March 31st, 2017

How I got started as a blogger

[NOTE: This is a slightly-edited repeat of a previous post.]

When blogger Andrew Sullivan bit the blogging dust and quit, I took special note of his departure for personal reasons, because you might actually say that it’s actually because of Sullivan that I became a blogger myself.

When I first began reading blogs around 2002 and was shy even about commenting on them, back when Sullivan actually seemed to have some reasonable things to say, his was one of the blogs I read daily. He used to feature a single email a day from a reader, one he thought particularly noteworthy and wanted to highlight. He didn’t have comments (I don’t think his blog ever featured comments, which I think was a failing), but he had huge traffic back then. So if your email to Sullivan was one of the lucky few published there, it was assured a very wide audience indeed.

I took to emailing him quite regularly with my own point of view, and Sullivan (or some aide or interne of his) seemed to like what I had to say, because my email was often the one featured. But after a year or two of this, one day when my son was visiting me he said, “Why are you working so hard for Andrew Sullivan?”

His point was that I was spending hours on these emails to Sullivan, which were really tantamount to blog posts, and why? “Why not start your own blog?” he added.

This was an idea that literally had never occurred to me before. I’m not at all sure that, without my son asking me that question, it ever would have occurred to me. As soon as he asked it I rejected the idea. “Never!” I said. “I’ll never do that!”

But my son went to Blogger and showed me how easy it was to set one up. “No!” I said. Not interested.

But in a spirit of fun, he asked me to choose a name for the blog, a color, a template, and he designed one for me. It took about five minutes, and there it was.

“I’ll never use it,” I assured him. “You’re wasting your time.”

“Well, it’ll be there anyway, just in case you change your mind.”

I didn’t change my mind, at least not right away. The first few posts I put up there a while later were just copies of emails I’d sent to Sullivan which had been published on his blog, and I published them on my own blog out of boredom and just to see how the whole process worked. I didn’t have a sitemeter, because there didn’t seem to be any traffic on the blog and I didn’t expect that there ever would be.

The election of 2004 came and went, and I hardly ever posted anything. But in February of 2005, for reasons I no longer recall (although I wish I did), I decided to post more often, although not yet every day, to see what would happen if I tried to do this blogging thing in a more serious way.

What had changed my mind? I don’t know; my recollection is that it was just an idea that came one day, an experiment: if I post nearly every day, and try to network with other bloggers and send them links, what would happen? I figured I’d try it for a month or two—and install a sitemeter, to monitor my progress—and if nothing changed I’d give it up. Things took off much more quickly than I’d thought they would, thanks in no small measure to helpful and simpatico bloggers such as the late Norm Geras, Dr. Sanity, and Gerard Vanderleun of American Digest. The rest, as they say, is history.

24 Responses to “How I got started as a blogger”

  1. y81 Says:

    Well, if you don’t mind sharing, I wonder if you would tell us how much readership you get.

  2. F Says:

    All I can say is thank God you decided to give it a serious try. I turn to you every day.

    But don’t make it sound too easy; there are a few regular commenters to your blog whom I would not want to start one of their own!

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    y81:

    It varies quite a bit—with the day of the week (weekdays vs. weekends), the time of year, and of course whether the news du jour is exciting or not (for example, elections or huge events vs. doldrums). The general range per day of unique visits is 2K to 3.5K. There are other ways to measure visits such as page views (a higher number, of course). And when I get a big link (say, an Instalanche) it can go up to 20K or 30K in a day. But that’s unusual, of course.

    I’d love to have more traffic. But that’s considered a respectable range, and since I’m not into attacking, pithy little jabs, short posts, or Twitter, I’m not to everyone’s tastes. The long form is not only labor intensive, but it seems to appeal to fewer people. But that’s the form that seems to match my particular skills and interests.

    There aren’t all that many singleton bloggers left. A lot burned out, and I’m well aware of that hazard. For example, last year’s campaign was frustrating and difficult, and lately there’s been a lot of burnout as well. Group blogs are the thing. I’m part of a group blog, too—Legal Insurrection—that gets a lot more traffic than my blog. But I limit my contributions there to posts that are relevant to the interests of Professor Jacobson. No quirky posts. No food posts; no dance posts; no personal essays about my life. Here I can write about whatever suits my fancy.

  4. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    I find your insights to be the most perceptive, comprehensive, fair minded and rational that I have yet read. Some might say that expertise is a requirement for commentary but as expertise is not a substitute for common sense, I disagree. And while I generally agree with your POV, it is not agreement that determines my evaluation. Please continue this invaluable blog.

  5. Vanderleun Says:

    “The rest, as they say, is history.”

    Hold on. Get with the program, neo, for the love of all that is holy:

    “The rest, as they say, is herstory.”

