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September 30, 2006

"Big Posts" -- How They Work

(Warning: Blog geekery in the extreme follows)

From time to time I'm asked how I've grown my readership here on the Whatever, and whether anyone else can do those same things to grow the readership of their own blogs. In the main it comes down to four separate factors, three of which I or anyone can control, and one I or anyone else cannot. The three factors that you can control are these:

1. Update frequency: Updating daily matters in terms of readership.
2. Enabling comments: People who comment feel attached to the site; people who don't comment get updated content when they click through.
3. Quality of content: Putting in interesting stuff so people have a reason to click into the site daily.

I'm not going to talk about any of these in length right now. What I'm going to talk about is the factor you can't control: Big Posts.

A big post, very simply, is a post that more than the usual number of people link to, thus bringing in an entirely different audience of readers. Most of these readers will be one-time readers -- they click through to the link, see it, and click out, never to return -- but some small proportion will root around, enjoy what they see (due to you working on the factors you can control), and put you on their daily reading list. Bang, you've got new readers.

Big posts can happen when one or more of the following conditions exist:

1. You write or create something unusually well-written about a current news event or other hot topic.
2. You do something unusually stupid and/or funny on your site.
3. You are linked to by one or more high-traffic sites (Fark, Slashdot, Digg, Boing Boing, Instapundit, Daily Kos, etc).

The first two of these will often have the effect of making your already-existing readers link to that particular entry, bringing in their native readers, some of whom may then also link and comment on their sites. This will result in a lot of links, with (probably) a relatively small number of people coming in through each link, but making up a large number of new readers in aggregate. I call this the "LiveJournal Effect," because LiveJournal, thanks to its "friends lists" and community structure, is particularly good at creating cascades of many links among friends -- you can get several generations of links from this sort of thing. LiveJournal is of course not the only place from which this can happen: MySpace can create a similar effect, as can informal online communities not affiliated with any particular blogging software -- for example, my own community of science fiction writers and readers with blogs.

The third condition, of course, moves large numbers of people primarily from one or two sites. This phenomenon is well known -- people talk of Web sites collapsing under the load after being "Farked" or "Slashdotted" or having an "Instalanche." Very often, getting linked to a high-traffic site will also start an LJ Effect, so not only do you get the original flood of people from a high traffic site, you'll also get a second wave of visitors from personal sites linking into the entry.

If we know the conditions that cause Big Posts, then why can't we control them? Primarily because it's not up to the original poster to decide what's a "Big Post": that comes from others. In the case of the LJ effect, a whole bunch of people have to decide the entry is worth linking to; in the case of the high-traffic sites, whoever is reponsible for putting posts on the front page of the site -- usually a single person or a small group -- gets to decide.

You can lobby some of these sites to pick up on a post you think it interesting (most of the high-traffic sites welcome link submissions, formally or informally), but there's no assurance that the people running the site will agree. For example, I recently submitted a link to Boing Boing about my "Schadenfreude Pie," because I figured it was a Boing Boing-y sort of thing. It's not linked to on Boing Boing, however. I've queried Instapundit for links before and come up short as well. That's the way it goes. However, Boing Boing and Instapundit have also linked to my site when when I didn't solicit them for links. Which goes to my point: You never can tell.

(And of course, even if a high-traffic site links to you, it's not a guarantee that you'll get a rush of traffic, because there's another group of decision-makers involved: The site's readers, who have to decide whether the link seems interesting to them. This is necessarily also the case with an LJ Effect as well. In many respects a "Big Post" is the ultimate in the "Long Tail" phenomenon -- it relies on many people making the decision to link, many people deciding to click, and then on another group deciding to link as well.)

I do think it's possible to game the "Big Post" system somewhat, and generate a large amount of traffic, but I don't think gaming the system will result in the desired effect of growing a site's overall readership. As a hypothetical, I guarantee you that if I posted a picture of my wife naked (that's the vulgar "naked," as opposed to the arty "nude"), that this site would get (ahem) a fairly substantial traffic spike, both for the initial picture and then for the aftereffect of various people discussing what a scumbag I was for posting a picture of my naked wife purely to get a traffic spike for my site. But aside from my wife deservedly beating the crap out of me for posting that picture, I suspect that in the long run there would be no lasting effect, and that the site wouldn't gain any new readers; the sort of people who are going to click through for a picture of my naked wife are not the sort who are likely to stick around for the usual bill of fare around here, and the people who are discussing what a scumbag I am are not likely to stick aound either. Indeed, in the long run I would suspect I would suffer a loss of readers, as some of the current regulars, disgusted by my actions, take off for parts unknown, never to be seen again. So gaming the system is not a good thing. Also, there will be no naked pictures of my wife. Sorry.

