Blogging Highlights of 2009, Challenges & Thoughts for 2010

This is a good time to look at the high­lights of 2009, and share some thoughts about the future.

Highlights Of 2009

This has been a busy year. 75 posts on An Unqui­et Mind in 2009 with about 1,500 com­ments! 46 posts at MakeUseOf.com and 30 on my new­ly start­ed tech blog, Skep­tic Geek, both of which involve sev­er­al hours of work. Have I become a writ­ing machine? I hope not.

The biggest news was of course, set­ting up two blogs on my own domain here.Movies_thumb.jpg

The most pop­u­lar series of posts here was undoubt­ed­ly the A-Z of Films Meme, now enshrined on its own page at Favorite Films A to Z. Thanks to all of you, for your par­tic­i­pa­tion, cri­tique, sug­ges­tions, and involve­ment, that made it so mem­o­rable!

Unlike Krish Ashok and Asuph, I am not a good writer of humor. I did take a stab with my own attempts at satire, with Virtues of Politi­cians, Rule­book for Indi­an TV News Pro­duc­ers, The Straight Dope FAQ on Indi­an Elec­tions 2009, and How To Become A Spir­i­tu­al Guru.

There were two seri­ous eth­i­cal inquiries that gar­nered a lot of feed­back and com­men­tary. The look at Reli­gion vs. Gen­der Equal­i­ty and Fem­i­nism remains one of the most pop­u­lar posts. In Men­tal­ly Chal­lenged, Raped, Preg­nant. Abort?, we con­front­ed dif­fi­cult moral and legal issues sur­round­ing the tri­al about an unfor­tu­nate vic­tim.

Out­side the blog, some of you have approached me via email occa­sion­al­ly for tech­ni­cal assis­tance with blog­ging, while I have had the for­tune of meet­ing some of you in real life. Blog­ging has now per­me­at­ed my real life. Some of you have placed trust in me, and I hope that I have respect­ed your pri­va­cy despite solic­i­ta­tions for con­tact or oth­er infor­ma­tion.

The Social Networking Challenge

Blog­ging may be get­ting increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar, but among my net­work of Indi­an Blog­gers, it faces chal­lenges from micro-blog­ging and social net­work­ing. From my blogroll, out­stand­ing blog­gers like Gau­ri (42), Ram­bodoc (A Twist of Word and Mind), Paul (Café Phi­los), She­faly (La Vie Quo­ti­di­enne), and Ruhi (Time and Again) have become spo­radic. Some are active on Twit­ter, while oth­ers don’t use it at all. Some spend a lot of time inside Face­book, while oth­ers have recent­ly start­ed using it. Nita (A Wide Angle View of India) who is not into social-net­work­ing, is the most reg­u­lar on her blog. Oth­ers, like Amreekan Desi, Priyank, Gau­ri, Atul, Pre­rna, Hari­ni, and Poon­am are fair­ly reg­u­lar at blog­ging as well as online social net­work­ing in one form or anoth­er. Very few, like Asuph, seem to be able to strike A Fine Bal­ance between blog­ging, Face­book and Twit­ter.

At present, I am pulled in mul­ti­ple direc­tions online. Apart from my two per­son­al blogs here and my writ­ing for MakeUse­Of, I am active on two Twit­ter accounts (pro­fes­sion­al­ly as @ScepticGeek, per­son­al­ly as @Palsule). I also try to keep up with friends on Face­book, and now spend very lit­tle time on Friend­Feed, once my beloved net­work.

I read all blog posts from all of you blog­ger friends, but I don’t spend time com­ment­ing on each of them as much as I’d like to do so. One of my goals for 2010 is to seek that elu­sive bal­ance between my online activ­i­ties, though I sus­pect it will always remain a strug­gle.

Blogroll Update

The con­cept of the blogroll held dif­fer­ent mean­ings for dif­fer­ent peo­ple, and now it has large­ly become mean­ing­less. There is no point in me hav­ing you on my blogroll if you don’t read my blog or engage with me online and the same applies the oth­er way around. There is no point in me send­ing vis­i­tors to your blog if you don’t blog reg­u­lar­ly. I actu­al­ly won­der if there are any such peo­ple who come to your blogs via mine. So, I am think­ing of doing away with it alto­geth­er. Let me know your thoughts.

