analysis…Never thought of doing sometime like that -:) Very helpful…

    Anyway…Why the apologies??? You’re my friend…So no apologies need it -;)

    BTW…It’s great to have you blogging -:)



  • Hi Jim,
    It’s really been a treat to read all of your blogs especially the ones on subjects i never ever thought I’ll read but just did so because of your sense of humour and your style of writing.
    Reading each and every blog of yours has been a treat 🙂
  • You mentioned the boost that happens when a blog is given link love.  This can be the result of a feature on a homepage (such as the SDN homepage) as well as when others proliferate the readership through external channels.  While it is no secret that technical content gets a great many more eyes here, viewership sadly doesn’t always equate to quality of content.  I remember reading one of the A-list external bloggers sadly mourning the disparity experienced between the blog hits and the content value when that writer was blogging about particular (difficult) topics.  We know from many “populist” medias that what is popular isn’t always what is meaningful.  But then again the community creates the “meaningful metrics”.  So I suppose the more someone like yourself writes, even about those “less popular” topics, the more your readership will grow, as does your reputation.  And Jim, your reputation is having some positive growth spurts with the inordinate amount of time and passion you dedicate here.  Thanks.
    • Marilyn – thanks for the spin.  I hope you know I spent as much time making sure my blog on Tracy Kidder got onto the first diagram as any other part of this development.  I mean, like, other than the spell checker. 
      It ain’t about the points, the views or the rank.  It’s about the readers.

      • “It’s about the readers” Well said! And thanks for introducing me to Tracy Kidder.  It was a revelation to see artist and geek intersect.  I re-read your Happy Birthday, Tracy Kidder! with much relish just now.  You certainly have the gift of gab (which means I like the way you write)
  • Hi,

    I read this blog, and also read the ‘Beginning’ blog and the comments from the moderator.

    I would suggest to the Management that a ‘Rejected Blogs Repository’ is created which can be searched and read by anybody interested.

    Personally I am from the school that all information is good information and it is upto the reader to decide the value of the information.

    Admittedly there must be standards and that is why not all blogs make it to this section.

    However, personally I wonder why a lot of blogs even make it to this section and question the consistency of the Moderator’s decisions.

    Therefore I would be interested to see the tech-related blogs which are rejected as my opinion is those blogs might just hold information that can help somebody somewhere solve a problem and that is the essence of what a Developer Network is about.

    Giving consideration to the above, my suggestion to the Management is a blog section/repository for rejected techy blogs.

    All the best,

    Petr Solberg (Pseudo name).

    • Well, “pseudo”, I can’t speak for management, but I think the idea of an editor opening his or her virtual trash can to second guessing is not likely to happen.  For the same reason that point assignment is arbitrary, so is the blog pass/fail decision.  One could argue that rejected material could be published elsewhere, and then mentioned in passing.  My blogs are self-edited, and I don’t need management’s approval to publish them.  However, I only got here by showing self control (to a point); that freedom comes with the responsibility of trying to be interesting.  New bloggers are like newspaper letter writers–the paper’s management chooses some but not all for publication.  Senior writers are given space on the op-ed page, and can write on subjects of their choice. Finally, management writes the editorial page opinions, which may change over time.  “Jim”