    (Could say that about Sullivan as well.)

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    Geoffrey Britain:

    Thanks!!

  7. parker Says:

    Well neo neocon I hang on your every word, well almost. I admire your research into the important issues that swirl around us all in these strange days, and your posts on the arts. I do have a request. When you can fnd the time I would appreciate a post on a whimsical topic such as the wonders of jello or something equally amusing.

    PS- Please thank your son for me and I am sure that also goes for your regular readers and any lurkers.

  8. KLSmith Says:

    Sometimes you are too nice, but that’s OK. Thanks, neo.

  9. neo-neocon Says:

    KLSmith:

    I’m very nice for a blogger.

    In real life I’m a tiger 🙂 .

  10. Les Says:

    If I ever met your son in a bar and knew that was who he is, that night’s (or day’s) drinks will be in me.

    Thank you, neo, for all those insights.

  11. Tom in wet Ohio Says:

    I am so happy to come to your site and read the things you write about. No where else will I find the differences in movies and plays etc as in your recent post about My Fair Lady.
    And i think you are nice in your portrayal of your political thought and I envy your abilities.
    I am also glad that you can write and link from Professor Jacobsen’s site and i want to thank the both of you for making the online world a somewhat saner place.
    Like we say in the gaming world, good hunting !

  12. David Aitken Says:

    Neo, you missed Candy Corn day last year! 🙁 http://neoneocon.com/?s=candy+corn Your comment about food posts must have triggered this. Keep blogging, you’re on my daily read list.

  13. DonKeyhoti Says:

    Read you every day, sometimes more. Don’t comment much but glad you decided to do what you do.

  14. OlderandWheezier Says:

    As Parker said, thank your son, for all of us.

    I wonder how many surfers see the name of the blog and dismiss you and move on without bothering to read anything you’ve posted? The name “Neo-neocon” doesn’t begin to cover the depth and range of your blog.

  15. neo-neocon Says:

    OlderandWheezier:

    I have sometimes thought of changing the name, in part because it gives people the wrong impression and in part because I’m not so “neo” anymore, after 12 years. I haven’t done it, though, because people know me this way, and because I haven’t thought of a replacement name. Got any ideas? Maybe I should have a suggestion thread.

  16. AesopFan Says:

    Thanks for an island of sanity in the sea of hysteria.
    And for the non-political posts especially.
    And for the civilized commenter circle.

  17. mollyNH Says:

    I have a vivid memory back about that time my husband asking me “What’s a blog?”

  18. J.J. Says:

    Don’t remember exactly when I first started visiting your blog. It was during the days of the podcasts with Dr. Sanity, Shrinkwrapped, and Siggy.

    Alas, they have all quit blogging. Thanks for hanging in there. You are a treasure for those of us who like posts that make us think and educate us.

  19. miklos000rosza Says:

    I too connected with Andrew Sullivan early on, more in the realm of exchange of information when he touched on something in which I had some special expertise. Susan Sontag came up, for instance, and he confessed to me that he didn’t really know her work. So I in effect did his research for him. I had grown up with Sontag, and had read her essential texts two or three times. There’s a lot of America-hating (no other way to put it) in her 1960s work, which had bothered me at the time even when I had been essentially very sympathetic to her case.

    Stuff like how the North Vietnamese had a quality of grace beyond the repertoire or comprehension of Americans. I could easily track down various passages of this sort.

    Sullivan even sent me an email to justify himself after he famously turned against GW Bush — becoming ever more intemperate and extreme as time went on. I had subscribed to the New Republic when he was editor (it was for ten years or so an excellent magazine) and knew his personal attachment to and investment in the gay marriage issue. I told him I found it unrealistic and unfair for I’m to expect GW, given his political base, to share Andrew’s position — which was at well less than 50% approval at that time.

    Anyway, that was the gist.

    The only blog that I’ve ever really become involved in (and ended up coming to know its author “offstage”) was Michael J. Totten’s, before he went to Beirut.

  20. Darrell Says:

    I recall that is how I found you in 2004, Andrew Sullivan or Steven Den Beste, its been quite a run for you, keep it up.

  21. Xylourgos Says:

    I check in nearly everyday. Keep up the good work Neo. I really enjoy your point of view.

  22. Grace Clark Says:

    I also check in with you everyday, and never am sorry for it!!

    Thanks!

  23. Alan F Says:

    I check almost every day and never miss a post because I check for days I miss. I almost always agree with Neo’s judgments, which follow her thorough research and careful logic.

  24. Big Maq Says:

    Neo, you’ve provided a hermitage, a peaceful retreat, in a raucous and dissonant political era. Thank you.

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About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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