So that's the theory behind a "Big Post." How does it work in the real world? As it happens, I have two good examples of how a Big Post works, and how it affects your overall readership. Let's start with one from September of 2005: My "Being Poor" post.

As of August of 2005, the Whatever was getting between 8,000 and 10,000 unique visits per day on weekdays (somewhat lower on weekends). 10,000 was the upper bound. The "Being Poor" piece was posted in September 3. For this piece, I didn't request any links from high traffic sites; I just put it up and people began to link to it (NB: there was some initially higher traffic on 9/2 for a piece I'd written the day before). What you're seeing here is the readership curve of a "LiveJournal Effect" -- which is to say that while there's a day where the readership spikes (September 7), there are a few days before and after where the readership of the site is significantly higher -- the curve encompasses six days, from 9/3 through 9/9. This is the effect of new links being added as the piece filters through the blogosphere. After 9/10, readership returns to a lower readership plateau -- but that plateau is higher than the previous readership level. Whereas in August of 2005, the readership was between 8k-10k, after the "Being Poor" piece the readership is between 10k and 15k, and never drops below 10k. What was previously the upper bound of the readership became the new lower bound.

That's a "LJ Effect" curve. Now let's look at how getting "Farked" can create a spike, as it did this month:

For August and the first nine days of September of 2006, the Whatever was averaging between 15,000 and 20,000 unique visits per weekday (and again, a bit lower on weekends). On September 10 through 12, the site experienced an "LJ Effect" when people started linking in regarding the entry in which I discussed my wife backing up a grabby drunk -- and indeed 9/11 was the highest trafficked day the site had had up to then, with 26.6K unique visits (NB: Instapundit linked into all this, but his site didn't drive most of the traffic -- evidence that even a high-traffic site won't always push lots of folks).

The wife incident would have been interesting in itself as a traffic mover, but then I taped bacon to my cat, and things got crazy. The event was linked to by Fark, and on 9/13, the site had in excess of 67,000 visitors, most of whom who wanted to see the miracle of the bacon-taped cat. Of those 67,000 visitors, 20K were "mine" -- that is to say, my regular attendance -- and 30K were from Fark. That leaves 17K coming from elsewhere: another "LJ Effect" that was swamped by the Fark spike. The next day had 56K visitors, of which only 6k were from Fark; subtracting my "own" 20k, that's another 30k readers. Some of these were from other high-traffic sites, notably Metafilter, but the majority were from smaller sites and personal blogs; Fark readers and others pushing people through.

The spike is significant, but it's also clear that the vast majority of "spiky" readers didn't stick around; by 9/16 the BaconCat spike was over. But once again there's a new readership plateau -- whereas before the readership bounds were 15k-20k, since the BaconCat spike the new readership bound is 20k-25k, excluding weekends (but even those are up commensurately). Some of that new readership can probably be attributed to the LJ Effect just prior to the BaconCat spike, however.

This suggests two things to me: First, that for growing a readership on your site, it's better to have an "LJ Effect" type of event than a "Farked" or "Slashdot" event; second, that a substantive post that is widely linked -- in this case, "Being Poor" -- is better for growing a readership than a silly/stupid post -- in this case, BaconCat. I'll also speculate, based on other "Big Posts" I've had here over the years, that there's a correlation between substantive posts receiving an "LJ Effect" and silly/stupid posts getting the "Farked" effect. In the case of Fark in particular, of course, this is nearly axiomatic, since that site specializes in linking to goofy/idiotic/asinine things. But other high-traffic sites also seem to best drive traffic when they're linking to some sort of "stunt" post.

Bear in mind, of course, that all this speculation is based only on my own experience here on this site; I leave it to others, possibly those gunning for advanced degrees, to do a more thorough examination of LJ Effects, Fark Spikes, and their overall effect on the growth of readership on personal blogs. However, I do suspect that my experience with these phenomena is not notably unusual.


