A personal take on various topics

Tips to Avoid a Dysfunctional Twitter Conversation

After observing a conversation turn quickly dysfunctional on twitter, decided to post some of the practices I follow to avoid conversations getting dysfunctional on twitter. These are some quick random thoughts in no particular order. Feel free to add any other tips in the comments section below.
  • The window view is not the world view : We are a product of our experiences and these experiences are our window view of the world. While real, it is not a comprehensive view. Thus before contesting someone’s experiences ask yourself if there is a possibility that his window view is also a reasonable window view even if not consistent with one’s own view. Remember the humanity thought for a long time that the sun and stars and planets revolved around the world before it was conclusively proven otherwise.

  • Be clear if you are looking for expression or conversation Twitter and blogs are a great way to express. They also are wonderful medium to have a conversation. However the rules of the game between an expression and conversation are different. It is a little easier to get away with treating the twitter account or the blog as just a soap box in hyde park a.k.a a Speaker’s Corner if one is looking for expression. However if you are conversing, rules of normal civil conversations apply. Once you apply the rules of conversation, you have to decide how much you want to temper your freedom of expression. Thus aggressiveness, profanity, bravado are all fair game, if you have established that as accepted conventions with the other participants. If you don’t know them - play it safe.

  • Avoid being judgemental if you can This is one of the most important rules of a conversations. Focus on issues and avoid labeling tags on each other. Moment you attach a judgemental tag, the entire conversation shifts around a debate over the judgement than over the issues.

  • Move some attacks to third person, or better don’t make personal attacks : Attack the issue not the person. If one has to bring in a person, is there a way to tweet in a third person context rather than a second person context ?

  • Escalating debates are hard to exit out of. Quickly move to private conversations. Twitter supports a free flow of conversations with many people looking on. As a conversation gets intense, remember that we find it harder to exit a conversation gracefully due to fear of losing face. Quickly move to a private channel ie. a DM if feasible, even if it seems to all the onlookers that you seem to have left some points uncontested. Know that its a lesser of the two evils. If you can’t DM the other person, publicly request him for an email id over DM to carry the conversation offline. But please remember to make sure that you never, never, never make a DM or an email public. Unless agreed upon thats a complete No-No. There is an exception zone of it being for the greater good of public / someone else (eg someone threatening suicide or violence on some third party), and even in that case, make it non-private to only a select audience.

  • Feed positive energy into the system : Realise that twitter is not just an information stream - it is also an energy stream. It is built to amplify and reflect the energies. Don’t, repeat do not, feed negative energy into the system. It will soon enough boomerang and hit you on the rear. If you have to make a point figure out how to make it in a manner where you are feeding positive energy into the energy stream. If you can’t figure out a way to say something positively, thats probably a cue to exit the conversation.

  • A couple of related posts on the topic :

India Votes 2009 : Options for the Deeply Cynical

So we have elections coming up soon, and I start wondering. Great, there is the drive for online petitions, voter enrollment and a general push to a jaagore. Its nice to know we are all waking up in even more numbers. But there is a problem. Its a rude wakeup. A blissful icy dream protected by ignorance and disinterest is suddenly a raging inferno of cynicism searching for a target with the hopeless realisation that there is no one to blame and probably no one who is blameless. So having woken up, and finding a vote to spare, how does one use it ? And what are the options ?
  1. You have a favourite political party.  It could be accused of pandering to one or more of populism, communalism, communism, regionalism, casteism. So what if its leaders come grace your TV screens every news night and indulge with their peers in ‘barkism and bitism’. You rest your hopes in the party and you vote for its candidate. The great thing about it is often one vote can buy you so many isms. The difficulty is that many of the leaders put their rivals down rather than India up. You can’t get Indianism. Its tough to get truism. Even though I don’t expect it, its virtually impossible to get altruism. Ho Hum.
  2. You have a favourite candidate who you believe is honest, incorruptible, dedicated and probably even skilful enough to survive the rough and the tumble should he make the grade. The problem is that he may even do great at the hustings, but just may not have what it takes to reach the winning post first. Any vote cast here seems like a vote squandered
  3. Use the 49-O protest vote. The trouble with that is it makes no practical difference between that and not going to the polling booth at all. Sure it is an explicit protest vs. an implicit protest, but is the distinction really important ? I can’t quite buy it.
  4. Don’t vote at all. Seems attractive, but I don’t consider being fatalistic as a virtue even when the chips are down.
Amongst these choices “2” seems to be the least unattractive. But a more dominant feeling seems to be the need to hear a ‘lori’ n go back to sleep hoping that jaagore might just have been a dream. Note : This post is not to encourage you to not vote. I will vote. It is just to indicate that voting requires votability, a sorely missing commodity at the moment.

