From the Instigator-in-Chief: I am not Myself These Days

I’m shaking things up a bit. For the next little while, I’ll be posting some personal-ish stuff when we don’t have anything else going. I figure doing that gets us more than we get from me posting a status update on Facebook, and we’ve got the space. I haven’t known whether I’ve been coming or going for the last ten or so days.

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I won’t run down the laundry list of problems I’ve dealt with in the last little while. I’m not convinced anyone wants to read that stuff on a blog — that seems to be what Facebook is for — and everybody’s got problems. Tl;dr version: the activity level here has suffered from my lack of attention, and I’m doing my best to ramp it back up, starting today.

What that means is I’m redirecting most of my Facebook time to the blog. My jaunt into Facebook over the last 10 months was about giving that network an honest chance and exploring its potential for growth. I won’t say it has NO potential, but I will say that I’ve failed to make it work, and failed at the expense of the blogging. So done with it for now.

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I’ll still check in on FB and keep up with my Facebook friends. Post a few status updates a week and share a link or three now and then. But as far as blogging on Facebook goes, I’m done. If you want to keep up with Gene’O though this last quarter of the year, best be reading this blog.

And it’s almost planning time. World Domination season is upon us once more. Time to start talking about what we’re doing in 2016 on the blog, and about how to make more lovely friends ūüôā

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We’ll see how it goes. Might not work at all. But since the Facebook thing is no longer working, and this blog needs WAY more content than I’m able to wrangle out of other people just now, well. I’ll just have to produce it myself.

This is a really great thing about Facebook and Twitter: If I spend the next twelve months doing nothing but pay attention to blogs, FB and Twitter will be right where I left them when I decide to go back. The blog works differently. It will run down if I don’t keep it up.

I’m not letting this blog run down. I’ve invested too much into it, and really. Without the blog, there’s no point to the rest.

Brace yourself! Gene’O is coming.

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Weekend Coffee Share: In Which My Motivation Fails

If we were having coffee, it would be Sunday afternoon coffee and I would not be¬†as put-together as I usually am. I’d have three days’ worth of stubble on my neck and untrimmed eyebrows. I’d tell you that I had a pretty good week last week, but spent most of my time working the paying job. We also had a good week on the blog, thanks to help¬†from¬†Hannah, Melissa, and Natacha, and to a couple of Reddit shares last weekend from my friend Serins.

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I’d tell you I’d hoped to continue the conversation about Reddit and StumbleUpon we started last Sunday, share some stats, and build on a couple of things I said last week, but that’s just not happening. I spent most of Saturday flat on my back for no particular reason. I’m not sick and my week was taxing, but I don’t feel exhausted. I simply did not get up off the couch until after 3 pm.

I sat down to write a Weekend Coffee Share/Social Media Sunday post yesterday afternoon, and just couldn’t get it to work the way I wanted it to. I ended up cooking dinner for the family instead, and when I was done with that I just puttered about on Facebook and Twitter for awhile and then went to bed.

I woke up today at 8 or 9, but stayed in bed until 12:30. Again, no particular reason. I just didn’t feel like getting up. So I’m sitting here writing a post that should have published at 7 am, and it’s not the one I wanted to publish today.

I’d tell you I’ve known for years that my depression runs in cycles. It’s not entirely unheard-of for me to have a bout of it in the spring and summer. But mostly it hits me in the fall and winter — it’s almost guaranteed. These last couple of years, it hasn’t been so bad, because the summers have been good, I’ve been learning a new job (you do know it takes two years to master a new job, right?), and I’ve had the blogs to keep me occupied.

This year, I had an absolutely horrific summer, so I’ve not had a lot of recharge time. The job is mostly routine now aside from occasional surprises. And I have a feel for the rhythm of the blog now, too, so there’s less to learn and less to gain from obsessively minding the stats and such. So, I am afraid the depression is going to be bad this year, and the fact that I’ve spent so much time lying around this weekend is not the best sign. I’m hoping it just means I’ve been more tired than I care to admit, and needed some downtime.

