Have you ever seen any young and budding blogger, who for the purposes of this post, we shall refer to as Fred, start on his 185th blog? He is as excited as a little baby who has been given a brand new toy which he thinks will allow him to change the world.
He spends hours thinking of a name for his 185th blog; gives special attention at picking the theme and spends hours doing a spanking new absolutely cool-and-happening-web-2-0-CSS-based design for the blog. Then he starts with a first post which he believes will make all his readers fall in love with his writing and make them crave for more.
This time he is firm and decided. This time he is going to write a blog which not just makes him famous but will change the world for good. There is only one little problem however.
The 'world' that our dear blogger wants to change doesn't give a rat's ass about him.
The millions of readers who were going to love and hang on to every little word that he writes, happen to be just a little busy, doing their job, providing for their family and sometimes, even a little irritated doing chores, managing their spam mail and hanging up random marketing calls made by call centers who specialize in the act of calling individuals when they are least in the mood of accepting random unsolicited calls.
These millions of readers, as it turns out, are so darn irritated that they are not interested in buying anything; not even if it is just ideas; for which the only price to pay is just five minutes of their time daily time.
Long story shot, these millions of users, our dear blogger wants flocking on his blog, don't care; and the ones who care enough to read and listen have, most probably, found the mavens they want to listen to; and have already started trusting them for their transactive memory.
Our dear Fred, continues to blog for a month; during that one month he blogs once; twice; and then thrice, only to realize that he is talking to himself. The comment count is constantly zero. His web-site statistics aren't crossing the three 'returning visitor' count.
Google just doesn't seem to be crawling his website, no-one seems to be linking to him and Feed-burner statistics hardly seems to cross a count of five RSS subscribers, two of which are his own subscriptions; one from office; another from home.
By the third post, the enthusiasm to change the world has started stammering. Our dear blogger has swallowed his pride; but he is not done yet; after all he is not one of those who will give up. He will start again; with yet another fresh start; yet another blog, that will, one day, change the world and get him the million readers he seeks so desperately.
I cite the blogging example here because blog posts have very short release cycles. It is usually less than a couple of days from the moment the author conceptualizes the idea to the moment he publishes or releases it to the world.
Much like programming, the bar of entry for young and budding bloggers is low. In fact it's even lower than programming. Much like programmers, anyone can be a blogger; all you need to do is sign-up at a blog-spot or a word-press. Truly, blogging seems to be representative of every other thing that we usually do in the world of software development; only difference being that it's usually individual and can see a blog post's life cycle in less than a couple of days.
These characteristics makes blogging makes, observing why blogs fail, an excellent 'sampling tool' to investigate where people usually go wrong when it comes to marketing their products and ultimately their 'ideas'.
As programmers we tend to believe that if no-one is using our system or reading our blog, there 'has to be' something wrong with the technicalities and specifics of the blog. Maybe it's name isn't hip and happening enough. Maybe it's user interface is not being catchy enough. Maybe the underlying blogging framework is not being fancy enough. Long story short, we tend to believe that there are 'technical issues' which are causing our readers to not like our blog.
The same is usually true for products and systems that we build.
As developers, we are also great at bulldozing everything that we don't think is perfect starting fresh; again and again. That is what leads us to iterate the infinite loop of failure. We tend to; or should we say, 'like to' believe that if we abandon the current effort and move on to a fresh start, everything will mysteriously work out.
Anyone who has looked at the number of dead projects in source-forge, number of abandoned blogs on blogger and word-press and number of startups in f@#ked-company, before f@#ked company was itself f@#ked, knows what I am talking about here.
As Bloggers, software developers and even marketers we like to think that if we 'build' something or write about something, that we believe is great or cool, people will usually care about it as much as we do. The simple, hard and blatant fact of life is that, like experts, most human beings are creatures who work on incentives and unless you give your users or your readers, depending on what you are doing, a strong enough incentive to care, they will simply ignore you.
Why? Because it's easy for them to ignore you. They have options.
Bloggers and Software Developers taken over by the desire to save the world and save their readers or customers, forget the simple fact of life Seth Godin reiterates again and again in countless of his videos and presentations like this one. He explains:
This is so important, right, ready?
No-One Cares About You.
They invented television to sell ads to you. They invented radio to sell ads to you. They invented news paper to sell ads to you.
That's not why they invented YouTube, That's now why they invented the internet. The internet doesn't care about you.
People don't "have to" watch channel seven any more. They can entertain themselves mindlessly for hours by pressing the stumble upon button.
So if someone is going to watch a video; they are not going to watch it because they care about you. They are going to watch it because they care about "me" (them).
Me-Me-Me-Me-Me - my favorite person - Me. They are not going to read e-mail from you; they are going to read me-mail; because that's who they care about.
So if you make a video like the Blend-tec guy, the Will-it-blend videos, people will watch it because watching Chuck Norris blend in a blender is sort of a hoot but if you make a video of how your factory is twelve percent more efficient than it was last year... (yawn)... I'm not coming.
