The most-read blog posts (and the lesson it tells)

My recent “This blog post is not about Starr King” post is the most read (or at least, clicked) item I’ve ever written here — at least that I have records for, to some point in 2013. (Earlier records lost.)

Below are the top twenty blog posts, as opposed to people who land on the front page. Suggests that “if it bleeds it leads” works for niche blogs, too. That and long-posted niche resources.

My point is not to aggravate people, but our little fellowship within the Unitarian Universalist Association has some bad habits that need correcting. So I’ll write tougher items and not be shocked when people read them. (An inexhaustive list includes clannishness, conflict avoidance, “terminal uniqueness” as Victoria Weinstein puts it, valuing internal conformity and minimizing poor people. One of the reasons I’m such an advocate of new church planting is that it might give us a project we can be proud of, and convert some of this restless energy.) If I wasn’t happy with my friends and congregation, I’d be happy to go alone. But I am otherwise happy and so I won’t be quiet. I’m also grateful for all the kind private messages I got this last week.

Now, on to the list.


Some metrics for this blog

One of my assumptions behind this blog is that if I intend to do it right, I should do with some goals in mind. (I can understand why some people might think this is extreme for hobby, but it’s how I can describe it as a service.)

Because churches move at a glacial pace, I’m keeping the long view in sight.

  • So before the end 2015, I want to have written 4,000 blog posts.
  • And I want to have reached 3,600 blog posts by the end of 2014 General Assembly. Accomplished May 23, 2014.
  • From the beginning of 2014 to the end 2015, I want to be cited at least 25 times by blogs which linked back to my blog.
  • Because the writing is complementary, I want 750 followers on Twitter by the end of 2014. (I’m @bitb.) Accomplished July 15, 2014.
  • I’d like my average readership to be 60 per day by the end of 2014.
  • As a product of my blog work, I want to be invited, by the end of 2015, to participate in one non-blogging event, though it can be online, and I’m disallowing invitations by close friends. (If you have my cell number in your phone or have had a meal with me and or my husband, you count as a close personal friend.)

If you see this last metric as an inducement for you to invite me to participate in some joint action, to present a paper, or to be invited speaker, feel free to act that feeling.

Want to learn WordPress for church site development?

I’ve recycled my domain to a fresh (hours old!) WordPress install, to serve as a church website for an imaginary church.

I want to invite three or four people, particularly those with church responsibilities and few local resources, to walk through the process of (modestly) customizing and managing such a site.

My added goal is to learn what’s the most needed; I hope to do a training off-schedule in Providence during General Assembly.

If you’re interested, leave me a note in the comments below, with your time zone and any particular goals. Please reply by Tuesday, March 25, 2014.

Taking blogging requests

I’m taking the train to Boston tomorrow in anticipation of the installation of close friend and colleague Victoria Weinstein (whom you may also know from her blog persona) as the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn, Swampscott, Massachusetts.

I like trains because I can rest, read, listen to music and write with less-than-usual distraction. I’ll be planning my blogging, and writing some evergreen posts. I’ll test out my phone, and the limits of mobile devices in anticipation of General Assembly.

And I’ll take requests. Are there subjects you’d like me to explore here? I’m here for you.

My blog workflow

This is blog post #3,500; I’ve been writing over almost eleven years. I thought worthwhile to talk about how I blog now.

  1. I try to keep several blog posts written and scheduled for publication. Right now my goal is six scheduled posts at any given time. Just because I try to publish something every day, it doesn’t mean I write something new every day.
  2. I treat the week as the basic measure of time. I tend to post heavy or controversial works early in the week. I post follow-up or supporting information mid week. And lighter items, including quotations and happy thoughts later in the week.
  3. I publish scheduled items at 7:00 a.m. Eastern time (sometimes later on the weekend) to be fresh for morning and lunch readers.
  4. If I’m included the blog round up (hi Heather Christensen!), I usually get a bump in traffic over the weekend so I’m not prone to start a heavy new subject.
  5. Controversial items do bring traffic, but I won’t bait readers by saying something I can’t defend. (That doesn’t mean I’ll open debates, though. They’re rarely productive.)
  6. Theological topics, I’ve learned, take tons of time to do correctly and get little attention.
  7. If you want me to write on a subject, or focus on a theme, comment. I try to respond to commentators’ requests and interests.
  8. I tend to blog one or two overlapping themes.
  9. I block out text-heavy blog posts, this one included, using my phone to dictate through the WordPress phone app. I copy edit and add links later. Saves the wrists, you know.
  10. I promote the more substantial blog posts and resources on Facebook and Twitter.
  11. I do have an editorial style, though so far unwritten. (No, I won’t refer to you by “the Rev.” but I will refer to you as a minister on first reference if it’s applicable, for instance.)
  12. Growing edge? More images and charts.

Why I blog

Be sure to see the comments, below.

The group of Unitarian Universalist bloggers on Facebook have been meditating on a common questions, one of which is “why do you blog?”

Some of the reasons I blog are predictable: to muse aloud, to keep notes for later use or to promote something-or-other. It is not a systematic work, and its focus has changed over time.

I started blogging because of an aphorism about Universalist newspapers: one I came across when I was writing my unfinished thesis on antebellum Universalist history in the South. He — John C. Burruss, I think — wrote and edited his newspaper because the printed word would go where “the living evangel” could not go, and it would survive after he was long dead. Both assertions proved true. And it was the bit of folk wisdom I learned from a living minister: that if you wrote and published, anything would be forgiven you. I hope I’ve never done anything in such a need of such overwhelming forgiveness, but it’s clear, in Unitarian Universalist circles, where the power is. Public writing is important.

But more recently I’ve decided on another reason to blog. It’s far more effective to blog your little bit, and hope that it’s effective in some small way, then to be lost in bureaucratic committees. I read the agenda and minutes of the Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees with a mixture of sadness and pity. So much work, so much responsibility, so much process, so little return.

Blogging, and by extension, shared or distributed, self-initiated online work seem to be better use of my little time.

If you’ve putting off that church website…

If you’ve putting off that church website, there’s another, easy option. In the amateur-affirming, all-in style of the long-gone GeoCities, NeoCities gives space away to anonymous users. Not much space — 10 megabytes, now — but that’s plenty for a carefully crafted static church or project site.

I’ll be dabbling here: