Dear Jon letter (a.k.a. The world doesn't care about you)

Some words of advice for new education bloggers.

Dear Jon (and all you other new bloggers),

Following the time-honored tradition of Dear John letters everywhere, I write this because I care about you. I hope that we can still be friends when all is said and done. But it’s time that you faced a few brutal facts.

Fact 1. The world doesn’t care about you

Like the real world, other than your family and friends like me, the blogosphere doesn’t care about you. In the words of Seth Godin,

[They] don’t care about you. Not really. [They] care about [themselves]. If your message has something to do with [their lives], then perhaps [they’ll] notice, but in general, don’t expect much.

They don’t care that you want to be loved. They don’t care that you want more comments or that you want to be in on the conversation. It’s not about you. It’s about them (us) and whether, in an attention economy, you have anything worth paying attention to.

Fact 2. If you build it, they won’t come

Not at first, not for a long time, and maybe not ever. But eventually a few might swing by. For a few seconds. Maybe. And, if you’re adding value, they might stick around. Maybe. Or they might not. If you’re really lucky, they might tell a few friends about you. And some of those people might actually stop by and/or stay. But they probably won’t. They’ll probably go back to watching YouTube videos or reading I Can Has Cheezburger? (Lol).

Fact 3. There are things that you can do to increase your blog traffic

  1. Blog about stuff that your audience wants to read
  2. Help them find you
  3. That’s it. Okay, that’s not completely it, but that’s 99% of it. Give me a ring if you want some tips about the other 1%.

    Fact 4. If you’re nice, some folks might actually help you

    Amazingly, many of those cocktail party elitists, despite being busy with their closed conversations, somehow found time to step outside of the inner circle and deign to offer you their thoughts. Vicki wrote you a very nice note. So did Darren. Lots of other folks left you comments and Stephen sent people your way. And of course there’s this tough love missive from me, your buddy who’s been down this path and is willing to share a few unsolicited thoughts that might be useful to you.

    As my mother always used to say, don’t forget to write them a thank you note. The path to heaven is paved with graciousness.

    Fact 5. You need to be patient

    You’ve been blogging for how long? And your audience is how big? Congratulations! You shouldn’t be whining, you should be celebrating! Most newbie bloggers who are trying to grow their traffic would kill to be in your shoes.

    I get that you want the buzz, the conversation, the mojo. You’ve tasted the juice and you want more. But it doesn’t work that way. Because it’s not about you.

    If you follow the steps in #3 above, your audience will grow. You’ll get a few comments now and then (only a few, now, don’t be greedy). You’ll get a little link love. A few friends – some of whom you’ve never met – will help you. Twelve to eighteen months from now, if you’re still blogging and adding value to others, let’s see how you feel about things, okay?

    Until then, keep doing what you’re doing. Blog great stuff. Link to others. Comment on others. Rinse and repeat. Oh, and be grateful that you have a voice and the tools to express it. We love in wonderful and interesting times.

    Go in peace, my friend.

    P.S. Your belief that the blogosphere may be saturated? Call me when every one of the 4+ million U.S. educators each has a RSS aggregator overflowing with feeds and no time to read them all. Then we can talk.

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    Originally Poe envisioned a parrot, not a raven

    Quoth the parrot — "Nevermore."

    The Green Parrot by Vincent van Gogh, 1886
    Culture & Religion

    By his mid-30s, Edgar Allan Poe was not only weary by the hardships of poverty, but also regularly intoxicated — by more than just macabre visions. Despite this, the Gothic writer lucidly insisted that there was still a method to his madness when it came to devising poems.

    In an essay titled "The Philosophy of Composition," published in 1846 in Graham's Magazine, Poe divulged how his creative process worked, particularly in regard to his most famous poem: "No one point in [The Raven's] composition is rerferrible either to accident or intuition… the work proceeded step by step, to its completion with the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical problem."

    That said, contrary to the popular idea that Edgar Allan Poe penned his poems in single bursts of inspiration, The Raven did not pour out from his quivering quill in one fell swoop. Rather it came about through a calculative process — one that included making some pretty notable changes, even to its avian subject.

    As an example of how his mind worked, Poe describes in his essay that originally the bird that flew across the dreary scene immortalized in the poem was actually… a parrot.

    Poe had pondered ways he could have his one word refrain, "nevermore," continuously repeated throughout the poem. With that aim, he instantly thought of a parrot because it was a creature capable of uttering words. However, as quickly as Poe had found his feathered literary device, he became concerned with the bird's form on top of its important function.

    And as it turns out, the parrot, a pretty resplendent bird, did not perch so well in Poe's mind because it didn't fit the mood he was going for—melancholy, "the most legitimate of all the poetical tones." In solving this dilemma in terms of imagery, he made adjustments to its plumage, altogether transforming the parrot — bestowing it with a black raiment.

    "Very naturally, a parrot, in the first instance, suggested itself, but was superseded forthwith by a Raven, as equally capable of speech, and infinitely more in keeping with the intended tone," Poe explained in his piece in Graham's. "I had now gone so far as the conception of a Raven — the bird of ill omen — monotonously repeating the one word, 'Nevermore,' at the conclusion of each stanza, in a poem of melancholy tone…"

    It was with these aesthetic calculations that Poe ousted the colorful bird that first flew into his mind, and welcomed the darker one that fluttered in:

    In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
    Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
    But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
    Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
    Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
    Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
    By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore…

    The details of the poem — including the bird's appearance — needed to all blend together, like a recipe, to bring out the somber concept he was trying to convey: the descent into madness of a bereaved lover, a man lamenting the loss of a beautiful woman named Lenore. With that in mind, quoth the parrot — "nevermore" just doesn't have the same grave effect.

    * * *

    If you'd like to read more about Edgar Allan Poe, click here to review how his contemporaries tried to defame him in an attempt to thwart his success.

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