Blogging Networks

In my ini­tial blog­ging days, I was an active blog­ger with Indi­an Mutiny, which has now gone into print media. Har­sha, who intro­duced and pulled me to that net­work, no longer blogs him­self. I had put a lot of effort and time into seri­ous blog­ging for Indi­an Mutiny, par­tic­u­lar­ly with my posts sur­round­ing the Indo-US Nuclear Deal. Once bit­ten, twice shy, I have stayed away from net­works like DesiPun­dit, Desi­Crit­ics, and BlogB­har­ti.

How­ev­er, cur­rent trends indi­cate that blog net­works will play an impor­tant role in act­ing as a plat­form to take your blog to a wider audi­ence. Some of you are active on these net­works. I con­fess I am large­ly une­d­u­cat­ed about these Indi­an blog net­works and will appre­ci­ate your thoughts in this regard.

Subject Matters That Don’t Matter

Look­ing ahead to 2010, I see cyn­i­cism as one of the chal­lenges for this blog. In my first two years, I wrote sub­stan­tial­ly on cur­rent affairs and pol­i­tics. I have now real­ized that blog­ging about Indi­an pol­i­tics doesn’t make an iota of dif­fer­ence to any­one in real life. Why take the time to write about it at all? Hence, at least at present, I don’t see myself writ­ing much about cur­rent affairs and pol­i­tics on this blog, except with satire.

I will con­tin­ue to engage myself and my read­ers in fun­da­men­tal issues with­in the spheres of soci­ety, ethics, democ­ra­cy, psy­chol­o­gy, and law. Writ­ing is a means towards clar­i­ty of mind, and these posts and your com­ments help me refine my under­stand­ing of such issues.

A Time For Gratitude

Final­ly, I would like to express my grat­i­tude for tak­ing the time to read my blog posts, com­ment on them, dis­agree with my per­spec­tive, teach me new ways of think­ing, and shar­ing your thoughts.

This blog is where an unqui­et mind has shared itself, and you, my friends, have often made it qui­et again. Thank you.

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  • a nice post that touch­es all aspects of online pres­ence quite objec­tive­ly.. i have been mulling over using Twit­ter since the past few weeks, see­ing you and few oth­ers dis­cuss microblog­ging so often.
    it has been quite infor­ma­tive to keep in touch with your ‘unqui­et mind’ for i come across top­ics i may not have oth­er­wise.. for eg. the post on envi­ron­men­tal­ism as reli­gion was grt, espe­cial­ly the michael crich­ton link.. so was the cri­tique on depres­sion.. more on tht lat­er, for my thoughts were not quite in line with your dis­agree­ment 🙂 but nev­er got the time to respond clear­ly..
    too long a com­ment in the world of microblog­ging, no? 🙂
    so i sign off

    • Dear Gau­ri, not at all a long com­ment, and this is not a micro-blog! 🙂 (The oth­er Gau­ri also keeps delet­ing long com­ments, what is it with you Gau­ris?)

      Thank you for your feed­back. Would love to hear your thoughts, as always, includ­ing on the depres­sion post.

      If you ever join Twit­ter, you know where to find me. 🙂

  • A nice year end sum­ma­ry post! She­faly has pro­tect­ed her blog now btw; I had even sent her a mail on that but she did not reply!

    Thank you for all the blog­ging help to date. I look for­ward to bug­ging you more. I under­stand the biggest chal­lenge must be self-host­ing and shift­ing the blogs. I have spent so much time in research­ing for a web host (I’m with 3 year plan Host­ga­tor now; I have become a web host­ing expert, kind of) and set­ting up dum­my blogs and doing tri­al shift­ing and doing man­u­al WP instal­la­tions (Still uncom­fort­able with PHP my admin area). I am final­ly shift­ing to self-host­ing with­in 72 hours (will try ads too lat­er).

    Even I do not like the idea of a blogroll now but I will always have peo­ple who link to me (it helps PR though you hard­ly get any vis­i­tors) on my blogroll and oth­er blog­gers like you whom I like.

    A com­ment reply sub­scrip­tion plu­g­in here please if pos­si­ble.

    Please elab­o­rate the ‘once bit­ten twice shy’ thing about the net­work blogs like Desipun­dit. Would you rec­om­mend stay­ing away from them and not writ­ing for them? Why? I’m sure you have some insight to offer (or give the link to the post if you have writ­ten on this ear­li­er).

