I’ve resolved to blog every morning this summer. If you look around this site a bit you’ll see I have plenty to say. In fact it hurts to hold it in. So it’s a kind of relief to get some thoughts down each day.
I enjoy the interaction as well. Getting thoughts down is one thing. Getting them out is another. Blogging is most rewarding when people send messages and post comments. Thank you.
My dearest hope is that some of my posts help people. Yesterday I posted about my own experience with depression and the miracle that resulted from it. Naturally I have no reason to expose that part of my life except in the hope that others find encouragement from it. Fortunately, a couple of people have written back and let me know that that post touched them.
But overall, I’ve got to tell you that the processing of blogging—and Christian writing in general—is quite discouraging. Let me show you why.
Since I started posting two weeks ago, I’ve written about parenting, time management, why strange beliefs infect society, and skewed views of God’s perfection. I posted a new song that I had written and recorded, an offensive portrayal of the mind of a church “seeker,” and the aforementioned post on depression and miracles.
But do you know which post has had more visitors than any other—has, in fact, had more than ten times more than the others? It was a post showing a shadowing demo programmed in Adobe Flash.
The shadowing demo has attracted 750 visitors. The second most popular post (it’s on parenting) has had about 50. Don’t get me wrong—I’m thrilled that 50 people read my article on parenting. Fifty people is a lot of ears, and I’m thankful that that many people trust me with them. But if 50 people are interested in a post on a relatively important topic like parenting, how is that 750 people are interested in a trivial topic like shadows in Flash?
This isn’t the first time I’ve experience this phenomenon. In the last few years I’ve posted lots of articles on all sorts of topics. I’ve had two posts go really big—each got more than 20,000 visits in a single day. The first was on Paul’s use of skubala in Phil 3:8. The second was a little story set in the world of Fallout 3. Thankfully, both of those posts met both of my blogging goals: they were read by a wide group of people and also gave their readers something to think about. But again, interestingly, both posts had an element of the “trivial” about them. The first purported to be about the appearance of the word “shit” in the Bible. The second was a story about a game. Both had theological elements, but in each case the theology was at least initially disguised.
So here we see a couple of pretty obvious lessons for bloggers like me. One: people would rather read about scatology and ludology than theology. That’s no surprise. Two: if you want to get people thinking, try dressing up the heavy stuff in titillating clothes. “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…”
Here’s another odd statistic from my blogging experience. On Tuesday I posted a piece written by a kind of sociopath who was exploiting the church. After publishing the post to my website I advertised it in two places: reddit and Facebook. About 15 people came over from reddit but none of them spent much time on the page. (Reddit is populated mainly by atheists, and as soon as they saw “church” they went running.) When I posted the piece on Facebook I gave it a title, something like, “Don’t read this or it’ll make you mad.” (As my friend Nathan pointed out, a wicked bit of reverse psychology—though I actually the warning was quite serious.) About 15 of my Facebook friends also came over. Nobody left any comments on my site. That in itself is unusual and rather suspicious.
Anyway, the next day I posted my testimony of how God healed my depression. Now here’s the interesting bit. A dozen people (atheists?) came over from reddit and spent an average of 12 minutes reading the piece. But only 9 of my Facebook friends read it, and they spent an average of 3 minutes.
So my “don’t read this or it’ll make you mad” post gained nearly twice as many Facebook readers as my post on depression. Very interesting.
Now it may be that the “it’ll make you mad” post really did make people mad and they weren’t willing to visit the next day. Or it may be that people are just more attracted to stories that threaten to make them mad than stories about real struggles and real miracles.
I have no “lessons learned” for this datum. I really don’t know what to make of it.
But it leads me back to an earlier question. Why did my post on shadows in Flash do vastly better than my other recent posts? The real answer is reddit.
Basically, all of my large traffic comes from reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon, or other recommendation sites. About a dozen of my Facebook friends read the shadows in Flash post—more or less the same as for any other post. But 630 visitors came from reddit.
Why did 630 redditors read that post but not the others? Well it’s quite obvious. Redditors are atheists and techies and care more about shadowing algorithms than about God. Their visiting pattern is just what we would expect.
Here’s my problem. My goal is not just to write about technology, atheism, games, and programming. I want to write pieces that get people to think about and pursue Jesus Christ. Therefore I have two options.
The first I’ve already described: Put a spoonful of sugar into my theological posts. I will keep doing this from time to time, as inspiration strikes. But there are downsides to this option. It’s hard work. And it does make for more trivial posts—I can’t go as deep as I like.
The second option is to find some sort of “reddit for Christians.” I’m not aware of anything like this—not that has any mass, anyway. I can tell my Facebook friends about these posts, but that’s not quite the same thing. Do you know of a site that Christians visit to get recommendations on good reading? If so, please let me know.