And I’d tell you, if we were having coffee, that aside from a Wedensday comics post from Diana (YAY, right?), I don’t know what we’re doing on the blog this week. I’m just sitting here thinking about that now. Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays will be easy — all they require are a discussion prompt, a post promoting another blog, and a music video. Monday, I’m not sure about. Possibly the social media thing I’d intended to do today.

I post the social media stuff on Sundays because they do just as well on Sundays as they do during the week, and they get me a post for #SundayBlogShare. They don’t do poorly during the week — it just doesn’t get us anything extra to use a weekday slot for them. So Maybe I’ll just do that and get the blog scheduled through Friday. It’s a rare week that this blog isn’t scheduled five days in advance by 3 or 4 pm on Sunday afternoon.weekendcoffeeshare_2015

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you school starts next week. The week after, my office reopens to the public for nine hours a day, and I’m back to overseeing 15 people who provide tutoring services for 35 to 50 clients a day. I’m into the part of the year where I have to do the pubic speaking and iron out the wrinkles and put out the occasional fire.

It’s a rewarding job and I love it — I never have to wonder if what I’m doing for a living matters because it absolutely does. But it’s hectic and requires me to be on my game at all times. Aside from Labor Day, I don’t get anything like a real breather until things settle down around the first week of October, and I still haven’t really adjusted to the commute.

And I’d say that’s about all I’ve got for today. How’s your weekend going?

You still have time to get into the linkup at Part Time Monster, and don’t forget to share your coffee post with #WeekendCoffeeShare on Twitter.

Blogwanking and Social Media Sunday and Long-Term Strategy, OH MY!

I’ve gotten out of sync with the quarterly stat sharing. I discussed April at the end of A to Z, but I never looked at the entire second quarter, and now we’re through July. I’m discussing¬†the past three months today. Y’all can just deal with the fact that this is 2500 words and has very little art. Read it if you want to up your game. Learn something.

Quarterly Stats

Here’s where we are with Sourcerer.

stats_src_15_08_06After the April we had here, I knew we had to come back to earth in May. I would like to have remained above 3,400 total views for the month, but I’ll take 104 average views per day for this blog and be happy with it any month of the year if that’s all I can get. It was an improvement over last May, so good — one of the things I look at with the stats is same-month comparisons from year to year.

Then June hit us, and as you can see, it hit us pretty hard. It was the first month of the year we didn’t see an improvement over 2014. There are¬†reasons for that, and the effect carried into July. I’m hoping we’ll at least be able to do better than we did last year in August, and that’s entirely possible since these screenshots were taken on the 6th and we already had almost 500 views for the month.

The downturn in June was entirely predictable. I’d hoped it wouldn’t be quite that bad, and that we could contain it to a single month. But oh, well. We’re bloggers. We deal. It started in May, really. Once we all had A to Z in the bag, many of the regular contributors here spent some of their blogging time in April and May stockpiling content to get Comparative Geeks through the arrival of Geek Baby. And this emphatically is not a complaint. I volunteered for it, actively encouraged it, and Diana and I pitched in some posts of our own. David and Holly are our friends, if you haven’t realized. We’d be pretty sad around here if CompGeeks went silent.

But this group of content-producers we’ve assembled only looks big from the outside. It’s a small group, and nearly everyone has their own blogs. I made a calculated decision to do as much as I could to ensure CompGeeks didn’t have to go dark for any significant period of time, no matter what it cost Sourcerer. That decision was worth it and I’d do it again, but it meant our planning for late summer suffered, and we all had less to offer Sourcerer in June because we gave a lot of our writing-ahead time to CG in April and May.

All this came to a head¬†at the beginning of the worst single month I’ve had, offline-wise, in years. I relocated my family the first weekend of June and the move turned into a never-ending disaster. There was a car accident that had to be dealt with, and a death in my family the weekend of July 4. This meant I didn’t have the means to cover the blog myself, and I wasn’t good asking contributors to just run the blog while I was basically off the internet for several weeks, because they were in the middle of doing the same for another blog, and they had threads to mind¬†at CompGeeks.