Don’t Feed the Negative Energy Monster

WTF. #Fail. Words we weren’t born knowing. Words we didn’t know as young kids. Words our parents didn’t teach us. Words our teachers would’ve taken us to task for. Words that would not endear our kids to us. And many times we mean them even when we don’t use them. And yet these are words we spout. As an expression of angst. As an expression of inability.  As an expression of despondency. We target current affairs, vendors, politicians, devices, legal agreements, human frailties, … etc. We target everyone but ourselves. In that we actually target no one but ourselves. WTF and #Fail will not change the world. They are unlikely to inspire others. But they spread pessimism. They spread negativism. They encourage role models of negative expression. They are chemicals which gives us a temporary high. Real life has great feedback mechanisms. It allows us to learn by taking some knocks. Positively or negatively, this feedback influences our wallets, our job titles, our status, our esteem in extreme cases even our relationships. The blogosphere feedback is exceptionally weak and sometimes quite flawed. In many a cases expressions that might have earned one severe negative consequences when made face to face, earns us page views and retweets.  And instead of having to deal with the aftershocks, it makes us feel like jocks. Blogging and Microblogging is an information stream.  It is also an energy stream. It amplifies the energies pushed into it and simply throws it back at us. Next time you tweet and/or blog, don’t shy away from criticism, emotions or even necessary debates. These can be healthy. Just ask yourself if you are feeding positive energy into the system. And so long as you are pumping in postive energy, feel free to use WTF and #Fail.  As a tweet that impressed me quite a bit said “don’t feed the negative energy monster”.

A Blog Post Classification / Hierarchy

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Seems to me there is a hierarchy of blog posts (inspired by Maslow’s hierarchy) in terms of blogging satisfaction. Read on, and let me know if it makes sense. Typically blog posts with the dominant category further along the hierarchy are likely to have elements which satisfy the earlier categories in the hierarchy as well. The classification is perhaps even applicable for tweets (though tweets simultaneously satisfying multiple categories are a little rare to come by.)
  • Narrative : Diary, Journal, Things that happened, Event log etc. These are posts of something that happened or is about to happen. While in most cases the author simply wants to share the sequence of events, in some cases the sequence itself might be meant to trigger some thoughts, analysis in the mind of the reader. In such situations, the post is actually at a very different level than a narrative.
  • Informative : How to, Top Ten Lists, Presentations These are perhaps the lowest on the individual expressiveness and attempt to provide a lot of value to the reader. This is probably also the most dominant category in terms of number of posts.
  • Opinionated : Rants, Demands, Support, Cheer, Rage These are posts where the author wants to be active in either supporting or declining support for some particular incident, cause, organisation, philosophy etc. These are the posts where the author is perhaps the most expressive and emotional simultaneously. These are the posts where the author would like something different from the way things exist at the moment. My slight reservation with these posts is that while they are strong in expressiveness and can collectively be made to act as change agents, given the emotion which clouds both the author’s thought process and the readers ability to interpret the content, these posts unless they are able to elevate themelves into either of the next two categories, rank very low on reader value creation.
  • Analytical : Analysis, Review, Commentaries These are posts which use an event, a movie, a situation and attempt to draw a few inferences from them and share them with the user. These are posts where the author manages to allow his emotions to be restrained and lets his thinking cap be quite visible. These posts take on the nature of the author attempting to present his understanding of the world by taking the dots he sees and attempting to draw the lines between them to create a picture for his reader. While there is a fair amount of individual expression, these are also the posts which focus on good value creation for the reader.
  • Thought Provoking : Sorry .. can’t think of any other word to describe them These posts could really be about anything. They don’t aim at providing answers. Heck, they don’t even provide questions. They focus on content which require the users to come up with their own set of questions, to be answered in their own sweet time. They cause the user to think about these posts long after having moved on to other content. These posts are not directly catalysts to change, they are catalysts to a more enlightened reader. To me these are also the most fulfilling to read.
Is this classification really important ? : Thats entirely upto the blogger. But it seems to be helpful to have a good idea about it up front when you write a post, so that you can have a reasonable focus accordingly. Just like its better to know upfront, how much a blogger wants to focus on expressiveness and readership value creation before starting to compose a post.
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Happy Birthday PuneTech

