I always wanted an ant farm, but by the time I was old enough to buy all the stupid stuff my parents wouldn’t, I was working for a corporation. The ant farm people insist on delivering the ants, alive, to an actual human. No leaving a box of ants on the porch for these guys. They’re ant professionals. And my boss is very forgiving, but I don’t think he’d like me shipping a box of bugs to the mailroom.
Anyhoo! I’ve built many a web site in my time, but this is my first blog. “Bah!” I thought, “Blogs are for people who can’t design graphics or write code — me, I’m Stuckup Snooty McSmartypants III and I can do both those things with the deft touch of a true master. What is “blog” to me?”
But then I decided I wanted to talk about politics and religion, topics so toxic and hurtful that I simply couldn’t bear to let them share server space with my happy funtime pages like My Favorite Disease and Japanese Panty-Vending Machines.
“I know!” I thought, “I’ll quarantine them….on a blog.”
So that is how I made it to such an advanced age without grokking the whole blog thing. I didn’t realize what a neat toy they are. See, on a plain old website, you build it, and you wait weeks for Mister Google to come spider it. Last I heard (though I don’t keep up on that stuff now) it worked better sooner if you waited to be crawled, rather than registering the site manually. Then you sat back and waited for people to search for terms unique enough that only you would do, until your site was old enough to crawl up the engine rankings. It’s a slow, steady sort of build.
With blogs, it’s different. It’s all spikey. Or bursty, like sunspot activity. But — and here’s the toy — the spikes are an immediate response to stuff you’ve done. Hits follow a link from comments you make elsewhere. Hits follow links from other blogs’ blogrolls and trackbacks, or from aggregators or the WordPress tag surfer. Links spawn links in a crescendo of traffic, and then it dies away as people get bored and move on. Like they always do. Like they always, always do.
The statistics page for WordPress shows a line chart of monthly hits and a link list of where the traffic came from and what entries it flowed to. It’s imperfect; you don’t know what people read once they arrive, for example. I suppose that’s one reason people use the click to read more thing (hmmmm). It’s the post/response feedback loop that makes this addictive. I have a stick, I have sugarwater, I have an anthill.
Only, I have this uneasy feeling my ants are playing with me.
Gratuitous link to a neat java applet I found while looking for an ant farm graphic: Daniel Klainbaum’s Ant Farm. Ignore all the arty bullshit and hit the launch button.