The power of networks
Back in late 2000, I discovered ezboard – a message board network. A group of friends were organising an event in London (Intensity), and they set up the “Intensity board” – a message board where people could chat before and after the event.
When I set up my own ezboard community in early 2001, I noticed that new members could find your board without needing to go looking for them. The larger boards would’ve probably done more promotion than I did, but I ended up with a small but friendly community that mostly included people who had stumbled across my board simply by being on the ezboard network themselves.
I decided to go it alone in 2004, and set up an OpenBB community. Most members moved with the board. The main difference I noticed by leaving ezboard was the lack of new members finding the board. Some did, but I had to work a lot harder at finding members when using a self-hosted platform.
I’ve noticed the same with blogging. A self-hosted WordPress blog is pretty much the de facto way for a “serious” blogger to run a blog. Hosted solutions such as Blogger, Tumblr and WordPress.com were never of much interest to me – I wanted the control that comes with self-hosted. Being technically minded, it didn’t seem right for me to take the easy path and not host my own site. I felt I had to do it the “proper” way.
But having a self-hosted blog is similar to having a self-hosted forum. You have to make your own network. Although I’ve had a couple of blogs that people found interesting, the readers can drop away in a heartbeat. Keeping up with a standalone blog can be something of a chore, unless the blog has things like an email newsletter (and there are reasons I don’t have one of those).
So I’ve decided to try blogging with a hosted blog. I set up my miniblog at WordPress.com, and I’ve already had a small bit of interest from others in the WordPress.com network. I already have a couple of Tumblr blogs, one of which has nearly 1000 followers – and I’ve never really promoted it. People find it via tags.
The argument that people will find your blog if you write good enough content doesn’t really hold true unless you’re in a network. These days, Google is saturated with content. At least sites such as WordPress.com and Tumblr give you a glimmer of hope that you might stand out in a very big ocean of blogs.