Saturday, June 14, 2008

Why Do Throwaway Posts Get The Most Response? (Hint, it's all about the hate!)

One of the great mysteries of blogging is the fact that throwaway posts that take about 5 minutes to write attract as much or more attention as carefully composed essays.

Most recently, this throwaway about the sex life of Wellesley girls (which let me use one of my favorite post titles, "Geek Girls Are Easy") amazed me by landing successively in Tyler Cowen's Marginal Revolution and from there, the Atlantic Monthly via Matt Yglesias.

Here's the post in Marginal Revolution, and the follow-up on Matt's blog.

This isn't the first time this has happened. Here's a quick review of my most popular posts from the past year, measured by number of comments:

1) Does Racism Against Asians Count? (24 comments)
I dashed this post off quickly in about 15 minutes, in reaction to Rosie O'Donnell's hypocrisy in being willing to cry "Homophobe!" at the drop of a hat while only grudgingly apologizing for her racist "ching chong" speech.

Lesson? Apparently, Asians are heavy blog readers.

I will note that some of my comment replies actually took longer to write than the original post!

2) Hello T-Mobile Customer Support! (17 comments)
Another quickie, written in response to a problem I was having with T-Mobile customer support. The idea was to blackmail them into fixing the problem. Mission accomplished.

Lesson? When someone is pissed at T-Mobile, they like finding people who share their feelings.

3) A Modest Proposal to Solve Poverty (12 comments)
This was a well-thought-out post. The idea came to me while running on the treadmill at the gym, and I think I fleshed it out pretty well. It also tackles a pretty audacious topic.

Lesson? I really need to follow up with additional posts that solve the problems of racism, globalization, political repression, and global warming.

4) Paying Your Dues--Fact or Crap? (9 comments)
This wasn't even a post originally, just a comment on my friend Penelope's blog. Apparently it struck some kind of a nerve.

Lesson? Maybe I should piggyback on other people's blogs more often. If *I'm* compelled to comment on a topic, others probably are too.

5) The Problem With Religion (9 comments)
This was one of my longest posts. I'd been talking about writing a piece on the topic for over a year, and I'd been saving up bookmarks and thoughts for nearly that entire time. Plus, the topic of religion is incredibly hot, given the success of the aggressive atheism of Dawkins and Hitchens.

When I finally wrote the essay, I spent more time on it than any other post I'd written. Add in all the think time, and it probably consumed about 30-40 hours.

And while I got some great reactions in the comments, it really didn't catch fire.

That's especially true when you compare it to my all-time most popular post, Why I Hate San Francisco, which is still drawing comments years after it was first written (in about 10 minutes).

On the other hand, at least it did better than my humorous comparison of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall. I thought this one was a sure winner, combining a cool Photoshop job (Obama as Optimus Prime, Hillary as Megatron) with *the* hottest topic of the year, published right before Super Tuesday.

I'm still smarting over the fact that this one didn't take off (can you tell?).

Bottom line: While my carefully reasoned essays on serious topics draw a good response, my most popular posts tend to quickly written screeds against things that outrage me.

In my corner of the blogosphere, it seems like snarky venom beats serious contemplation and positivity hands down, especially when you consider the time investment. In other words, if I really want to jack up blog traffic, I should start "Stuff Yellow People Like."

3 comments:

Taisha said...

I wanted to leave a thoughtful response, but alas "Stuff Yellow People Like," destroyed any hope for that! LOL!

I will go back and read the linked posts. But I have been considering a move to SF (or the Bay area) instead of LA...sounds like that is a no-no! Oh my!

Jack said...

I feel your pain. I used to get irritated when my "best stuff" was ignored or overlooked by the five minute junk.

Devin Reams said...

Some of your deeper stuff may be more thought provoking, though. Using comments isn't the best judge. In other words, what if you said EVERYTHING there is to say and it was so great I couldn't possibly add to it (or don't want to risk embarrassment leaving a comment). Do you track number of incoming links / page views and other variables?

I doubt the "most popular" would be the same across all variables (which may or may not be obvious).