This is the sort of post that could lose me followers.
Last week, Cyclopeatron came out with his list of top RPG blog performers for February, and followed that up with a post arguing that follower number is a poor predictor of blog popularity. I don't dispute the arguments made in that post, nor even in the comments afterwards. Many people brought up the point that many followers are obtained by the tit-for-tat method (I'll follow your blog if you'll follow mine), and that many followers are themselves creators of blogs. That got me thinking about my own blog list, and the sociological implications thereof.
But before I can start with the numbers, I have to make a confession. I don't "follow" anyone's blog. I have blogs in my links list, yes. And I update that list regularly. But I have not yet hit the follower button on anyone's blog, ever. I really don't know if anyone has noticed this. I assumed somebody would before now ... I'm quite surprised that, with all the things I've been accused of, this hasn't come up.
There's no particular reason I don't follow. At the beginning of the feature I just couldn't think of a reason to follow anyone's site since I regularly went there off my own list or from punching up the address from memory. I'd be bored, I'd remember I hadn't been to such-and-such a blog for a few days, and I'd go there. I always figured that if I didn't remember to go to a blog, it was probably because I really didn't like what I'd been reading there. I don't have to be reminded to go to xkcd.com every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I live for that shit.
Later on, as the number of followers began to become a kind of cachet, I began to recognize that following was more than just having a convenience for me, it was a statement of my approval. This was a problem - I don't approve of things all that easily. The gentle reader might have noticed. For me, stamping a blog with my name and picture was tantamount to giving a testimonial ... and while others might not think it's much of a testimonial, it means a lot to me.
As I thought about it, my feelings were that the better kind of testimonial I could offer was to talk about other people's blogs on my blog - in addition to the blog list. When someone says something there that I like, I'll sit and write an entire post about it. If this drives people to the other person's blog, so much the better. Driving people to smart blogs is a more useful testimonial, I think, than my little stamp on their blog that can only be read by others who have already found their way there.
All this may seem very trite and supercilious, but that's the way I roll.
Thinking about it in reverse, I tend to presume that people who want to follow my blog do so because they approve of me; I think virtually everyone thinks of it this way. In my particular case, I think its harder for people to approve of me because I'm such a fucking asshole. If you consign your pic onto my blog, you're not just telling me that you like the blog, you're telling other people. Some of those out there who did follow me for a long time, through many firefights, have since dropped away ... out of boredom, possibly, or disgust. I'm not an easy fellow to like. I'm blunt. I'm inconsiderate of people who say things I think are stupid. I hold myself to a high standard. Those are three things that are very much contrary to the behavior of most everyone I meet.
Right now, if the gentle reader is reading this, and the gentle reader is a follower, the gentle reader ought to be reconsidering the decision to do so. Good. We are all far too apathetic about the commitments we make to things. We are too willing to let things slide, to leave things the way they are because its too much trouble to change them. How much the better that the gentle reader remakes the decision today, and everyday they read this blog? Better for me, since I know then that every person who does follow is a true reader, and not just flotsam and jetsam that has drifted into the present from three years ago, without the slightest inclination to read anything I'm writing today.
For now, I want to put all that aside. If it loses me followers, so be it. This is probably the most polite I've been for several months - it would be ironic if I lost more followers with honey than with vinegar.
And now with some numbers. Cyclopeatron's post and comments section got me wondering: how many of my followers did have blogs?
Up front, out of 168 followers that I have as of writing this post (I can identify two of the 170 followers shown as duplicates), 42 do not have any image. None of these non-image followers have a blog, with the exception of one individual - and the blog that individual possesses does not have a single post on it. So there's a pattern there.
Of the remaining 126 followers, 65 have blogs listed on their profiles. Although some of the profiles do not have blogs shown, though I know that follower to have a blog. I can't tell which is which, so if your profile does not have your blog on it, I'm not counting it among the 65.
52 of those followers with blogs have blogs that are "fantasy-based." This is a wider judgment on my part than Cyclopeatron's old school gaming base, so I have far less followers who would fit on Cyclopeatron's list. With that list in mind, I'd guess I'm followed by about 25% of blog-possessors who write about OD&D. A very telling statistic. Of the 52, six haven't posted anything since September 1st, and one blog has no posts whatsoever. But it has a fantasy gamer type name.
I didn't read all the blogs in depth, but very, very few of them mentioned 4e in any capacity. Most of those who are following me seem to play a wide variety of games, and more than half are in the process of producing some new world/rule system. Where the hell are you people with regards to the Wiki?
10 of the fantasy bloggers also have a blog which is not related to D&D. 23 of my followers altogether have non-fantasy blogs. A lot of them seem to be about cooking. I should write something about cooking in a D&D world.
7 of my followers possess private blogs of some kind. Obviously, I have no idea what those blogs cover.
And I have three followers who write blogs which are not written in English. One appears to be Finnish (possibly someone connected to Jim of LotFP), one appears to be Spanish, and one I think is Polish and not Czech ... but that's a guess.
Finally, this leaves 61 followers with no identifiable on-line presence at all. On top of them, there are quite a number of regular commenter's who are not followers of mine, but who somehow manage to find their way here on a regular basis regardless.
Bully for them. The whole follower mystique has been created by Blogger for their own purposes. I don't measure this blog's success by the number it generates. It is too easy for an individual to hit the button, follow and then never show any sign of interest again. Going through my own list, I found a lot of people I haven't heard from in a long time, and quite a few I've never heard from. I have no idea if I'm reaching any of these people. If they really cared about what I was saying, they'd have said something. They'd have disagreed with something I'd written by now.
I can't learn anything from mimes. A thousand mimes provide me no value at all. If the dialectic is to work at all, people have to tell me when I'm wrong.