PuneTech is 1 year old today. Birthdays and New Year days are a great time to reflect upon the year gone past, and it was a little difficult to let go of an opportunity to comment. A community is as strong as its participants. A community is also as strong as the people who bind it together. A tech community is fed by content. A tech community is also fed by character. What I have learnt about PuneTech is that even if it is modest in attracting newer people into the fold, it does a great job of binding it together. In Navin Kabra and Amit Paranjape, and supported by many others one realises one has met a set of people who really want to bind and then grow rather than grow and then bind. Important elements for a solid foundation for a community. In the past one year PuneTech has provided a community / platform / vehicle / opportunity / facilitation for (in no particular order):
  • Increased creation and sharing of Technology related content, especially related to Pune based companies and individuals
  • A watering hole for people with related interests to come together, interact and grow their interactions.
  • Collaboration with other bodies of overlapping interests, most notably the Pune Open Coffee Club
  • Network engagement and sustainance supporting essential infrastructural needs of a network such as event organising / sharing / reminders
  • Visibility driving for participants by both writing about the community participants or allowing them to write about themselves.
One of the things that does strike about PuneTech is its freshness and its willingness to experiment, learn and retry. Its not only growing but continuously reinventing itself to stay more relevant and useful. In retrospect, a part of the the Pune Technology Community is far better served today thanks to PuneTech. Kudos to PuneTech for a great year. And while in my limited knowledge, it has been more successful than any other similarly focused effort in Pune, it could grow even faster. But what I like about it is that its growth so far is much more sustainable than it is rapid. Allowing the growth to gather more momentum while continuing to retain sustainability will require many more of us to ask ourselves how we can support PuneTech and then help providing and implementing the answers. Thats the kind of nutrition a 1 year old needs.

And Why Exactly Do We Have Such Meaningless Analysis of Developer Satisfaction ?

I remember my Market Research classes, where we were made to work extremely hard to come up with the right questions (could take weeks) before administering a questionnaire. Thats because if the questions do not have a clear traceback from the objectives of the exercise, they can give totally irrelevant and useless result at the end. If a research or a survey had to be useful, an enormous effort was required to upfront address what answers would be useful, and work back into the questions from there. Here’s a good reason (as a counterexample) why we were taught that rigour. A report titled ”Users’ Choice: Scripting Language Ratings - A comprehensive user satisfaction survey of over 500 Software developers and IT Pros” from Evans Data Corporation measures “User Satisfaction” with scripting languages”. (Registration / Personal data sharing required) which got covered by the register in Developers more ‘satisfied’ with PHP than other codes. Without spending too much time I will just point out one example : Turn to Page 23 - Performance. So PHP programmers are more satisfied with its performance than Python and Ruby developers are with theirs ? I suspect if they had Java ratings in, its satisfaction perhaps could’ve been even worse. Yet the actual runtime performance of these languages is exactly the reverse. So what exactly does “user satisfaction of PHP developers with its performance is higher than that of Python and Ruby programmers with the respective performance” tell me and how is it useful even in the remotest possible way ? Beats me - but the most sensible explanation I could think of is that satisfaction is a function of the challenges and the context - and these are not equal. So any such comparison is pretty meaningless. Even more damning is the fact that there is an abundance of evidence indicating actual language runtime performance being completely inconsistent with the suggested user satisfaction levels which questions the relevance of the comparison of user satisfaction levels. I wouldn’t have felt so strongly about if only the first 14 pages of the report had been published. That would simply reflect user satisfaction - end of story. But the remaining 12 pages which present the data in a comparative manner make it an exceptionally meaningless exercise best ignored (or blogged about and then ignored :) ).
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PuneTech Updates Its Comment Policy

