10 Things I’ve Learned About Blogging This Year

Posted: June 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: posts | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

BloggingI started blogging again this January. So far, so good. I’m enjoying where my blog is going and, based on traffic and subscriber metrics, you readers out there seem to be enjoying the material and coming back.

I’m certainly not an expert on blogging and have a lot of learning (through testing and trying things) to do. But someone recently asked me for my thoughts on what I’ve learned about blogging so far. As someone who has tried blogging a couple of times in the past, I thought maybe my thoughts on what I’ve learned from my recent attempt might be interesting.

So, here are 10 things I’ve learned about blogging so far in my exploration. How does this align with what works for you?

  1. Don’t worry about making posts perfect. Just write something. A little trick I like is to go back in the archives of any blog on the web. Go back to the very start and take a look at the posts when that blogger started out. You’ll find a vast difference between the post quality then vs now. Its a process, a journey – everyone figures out what works for them somewhere along the way. You will, too, with time.
  2. You’ll have times / days when you’re really into the blogging thing and others when you’re too busy/etc. Use those periods of motivation to write a bunch of posts and schedule them out into the future to keep a consistent schedule. Break up long posts into series / multi-day posts. You can get a lot of mileage out of large encompassing topics and multi-part discussions.
  3. Let your audience guide you. Some people use Twitter to “trial balloon” topics, by seeing how people react to specific thoughts they’re considering writing posts about. Whether you do something that formal or not, pay attention to what posts really engage your audience. Write more of them.
  4. Pay attention to what you enjoy writing about. After all, if you don’t enjoy it, it will become a chore and you’ll either stop all together or stop being authentic.
  5. Throw out the rules. Your blog should be an exploration of different topics that interest you. Don’t let it get too dry or predictable – try out new things and mix it up a bit. Again, you don’t want it to become a chore – you want it to remain fresh and interesting to you personally.
  6. Lists work really well. Make a list of things and expand on it. My list of startup accelerator programs is my most popular, most discussed post.
  7. Find yourself giving similar advice to folks? Did a friend ask a particularly insightful question? These kinds of conversations prove extremely fruitful for posts, I think. Start to notice what you’re talking about, and let that become part of your bogging discourse. Jot down a list of ideas for topics. Add to this as you have ideas. I use EverNote to collect links, data, etc for future posts.
  8. Tweet your posts when people are awake to read them. There have been some interesting posts about when the optimal time to tweet your posts is. Late morning / early afternoon Pacific time seems to be the most common response. Regardless, it makes sense to let people know you’ve written something when they’re awake to see it. Restrain yourself and queue up the tweet to go out later. (By the way, this is implied, but it’s worth mentioning: Use Twitter to promote your posts and get thoughts. Most of my traffic comes from Twitter now vs. RSS feedreaders.)
  9. Start by taking an article/other post and link to it and give your reaction. Good way to get into a post. And take a point of view. Middle of the road, generic posts don’t draw any interest or comments. The blog should be your side of a conversation that you care about.
  10. Have fun. Trite, but true – if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t post. :)

Anyway, those are some things that have worked for me. What works for you?


Improving WordPress Performance

Posted: May 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: posts | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Hopefully, this blog is now loading a bit faster for you. As I think about how an individual’s web presence is increasingly a major part of their personal brand, it’s obvious that how that web presence operates must play into how the personal brand is perceived. Would you hire a web developer if their blog falls apart in your browser? Or a designer who’s site looks like it went through the Geocity-izer? Of course not. So, as a technology executive, I felt that a slow loading blog probably wasn’t good evidence of my abilities and invested a little bit of time to cut down some of the bottlenecks… (The last string of posts have been business-focused, too – it was time for another technical post.)

So, for other who may be running into similar issues, here are the steps I did to increase the performance of WordPress for my site:

 

Understand the Problem

First, you need to understand the issues that you’re facing. How severe is the load time and response time for your blog? How does it compare with other sites you’re running? I started tracking my blog with Pingdom to monitor the average response time. This demonstrated that there was a huge opportunity to cut the response time – it was twice that of other sites that I run.

Another good way to evaluate where your site stands is to use the Y-Slow plugin. This will give you many useful pointers and things to look into.

As for my analysis via Pingdom, you can see from the chart below, the first half shows extremely high average response times. After the changes, that has evened out and is much improved.

