The Great Wallet Spike
It’s kinda bad. I’m obsessed with The Row Boat’s traffic. It has become a daily (eek!) ritual-cum-addiction to troll over to Google Analytics in the morning and see how many people have been looking at me and from where they are coming. In some way or another, the Google oracle can set the tone for my whole day.
Tuesday, on a whim, I published a little post about my wallet. Since I usually try to keep to more straight-faced and world-historical things, writing about the wallet felt a little odd. I discussed my motivations in an introductory paragraph:
A friend recently suggested that I write a blog post about my wallet. Seemed like a good idea to me. When you look around at the literature on the internet about how to improve blog traffic, one of the suggestions that often comes up is to teach something that readers can use. And since The Row Boat is, by and large, self-indulgent reflection on deathless questions, the chance to write about something actually useful is not to be passed up. It’s a way of giving back to my readers—a dribble of self-help in exchange for all your thought and patience.
The results far exceeded my expectations. That day, thanks mostly to the computer programming thread at Reddit (the post had some mention of certain data structures), The Row Boat received more than ten times its usual traffic. There were several very instructive comments and emails from strangers, as well as some delightful ones from friends. The next day, it was nearly all gone.
One temptation in all this is to lash out about the dumb readers. I’ve been writing all these deep and brilliant reflections for years, toiling in obscurity, and the thing that brings you all out of the woodwork is a post on WALLETS? Idiots. All of you. But I won’t do that. Anyway, some of the reactions I got were genuinely clever, and I’ll always be an advocate of cleverness of any kind. Plus, whenever there’s a temptation to get mad, behind it there’s usually an opportunity to learn something. Or to remember something—Plato taught, after all, that all learning is really recollection.
Like this: it isn’t everybody who cares about navel-gazing speculative writing. But everybody’s gotta have a wallet.
This passage from Henry Miller’s Big Sur has always stuck with me:
To those who protest that they are not understood, not appreciated, not accepted—how many of us ever are?—all I can say is: “Clarify your position.”
Quite a statement from a man who claimed not to revise. But it is a fantastic call to persistence. Keep trying, keep crafting. Keep reaching to figure out how you can communicate what needs to be communicated, to make the world realize why you think all this is so important, if, in fact, you do.
So here’s what I’ve thought to take from the Great Wallet Spike. Would love your suggestions for more:
- Continue on doing what I’ve been doing because here I stand and can do no other. Never let The Row Boat stop being a labor of love. Getting a bunch of visits (with a very bad bounce rate, too) on a single post doesn’t mean much anyway.
- Bear readers in mind. Have something to offer them. Writing is not just a gift being offered, but also one being received.
- Try writing more how-to’s. They’re fun. They’ll be collected in the algorithms tag.
Thank you, always, for stopping by and reading. Remember, I’ll be watching you!
tags: algorithms, authenticity, lists, Platonism, popularity, writing