Oy, it’s navel-gazing time in the science blogosphere, prompted by a post at Bayblab that reveals some resentment or justifiable concern (depending on your perspective) about the inevitable problem that always crops up in blogging: somebody always has more than someone else. Traffic and traffic-ranking services fuel a feed-forward loop that means that those that have, get more. And that means that those squatting atop the traffic ziggurat aren’t necessarily there because they are the very best, but because they tapped into fortunate combinations of attraction and attention early on. I’ll be the first to say that luck and timing are the big factors that put someone at the top of the heap in this game (although I think a little talent for the medium does play a role, at least in the sense of keeping one from slipping to the bottom.)
Somehow, I’ve ended up at the high end of my niche on the web, so of course everyone is making me part of the argument. I’m the 800 lb. gorilla, the beast you can’t ignore — is that good or bad? Does that PZ guy demolish the reputation of science across the web, or does he enhance it? Is he in it for the money, the fame, the glory, or the girls, and is all that a corrupting influence?
None of the above, of course. I would be writing the same stuff whether it was a 100 of you stopping by each month, or something over a million. What I write is just plain naked me, without contrivance or effort to write what someone else wants. I get paid a sum that’s actually helpful in staving off starvation, but not enough that I’m at all tempted to quit my day job … and I was doing the same thing when I was getting paid nothing. What I write I write because I feel like it, because I’ve got my hobbyhorses that need to be rocked, and not because I’m trying to meet some abstract standard that someone else set, no matter how well-meaning they might be. Love me or hate me, I’m just doing my thing.
You all are welcome to write a more popular blog. I’m not going to knife you on the way up, and I’m not even going to feel any resentment if you want to pass me by. This is not something I have any control over, and sincerely, I think there is an element of zen here: you aren’t going to get readers to flock to you by trying to get them to come to you. It just happens.
Well, except when you write a mildly inflammatory post and the bleary-eyed 800 lb. gorilla looks up and pokes you with a link.
By the way, I do have to address one specific accusation made at Bayblog, that I get most of my traffic from creationists. I know this isn’t true; creationist blogs rarely link to me, and even when they do, the traffic from those sites is laughably negligible. We actually have a bit of a dearth of creationist commenters; regulars here know that such visitors tend to get shredded fast. I’m afraid that most of the people who show up here are fans, not opponents.