 

Memory Conflicts

The first step that I did was move WordPress to its own isolated username. For ease of administration in my shared environment (with DreamHost), I had been running a couple of sites under one username. As I started digging into the bottlenecks, DreamHost pointed out that processes were getting killed under that master username due to memory limitations. Having multiple sites trying to run processes at the same time under one user was a major reason for this. So, an easy fix was to separate the resource intensive sites to their own usernames. Your host may not allow multiple system users under one account, but if they do, take advantage of this easy way to balance out load and avoid running into imposed resource limits. This was an easy and obvious fix, but also one that wasn’t made in any of the WordPress performance guides that I read, so it may be useful to others.

 

The Database

The database is a common bottleneck. For most applications, the database is the chokepoint, especially as load increases. I’m running all of my databases at DreamHost on a “DreamHost Private Server” – this allows me a little more control with regard to the resources consumed by the databases and allows me to adjust resources based on usage. In taking a look at the resource usage, it was clear that resource usage was climbing and hitting limits here, as well. By checking the MySQL processlist, I could see a couple of poorly performing databases and queries from a couple of development databases we also run on the server. (yes, it’s best to keep your dev and production dbs separated and are in the process of moving the dev databases off of this combined server.) Killing these and restructuring some of the databases on the box was able to alleviate this issue quickly. Bottleneck mitigated – you can see the huge drop in memory usage in the chart below.

This is easy to check on your server. Just run the following command from the MySQL console:

show processlist;

Then, either take note of the queries that are running and figure out if there’s something else using the database that’s tying up the server’s resources or kill processes that are hung / locked. (Note if you have multiple usernames accessing the database, you may need to run the command from those multiple usernames to get an accurate picture. See the MySQL docs.)

 

Caching

Finally, if you’re looking to increase your WordPress install’s performance, make sure you have the WP Super Cache plugin installed. This was already installed on my blog, but it takes care of a number of common tasks, including caching and gzip compression.

So there are a couple of easy steps to help increase the performance of WordPress running on your server. Unfortunately, dealing with performance bottlenecks is a very case-by-case, application-by-application specific process, so these may not be immediately applicable to your situation, but perhaps they’ll provide some starting points and ideas.

 

Resources

Here are some other good references and posts on the subject:


New Surroundings

Posted: February 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: posts | Tags: | 2 Comments »

As you may have noticed, I’ve ported the content of my blog from Tumblr to WordPress.  I liked the simplicity of Tumblr a lot and the fact that it handled everything for me was nice.  However, I found myself wanting to tweak things and do more with the blogging platform than Tumblr would natively allow (Embedding iFrame-based content and file attachments were two such things…).  I initially started with Tumblr because I wanted to see what blogging was like without having to worry about the mechanics of the platform.  It’s certainly nice, but the flexibility and maturity of the WordPress platform is hard to beat.

So, before things got too far advanced, I decided to make the move.  Pretty much everything should have come over seamlessly.  I’m still waiting to migrate the Disqus comments over, but the post content has been moved plus redirects for the old URLs have been setup.  For anyone else looking to make the move, Tumblr2WordPress made it very easy (I was happy to find this tool – there was lots of information on WordPress -> Tumblr, but not very much at all on moving the other direction).  Be sure to follow the instructions at the bottom on setting up redirects via htaccess for a seamless transfer.

Anyway, hopefully, you’ll enjoy the new surroundings!


Posted: February 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: photo | Tags: , , | No Comments »

I was reviewing my Feedburner stats recently and saw something interesting.  I’ve kept the same Feedburner feed URL for both of my attempts at blogging (the first time, during college, which ended sometime in 2007; and now this second effort at getting a personal blog going!)  The slope of the subscribers line at the start of both of these time periods is interesting.  Back in 2006, it was a very gradual climb in subscriber growth.  This time around, growth has spiked much more quickly.

I’m attributing much of this to the importance of social media – blog posts are broadcast and retweeted so much more in today”s world.  Before, sharing and broadcast options were more limited.

I think this is an interesting comparison between the time periods, with my own little sample set, and clearly shows the importance of using social media to drive readers to your posts.


Posted: January 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: photo | Tags: , , | No Comments »

joeconyers:

caterpillarcowboy:

mikehudack:

gbattle:

@cdixon aka Chris Dixon challenging VC’s and entrepreneurs who don’t blog.

I think the supply/demand balance has changed in the last 3 years. Startups are now choosing VCs for the small amounts they need, not the other way around, and a lot of judgments about how “entrepreneur-friendly” a VC is is made via their public online presence.

Build a brand, folks. It’s part of your job now.

Caterpillar Cowboy’s last sentence is important – already just weeks after starting to blog again in earnest, I’ve already seen the power of using blogs and Twitter to get in touch with people who share my views.  People who I wouldn’t otherwise have any way of getting in touch with.  It’s all about building a personal brand for yourself.