I kept one eye on the icons in my right sidebar this past week, as the number of followers crept toward what could be considered a milestone of sorts. I installed the Google widget back in 2009, and by that November about 200 readers had signed on. The following November there were 500, and then last week the number reached 1,000. (If it actually is 1,000. I suspect that the system is sort of like a Hotel California - or a Roach Motel - where people sign in, but never sign out.)
I'm not sure exactly what significance to put on this. I don't carry ads on the blog, so increasing the number of visits per day (currently 4-5,000) doesn't generate any revenue. But the number of readers is important to the extent that many of you contribute to the blog through comments, corrections, and suggestions. About six weeks ago, a longtime Aussie reader left this comment (boldface highlight mine):
This seems to me an appropriate post on which to ask a question which
has always lurked in the back of my mind. Given that you have such a
wide following, with so many readers, why are there so relatively few
comments on each post? So many other blogs have endless comments that I
couldn't be bothered to read them all, yet I have time to read your
daily posts and all of the comments that follow (which adds to the
discourse immensely). I don't get it, what am I missing?
What that reader said is quite true, in my view - there are relatively few comments written on TYWKIWDBI posts. I've seen mommyblogs and heres-what-I-had-for-lunch blogs where the author will post a photo of a hairball their cat threw up and get a dozen comments. This blog averages only two comments per post, and the quality is immeasurably better. If there's a photo from the World's Ugliest Dog Contest, instead of the mindless comments like ROFLMAO and "that dog looks like my first wife," the comments here would be more in the line of "Oh, that's a Mongolian water spaniel; we had one years ago and it's excellent with kids," and the second comment would be "Yes, but with that short snout they have obstructive apneas..." and so on.
I get the sense that the readers of this blog have a wide range of interests (and often a really deep knowledge base), and they typically "lurk" - for months or years, until a post hits their area of expertise, and then they jump in with additional information. I have no plans to make this a community blog or to take on guest authors, but it sometimes works out almost like that because with so few comments and such useful observations, I'm able to boost the relevant information "above the fold" to enhance the body of the post itself. Readers notify me that "you called it a monkey, but it's an ape," or "you're confusing stratosphere with troposphere." There are readers who will chime in only twice a year to clarify the intricacies of mathematics problems. And there's a small cadre of retired copyeditors who take the time to clean up my grammatical misadventures. By the time the posts get scanned by what amounts to a thousand proofreaders, most of the errors get cleaned out. And for that I'm always grateful.
There's one other aspect of the wide readership here that can be useful - to me and to you. If you look in the right sidebar, you can see the widget showing which readers access this blog via Google Friend Connect. I've labeled the widgte "Like-minded people," and it looks like this:
If you click on the double red boxes in the UR corner, the widget expands; you can then scroll back as far as you want until you see someone interesting, then click on their avatar. Under "Links" you can see what blogs they author, and under "Sites I've joined" you can see which other blogs they read.
I've been exploring this resource for years. At first I tried to visit everyone's blog at least once; now that's become impractical, but it's still a fascinating source of interesting (and unusual) material. I have harvested (and credited, of course) a whole bunch of odd items from readers' blogs, a few of which I now visit on a regular (1-2X/wk) basis. I found a nice video tonight, which I'll post later this weekend.
One cautionary note: if you reason that "I read TYWKIWDBI, they read TYWKIWBI, therefore they must be like me," then you're going to be in for a surprise. Most of these people are not at all like you. In fact, I don't think it's unfair to summarize my long-term exploration of my readers' websites by saying...
Some of you guys have VERY WEIRD blogs.
I'll leave it at that (and it's intended as a compliment).
I'm going to take the next couple days off for Thanksgiving activities, so I invite all TYWKIWDBI readers to explore one another's websites. There are people there from faraway places, people with specialty blogs that are stunning, and of course some that are totally NSFW. Lots of librarians (for whatever reason), and lots of family blogs. Occasionally it feels like you're peeking into someone's living room window, but of course the blogs were offered to the public on purpose, so there's no impropriety involved. And you might find some links to add to your regular web browsing schedule. I have.