This translated into more missed days in late June and early July than we’ve had since we started. It meant I wasn’t around¬†to chatter and work my WordPress reader to keep the blog¬†on peoples’ radars. It also meant photo features had to be suspended. That¬†is costing us two posts a week, every week. Those still aren’t back. I’m working on it, but they aren’t coming back until I can do them consistently, so, might be awhile yet. Irons in the fire and all that.

The thing about the photo features is this: They’re great for likes and getting into the feeds an extra time. They’re better than nothing, and sometimes good for generating conversations. But I am not actually sure they get us any page views. They are always the first thing I¬†cut when times get tough, and the last thing I¬†bring back when times are good. Afternoon photoblogging here means we’re feeling prosperous.

So, June/July was entirely predictable — partially the result of conscious decisions about where to focus contributors’ content. Partly about me not being able to be present here due to unforseen circumstances. It’s not a concern, and we’re still on track to do better than we did in 2014. If we can end the year north of 100 average daily views, I’ll be happy with our progress in 2015.

Far as referrals go. The quarterly summaries are rolling averages and I didn’t pull them at the end of July. But in general, the traffic’s coming from the same places it always has: Search engines, the WordPress reader, Twitter, and Facebook. In that order. Search engines are by far the largest source — the only source that’s gotten¬†us a four-digit number over¬†the last 90 days. Our referrals from the reader and Twitter are way down, because I’ve not had time to spend on other WordPress blogs, nor to tweet properly, for most of the summer.

Our most popular posts in the last 90 days, aside from two or three¬†Batman and Penny Dreadful posts that account for 85 percent of our search traffic, are the Geek and Greet blog party post; Rebecca Bradley’s Disclaimer review, which got Google traffic on the official release day; one of Hannah’s Ms. Marvel posts; one of Rose’s She-Ra posts; and my recent interview with Gretchen Kelly.

Now take a look at the recently-redesigned and better-than-ever Part Time Monster.

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I’m proud of the progress Diana is making with this blog. It just keeps getting better. The decrease from April to May is entirely the post-A to Z effect, I think. June was comparable to last June, and I don’t know what happened over there in July, because I was too busy to be paying attention. But I will say. A lot of people seem to have had down months in July. Since she’s on track to have a good August, I’m not concerned about July and I’m looking at it as an outlier.

If you compare our total page views for the year, you’ll see that PTM¬†is about 4K ahead of Sourcerer. You’ll recall that for most of the time we’ve been doing this, our two blogs have run neck-in-neck. I’ve thought many times that PTM was going to surpass us here for well and good, but we’ve generally stayed within 1K of one another. Those days are over now, I think.

The Monster is in a position to consistently generate at least 500 more views than Sourcerer every month from the #WeekendCoffeeShare linkup alone. Monster Mondays, a feature Diana developed from her A to Z theme, have been well-received, too, and those posts tend to be uber-shareable. Throw in the Top Ten Tuesday traffic, and the Monster’s just better for¬†attracting a consistent number of readers week-in and week-out.

None of this is a complaint, and it’s got nothing¬†to do with the quality of the posts we publish here at Sourcerer. Our contributors are a collection of some of the best bloggers WordPress has to offer. We set this whole thing up with the idea that if these blogs were going to break out, the Monster would be the one to break out first. So, our evil schemes are going as planned, and I’m getting a LOT of satisfaction out of having been¬†the chief architect¬†of the whole thing.Even_More_Evil_Plotting_Raccoon_Quickmeme_by_GeneO

The Monster’s top referrers for the quarter are the same as Sourcerer’s. It’s getting a little less search traffic, but more from the reader, a comparable number from Twitter, and more from Facebook. The Monster’s always gotten more from Facebook. Both blogs are seeing a slight uptick in referrals from other blogs — we’re talking about maybe 25 or 30 per quarter each from a handful of blogs. But the handful is growing, and in January, those 25s and 30s were more like 10s and 15s. That’s a good sign — it’s an indicator that we’ve made the right call by¬†prioritizing network depth and engagement over traffic.

