How to Make Your Blog Famous
Previously an independent technology consultant, and a new media developer for the Village Voice, Dash was the first employee of Six Apart, the makers of Movable Type, TypePad and Vox, and served as its Vice President and Chief Evangelist until moving on to Expert Labs. In 2003, Dash was one of four bloggers featured on the PBS series Media Matters. He is also in demand as a speaker at such events as Northern Voice and the Web 2.0 Conference.
Dash's current role is directing Expert Labs, a non-profit, independent group with a mandate to help policy makers in the U.S. Federal Government utilize the expertise of their fellow citizens.
Dash was born and grew up near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A long-time resident and vocal fan of New York City, he lived in San Francisco for a time but has now returned to New York City.
Question: What’s the key to successful blogging?
Anil Dash: The key to successful blogging is some good friends. I remember reading a fellow, John Gruber, who is a friend of mine on Daring Fireball. They were thinking obsessions and passion were two necessary items, and I think a lot of my favorite blogs have those things. Somebody loves something irrationally beyond the point of all sanity, and just wants to own that topic. When somebody has that kind of passion for what they love, it can be interesting to you even if you otherwise wouldn’t have been interested in the topic.
I think that is really fascinating, so some of the single subject blogs that I’ve seen are amazing. I saw one the other day—it was just about album covers from back in the old vinal days. They took record covers, they cover one at a time, and they talked about who the photographer was, who the art director was, what the impact of that album cover was. It can be about a record that I’ve never heard, and maybe even a group I’ve never even heard of, and they can tell a story about this album cover and what it meant to them and why it’s important. That’s mesmerizing to me. I think those are the great, truly great blogs—somebody has a passion beyond all rationality, and is so excited about it that you can’t help but be excited too.
It’s a little bit of a bittersweet thing that the blogs people discover first are essentially news or pop culture or sports which are things that we’ve had in media for years. Those are good, they are fine. I read them and I think they are important, but it’s always that personal blog that is somebody is telling you about their passion, their hobby, their area of expertise, the thing that they know better than anybody else in the world. Those people are the best bloggers in the world to me.
Question: What specific steps can a blogger take to boost his or her traffic?
Anil Dash: A lot of times people think getting your company or your individual ideas visible on the web involves a lot of tricks. There’s a whole industry called search engine optimization or SEO a lot of it is legitimate. People were doing consulting on trying to get information discoverable in the web, and a lot of it is snake oil.
People feel like Google is this angry volcano monster, and maybe if we throw a goat in there it will help. They just have no idea whether what they’re doing has any science behind it at all. And as it turns out, the fundamental principles are really, really easy. If you want to get a message out on the web effectively, frequently update your content—a blog is great for this. I’m biased because I love blogging, but like any kind of system that lets you frequently update your content, it is going to make sure your information is current, that it’s up to date and it’s also going to let people know that you’re committed to communicating with them over time.
Frequently updating content, and is has to be well-written, well-designed, well-presented. Those sound like little things, but the way information looks and how readable and discoverable it is makes a big difference as to whether people want to share it, and all of the search engines or audio systems people use to discover content are built around links. Whether it’s people sharing a link in Facebook or posting a link on their blog, that’s the currency by which people discover things on the web and you earn a link. It’s not the kind of thing where you should be paying somebody to post links to what you do. You earn a link by having something compelling and unique that people feel like they want to share.
The last part is building a relationship. The best way to get a really big site to link to your content or to get somebody who has a lot of reach help amplify your message on the web is to build a relationship with them that is real. Think about what they want, not just when you are asking them to do you a favor and reciprocate, but when they’ve created something that’s worth sharing, share what they do as well.
If you follow these principles of updating frequently, having something that is worth reading, having it be well presented, and build relationships with others that want to amplify your message, you don’t need to worry about any of the tricks for the search engines or anything else—everything flows from there. I’ve been very fortunate, I’ve been writing a lot lately, I’ve been in the blogs for 10 years, and people have said, “Oh gosh. You get a lot of links and people. You rank first in Google for your name.”
Those things happen because you have built up a reputation and relationships over time that people want to honor by amplifying your message for you.
Question: It is possible to make money from a blog?
Anil Dash: Yeah. I’ve had the privilege to work with a lot of the best bloggers in the world, and they’re all making money one way or another. They have advertising on the side; they use blogging to get speaking gigs or for people to pay for them to consult. It’s not always direct, but every door that I have ever had opened in my entire career happened because of my blog. I could trace back every dollar I’ve ever earned to my blogs, certainly, because I’ve been blogging.
I think you encounter two different people. Those who think that the thing they did to generate social value isn’t necessarily where they get the direct dollars from, and people that have information that is super valuable, and people would pay to subscribe to their blog.