Posted by john at September 30, 2006 12:13 PM

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Jay Lake | September 30, 2006 12:58 PM

My blog is much more modest than yours, but large enough for me to see traffic effects (judging by the density of LJ comments, comments from new reader in specific, and outside links as measured via Technorati and other services) from big posts, albeit for a smaller value of "big." It's always a mystery to me why precisely some posts catch more than others, but your analysis seems spot on.

In the past week I've had three posts on my LJ that generated unusual spikes -- the one on television and gaming in writer's lives created the second-longest comment string I've ever had, while the posts on the nine circles of genre publishing hell, and the one on professionalism, are currently drawing traffic.

Dissing gaming, even politely, struck a nerve among writers. (The biggest surprise was that nobody took strong exception to it.) That's a topic of personal importance to my readers. The genre publishing hell post was a stunt post, although again only of interest to a limited pool of readers. I'm not sure why the professionalism post is growing legs, since I didn't even post my views (yet), just asked a question.

So yeah, my experience at my much lower level backs yours up. FWIW, my Technorati rank is 26,757. Judge accordingly.

Jay Lake | September 30, 2006 01:00 PM

Oh, here's the URLs if you're interested.

Gaming and television:

The nine circles of genre publishing hell:

The meaning of professional:

Armchair Anarchist | September 30, 2006 01:16 PM

In the interest of scientific experimentation, I have submitted this article to Digg, Reddit and Stumbleupon...please let us know the results! ;)

John Scalzi | September 30, 2006 01:29 PM

Heh. Will do.

Nathan | September 30, 2006 01:41 PM

This is actually the first blog that's attracted me as a regular reader.

How did I get here?

Picked up OMW (friend's recommendation), got five pages in, said "who the hell is this guy"?, googled Scalzi, found Whatever.

Your first 3 factors are definitely what keep me coming back. I know that I'll always find something new, funny, thought provoking, or just plain maddening when I come here.

Because of that you're readers seem to be a cut above what I usually see elswhere. Reading through the comments, it soon becomes obvious that you have some very smart readers, some very funny readers, and not a few very disturbed readers. When you wind them up and turn them loose, some very entertaining things happen.

P.S., as I've mentioned before, I'm a moron about certain things. If anyone wanted to tell me how to use HTML tags, I'd be forever in your debt, (or at least until I forget you). I'm on an iBook G4, (OSX v.10.3.9), Firefox. I'd love to be able to have some style.

John Scalzi | September 30, 2006 01:43 PM


I do agree that the quality of the commenters here is very important to the overall quality of the site, and that I am fortunate to have commenters who are intelligent, engaged and fun to read. It helps make me look good.

Janiece | September 30, 2006 01:48 PM

I found the Whatever in the same way that Nathan did - from reading OMW. I enjoyed it so much, it became imperative for me to find out how old you were. I couldn't have you keeling over before I'd had a chance to enjoy the full fruits of your labor.

I stayed because of the "Being Poor" essay.

Jeff Hentosz | September 30, 2006 02:04 PM

Don't mind me. I'm going to follow Nathan from thread to thread for a while, just to make him antsy.

No, actually, I'm here to give him a couple simple style tips. Even though the system apparently does paragraph tags for you, it doesn't hurt to start off by placing <p> at the beginning of each paragraph and </p> at the end. Of each paragraph. They won't show up in your post and the only reason I'm getting away with it here is that I'm using escaped entities. Sounds science-fictiony, huh? Don't ask.

To make italics and bold use <em> and </em> for the former, <strong> and </strong> for the latter. That is, use them on either side of the word or phrase you want to affect. They are "on"/"off" switches so make sure you use both.

OK, sorry. Back to blog readership metrics, of which I am blissfully ignorant.

Nathan | September 30, 2006 02:19 PM

Assuming it works,


Gwen | September 30, 2006 02:41 PM

Oh, come on. Everyone knows that a crack-smoking cat sodomizer like you would post anything to get more readers!
I'm actually not sure how I ended up here. I think I clicked through from some SF-related-person's blog. Hmm.

Greg Barton | September 30, 2006 02:57 PM

Scalzi: "I am fortunate to have commenters who are intelligent, engaged and fun to read."

That's not surprising, as your blog and books are intelligent, engaging and fun to read. :) But enough brown nosing...