Part Time Monster’s four¬†most popular posts are the Princess Bride and Giving Tree reviews, one of Jeremy’s Tough Ladies posts, and the Evil Queen from A to Z. Aside from a post about sexual violence in television, PTM’s most popular posts list is otherwise dominated by Weekend Coffee Share linkups. Search engines¬†and the linkup are driving Diana’s traffic, because all the most popular¬†posts other than the coffee posts were written weeks or months ago.

What It All Means

First, Diana and I aren’t running¬†a race against each other with these blogs. The very idea of that would just get a “WTF?” from us. We don’t compete, ever. Not even in half-serious ways just to draw a crowd.

We cooperate. We’re trying to help one another find readers and make friends, and we’re trying to get better at this. That’s what the sharing of these stats is about. So, here are a few thoughts on what we might learn from this latest phase of the PTM-Sourcerer blogging enterprise.

First, WordPress is more a social media network than a publishing platform. A post on a wordpress.com blog is basically a longer, prettier status update with outgoing links. This is important to note. Because one rule of social media networking that seems to be ironclad is¬†if you aren’t interacting¬†on a network consistently, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, you aren’t on that network.

Aside from the missed days and lack of photo features, the biggest reason Sourcerer suffered in June and July is because I’ve not been liking and commenting on other WordPress blogs for weeks, and I’m the one whose likes/comments point to this blog. In fact, I suspect my lack of engagement has hurt us more than the missed posts. Whatever else I do, long-term planning wise, I’ve got to prioritize engagement on WordPress to get the activity level back up here.

Second, Part Time Monster’s gearing up to be more successful than Sourcerer in the short term because Diana has advantages with her¬†blog we don’t have here. We have advantages, too, but they’re different — the entire styles of these blogs and the way they’re run are different. They’re designed to compliment one another, assuredly and intentionally. But they are not cast from the same mold.

I don’t consider Part Time Monster to be a niche blog, but it has a more specific content focus than Sourcerer. PTM is about “books, girls, and monsters.” Our motto around here is “all pop culture, all the time,” with a little social media thrown in and as much smartassery as we think our readers will put up with. That’s a much broader focus, which means it’s more difficult to know what to expect from Sourcerer. This blog will surprise you on occasion, but aside from a Wednesday comics post and occasional Social Media Sundays, you just never know what you’re gonna get here — especially during periods where most of our contributors are wrapping up runs and either planning the next one or working on their own projects.

Another¬†advantage¬†the Monster has is the regular content tends to be more consistent. Because Sourcerer runs on contributions, and bloggers have to be able to come and go as they please, we tend to do short-ish runs and one-off posts: Movie reviews, tv series blogthroughs, things like that. Those are fun to write and do well when we have them, but they don’t provide much long-term stability or focus.

Then there’s the fact that Part Time Monster is set up as a personal blog that accepts contributions. Sourcerer, whatever it is, isn’t a personal blog. It’s set up for one purpose, and one purpose only: to publish contributed content as a way of encouraging a community to form around our blogs and help bloggers form lasting relationships. I provide as much as I can, but fundamentally, Sourcerer will live or die based on my ability to maintain a contributor base and keep other bloggers interested in publishing here. Not on my ability to produce five or six posts per week myself. If I ever reach the point that maintaining active contributors is untenable, I’ll shut it down, give all my content to PTM, CompGeeks, and a handful of friends, and point my WordPress account to the Monster to give Diana the benefit of my WordPress engagement.

Sourcerer’s advantage in all this is that¬†we have more latitude to experiment here, the potential to attract a larger number of contributors, and the ability to generate impressive traffic spikes on occasion. But it sets us up for boom/bust cycles with content (and therefore with readers) until we attract a a few more bloggers to join the crew. There just aren’t quite enough of us here yet.

I’m nowhere near ready to call it a day at this¬†point. We’re doing well. We’ll get through the year and have another awesome spring if things keep going the way they are. So no worries. Slow and steady wins the race.

What’s Next For Sourcerer?

I’ve already written one post that specifically outlines¬†where I’d like to take this blog over the next year, and given the length of this one¬†already, I’m not going to rehash it all here. But basically, we need a few regular things — things people can count on seeing at specific times of the week or month, and we need to do that in a way that allows room for contributors to join in when they feel like it.