So I think there’s a lot of different paths to it. What you have to think about is total earnings versus total effort, and recognize that they will always correspond one on one. That’s true in the entire economy.
I think you look at Chris Anderson’s writing FREE, the fellows that are writing Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics; there’s a lot of these ideas that are being covered that are saying you can create a lot of value for it “here”, maybe not get direct compensation for it, and get a lot of reward over “here.” Just make sure you know how that flow happens, but it doesn’t have to be one-to-one exchange, in that where you put in the most effort is where you get the most reward.
Recorded on: July 17 2009
Blogger Anil Dash shares his wisdom on boosting blog traffic and income.
The week-long global protest, which is calling for an end to the age of fossil fuels, is taking place in more than 160 countries today.
SOPA Images / Contributor / Getty
- Millions of people around the world are taking to the streets to demand more urgent action on climate change.
- The protests come just days ahead of the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit.
- Although it's unclear exactly how many people are participating, it's likely to be the largest climate protest ever.
Most elderly individuals' brains degrade over time, but some match — or even outperform — younger individuals on cognitive tests.
- "Super-agers" seem to escape the decline in cognitive function that affects most of the elderly population.
- New research suggests this is because of higher functional connectivity in key brain networks.
- It's not clear what the specific reason for this is, but research has uncovered several activities that encourage greater brain health in old age.
At some point in our 20s or 30s, something starts to change in our brains. They begin to shrink a little bit. The myelin that insulates our nerves begins to lose some of its integrity. Fewer and fewer chemical messages get sent as our brains make fewer neurotransmitters.
As we get older, these processes increase. Brain weight decreases by about 5 percent per decade after 40. The frontal lobe and hippocampus — areas related to memory encoding — begin to shrink mainly around 60 or 70. But this is just an unfortunate reality; you can't always be young, and things will begin to break down eventually. That's part of the reason why some individuals think that we should all hope for a life that ends by 75, before the worst effects of time sink in.
But this might be a touch premature. Some lucky individuals seem to resist these destructive forces working on our brains. In cognitive tests, these 80-year-old "super-agers" perform just as well as individuals in their 20s.
Just as sharp as the whippersnappers
To find out what's behind the phenomenon of super-agers, researchers conducted a study examining the brains and cognitive performances of two groups: 41 young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 and 40 older adults between the ages of 60 and 80.
First, the researchers administered a series of cognitive tests, like the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT) and the Trail Making Test (TMT). Seventeen members of the older group scored at or above the mean scores of the younger group. That is, these 17 could be considered super-agers, performing at the same level as the younger study participants. Aside from these individuals, members of the older group tended to perform less well on the cognitive tests. Then, the researchers scanned all participants' brains in an fMRI, paying special attention to two portions of the brain: the default mode network and the salience network.
The default mode network is, as its name might suggest, a series of brain regions that are active by default — when we're not engaged in a task, they tend to show higher levels of activity. It also appears to be very related to thinking about one's self, thinking about others, as well as aspects of memory and thinking about the future.
The salience network is another network of brain regions, so named because it appears deeply linked to detecting and integrating salient emotional and sensory stimuli. (In neuroscience, saliency refers to how much an item "sticks out"). Both of these networks are also extremely important to overall cognitive function, and in super-agers, the activity in these networks was more coordinated than in their peers.
An image of the brain highlighting the regions associated with the default mode network.
How to ensure brain health in old age
While prior research has identified some genetic influences on how "gracefully" the brain ages, there are likely activities that can encourage brain health. "We hope to identify things we can prescribe for people that would help them be more like a superager," said Bradford Dickerson, one of the researchers in this study, in a statement. "It's not as likely to be a pill as more likely to be recommendations for lifestyle, diet, and exercise. That's one of the long-term goals of this study — to try to help people become superagers if they want to."
To date, there is some preliminary evidence of ways that you can keep your brain younger longer. For instance, more education and a cognitively demanding job predicts having higher cognitive abilities in old age. Generally speaking, the adage of "use it or lose it" appears to hold true; having a cognitively active lifestyle helps to protect your brain in old age. So, it might be tempting to fill your golden years with beer and reruns of CSI, but it's unlikely to help you keep your edge.
Aside from these intuitive ways to keep your brain healthy, regular exercise appears to boost cognitive health in old age, as Dickinson mentioned. Diet is also a protective factor, especially for diets delivering omega-3 fatty acids (which can be found in fish oil), polyphenols (found in dark chocolate!), vitamin D (egg yolks and sunlight), and the B vitamins (meat, eggs, and legumes). There's also evidence that having a healthy social life in old age can protect against cognitive decline.
For many, the physical decline associated with old age is an expected side effect of a life well-lived. But the idea that our intellect will also degrade can be a much scarier reality. Fortunately, the existence of super-agers shows that at the very least, we don't have to accept cognitive decline without a fight.