    BTW you are get­ting your PR back . I just checked a few days ago and both your blogs were PR 3!

    • Hi Vikas, thanks, and you’re wel­come!

      All the best with your migra­tion.

      The com­ment­ing sys­tem I pre­fer (Dis­qus) didn’t inte­grate well with this theme. I might change the theme in the near future, which will allow Dis­qus and com­ment sub­scrip­tion. Thanks for let­ting me know about this! (Mean­while, if you use Back­Type, you don’t need blogs to do any­thing).

      I am not rec­om­mend­ing stay­ing away from net­work blogs at all, instead I’m ask­ing for advice in this mat­ter. I am hes­i­tant (shy) because my ear­li­er efforts at Indi­an Mutiny have dis­ap­peared (bit­ten).

      I don’t check PR at all…so thanks again for let­ting me know. 🙂

      • I’ve migrat­ed! 🙂

        I am strug­gling with tech issues just the same and am bug­ging you in the rel­e­vant post now.

        You can use pager­ankalert for auto­mat­ed noti­fi­ca­tion (a nice ser­vice).

  • A nice sum­ma­ry. Although I have enjoyed your polit­i­cal posts (even though I may not agree with you!) Look­ing for­ward to read­ing more great posts in 2010!

    • Hi Dot­tie, Thanks for the feed­back! 🙂

  • I have always enjoyed read­ing your blog. While your movie posts were enjoy­able, I do find your Indi­an pol­i­tics posts intro­spec­tive and valu­able, at least to me. We all lead our lives and weigh in when we think it’s impor­tant. By being able to artic­u­late our views, oth­ers can see where we stand, and stand with us, and change things. Please don’t think your writ­ing in this regard is a waste.

    Yes, I have always found blogrolls to be waste­ful, but that’s just me 🙂 Great post, as always.

    • Havah, thank you for your feed­back. I real­ly didn’t know you found my pol­i­tics posts valu­able! I am grate­ful to you for let­ting me know.

  • Hel­lo Mahen­dra,

    Your post (this one for instance) some­times sur­prise me. They are writ­ten with a seem­ing­ly emo­tion­al thought but the deliv­ery is quite ratio­nal­ized. I don’t know how you do it. 😛

    Blogroll does mean dif­fer­ent things to dif­fer­ent peo­ple. To me its a list of all weath­er blog friends. I link to them with­out expect­ing a rec­i­p­ro­ca­tion and I think its nice to do so esp if it is not occu­py­ing pre­cious real estate on the blog. Some peo­ple add a sep­a­rate page called ‘Links’. In my spo­radic blog­ging times, blogroll pro­vides me a min­i­mal list of peo­ple to vis­it. It must be not­ed that I have an extreme dis­dain for ‘back scratch­ing’. 🙂

    cheers,
    Priyank.
    PS: I don’t quite get this microblog­ging thing, I have to read more about it. 🙂

    • Dear Priyank,

      If I may take it as a com­pli­ment, this is one of the best com­pli­ments I’ve received for this blog. Because, it reflects the blog tagline: rea­son and emo­tion, shak­en and stirred! 🙂

      I am actu­al­ly curi­ous to under­stand what you exact­ly mean. Is it that ratio­nal­ized writ­ing often lacks emo­tion and vice ver­sa?

      Thanks for shar­ing your thoughts on blogrolls. What I am sure it means to me is that these are links I rec­om­mend to my read­ers. And if the blog is aban­doned or not updat­ed reg­u­lar­ly, it doesn’t fit. I’m still unde­cid­ed how to change it.

  • Mahen­dra, I had read this post before but you had so many ques­tions that I didn’t know what to answer! Today, with a lit­tle more time I will try and answer some of your ques­tions. Actu­al­ly I am hav­ing trou­ble divid­ing time for online activ­i­ties too, par­tic­u­lar­ly because I have start­ed a sec­ond blog which I intend to mon­e­tize and I have also recent­ly joined FB. Not that I do much on FB, but I joined it because I have a whole group of school and col­lege friends whom I find it eas­i­er to keep in touch with via FB.
    About the blogroll, I think as the name sug­gests it’s an impor­tant part of a blog. It doesn’t mat­ter if the blog­gers engage with you or not.Thats what I feel any­way. I agree with Priyank. There were a lot of blogs I had linked to with­out expect­ing any rec­i­p­ro­ca­tion at all. I just thought that any read­er who came to my blog might find it inter­est­ing.
    I have avoid­ed social net­work­ing because I have no time. Twit­ter sounds tempt­ing but I know I can­not do jus­tice to it. At first I was reluc­tant to even go on FB.
    I miss my old blog­ging friends. You too used to be more reg­u­lar, in com­ment­ing too, but its okay I under­stand why you are busy now! A lot of oth­er blog­gers that you men­tioned and more have stopped blog­ging. I think the gen­er­al shelf life of a blog is 1–3 years. After that peo­ple seem to stop. I have lived through sev­er­al blog cycles! Maybe one day I will stop too, who knows!
    A good post Mahen­dra.

