State of the Blog

Posted: 6th April 2018 by Quinn Dunki in Hacks

Big Data for a Little Blog

 

Hello loyal Blondihacks readers!

The results from the first ever Reader Survey are in. My apologies if you didn’t get a chance to participate. It was only up for a couple of days, but the spam bots found it quickly and were starting to pollute the data. However, I got a very strong response in the opening hours, so I feel good about the quality of the results. I could have prevented the spam by requiring log-in to do the survey, but I didn’t want to do that because I know from my comment threads that there is a large silent majority of readers that prefer not to log in to WordPress. No problem- I get that. I wanted your voice to be heard here as well.

Many folks used the comment field to let me know they would contribute to the site if they knew how. Allow me to remedy that right now. The best way to support Blondihacks is via Patreon. Just click this big Patreon banner:

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Patrons are charged per post, not on some time schedule. That incentivizes me to make more content, and protects you in case I go on vacation or have life stuff that gets in the way of blogging (which happens sometimes).

The second option is direct gifting through PayPal. Just click here:

 

My dream is to someday make Blondihacks pay the rent. It’s a long way from doing that right now, but every bit helps. There is roughly 40 hours of work that goes into every post on this site, and often hundreds of dollars in materials and tools. I spend 11 hours a day at my day job, then come home and spend my evenings working on this site. It’s a lot of effort, but I want to make it good.

If you feel the content is worthwhile and you’d like to see it continue, please consider supporting me.

Now, let’s take a look at the results from that survey. First up, the content of the articles.

 

People love all the things, as it turns out.

 

Those results are pretty strong. Most of you seem to like the variety here. That’s good, because I’m also all about variety. That will continue! There’s also a secondary preference for the electronics stuff. That makes sense, since much of the early traffic to the blog came from sites like Hack-a-Day and Adafruit. There’s a base of my audience still from there, I imagine. Lately things have expanded as my machine shop content has gained some interest, but don’t worry electronics fans- there will be more. I have a queue of interesting projects backed up in this area.

How about article frequency?

 

The technical term for this is “inconclusive”

 

On the frequency front, things are less clear. I suspect people voted here for different reasons. It would be interesting to segment this data, for example, on Patreon donors. They pay for the content everyone reads, and they pay per article. They are going to have a budget that doesn’t scale past some point. Someone who can afford to pay for one article per month from me might be unhappy if I suddenly started cranking out weekly content. Conversely, perhaps the readers who do not donate are mostly in the Often As Possible column. That’s rampant speculation, though. This data is all anonymous, and I have no way to segment or do further analysis. I expect the current rate of “roughly every 2-4 weeks when I have time” will continue.

On to the question of article length.

 

That’s comforting!

 

Seems that the bulk of the audience feels I have a sweet spot on length. That’s good to know. I try to aim for about a 5-10min read, depending on the number of pictures. Much longer and people wouldn’t finish. Much shorter and people wouldn’t feel value for their Patreon dollar. I try to strike that balance.

The final question may have come out of the blue for you all, but it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about. All the cool kids do YouTube these days, and there’s opportunity there. However, producing video is immensely time consuming, and what I like about this is the writing. No matter what, the blog would continue, because writing is fun for me. Editing video is not very fun for me, but if people would pay for it, I might do it.

 

There’s some ambiguity here…

 

In surveys, the wording of the questions is everything. That’s why you should view all data reported in the media based on surveys with immense skepticism. You can pretty much get any audience to generate any data you want by how you word the questions. I think this YouTube thing is an example of a poorly worded question. There was overlap between the Yes answer and the Both answer. My intent was that “yes” meant you would support me dropping the blog completely and moving to YouTube. I suspect many people didn’t mean it that way, but it’s hard to know because I didn’t word the question well.

At the end of the day, I think the data shows there is interest in me doing video content, so I’ll continue to think about whether I have room in my schedule for it. If I do it, it would be exclusive paid content for Patreon supporters, perhaps using their new Lens system, or through a private YouTube.

If you’d like to keep in regular touch with me and my projects, follow me on Twitter. I post sneak peeks and in-progress shots of upcoming projects. Also sometimes cats.

Thanks again to all my readers who participated, and those who wanted to but got cut off by the spam bots. I was very surprised (even a little overwhelmed) at the volume of responses I got. If even a few percent of the people who responded became Patreon supporters, we could kick it up a notch around here.

We now return to your regularly scheduled Blondihacks.