I think the Fark effect was catalyzed by the "five years post 9/11" effect as well. Everyone's sick of reading about depressing stuff. Taping bacon to a cat is the perfect antidote, imho. The link coming from Fark is the icing on the cake. (Politically aware and opinionated, but off the wall fringe folk readership.)

Adam Rakunas | September 30, 2006 02:58 PM

Oh, come on. Everyone knows that a crack-smoking cat sodomizer like you would post anything to get more readers!

...dude, where in hell was that post?

I agree with the LJ effect, because LJ is more about conversation than Digg or Fark; those sites like the brief blip of strange (though you'll also get hellaciously long comment threads sometimes). LJs give more of a sense of personality and connection. And while I've never been Farked, I have gotten LJd after I left a comment on artist/writer Colleen Doran's website on a post she'd written about fans from hell. I'm still getting dribbles of traffic from that one comment, and that was from early August.

Therese Norén | September 30, 2006 03:24 PM

Can you get statistics about how many people are reading you via RSS? I (and 254 other people) get my Scalzidose from the LiveJournal Scalzifeed. (I started reading blogs via RSS on LJ, in the hopes of reading lots of good posts and not getting bogged down in blog comments, and look at how that worked out.)

Admittedly, I often have to click through anyway, since the feed often is just the intro to your post. (I rarely visit the By The Way any more, though.)

Also, I'm all hyped up from a portion of Skadeglädjepaj. (Which should explain any typos.) I think it's better the next day.

Soni Pitts | September 30, 2006 03:25 PM

Adam -

See http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/002809.html

LizT | September 30, 2006 03:47 PM

So John, I met you at a con - that's when I started reading. Do you get post convention spikes too?

John Scalzi | September 30, 2006 03:48 PM

Liz, I don't know. Given the amount of traffic I get and the size of the average con, the bump probably wouldn't be enough to be noticable. It's an interesting question, though.

Steve Brady | September 30, 2006 04:33 PM

Heh, I found this site when you linked to me, John. And no one ever linked to me, so obviously I was curious.

Of course, it was purely superficial and thus gained me likely zero readers.

What's not good for getting readers? Moving your blog and not leaving a forwarding link (so your very old link is now broken). But I needed my name off of Google.

Which was really sad, because for some reason, Google Image got it in its head that I was the place to go for pictures of Rachel Nichols strangling a cat (seriously).

Wan Zafran | September 30, 2006 05:48 PM

Insightful post. "If you build it, they will come." Especially the graphs. Ooo, shiny.

Greater traffic isn't something I particularly desire, in part due to the existence of, ahem, trolls; they, whom are always (inevitably) attracted to strong Internet-y waves (the kind on Fark/Digg/etc), are the greatest contributors of ad hominem insults, yet always being the quickest to leave. But it's nice to know that people are reading what you're writing about, and maybe, laughing at or putting a thought or two to its meaning.

It's nice in that sort of "I'm spreading my poison around, lap it all up, you cretins! Bwahahahahaha," way too.

Explains why smart readers keep dropping by your site to get their fix of your smartly written content, John. Now, I need to work on improving my content.

Adam Rakunas | September 30, 2006 05:59 PM


Well, that's what I get for asking. *shudder*

Anne C. | September 30, 2006 06:43 PM

I wish I had time to post more frequently on my own blog, but it's enough for my modest audience, so I guess I can't complain.

I first came here when a friend's blog linked to the call for submissions for the sci-fi cliches issue of Subterranean.
I stayed because of the quality and content of the posts and the quality of the comments.

Dave Smith | September 30, 2006 07:19 PM

Therese Noren: According to Bloglines, there are 503 subscribers to http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/atom.xml

Thena | September 30, 2006 08:23 PM

I wandered over here in 2002 or maybe early 2003. I can't remember why. It was probably either a political thread or an SF thread, and I think it may have been something on Making Light. Which I was reading because of some people I knew through Usenet from years back. Either that or one of them recommended you. Sort of a time-extended pre-LJ Livejournal effect, otherwise known as Word of Mouth Advertising.

David | September 30, 2006 08:57 PM

It's all terribly post hoc though, isn't it? Even the construct of "unique views" is awfully contrived, a sort of guesstimate that is hoped not to be too far off. As research, it probably shouldn't qualify. So here's the thing: how could it be done a little more accurately?