PuneTech just published its Comment Policy. Given its role in promoting technology usage and knowledge transfer in and outside Pune and (in my perception) to maintain a strong brand perception, this is just what the doctor ordered. Its a pretty detailed policy, but the short version is cute enough to tempt me to reproduce below :
if (the comment is not relevant to the article)
     We will delete it;
       /* take your irrelevant rambling elsewhere */

  else if (the comment is a personal attack)
     we will delete it;
       /* rude people not welcome here */

  else if (the comment has abusive language)
     we will delete it;
       /* we are trying to have a civil discussion here */

  else if (the comment exposes PuneTech to legal liability)
     we will delete it;
       /* we don't want to get sued
          that distracts from the purpose of this website
          more details below */

     your comment is welcome;

Why I Deleted My Facebook Data. Commentary on Internet Data Privacy Rules.

This post appeared on on Feb 16, 2009 on my software development blog : /var/log/mind. It is one of two posts I decided to cross post into this blog as well.
Update: Facebook has since reverted the change in terms of service. Cool. On Feb 18th, a message on the home page said :
Terms of Use Update A couple of weeks ago, we posted an update to our Terms of Use that we hoped would clarify some parts of it for our users. Over the past couple of days, we have received a lot of questions and comments about these updated terms and what they mean for people and their information. Because of the feedback we received, we have decided to return to our previous Terms of Use while we resolve the issues that people have raised. For more information, visit the Facebook Blog.
Mark Zuckerberg also blogged about the same issue in Update on Terms. Original post begins here.
Facebook published a new Terms of Service on February 4th 2009 which has a strong implication for how internet / cloud based data privacy is likely to be viewed. This was very well publicised here - Facebook’s New Terms Of Service: “We Can Do Anything We Want With Your Content. Forever.”. There was some consternation on the net especially on twitter about this change in facebook rules. While I did not use facebook much, I was sufficiently appalled at the change in rules to go and delete pretty much most of my data one line at a time. It is unclear to me if the old data is still available to facebook for sublicensing from a legal perspective (I know all the data will be there in their archives), but I decided it probably wouldn’t hurt to nevertheless to go delete most of it. I didn’t actually delete the account since Facebook still helps me keep in touch with my friends. But it is quite safe to assume that any interactions with them with an assumption or requirement of any data privacy will no longer be done on facebook. Whats wrong with the new terms of service ? Some people in forums argued that most of the data on internet is likely to be there forever. So one just needs to be careful and not worry about it. I don’t quite agree with that line of thinking. When I blog, tweet, post to usenet or forums, I am upfront aware of the fact that that data is going to be cached by google and other search engines and that once I press the publish button, there’s often no way to revoke it. However in case of Facebook, there is a general expectation that the data will be shared only within a network of friends, a network that I have control over. There is an expectation that that data will not get cached by search engines and short of an accidental data breach or some intentional malafide activities that data will not become public. What is unnerving with the new terms of service is that Facebook changed these rules at will without even sending me an email about the same. Asymmetry of Privacy Expectations : It is interesting to note how asymmetric some of the terms are. For example in the section User Content, the following is to be found.
By using or accessing the Facebook Service, you represent, warrant and agree that you will not Post: * User Content that violates the law or anyone’s rights, including intellectual property (“IP”) rights or other proprietary rights (such as rights of publicity and privacy); * any Contact Information or private information of any third party;
Further down in the section Licensing, it states,
You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof.
As you can see, you undertake to not violate anyone else’s IP or other proprietary rights, but information about you will not be treated with the same level of respect by Facebook, though its done quite legally by documenting the same in the Terms of Service. Moreover anything you post or any information on your stream is now sub-licensable by Facebook. Now why would I exactly want to sign away all rights on status updates, photographs etc. on content which I posted assuming that it was secure and private ? But the earlier terms were also quite onerous. So how come you did not complain ? Apparently under the earlier terms, facebook also had the rights on the content, so whats the big deal ? Two main issues.
  1. The earlier TOS did not grant Facebook the right to sublicense the content : The possibility of sublicensing means you have no control or idea on who the eventual user of that data could be. I still get angry at so many commercial parties at having leaked my email and phone number data. The likelihood of a similar scenario where facebook sells that data for commercial purposes now cannot be ruled out, purposes on which I will have no control on that data.