No one cares about you; they don't care about what you had for lunch; your cat; or your favorite color; unless of-course you can talk about these things in a way that makes them roll over laughing; keeps them hooked; helps them take better care of their cats; or helps them cook their lunch better; if you can't do that, your cat, your lunch and your favorite color doesn't mean zip in the larger scheme of things.
No-one; I repeat; No-one; not a single human being; unless that human being happens to family or a loved one; cares about you, your latest blog post or the system on which you are spending your weekends. All they care about is, their favorite person; themselves.
This is supposed to be common knowledge in the world of marketing and even software development and yet I see individuals jump from one blog to another, organizations jump from one product to another and programmers jump from one open source project to another; in hope that a 'fresh start' will make their users care.
Whether you write a blog or do a project, what you are ultimately interested in doing is getting people excited about your thoughts or ideas. You are interested in sharing them with people who happen to be busy and in general, don't give a rat's ass about you or your ideas.
The only way of grabbing their attention and getting them to even remotely care about what you want to say, is by putting yourself in their shoes; and thinking about the value your work is giving them. Is it entertaining them; Motivating them; Inspiring them; Educating them; or simply irritating them.
Adding genuine value through your work and getting people to genuinely care takes time. It requires constantly proving yourself with actions; not words. It takes time to prove that you are serious about delivering whatever it is that you want them to consume; and that you will not just deliver high quality; but that you go out of your way and will deliver constantly.
Gmail took more than three years of persuasion; friend-feed took even longer; Most authors writing inspirational posts on success tend to not even talk about the countless other applications and startups that might have died a painful death along the way. 'Overnight success' in any form usually takes a long time.
Depending on what you are trying to do it might take years. This post isn't supposed to be a motivational post which tries to come out and pamper you; pats you on your back and assumes a if-you-keep-trying-you-will-succeed tone; because we all know you may not succeed; and that, dear reader, is the whole point of this post.
Unless you yourself, are willing to stick to at-least one thing, in spite of your failures; continue to deliver; go beyond shipping; and continue that for months, without expecting any overnight success in return, expecting your users or readers to take you seriously or care about what you have to say is nothing more than stupidity.
Expecting them to believe that you feel passionately about what-ever-it-is-that-you-want-to-say-or-are-working-on, because you said so in a blog post or two or because you rolled out the first sprint of a product, is nothing more than a joke.
So the next time you sign up for a blog, first remind yourself of this simple little fact of life: no-one cares about you; not even your very own users.
Then ask yourself if you have something interesting to say that your users will really care about. Besides asking yourself why 'you' want to write that blog post. Ask yourself why they should care to read it. Ask your self this question; constantly as you edit and re-edit your post. Then, ask yourself this question before you publish it live.
Think of the internet as a large room of millions of on-going parallel conversations; people are fairly open to letting your participate and contribute; the rules are simple:
- You have to have something to say that adds genuine value to the community.
- You have to say it with conviction.
- You have to care enough about the idea(s) or whatever it is that you are working on, to keep doing it; even if no-one is listening.
Step one, is highly under-rated and most people in the world of software development know it, but unfortunately, do not seem to 'get it'; which is why we have depressing blogs which talk about how-depressed-Fred-was-feeling-this-morning; personal-life-blog with Fred shouting at the top of his voice about how passionately feels about cats and his pet-cat in particular.
As you browse through countless personal blogs, be prepared to be amazed by how the The 'passionate interest' in cats, for Fred, usually ends in just about two posts, after which Fred decides to just stop talking, goes silent and disappears.
Huh! Wonder what happens to all that 'passion' on cats; you wonder.
Then months later Fred moves to a new blog with a new topic he feels passionately about.
If you want to talk about Cats, be a Cat maven and provide useful information on cats. If you want to talk about your depression, provide a wealth of information on how you fight your depression. If you think it's hard, take a look at Scott Hanselman, getting you involved in his fight against diabetes. There are countless other great examples out there.
Oh and by the way, changing your blog URL, adding a new theme, changing your project name or constantly changing your jobs does not result in a 'fresh start' that will magically change your life Hollywood style and make 'them' care about you.
Unless you have something concrete which you can offer to the world; and unless you can offer it consistently; I am here to tell you dear reader, the world does not care about you. Unless you can get them to give a shit by giving them enough value and genuine incentives to, you, your blog and your dream project are all doomed to be ignored like unsolicited marketing calls.
If you find that unfair; go grab a copy of Atlas Shrugged; and read it ten times over.
Technology of your hosting provider, bad CSS, your blogging framework and not having the bells-and-whittles is not your problem. Lack of features in that open source project that you might be working on, is also not your problem.
Having a cause, a message and then getting people to care about your cause, message or whatever it is that you have to say is.
Unless you can do that, you, your systems and your blogs are no better than spam mail that lands in our inbox every morning.
Now, stop signing up for that new blog or gathering email addresses for your next press release mail blast.
Go build your own tribes instead. I wish you good luck.