"Ask 'em", you think. Ah, but now you have the online poll problem, the "one person, one vote (answer)" issue. How do you enforce and insure that? On the Intarweb, when you can't authenticate anybody?

With all such polls, there has to be an "other" answer. It covers the reasons or sequences you didn't think of when you created the poll, some of which might be awfully important. (If 35% of people are answering "other", you missed something.) If you don't have that "other" option, how can you really trust the rest of your stats, as different people try to make their square peg of an answer fit into the round holes of your poll?

And if you do have a large contingent of "other", and you figured out what you missed, what now? Should you scrap your prevous data? Probably. You can't know how many people would have chosen one of the modified choices instead of what they did choose, if they'd had the option then. So you should scrap all of that data and start over, right? But how many people will you lose by doing that? "What, ANOTHER stupid poll? Hey, I already answered this, aww, forget it!" and those respondents are history. (And no, clear explanations won't help. What you think people actually read instructions???) So now how accurate can your new poll ever be? You just have to get it perfect the first time.

Counting numbers of "unique views" is starting to look awfully attractive, isn't it? But there's a hole in the bucket.

I'd love to hear ideas about what could be done with this dilemma. It's also better for you to think about things like this, than about pictures of John's wife.

AliceB | September 30, 2006 09:02 PM

I was brought here by repeated links to you on an another blog. I stayed because of all the things you pointed out above, but also because you deal with trolls well. I don't mean that you're nice to them--somehow you're effective at either shutting them up or having them actually contribute to the conversation, while you discourage piling on. You keep things unbelievably civil, even when the topics might lead otherwise. It makes for good reading.

John Scalzi | September 30, 2006 09:04 PM


"Even the construct of 'unique views' is awfully contrived, a sort of guesstimate that is hoped not to be too far off."

Eh. As noted in the entry, this is anecdotal stuff, based only on my own site and using metrics with known issues. Certainly others may choose to design a more stringent set of tools to observe the data; I can't be bothered.

That said, my experience with the unique visitor metric is that it is reasonably useful; it underreports visitors behind firewalls, for example, but overreports visitors whose services use dynamic IP addressing. It more or less evens out in the long run.

Riccardo | September 30, 2006 09:21 PM

I first arrived here through a post about OMW on Instapundit... and keep on visiting because the blog is interesting, well written, and the discussions civilized but lively.

I've noticed similar patterns in my own blog (several orders of magnitude smaller than yours). Whenever there is a reference in ProZ (larg web site for translators) to something I wrote on my blog, I get a big temporary increase in readership; whenver another translator's blog links to mine, a much smaller spike.
Also, for some reason, people like it better when I write a post with advice to beginning translators.

fishbane | September 30, 2006 09:22 PM

I feel as if you're not talking about the large bacon on the cat.

fishbane | September 30, 2006 09:27 PM

Oh, crap. I totally flunked that post. I meant "large bacon on a cat _moment_. But now I'm explaining the joke, and, well, I'm just going to go drink myself to Monday and get back to my soul-sucking job, which is nowhere nearly as cool as Scalzi's.

michelle | September 30, 2006 09:39 PM

I found you becouse of the last con you went to and the lego award someone made.

Ginny | September 30, 2006 09:58 PM

I started with a Livejournal first, and so understand the Livejournal effect very well. I started a blog at my site a year and a half ago (don't let the posts fool you, I accidentally nuked my whole site a couple of months ago and was too lazy to figure out how to import my archived entries into a new blog). My blog now cross-posts to my Livejournal and there's also a Livejournal feed; it also goes to Vox.

The result of this is that I have a fair-to-middlin' readership on LJ, a small readership on Vox and while I do get readers at my personal site, almost no one comments--I have comments enabled now but I run ya through a hoop or two before you can comment to deter spam. Instead, people who read my blog at my site email their comments to me and while that's great because I then know I have readers...the site looks kinda sad and lonely, because nearly every post says 0 comments.

How to fix that? I have no clue. I get people who link to individual posts, and have had the Fark phenomena, but still there's a resounding silence at my site. Even selling it on a radio station and being linked from my employer's site to my own only increases the amount of email I get; not blog comments.