  2. The earlier TOS had an escape clause of deleting the account Basically Facebook did not have the right on the data once you deleted the account. This is important as can be seen by another case on Twitter Privacy Disaster At Twitter: Direct Messages Exposed (Update: GroupTweet Is Likely Culprit). In this case private messages were apparently accidentally made public due to confusing software usability. The person immediately responded by deleting the account. This is a useful kill switch to have in case one makes a terrible terrible mistake of putting out something accidentally. This kill switch is also no longer available.
Bait and Switch : By not informing users of the change in terms of service especially since these were so important, I think this creates an impression that the user is a victim of bait and switch (even though the real underlying causes of the change which I am unaware of could be different). Facebook should’ve informed the users about the change in rules, offered a button to delete all prior data / photographs / content or at least made clear that the earlier content will continue to be governed by the earlier TOS - something thats a little unclear in this situation. Implications for Internet Web sites and users : I think sites should very clearly document how they will control and use the data that they gather. Many of them do by explicitly document the same. Moreover any substantial changes to the same should be communicated to the users. Finally users need to be now aware of potentially changes of Terms of Services on a number of web sites that they interact with. Data that they assume to be private may no longer stay so and the user may not be any wiser about the same if the Terms of Services are changed without him being explicitly informed.
Updates : Why did I delete the data ? Seems some readers are thinking I deleted the data believing that that will get rid of it. Thats not why I deleted the data. I am fully aware the data is likely to live perpetually in facebook archives and be accessible to facebook. I deleted it because that data had been submitted and generated under the old Terms of Service. Letting it be around to me seemed like an implicit acceptance of the new Terms of Service around old data, which I was uncomfortable with. So I deleted the data at the first available opportunity on realising that the Terms of Service around that data had changed. Any new interactions I do with facebook will be under an awareness of and therefore an acceptance of new Terms of Service. Response from Facebook : Mark zuckerberg attempts to address the issue on facebook blog : On Facebook, People Own and Control Their Information. I could not find any rationale to why Facebook needs the privilege to sublicense the content. I also thought the way the blog post was written and the way the Terms of Service are structured are very very different. In my opinion its the Terms of Service that count. This topic has been also getting a lot of traction on other blogs. Am quoting some other interesting opinions on the topic on the internet along with link backs to the posts below
  • cnet News.com : The Open Road : Facebook changes terms of service to control more user data :
    Google has had its own problems with user privacy, but this Facebook move calls into question the wisdom of clouds or, rather, storing one’s data in others’ Web services like Facebook. We need to come up with new licenses or new mandates for open data in the cloud. Facebook shouldn’t own our data.
  • Mashable : Facebook: All Your Stuff is Ours, Even if You Quit :
    The possible implications of this TOS change go beyond these concerns. Sure, you can choose not to use Facebook at all, but that doesn’t mean a thing. Someone can still take your photo, slap it on Facebook, and now neither you nor the author of the photo can stop Facebook from using the photo in whichever way they please. Looking at it globally, millions of people are uploading bits of information on everyone and everything, to a huge online database, and by doing so they’re automatically giving away the rights to use or modify this information to a private corporation. And not only that; they now also waiver the right to ever take it back from it. Facebook should take a long, deep look into how it treats its users. Until now, users had options with regards to how the data they generated on Facebook was used. Now, they have no options whatsoever, rather than quit the service altogether. It’s a major difference; I’m not going to take it lightly, and neither should you.
  • Wet Asphalt : The Facebook Freakout :
    You are only granting those rights “on or in connection with the Facebook Service or in the promotion thereof.” What does that mean? Well, it means that you are licensing the use on Facebook branded websites or any other media and the Facebook Platform, which is the legal name for the APIs that allow third parties to create Facebook applications. So if there was a Facebook TV show, they could use your stuff on that. Or if they launched a Facebook concert series or a Facebook magazine, they could use your stuff in that. Presumably, if there were a Facebook dogfood, they could use your content on that. Or if they wanted to make an advertisement FOR any of those things, they could use your stuff in that. Precisely WHY Facebook would want to do any of those things, I leave to the reader to speculate on. What they most emphatically CAN’T do is what Walters claims, that “We can do anything we want with your content forever.” They can do anything they want with your content ON Facebook or to Promote Facebook forever. But if they said that it probably wouldn’t cause the internet panic and generate hits for the consumerist and readers to stroke Walter’s ego with diggs and trackbacks and twitterposts either.

