Rob G asked the other day whether there would be another 52 Somethings feature in 2017. The answer is "I don't know. Maybe."
For the past couple of months I've been giving a lot of thought to the future of this blog, asking myself whether I should continue it or not. Here follows the internal debate. Scroll down past the bullet points if you just want the conclusion, which is helpfully labeled "Conclusion."
Arguments against continuing:
- It does not have a lot of readers. Never has had, and I think there has been a decline over the past couple of years. I don't have very good statistics, just an average number of page views per day. Over the life of the blog (on Typepad), which began in 2010, that number, as of right now, is 168.43. I don't have any way of knowing how many people that represents. If I assume that every person visiting the blog views at least two pages per visit, that's roughly 85 people per day. It could be many fewer, if the average visit involves more than two page views. And I don't have any way of knowing how many of those people are the same person visiting multiple times per day. Of that number of visitors, some not insignificant percentage is people who got here by searching for something that isn't very typical of the blog's content (Getting Started With Kierkegaard gets a lot of hits), and so are probably not going to return. And anywhere from maybe five to fifteen every day are me, checking in, making comments, and so forth.
- Conversation has lagged over the past couple of years: less of it, fewer participants. I think Facebook probably has something to do with that. Maybe a lot. A few years ago I read something in the tech press claiming that Facebook was replacing the web for a lot of people. I think there's something to that. Facebook is weirdly addictive and captivating and there are always conversations going on, though in my experience not usually very satisfying and often unpleasant ones.
- And actually sometimes it's more interesting to throw things out on Facebook where they'll be seen by people who don't read the blog and are likely to disagree. I have an unfortunate urge to correct anything I read that seems totally incorrect or unfair. If I preach here, I'm mostly preaching to the choir, but others need the benefit of my wisdom, too. And sometimes I find myself posting the same thing here and on Facebook.
- I'm not posting as much, and what I do post is usually fairly brief and relatively lightweight. The main reason for this is that my writing energy and attention are going elsewhere, mainly into the book I'm writing. Related:
- It's a distraction from the book. I have a lot of difficulty concentrating--sometimes I think I have ADD--and the need to keep up a reasonably steady stream of posts distracts me, yet frequently does so without actually resulting in anything appearing on the blog. "I should post about that. No, it's not that important. Well, maybe I should. No, it was a current event and now it's too far in the past." Or: "I should post about that. Ok, here's a start...never mind, it's too big a topic for a blog post." Or maybe just "I should post about that...never mind, it would take too long." And the 52 Things series adds to that: I'm often not sure whether I'm going to have anything, which is distracting in itself and also means I have to think about what I can write about in a hurry, and how to make time for it.
- I have too much to do. Not supposed to, now that I'm mostly retired. But I'm still doing some work for my old employer. I spend most of the morning working on the book, and in the afternoon usually have an hour or two of their work, and I'm trying to take care of most of the meals (only fair as my wife still has a full-time job), and there's a lot to do around the house, most of which doesn't get done. All that pretty well eats up the time. My difficulty focusing on one thing at a time means that if I have five ten-minute tasks to do, it will take me not 5 x 10 = 50 minutes to do them but at least a hundred, while I start one, then switch because another suddenly seems more urgent, and on and on.
- Yeah, there's less conversation, but it's still good and I still enjoy it, and would really miss it if I didn't have it. And it's way less likely to turn unpleasant here than on Facebook.
- The 52 Things series, in spite of what I just said, has been very enjoyable. And I've learned a lot. And very consistently the day the 52 entry appears gets significantly more traffic than others, frequently getting close to 300 views or even a little over.
- I still want to comment on politics and other passing things, and really more often than not I'd rather it not be on Facebook, where it's likely to offend some people. On Facebook things hit you in the face (if you're not familiar with it, the normal setup is that you get a steady stream of updates from all your Facebook friends: so-and-so "likes" this, so-and-so posted a link to a news story, etc.). If someone posts something that really irritates you, you see it, unless you block that person altogether. So it's sort of obnoxious to post things that you know are going to offend or anger some of your friends. Whereas no one sees my blog posts unless they come here deliberately.
- I want and need some feedback on the book. I need an editor, actually. But for that you need a publisher, and I can't pursue that unlikely possibility and still get the book written. So I've been planning to post some excerpts here and solicit your opinions and advice.
Conclusion: Ok, that's four arguments for continuing and six against, therefore...I'll continue. The decisive argument is simply that I want to, never mind all the reasons against. So, that's settled.
However, I'm going to change things. I'm restarting the Sunday Night Journal. That may seem a little crazy in light of what I've just said. But it's going to be pretty much all I post, unless we continue the 52s, which I'll get to in a moment. And it's going to be different from its earlier incarnation. I tried to, and frequently did, make each of those entries a coherent and carefully written mini-essay. I'm putting that kind of work into the next book now. The new SNJ will be less formal, and more of an actual journal: comments on current events, books I've been reading, music I've been listening to, and that sort of thing. I won't be doing the substantial reviews that, for instance, Craig Burrell does so wonderfully. (There are about half a dozen books right now that I've wanted to discuss, but haven't because I didn't have time for that kind of review.) My hope is that this weekly feature will be a catalyst and focus for conversation.
Since I was thinking of posting only the SNJ, I considered not posting anymore on this blog and creating a new one called the Sunday Night Journal. But I think I'll just stick with this. I may want to do other posts occasionally. (I would like to revamp the design for this one, but probably won't get to that for a while.)
So, about the 52 Things. I sort of thought there might be little or no interest in doing another one. But if people are interested, sure, let's. I'd like to do it a little differently, to keep it from being a problem for me. Whatever item we pick needs to be one for which I can rustle up something quick in the event that no one else does. I won't bother trying to set up a schedule, for instance, since so far it's started falling apart by halfway through the year or so. You can just send me things, and I'll post them. If I have multiples available on hand at any time, I'll post them in order received. If I don't have anything, I'll write something. Simple. Here are some possibilities that I've thought of:
52 Classical Music Works
52 Pop Songs
52 Albums (Pop or Classical? Or separate them?)
52 Books (Novels?)
I have enough of any of these stored in my head that I could easily write a few paragraphs about a couple of dozen of them over the course of a year, though of course I would hope I wouldn't need to. My contributions would tend to be brief, but that doesn't mean others' need be. 52 Poems would be a bit of a problem because it can be time-consuming to format a poem for web reading, so let's don't do that one this year, if at all.
So, what do y'all think?
By the way, about the book: if you were reading here several years ago (2011?) you would have seen bits of it posted as SNJ items. It's sort of half-spiritual-autobiography a la Surprised by Joy, and half cultural history-criticism. The working title was--well, still is, I guess--War In the Closed World. But that may change. I'm considering Weak and Afraid, after the eccentric (to say the least) musician Ross Johnson:
I'm weak and afraid--and it's a lifestyle that's working for me.