    • Dear Nita, thank you for tak­ing the time to share your thoughts!

      Actu­al­ly, I only asked two ques­tions in my post: about blogrolls & blog net­works! 🙂 But I under­stand you con­sid­er respond­ing to my thoughts, not just ques­tions, and I real­ly appre­ci­ate that.

      I am inclin­ing towards updat­ing and retain­ing my blogroll based on the feed­back.

      You are a now a vet­er­an blog­ger, Nita, and con­grat­u­la­tions for that. You are right — 2/3 years is the aver­age shelf-life. You have now jumped into a pro­fes­sion­al blog as well, so good luck with that and with Face­book. 🙂

  • P.S. I was part of Mutiny once too, in my first year of blog­ging. I liked those peo­ple but want­ed to con­cen­trate on my own blog and so I left. That’s where I met one of my old­est blog­ging friends pre­rna. She was not on mutiny but she was a com­m­men­ta­tor there once. Over­all I have no regrets about my mutiny expe­ri­ence but over­all I found it was tak­ing too much time away from my own blog. I didn’t think it helped me in my read­ers either because over­all my blog became suc­cess­ful very slow­ly. Most of my reg­u­lar read­ers came from oth­er blog­gers or from google search.

    • I knew you were a part of Mutiny, but didn’t know you met Pre­rna there! Cool.

      Thanks for shar­ing your expe­ri­ence. I won­der how one becomes a DesiPun­dit con­trib­u­tor, mem­ber, or a Desi­Crit­ics one. I notice these tags and badges on blogs, but haven’t real­ly spent time learn­ing about them much. I was aware of Indiblog­ger and hence have its badge here now. Won­der if and how all this real­ly works.

      Your blog’s suc­cess is a shin­ing exam­ple of a focused blog top­ic with reg­u­lar posts, exten­sive research and engage­ment with read­ers. Key ingre­di­ents for any aspir­ing blog­ger!

  • Dev

    Mahen­dra, con­grat­u­la­tions for your achieve­ments in Blo­gos­phere this year. You have writ­ten very high qual­i­ty posts on your blog. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, since you moved out of word­press, it’s been a chal­lenge for me to keep up with your blog reg­u­lar­ly. Because I use blog surfer to read blogs and your blog posts dont appear there. Some­times I read your posts on my own and think of com­ing back to them lat­er, but then I for­get.:)
    Regard­ing blogroll, I know what you mean. I had issues with it too, hence I removed it long back. I mean one can always fol­low blogs through surfer or blog read­er. Also, not hav­ing blogroll makes one not only free to vis­it oth­er blogs, with­out mak­ing any com­mit­ment with them, but also makes you free to stop vis­it­ing some blogs with­out com­ing across rude. 🙂
    But then I also sort of agree with what Nita wrote regard­ing hav­ing a blogroll. So, I guess you have to take call on that.

    • Dev,

      Thank you. As I’ve often men­tioned in my posts, I have you to thank for urg­ing me to take up the Films Meme that was the high­light of the year! 🙂

      It is sur­pris­ing you don’t use RSS Feed Read­ers. Using WP.com’s blog surfer, you don’t get any blog out­side WP.com — whether it is on Blog­ger, Type­pad, Tum­blr, Pos­ter­ous, and mil­lions of self-host­ed blogs like mine. But thanks for read­ing and vis­it­ing in any case!

      Yes, I noticed you did not have a blogroll since I start­ed fol­low­ing your blog. With­out any com­mit­ment, you’ve enjoyed blogroll-free bach­e­lor­hood, eh? 😉

      • Dev

        ya that’s my blogroll free bach­e­lor­hood.;)
        Yes, your film meme was the best amongst all blogers who attempt­ed it. I will check that page again some­time soon, once I resume my movie watch­ing spree, some­thing which has been on hold since few months now.
        Ok, let me now check this RSS feed thingy and will come back to bug you in case I can­not fix it myself.