 

  1. Janne says:

    I think perhaps a low effort/high payoff approach to video could be to continue with text and picture posts like now, but for some bits (machining especially), you’d replace or augment an image with a short (5-20 sek) video showing the process. No commentary, no camera movement, just showing how you did something when an image may not be clear enough.

    • Quinn Dunki says:

      Nice idea! I do embed video here from time to time, but I could certainly do more of it.

    • SurprisingEdge says:

      I really like that idea. I remember that when you’ve done it in the past I’ve always really liked it. It was great for Veronica, to be able to see it (her?) _doing_ something, rather than just stills. For machining I imagine it would be even better.
      The key to it is the low effort though, I think. I know you already spent a _lot_ of time on these posts.

      (long time reader, Patron.)

  2. John says:

    I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself, and explain my choices a little.

    On the content, I originally came here for Veronica, and was disappointed when you moved on to other things. I stayed, just in case she came back, and in time came to enjoy the other work just as much. So while the electronics was the first love, I’m all about the variety now.

    Frequency is a complicated one. From your current rate of posting I guessed that you’re a busy person with something of a life. Yes, more frequent posts would be great. One or two a week would make me happy. But in the real world something would have to give.
    I’m sure we’d all like more, but I wouldn’t want that at the expense of quality. And it’s possible to have too much. Your posts are now an occasional treat. You don’t want to eat chocolate for every meal.

    Length, yeah, pretty much right. Long enough to have a bit of meat and be satisfying, but not so long that I have to make an effort to find time to read them.

    I don’t remember how I answered for video. In a fantasy world where you’ve quit your day job and have all the time you need, videos would be great. In this world, they’re a lot of work. I can’t help feeling that something would suffer to pay for them. I certainly wouldn’t want you to go video only – but maybe that’s just because they’re a complete unknown.

  3. Jac Goudsmit says:

    About the “how many articles per month” vs Patreon Budget question: Patreon lets you not only set an amount per article but also a cap per month. I think that’s a great way for Patrons to influence the balance between quality and quantity.

    ===Jac

  4. Paolo says:

    I enjoy the witty writing in the electronics articles and there is no need to videofy them.
    Machining videos on the other hand make more sense, but keep them simple.
    No one – NO ONE! – can anyway reach the stratospheric level of This Old Tony’s machining videos.

  5. Neuntoter says:

    I chose electronics, as it was through Hack-A-Day that I found you and that is the most relevant field to my interests. That isn’t to say I don’t like the other stuff. Ideally for me it would be nice to change subjects after each project. Perhaps my affinity for electronics fulfilled by more detailed (if that is even possible) project logs or perhaps larger projects compared to the others and where applicable.

    Actually truth be told my favorite segments of yours are probably the most random. I can’t find them all through a quick scan of the episodes but: where you went back and gave an update on the life of past hacks, veronica down, the johnny repairs after playing him too much, Digital Archeology, and the several workspace related ones including setting up the new machinery.

    As for moving to a video platform or adding it for paying donors, I don’t think either will be a successful venture. Hiding video behind a paywall permanently only weakens your portfolio. A better tactic would be to early release it to Patreon. Put up a placeholder article with the real title, and as content just state it is locked for a week(a week feels right) unless you are a donor.

    I will give moving to YouTube or another video platform it’s own paragraph. I think if you are a regular YouTube viewer you will know the word “demonetization”, and will find that the golden age is dead and replaced with the dark ages of over-censorship. You are also very detailed, and that is great, but wouldn’t lend itself well to video. What takes 10 minutes to read could take hours to watch and days to film, and I would hate to miss out on the depth, quality, quantity, wit, humor, and entertainment of your posts. I just don’t think there is a Venn Diagram that can rectify all of those things along with reasonable time investment.

    Personally I like the idea of augmenting posts with small videos more often, perhaps longer or more complex videos or video specials locked for a week behind paywall, and maybe add a video summary. An example would be what Ben Heck has done with the completion of his long term projects, but no annoying social engagement crap.

    For regularity of videos, I chose twice a month, but our opinions are meaningless here. You work and do this as a side project, and could even have a life beyond that. I guess many of us given our way would love a daily article, but the reality is that is probably not feasible, and especially not while maintaining the quality, and even more ludicrously while maintaining gainful employment.

    Sorry for this ridiculously long post.

  6. Randy says:

    I am happy to help with video processing!

  7. froj says:

    Missed the survey, but like the blog. Came for a lathe article, and totally enjoyed the Johnny articles along the way (plus have a soft spot for Red Star Winter Orbit). For my 2c: video production seems to consume a crazy amount of time. I rather enjoy your writing and would far prefer to have another post to read than a video to watch.