Jonathan | September 30, 2006 10:26 PM

I visited because of OMW and stayed for the pie. (OK, now I'm going to test my new HTML tag knowledge -Thanks Jeff)

Then I got Ghost Brigades (should be italics) from Amazon and started ordering everything Scalzi. (BTW I ordered Agent to the Stars (should be bold) on Amazon four months ago... and still nothing. Date keeps getting pushed back.)

So if these HTML tags work then I need to figure how to make hyperlinks. Anyone?

(should be paragraph eventhoug native text runs together)

Byron | September 30, 2006 10:28 PM

It'd be interesting to see the same sort of thing broken down by individual posting and most recent posting.

I'm not sure how it would work out, I'd have to think about it for a little bit, but it might give you an idea of how sticky a particular post might be since you might expect a post like Being Poor to generate more regular readers. The other way to go would be to compare the hits between the most recent post and the archives---for a given post do you see a spike in people wandering the archives? Here you're not so much concerned with unique IPs (indeed a likely future regular might hit many of our greatest hits) as with simple upticks in previous postings.

Jonathan | September 30, 2006 10:29 PM

Whoa. How did I make that text so small? .... that's interesting. Did not show it that way in preview.

John Scalzi | September 30, 2006 10:37 PM


"BTW I ordered Agent to the Stars (should be bold) on Amazon four months ago... and still nothing. Date keeps getting pushed back."

Agent is entirely sold out, Jonathan. Amazon has no more copies to sell, it just hasn't admitted it to you yet. The paperback version will be out in 2008; before then, you should either read it online or haunt eBay and alibris. In fact here's a copy available on eBay right now. Don't say I never did nothing for ya.

Nathan | September 30, 2006 10:57 PM


I got my copy of Agent to the Stars from one of the "new and used" dealers on Amazon.

It didn't say so in the description, but it turned out to be part of a limited signed edition of 1500.

cost 30 bucks. showed up in three days.

BTW, John

My post to another thread about ATTS didn't show up.

Finished the book last night.

I laughed.
I cried.
I told Mickey Rooney to stay the hell out of your book.

John Scalzi | September 30, 2006 11:02 PM

Yup, all the printed versions of the book are a limited edition (so far -- that will change when the paperback comes out).

Glad you liked it!

David Goldfarb | September 30, 2006 11:13 PM

OK, hyperlinks. To make a hyperlink, do like this:
<a href = "http://www.example.com">texty stuff</a>

This will cause "texty stuff" to show up in your comment as a link. People who click on the link will be sent to example.com. Like this:
texty stuff. Naturally you can change "texty stuff" and "www.example.com" to whatever you want.

Jeff Hentosz | September 30, 2006 11:46 PM

What David said.

I'll just add that, yes your URL needs the whole http:// bidness and yes the whole thing needs to be in quotes. I know this isn't a pimp thread, but I might as well say the book on this stuff you should have at hand — right with your Webster's, Bartlett's and Strunk & White — is HTML, XHTML & CSS by Elizabeth Castro. Clear, simple, starts from scratch and I've never had a question it couldn't answer.

Jonathan | October 1, 2006 12:16 AM

Good man Scalzi. Thanks for the update. I did not know this about Agent . Congrats on selling out. And yes, I read it online already. Great fun, I enjoyed… thanks for the freebie. But I still want a hardcopy of Agent for my harem of book-swappers.

So you suggest I cancel my Amazon order and go eBay? But I don’t want you to get screwed out of the fat 10% royalty. You earned it. What’s the best way to support the Author in this case?

(perhaps not THIS case; considering that bringing home the bacon has new meaning at the Scalzi household)

John Scalzi | October 1, 2006 12:26 AM


"Do you suggest I cancel my Amazon order and go eBay? But I don’t want you to get screwed out of the fat 10% royalty. You earned it. What’s the best way to support the Author in this case?"

Jonathan, the print run has sold out and I've already been paid for every copy, so any copy you buy is by necessity a copy I've already been paid for. It really doesn't matter who you buy it from. Inasmuch as Amazon can't get any more copies (the publisher has no more to give them), yes, I suggest you cancel your order with them and buy it off eBay.

Michele | October 1, 2006 12:42 AM

Being an LJ blogger, I can't see how many people are reading particular posts. But I've noticed that people are more likely to comment on posts they can relate to. Sometimes what seems like a more mundane post gets the most comments.