I think moving the #WeekendCoffeeShare posts here will help. I’m also liking the Sci-Fi Saturdays. Those started as Star Wars Saturdays, but I think I like “Sci-Fi” better, because it allows us to write about more than one franchise on Saturdays. Other than that, I want to keep the interviews going and eventually do more than one a month, and I want to do more collabroative posting like Hannah’s and Melissa’s Age of Ultron review.

Aside from those things, I’ve got to bring the photos back, engage more with other bloggers on their blogs, and get back to Twitter. I’ve somewhat prioritized Facebook since last fall, and that’s paid off, but it’s come at the cost of WordPress and Twitter growth. I’ve done what I can on Facebook by spending large amounts of time there. I’m friends with enough bloggers now to be happy where I am, and I’m content with slow-and-steady progress driven by genuine interaction.

So, once we move into the fall, you’ll see less of me over there, but¬†more of me in the blogosphere and on Twitter.¬†Once I get back where I need to be with those two networks, my next big project — probably my big social media project for 2016, has to be cracking either Reddit or StumbleUpon. We’ve proven we can do engagement, and what we need at this point is big traffic. We’re getting all we can get by working for views in ones and twos. We need to figure out how to attract readers by¬†the hundred through a single link, and one of those two networks is likely the shortest route to that.

This is quite enough for today. I hope at least a few of you find this helpful.

From the Instigator-in-Chief . . .

I addressed readers directly often during the first year this blog was posting. I’ve done that less and less as our contributor base has grown, because one of my goals for this year was to make Sourcerer a seamless pop culture blog. Since I’ve been scarce around here for the last month, we’ve missed some days, and we’ve had no afternoon photos since May, here’s a quick run-down so you’ll know what to expect from me, and from this blog, through the fall.

Arrr, mateys!

Arrr, mateys!

The main thing you can expect is more written posts from me, and more personal engagement on the¬†comment threads. The blog has suffered from my absence this month, and that’s not surprising. I’ve seen it happen before both here and at Part Time Monster. It’s not a cause for concern — periodic absences are a part of blogging, and I’m sure we’ll do better once I’m able to give the blog more attention.

  • July 4 is a week away. That’s my target date for the¬†slowdown. Doesn’t mean we’re going away, and it’s my goal to update this blog daily year-round, but our schedule during the second half of the year is lighter, and includes more photoblogging, video posts, and reblogs.
  • Our Silly Rabbit (Monday) and Penny Dreadful (Tuesday) features will finish their runs in the next few weeks. I’m not sure what we’ll do on those days during late July and early August. We’ll continue to have an interview on the first Monday of every month, and I’m considering¬†increasing the frequency of those, because they’re fun and popular.
  • Comics on Wednesdays is still the¬†top priority.
  • Throwback Thursdays will continue until I run out of Tolkien posts, so at least through mid-August.
  • We’ve moved the Weekend Music back to Fridays. On weeks when we don’t have anything else to post on Saturdays, Weekend Music will run on Saturday mornings and Friday will be an off-day.
  • Star Wars Saturdays, our newest feature, are as high on my list of priorities as comics. I’d like to build this feature into a consistent staple here and write a few of them myself, but that will take some time, and we may miss a few weekends in the next month or two.
  • Sundays, typically, are either an off day or the day I post social media-oriented things like quarterly stats, Twitter geekery, etc.

sourcerer_imageWe have space for another contributor or two. I’m not going all-out with recruitment, nor am I particularly concerned about a lack of content. But if you’re interested, read our For Contributors page.

Basically, the way I handle contributions is to have people who want to contribute pitch ideas, then brainstorm and tweak them together until we find something that fits. I’ve accepted everything from one-shot guest posts up to long weekly runs in the past, so frequency isn’t an issue as long as we know you well enough to grant you author access to the dashboard and you have the ability to¬†deliver finished posts which include at least one shareable image.

This is where we are. A big thanks to all the friends and contributors who have kept the content flowing during my recent troubles. Once I’m satisfied that I’ve re-established a sufficient personal presence here, I’m back to Twitter and to a few social blogging activities that fell off my radar in June.