Coding Horror

programming and human factors

If You're Reading This, You Are a Low-Value Demographic

Jakob Neilsen may not be today's hip and trendy Web 2.0 fixture, but he's still dispensing solid advice. Check out his Top Ten Blog Design Mistakes:

  1. No Author Biographies
  2. No Author Photo
  3. Nondescript Posting Titles
  4. Links Don't Say Where They Go
  5. Classic Hits are Buried
  6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation
  7. Irregular Publishing Frequency
  8. Mixing Topics
  9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss
  10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service

It's a great set of guidelines that I completely agree with. However, it is missing one humongous mistake: disabling comments. You don't have a blog until you allow public, two way communication between the author and the reader. And when I say communication, I mean it: the author has to actually read and even (gasp!) respond to the comments. Otherwise you're just publishing content, like every other newspaper since the printing press was invented. Meh.

Unfortunately, I'm guilty of a few of these mistakes, notably #2 and #5. And technically this post violates #3 as well, but I coudn't resist:

If you publish on many different topics, you're less likely to attract a loyal audience of high-value users. Busy people might visit a blog to read an entry about a topic that interests them. They're unlikely to return, however, if their target topic appears only sporadically among a massive range of postings on other topics. The only people who read everything are those with too much time on their hands (a low-value demographic).

I certainly regretted not having my picture on my blog when I went to PDC 2005 and belatedly realized it was virtually impossible for me to meet any other bloggers. I only recognized people who were already famous (eg, Don Box) or had pictures on their blogs (eg, Sara Ford). I know, duh.

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Exchange and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: http://twitter.com/codinghorror