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! 🙂

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  • 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!