        • Sure, help with RSS — any­time! 🙂

  • Pingback: A Six-year Non-ceremony « Gaizabonts()

  • Saw this post some­time back, but read it end to end just today.

    I don’t know what bal­ance you’re talk­ing about, because my blog­ging has suf­fered tremen­dous­ly in last year, and I had to resort to writ­ing ser­i­al fic­tion, at arbi­trary sched­ule, to keep it alive. And my blog read­ing has also suf­fered. And I feel I’m spend­ing way too much time on twit­ter.

    Hope­ful­ly, 2010 will change some of that. I’d def­i­nite­ly like to get my blog back to its ‘cre­ative’ side, rather than analytical/missives side. Inshal­lah!

    Any­ways, enough about me. I can’t claim to be a reg­u­lar read­er of Skep­ticgeek, any­more, but per­son­al­ly, I’m hap­py with the way you’ve grown as a writer, from what­ev­er I read here. Your ana­lyt­i­cal skills, and abil­i­ty to put com­plex things in a way that lay­man will under­stand the gist, has always been your forte, but to do that con­sis­tent­ly, and at a fren­zied pace, is amaz­ing.

    Wow at the no of arti­cles on MUO. That’s a result of great writ­ing dis­ci­pline.

    On blogrolls, I nev­er took them seri­ous­ly. It was more of my way of pass­ing onto oth­ers blogs that I liked. But I believe in plug­ging con­tent rather than sites, so if I real­ly like a post, I favorite it, or tweet about it, or post on FB and so on. To me it does not mat­ter how ‘alive’ the blog is. The point­er is based on past record. I don’t know how much of traf­fic real­ly comes down those paths. Cur­so­ry glance at blog stats, in the past, have told me not much. And in the age of the real-time web, it’s going to be that much more irrel­e­vant.

    On blog­ging com­mu­ni­ties, in past I’ve been on Sulekha and then Dud Sea Scrawls, and I’ve mixed feel­ings about them, as far as writ­ing is con­cerned. Traffic/reach is anoth­er thing, but then I’ve writ­ten too much about that already.

    Any­ways, I’m sure this is the longest com­ment so far :), by far. And it is rival­ing the blog, so I’ll stop.

    Wish you best in the new year. Hope to see and read a few more qual­i­ty posts here as always. Rest are mile­stones that are prob­a­bly more rel­e­vant to you.

    Hope to be more active as a read­er and engage in mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sions.

    Amen to that.

    Keep writ­ing, engag­ing.

    cheers,
    asuph

    • Dear Asuph,

      I must con­fess that I have not been fol­low­ing your fic­tion writ­ing and Kan­da Bata­ta, so was unaware of the impact of Twit­ter on your blog­ging. Inte­grat­ing RSS & Twit­ter for infor­ma­tion dis­cov­ery, and blog­ging & Twit­ter for shar­ing our thoughts seems to be the chal­lenge.

      All the best for get­ting back to your cre­ative work!

      Thanks for shar­ing your views on the Blogroll. I have decid­ed to remove it alto­geth­er. I do keep shar­ing inter­est­ing posts from my Twit­ter account (includ­ing of those blog­gers who don’t tweet). The blogroll doesn’t make much sense in the real-time trend we’re mov­ing towards.

      I had nev­er heard of Dud Sea Scrawls. 🙂 You’ve spent more time on the web than me, and espe­cial­ly more so with writ­ing at a great num­ber of sites. I have always refrained from invest­ing my time writ­ing else­where, be it book/movie reviews or what­ev­er. Many of my blog­ger friends have spent time writ­ing reviews and con­tribut­ing UGC to sites like Ama­zon, MouthShut, Shelfari/Good Reads, and so on. Being the ego­ist skep­tic, I have nev­er been inclined to give away my thoughts or writ­ing for free to sites since they are ulti­mate­ly busi­ness­es who can do as they please with that con­tent. I pre­fer own­ing my con­tent. Since I’ve nev­er aspired to be “pop­u­lar”, it has worked well for me so far.

      Thank you for tak­ing the time to read and com­ment. It is very pre­cious and means a lot to me!