Are tiny homes just a trend for wealthy minimalists or an economic necessity for the growing poor?
- The tiny home movement has been popular on social media sites, often portraying an idyllic lifestyle that's cheaper and better for the environment without sacrificing aesthetics.
- But tiny homes may become the answer to a growing population and growing inequality.
- As the movement continues to build up steam, one has to wonder whether it's a housing crisis solution with a new coat of paint.
Tiny homes. They're the watchword of the Home & Garden network, at once an Instagrammable, envy-inducing lifestyle and an unfortunate necessity for a generation struck by a recession, historically high inequality, and loans taken out for an ostensibly necessary education that's failed to really net any benefits.
But the question is, which are they? A symbol of a smarter, more environmentally-conscious, humbler generation — or a symbol of one that's had to make do with less than its predecessors? (See: "Millennials buy the things their parents did — but they're much poorer.")
Downsizing housing and hubris
Image source: Mike Morgan / For The Washington Post via Getty Images
Will tiny homes look like this in the future -- smaller and more efficient but still beautiful?
In the U.S., things are just bigger, and houses are no exception. The median size of a single-family home in the U.S. peaked in 2015 at 2,467 square feet. Compared to other parts of the world — particularly Europe — this is a massive figure. There's a variety of reasons for this; one, for example, is that Americans began driving early and often, which transformed the design of their cities and suburbs. Developers could build outside of urban centers where the land was cheaper and more plentiful, enabling bigger houses to be bought.
In addition, the idea of having a lot of space seems to be an appealing one to the former European colonies — where Europeans have often lived in more cramped, repurposed older buildings, Australians, Canadians, and Americans had the opportunity to seize land (despite it already being occupied) and build new, sprawling settlements throughout it. The prosperity that the America saw in the 20th century didn't hurt, either; why not build big if you've got the money to spare?
But a considerable amount of this space is wasted. A UCLA study found that the majority of people spend their time in the kitchen or around the television and very rarely use the living room or porch. As a result of these extra, unused spaces, more resources are wasted on construction, and energy consumption is double what a family would need if their house only had the rooms that they actually use.
Smaller, more energy-efficient houses are appealing to a growing population of minimalists and resource-conscious individuals. In 2017 alone, the sales of tiny homes increased by 67 percent. Coming in at under 400 square feet on average, these houses are also understandably cheap — for tiny homes on wheels, the average cost is $46,300, while those with a foundation cost on average $119,000. As a result, 68 percent of tiny homeowners don't even have a mortgage.
Downsizing out of necessity
Image source: George Rose/Getty Images
A community of tiny homes for homeless people known as "Nickelsville" in Seattle.
On the other hand, the group of people drawn to tiny homes isn't just homogenously composed of wealthy minimalists looking to reduce their consumption while still appearing trendy. In 70 percent of the U.S., the average worker can't afford a home, one-third of adults are a $400 bill away from financial difficulty, and a quarter have no retirement savings whatsoever.
Under these conditions, downsizing may be the only viable method to survive. Consider, for instance, how cities such as Seattle, Detroit, and Denver are constructing tiny homes as emergency shelters or transitional housing for the homeless. There are also the many retirees that had their savings wiped out by the Great Recession who now live nomadically in RVs and modified vans. This tiny-living trend also has its Instagram cheerleaders, but the reality of it is less idyllic. Journalist Jessica Bruder and author of Nomadland related an anecdote to MarketWatch illustrating the nature of nomadic tiny living:
"I talked to one couple, Barb and Chuck. He had been head of product development at McDonald's before he retired. He lost his nest egg in the 2008 crash and Barb did, too. One time, Barb and Chuck were standing at the gas station to get $175 worth of gas and the horror hit them that their account had $6 in it. The gas station gentleman said 'Give me your name and driver's license and if you write a check, I will wait to cash it.' He waited two whole weeks before he deposited it."
This might become a reality for more people in the future as well. Inequality widens when the rate at which wealth grows — say, your stocks or the price of your house — grows faster than the rate at which wages do. Research suggests that wealth is growing at a breakneck pace, keeping in line with economist Thomas Picketty's prediction of a dramatically inequal future.
Solutions for this will need to be found, and many municipalities or private individuals may find such a solution in constructing tiny homes. Homelessness is a powerful, self-perpetuating force, and having shelter is an obviously necessary step to escape poverty.
Regrettably, if tiny homes are being driven primarily by resource-conscious but fundamentally economically secure individuals, we can expect the trend to remain just that; a trend. In a few years, fewer and fewer tiny houses will be constructed and sold, and eventually there will just be a small contingent of diehard proponents of the lifestyle. If, however, the tiny home trend is being driven primarily by economic inequality, then we can expect it to stick around for a while.