Ginny | October 1, 2006 01:00 AM

Michele, that's my experience as well on LJ. Expose my deepest, innermost thoughts in an amusing and downright inspiring way, and I might get 3 LJ comments. However, if I give you a one-liner about this morning's bowel movement? I'll get 50 comments in less than an hour, with at least one comment being a request of a jpg of the aforementioned BM.

The intertubes are odd that way.

Dr. Phil | October 1, 2006 01:33 AM

What I find interesting is that despite reading and participating the discussions here, those who comment on the Whatever are a tiny minority of those who lurk, read, surf or click through -- even on a daily basis.

I've passed through some LiveJournal blogs which get many hundreds of comments per entry. My blog probably averages 0.4 comments per entry, and I probably answer every comment, so real external comments are half that.

I'm not sure I'd stick around and read or contribute to the comment streams if they regularly had 562 comments per entry. On the other hand, I'm not telling 20,000 to 30,000 other people "Hands off Scalzi's blog!"

Anyway, despite the occasional tension, this is a pretty friendly and literate neighborhood.

Dr. Phil

Mark DF | October 1, 2006 10:47 AM

I surfed in via Making Light earlier this summer. John was getting a lot of pre-WorldCon buzz and I got curious. Then I met him briefly at ReaderCon and he gave me some pie.

I think the most important point John makes is the daily updates. All the rest flows from that. I come here and Making Light several times a day because I know there's either going to be a new post or equally fun/interesting commenters. I don't work with people who read much (and definitely not sff) or discuss current events (other than whether the S&P 500 is up or down today). Blogs are filling a social need as a result. Plus the pie.

Laurie Mann | October 1, 2006 01:15 PM

I've been reading your blog for something like a year because it's an interesting, diverse blog.

I have had a Web site since 1994, blog since early 2002 and an LJ since last winter.

The main part of my Web site that gets lots of hits is Dead People Server. I get about 9,000 or so visitors a day for those pages. The day that Steve Irwin was killed, I hit an "all-time" high of 24,000 visitors, and I've had about 1,200 visitors more per day since then. AwardWeb averages about 600 visitors a day and everything else gets about 600 visitors a day.

My blog isn't overly visited (except for the "Harlan blogs"). Maybe about 60 per day, and I usually update it once or twice a week. I've gone back and forth on comments a few times, mostly because I tended to attract trolls and that was tiresome. My blog tends to be fairly political.

I've hosted a review blog for my husband since last November, and he's already up to about 110 visitors a day. He writes wonderful reviews, so I'm glad he's doing well with it.

LJ, who knows. I wish there was an easy way to check readership of LJs beyond friends lists. I've been focusing the LJ more on personal writing and writing about fandom.

I'm about to be employed again. I have a nice writing/publishing contract that should keep me pretty busy through the end of the year. So I'll probably have to cut way back on my Internet time.

Kristiana | October 1, 2006 11:52 PM

This is a cool post, I think it's interesting that you've analyzed reader traffic and come up with theories :).

As long as everyone is talking about how they ended up here, I'll share my story. I think I first looked at the site when a friend of mine linked to 10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing. It's all great advice, although I'm several years past being a teenage writer per se. Then I noticed Wil Wheaton, whose blog I also read, made references to you now and again. So although I generally read through an LJ feed and don't comment often, I've definitely stayed an interested reader for the past several months.

I personally haven't decided if I want to hugely increase readership of my non-LJ site or not, as far as I can control. I'm sure some people are reading me as a feed that I'm unaware of. Anyway, sorry if I rambled.

Paul | October 2, 2006 10:09 AM

I got BoingBoinged because of this post, a photo of an abandoned kitten in a rescue shelter after Hurricane Katrina, sleeping cuddled up to a can of frozen water. This continues to be my most popular page, and is linked from many other places now. Who can't resist a cute kitten photo?

Do you track RSS readership as well as visitor stats? I've got your site in my reader, but I don't actually visit unless I want to comment. I do read every post, though, and I suspect that I (and many others) don't contribute to your traffic stats.

John Scalzi | October 2, 2006 11:23 AM

I should probably look into my RSS hits.

Ben | October 2, 2006 01:55 PM

I'd love to see the Whatever's historical growth data. I've been reading the site since Penny-Arcade linked Agent to the Stars, and have never looked back. It would be interesting to see the peaks caused by "I hate your politics" and your growth over time - including the PA link.

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