I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed a closeup view of the evolution of what we now call “blogging”, pretty much from the beginning. In 1994 my son, then age 10, put up a web site (they weren’t called blogs back then) aimed at pressuring Marvel to bring back a Spiderman character that they had killed off, and had 40 or so subscribers from places as far away as Eastern Europe (Marvel, sadly, was not swayed). I’ve had my own web site pretty much continuously since 1997, which was the year I started teaching programming (including web stuff) in a community college. Back then I thought of it mainly as a way to make a personal connection with students and prospective students, especially in the online classes that we were in the early stages of developing.

As online media evolved, blogging gradually went mainstream, and became a viable way to make a living for a few talented writers. But, in the process, it also became big business, as giant media outlets correctly perceived that bringing popular bloggers under their corporate umbrella was a good way to get well written-content, complete with a following of readers, for far less than the cost of paying salaried journalists. That has led to an inevitable change in emphasis and thrust, shifting away from bloggers writing because they have something to say, toward bloggers writing whatever will draw readers and build a following, which isn’t the same thing. My friend Tom recently sent me a link to a lament by Kevin Drum in Mother Jones entitled “Blogging Isn’t Dead. But Old-School Blogging Is Definitely Dying.” On reflection, I don’t think I agree — I think old school blogging is on about the same trajectory as always, it’s just less visible amid all the commercial media platforms, Twitter, Facebook, and other sources of noise. Old school blogs may not have many readers, but that’s okay, I think. It just depends on one’s reasons for doing it. More »

21. October 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Writing · Tags:

One of my ongoing projects is trying to write a book about patent strategy. It’s useful to have a general idea what one is aiming for, and I was curious about the “mechanical” characteristics of typical successful non-fiction books in the same general category — word count, page count, etc. So I chose 16 books, more or less at random, mostly from the Amazon best sellers in the business category, and compiled some data, as shown in the table below.

All of the books chosen had Amazon sales ranks at or below approximately 10,000 at the time that I gathered my data. Obviously, Amazon sales rank is a mysterious and constantly changing quantity, and subject to endless gaming, but the overall list is arguably a reasonable (albeit small) sample of generally successful books. More »