10,000 hits on

by Nick

This blog recently passed a milestone of getting its 10,000th hit. I’m still amazed anyone reads it, but to regulars, and also to those just dropping in, thank you for stopping by.

It has been an interesting experience starting blogging. The exact thing that prompted me to start was talking to a friend who makes a living from social media, who was telling me about his blog. I remember thinking “I could do one of those”. I had already had good experiences with other forms of social media (Flickr in particular) so it seemed like a natural extension. So thanks Lloyd for giving me another distraction from work!

After starting I quickly got the bug – prompted most of all, I think, by the fact that others started reading what I was writing. Really at the start I only wanted a space in which to do the academic equivalent of doodling – somewhere I could scribble down thoughts about my course and about my reading. But what has kept me posting is the fact that there is a community of history bloggers out there. I hadn’t anticipated quite how sociable blogging would be – between the comments on the blog and the e-mails I receive I’ve felt like I’ve made contacts with people I’d never otherwise have encountered. Thank you in particular to Gavin Robinson, Sharon Howard, Christopher Thompson, Bill Turkel and Roy Booth. This is particularly important for me given my Masters is part-time and I have a full-time job on top of it, so I very rarely get the time to participate in real-life history communities like IHR seminars.

So where next? Well, I hand in my dissertation proposal soon, and while I don’t want to go into too much detail before it gets approved, I hope to start blogging about the experience of starting, researching and writing a thesis.

Finally, I’ve learned an awful lot in the last few months about how to get the most out of blogging. The tips below will be the oldest of old hat to anyone who has any experience with blogs, but for those just starting out I hope they may be useful.

  • Blogs are a social medium. Even if you write just for yourself, others will end up reading them – and your blog will be better if you engage with other bloggers in your field. So be sociable. Link to other blogs you find interesting, and click through to their page once you’ve done it so they can see where the referral has come from. With luck, they’ll read your blog and like it in return, and add you to their blogroll. Use Technorati to see who links to you and to search for other blogs in your field. Offer to host a blog carnival if one exists for your particular area – if it doesn’t, you can always start your own.
  • Think hard about what you write. Readers using RSS feeds will only see the first few lines and will move on if they aren’t grabbed. If it’s original content, try to anchor it with links to contextual material elsewhere on the web. If it’s linking elsewhere, make sure you include the link!
  • Force yourself to write regularly. I found this particularly important when starting off and trying to build up a readership. I tried to post at least once a week if not more during the early days, and made an effort to review new books and have some wider-ranging posts as well as those specific to the 1640s and 1650s. Things have fallen off recently due to moving house and still not having broadband (curse you, British Telecom), but I hope to starting posting a bit more regularly again from now on. If nothing else this has been a good discipline for me in thinking about my subject and in practising writing skills.

(Written via the wonders of the Oxford Tube’s free wifi, after a wonderful weekend spent pottering round the Ashmolean, spending too much money in Blackwell’s, and over-indulging myself in various cafes and pubs).