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What makes people read this stuff?

29 September 2010

Last week the BlogCatalog widget disappeared from my blogs. I use it (and the MyBlogLog one) to see who visits my blog, so I can pay a return visit to them.They are both social blogrolling sites, which let you connect to blogs and bloggers that you find interesting. Apart from the usual spammers who misuse the system, they provide a good way of marking interesting blogs for return visits.

The BlogCatalog one is back now (apparently they were changing servers), but I thought I’d check the statistics to see how many visitors it brought to my blog. The answer is quite illuminating:

Referrers for 90 days ending 2010-09-29 (Summarized)

2010-07-01 to Today

Referrer Views 104 99 89 70… 61 57… 55… 50… 46
WordPress Dashboard 43 42 39 34… 33 32… 30… 29 25 24 24… 23 21 18… 17… 17 17 15… 15 14 14 13 12… 12 12… 12 11… 11 11… 11… 10

Notice what is not there: no Technorati, no Amatomu, no Afrigator, no Twitter and no Facebook. Also no MyBlogLog. BlogCatalog is there, but quite low down.

It seems that the thing that brings most visitors to this blog is links from other blogs.

Some of those are annoying spam links like “student loan consilidation [sic]”, which have nothing that interests me. And one of them that is quite high up is another of my own blogs — that’s because when I write there about something I’ve written about here before, I often link to it rather than repeating stuff I’ve already said. So that doesn’t really count.

But most of the other blogs that link write about things that interest me.

And apart from those, the thing that brings readers is Stumble Upon.

I find that interesting, because what I post there automatically gets passed on to Twitter and from there to Facebook, yet very few people seem to come from those places. Or perhaps they do, but are shown as coming from Stumble Upon, because SU provides the link shortener, which works automatically, though that should not apply to the Twitter daily paper, which provides a daily digest of the best of Twitter, and is the way I follow Twitter most of the time. The daily paper has direct full links, rather than the shortened ones.

About 4-5 years ago I used to use Technorati a lot. If I was about to write something on my blog, I’d check that subject on Technorati yo see what others had written on it, and if necessary link to them. But, as is common on the Internet, the people at Technorati never heard the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” You could log in and see everything on one page — like the top tags and the top subjects. But I think they got greedy, and decided that if they made things hard to find, people would spend a lot of time looking for them, and the more pages they looked at, the more Technorati’s ad revenue would be. So by making the site more difficult to navigate, and hiding things, they hoped that visitors might have thirty page-views where previously they had only had three. But if others are anything like me, they don’t go there at all any more. I used to visit every day, but now I only visit when I’m writing things like this and want to check to see if it’s still as bad I remember it. And it is. I search for stuff I know is out there in the blogosphere, and Technorati doesn’t find it. But Google does.

So I see that things like MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog are mainly useful for me to find other blogs, but other people don’t seem to use them much to find mine. And social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook, are pretty much overrated. And though BlogCatalog wasn’t broke, they are busy trying to fix it right now, and lots of things that used to work no longer do so. I fear they are going the Technorati route, making the site harder to navigate, hiding stuff that you used to be able to see at a glance. It looks ominous. And what those sites lack most is a way of getting rid of unwanted “friends”. Not blocking them, but just saying, in effect, “I don’t know you, and you obviously don’t want to know me, so don’t ‘add’ me to your friends.” Friends are those who read my blogs and make intelligent comments — that indicates that we share common interests. And that’s what blogging is all about, to me, at any rate — sharing thoughts and ideas and experiences with people who have similar interests.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Graham permalink
    29 September 2010 7:45 am

    Hi, Steve

    It may be that Twitter and Facebook referrals are hidden by StumbledUpon. The last majority (99%+) of stuff by you that I read I get to via Twitter links. I’m on Twitter all day (TweetDeck) and so I get your posts pretty much the second it appears on Twitter. I also check your and my daily papers almost daily, but I obviously don’t go to your blog posts from there because if I’d wanted to read it, I would’ve read it earlier in the day already.


  2. gailbhyatt permalink
    29 September 2010 1:26 pm

    I’m wondering the same thing because I always access you through Twitter.

    • 30 September 2010 4:09 am

      I think I’ve worked it out now.

      Some links do show as coming from Twitter, because people have clicked on the link to my blog in my Twitter profile. But I use Stumble Upon to post tweets that link to blog posts because that automatically shortens the URLs, and even if people click on them in Twitter, it shows them as coming from StumbleUpon. Twitter used to automatically shorten the URLs, but no longer does so (not for me, at any rate), some people seem to get those posts, but my tweets don’t.

      • 30 September 2010 2:18 pm

        You can post to twitter directly from or if you register there. In this case it will be also easier to see clicks statistics.

        You can also per-link statistics by just adding ‘+’ to any or link. Like for statistics of the link

        I don’t know how to shorten from the Twitter’s web interface.

  3. 30 September 2010 2:07 pm

    I follow links to your blog almost exclusively from Twitter, which I check more often than my RSS reader. But as your links are shortened through StumbleUpon, you cannot see the real referrer.

  4. 10 October 2010 10:35 am

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for sharing this useful information. As I look at the logs for my blog I find that, unlike yours, the second most popular referrers of traffic comes from Facebook and twitter. I think that has a lot to do with how many followers and friends you have on those platforms. I have over a thousand followers and friends on facebook and the same on twitter. That accounts for a fair amount of ‘eyeballs’.

    In my case, however, by far the largest referral comes from google. My squarespace overview also allows me to see what the most common search terms are, and where the person who search for it comes from.

    I have also noticed that ‘Carpenters shoes’ (Jenny Hillebrand’s blog) sends me quite a few followers. And so does ‘Discerning the world’ (which has written a number of critical posts about me and my theology).

    For my part, I visit your two main blogs directly about once a week, and always keep an eye on your twitter feed – in fact most often I come to read a particular story because it has surfaced on twitter.



    • 11 October 2010 6:16 am


      It seems that I was mistaken about Twitter and Facebook, since if people come to my blog from either of those come to my blog, they are often shown as coming from StumbleUpon.

      I use StumbleUpon to post tweets announcing blog posts and other web links because SU automatically shortens the URLs whereas Twitter does not. It passes them on to Twitter, which in turn passes them on to Facebook, and if people click on the link they come via StumbleUpon, which provides the link.

      I’m not particularly keen on having many followers on Twitter, and I try not to follow more people than I can cope with, though I’ve started following more since the advent of the Daily Paper Digest, which makes it much more manageable, and I also started one for the Lausanne 3 conference at #capetown2010.

      I’m even less keen on having lots of “friends” on Facebook, and try to restrict it to people I’ve actually met face-to-face, or have interacted with quite a lot on line. Facebook seems to have become a lot more difficult to navigate recently. I’m a member of several groups there, but I don’t join any more, because I can never find them again after I’ve joined them.

  5. 12 October 2010 11:14 am

    Hi Steve, I tend to drop into your blog via facebook or rss feed.

    As for my site, I find facebook draws in a lot of traffic these days, but it wasn’t always so. Stumbleupon tends to give me either a blizzard or a drought rather than steady rain. Technorati … I’m not even listed anymore.

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