Today marks the 500th article I have written for this blog, over a span of two years (kudos as well to the other writers, who have contributed more than 200 articles).  Have I learned anything over the years?  Yep.  My thoughts, after 500 articles.

If you’re thinking about starting, do it NOW.  I neglected my writing for about a decade simply because lack of feedback in the traditional writing model bothered me.  I could never tell how good or bad writing was unless I actively sought out friends to read my writing (and I didn’t feel like stalking people in order to get their opinion).  With the internet, you can throw something out there are see if people like it (and since they don’t know you personally, the feedback can be more honest).  Not sure if YOU want to start a blog?  If you’re thinking about it, do it now.  You can either use a free service, or have a blog at your own domain name.  If you use this link, you can have hosting through Dreamhost for a discounted cost of $36 for the entire first year (full price is currently $119.40 for a year).  Give it a year and see if you like it.  If you aren’t enjoying it, just quit.  There’s no shame in that – there are a lot of abandoned blogs on the internet.  Don’t be surprised if you get addicted. 

Most bloggers are great people.  One thing that I didn’t really expect when I started were the friendships I would build with other bloggers.  Lazy Man and I have been friends for a while, of course, but I’ve also become friends with people like Evan, SVB, and Johnny Sacks (this is not an all-inclusive list – if you’re reading this and feel excluded, rest assured that I probably could have filled the entire article with names).  These three would be an odd trio if they ever bumped into each other – there’s really no single tie that would bind them together.  Each of them resonates with a different aspect of my personality.  Also, when I have asked questions of other bloggers (generally of a technical nature regarding how they achieved a certain look on their site), I have always received nice responses.  Certainly no blogger wants you to rip off their entire theme, but they are willing to show you how certain pieces work.

It’s a team effort.  I started this site as one guy throwing  out random observations (hence the original title “The Casual Observer”).  There came a point where it took a sharp turn and became the dynamic multi-author site you see today.  It really hasn’t been that difficult to get people to write (especially since the only financial benefit they are working toward is the promise of sharing of profits, when those profits occur).  While there has been turnover, it has been manageable. 

Plagiarism sucks.  Luckily, this issue has only come up once, but when I found that a former writer had stolen content from other and attributed it to themself, it was a dark day for me as an editor.  By nature, I am a very trusting person … but since that day, I am less trusting. 

The money isn’t great.  I was hoping that ad revenue would quickly defray costs and make me a millionaire.  Well, help me break even, at least.  Unfortunately, the site is still leaking a bit of red ink.  I’ve made some conscious decisions that prevent me from maximizing ad revenue.  I minimize the ads that are shown to regular visitors and don’t show any ads at all in the RSS feeds.  I’ve also made an effort to weed out ads that I think are scammy, irrelevant (I’m still working on the soap ads, but think I’ve gotten rid of the ads for boxer dogs), or just downright ugly.  I can’t possibly catch all of them, but I’ll catch as many as I can in order to enhance the visitor experience a bit.  Of course, the ads that I feel are a  bit scammy are probably the ones that pay the best.  I’m trying to figure out exactly how much time I have spent on the site over the years – writing 500 articles, recruiting writers, coordinating the schedule, making code changes … it’s a substantial amount of energy.

Political articles are popular.  This is hardly a surprise, as politics is the national pastime of the United States.  For the longest time, I avoided having official political columns (aside from occasional rants from me).  Eventually, I figured out a format that would work – have two writers from each camp, and have them write on alternate weeks.  I wasn’t really sure how well it would work out, but I think it’s fair to say that The Political Observers has been a hit.  I also worried a bit that the tone of comments would get out of hand.  There have been spirited discussions, but it seems that people are generally able to avoid personal attacks.

People like it.  You never know how well received something will be.  We’re far from the most popular blog in the world, but we do have our fans, and the positive comments out-number the negative by a wide margin.  I can count the number of outright negative comments on one hand.  The personal notes I receive via email are a great motivator to continue my writing.

OK, that’s all for now.  500 articles down, 9500 to go!

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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