Mind-boggling blogging

Tagline: Blogging is a very easy looking activity, until you _actually_ begin with it…

Most probably even the irregular readers of rubyrailways have noticed a 3 month period of silence during the summer, which has just ended a few days ago. In my opinion it is generally not a very good idea to temporarily abandon a blog, without even announcing a summer holiday or posting a note like “to be continued after an undefined period of blogger’s block” or something. Why did I allow it happen then?

Well, there are a handful of reasons for this: summer holidays, though days at the work, lot of stuff to do on my PhD but mainly a kind of a blogger’s crisis. Although all the reasons are very interesting, I would like to elaborate on the last one a bit.

The first problem stems from the relative success of my previous entries: Tutorials like Install Internet Explorer on Ubuntu Dapper in 3 easy steps, Data extraction for Web 2.0: Screen scraping in Ruby/Rails or Getting Ruby on Rails up and running on Ubuntu Dapper were quite popular and set a standard which was not easy to top (or at least to maintain) in terms of equally interesting topics.
Unfortunately I can pursue Ruby, Rails and even screen scraping/web extraction only in my spare time which is a scarce resource (it’s kind of hard to work full time, roll a PhD and blog simultaneously :-)) and therefore I do not bump into an interesting topic just every second day. However, this eventually got me into a kind-of an inverse Concorde-effect: If I have waited a week, then I can wait another to deliver something sexy. After a month: Now that I have waited a month, I surely have to come up with something *really* juicy… You get the idea.

I believe I am not the only one around with this thinking pattern, and I am not sure how are others handling this problem, but I have decided to give up this habit – in the future I would like to blog regularly, even at the cost that not every post will be a top-notch blockbuster :-).

The second problem is that I am kind of a renaissance guy: I am interested in new technologies, programming, science research, economics, reading books just about everything, photography, traveling, computer games, sports…
However, since rubyrailways is my first attempt at blogging, I am quite unsure how to deal with this amount of information: what should be the ratio of not-necessarily-correlated topics (e.g. Ruby, travelling and PhD research). I am nearly sure though that it is not a good idea to blog about everything, since then every post will be uninteresting for most of the readers.

Yes, I know that categories were invented to workaround this problem. However, in my experience most of the people today are using feed aggregators and/or personal start pages like bloglines, netvibes or pageflakes, and hence are facing this problem nevertheless. Yes, they could ignore the posts that are not interesting to them, but after doing so a few times they will potentially ignore your whole blog.
So how to find the golden mean?

A possible solution is to have a separate blog for everything: In my case this would mean at least a software development (mainly Ruby/Rails), general technology, Linux/Ubuntu, Science/PhD research and a travelling blog. Well, I certainly would not have the time to keep up all of them since I am struggling even with rubyrailways :-)… I could of course ignore what people think about my blog and just write it to myself, but that would deprive me from knowing what other people think about the things I am after, which is a very valuable information for me.

I would be very much interested in your opinion on this topic: How do you solve this ‘feature creep’ on your blog – by maintaining more blogs, focusing on just one topic and ignoring the others, or trying to balance somehow?

Please leave me a comment or send me a mail, I’d really like to hear your opinion…

13 thoughts on “Mind-boggling blogging

  1. Just my two cents.

    My opinion is that most important thing is to keep blog interesting. If you want to share something that is interesting for you, but it doesn’t fit main blog topic, you still should publish it.

    I think that best audience is that audience that likes what you like. It means less subscribers, but gaining much more quality over quantity, if this could be applied to readers (I suppose that it definitely could)

  2. Well, this sounds quite rational… I think I will try to do as you advise for a month or two and let’s see what will get out of it.

  3. i think simply blog about everything that you’d like to share with the rest of the web. no need to create specific blog for specific topics… after all, this is about YOU, not about RoR etc… at least imho…

    and regarding the feed-reader-problem… if i’m not mistaken, it’s possible to have separate feeds for the separate categories, so if someone is only interested in the RoR posts, he can subscribe to your blog’s RoR feed (not sure if it’s by default like this in wordpress or some specific configuration is required)

  4. I’ve found the categories perfectly address separating topic-specific articles from other potential randomness, and it lowers the barrier to posting (which is rare enough in my own case).

    WordPress (by default) already provides category specific RSS for your feed aggregator users: simply append /feed/ to the category URL, and you’re done.

    e.g. /category/ruby/feed/

    All that’s left is making that known to your visitors. Some of the WordPress styles include those RSS feed links on the category pages views, but if not, you’ll find it simple to add them.

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