Tips for Software / Programming Blogging

This post appeared on on July 23, 2008 on my software development blog : /var/log/mind. It is one of two posts I decided to cross post into this blog as well.
Just realised, have been blogging for more than 6 months now (actually I had started another blog ages ago .. but that tapered off soon then). Over this period, I believe I learnt or adopted a few practices. Just sharing them here. Feel free to comment. YMMV.
  1. Treat your readers like a jury not as customers :By jury, I mean a jury as in a academic thesis not as in a court. Whats the difference ?
    • With customers you sell, with a jury you defend your perspective. You may think you are selling your views, but a jury doesn’t shell out any money to buy them. This makes a typical sales process a much more harder and onerous task than just defending. Most readers aren’t out to buy, they are out to learn more and interact more.
    • With customers you assume they may not know all about your product, so you focus on educating them in general towards making a pitch. With a jury you assume they already know far more than you do in general, but you attempt to educate them and draw them into a discussion into something specific that you have spent your time on, on something specific that you are presenting.
    • In a defense, the onus is on you to provide credible backing evidence. In a sales pitch the onus is on the customer to verify your pitch. Most readers would prefer to not carry the additional overhead of having to verify your statements. If you have provided the rationale for your statements clearly and supported it with available evidence if relevant, you have made the readers job much easier. You have increased the chances of the reader wanting to come back to your blog.

  2. Make a strong statement. Avoid taking strong positions : Allow me to define this. By position I mean making absolutist statements without providing a sufficient context or a frame of reference or assuming ones own frame of reference as the only valid one. There is a wide diversity of readers out there. Some are into client side, some into server side. Some are into high usability, some into high speed processing. Some are doing graphics algorithms, some others are into CRUD and business validations. A large majority of your readers are likely to have a different frame of reference than yours. If they can’t understand where you are coming from, they will assume you are coming from the same context that they do. And they are likely to feel confused when what you say doesn’t end up matching their world view. A statement like “I found X more suitable than Y under a context Z” rather than a position like “X is better than Y” is more helpful since :
    • You get to describe your context. Your statement is a statement within a context. It is not treated as a blanket position. Readers with different contexts and divergent views can sometimes trace the differences to the context. Such readers can still suggest alternative views within other contexts easily without appearing to contradict you. Readers with similar contexts and divergent views can still choose to take you on.
    • You have lesser chances of being misinterpreted. You don’t want to get caught in an interview a year down the road when you are changing your job from writing a forms based application to one where you might be required to build say a graphics processing engine, where your interviewer might have just read your blog, and your posts actually do not make sense in the newer context.
    • When you make a strong statement without taking a strong position, readers record their agreement / disagreement with the post rather than you or your blog in general. I personally find that a much more comforting thought than readers choosing to agree / disagree with the blog in general.

  3. Be prepared to update your blog soon :There is a large number of smart people out there, often a lot smarter than us, or having a difference experience set than us. As the comments start coming in, you start learning things you wish you knew before you wrote the post. If the comments indicate something useful and relevant to the post that you would’ve wanted to include in the post had you known about it earlier - go ahead, add it into the post. A convention I have seen is that all non trivial changes after the initial posting should be prefixed with the word “Update:” or “Updates:” so that readers can make out you’ve changed something after your initial post. A comment or two may be especially relevant. It helps to be able to review the comments regularly and update the post if relevant soon. If you are going to be traveling soon, either submit your post a little earlier or post it a little later - but post it when you know you will be able to review the comments and will have the flexibility to take 5 to 10 minutes off your regular work to update the blog if necessary.

  4. Be prepared for surprises : Even if you write carefully you will end up making a small set of readers either happy or disappointed with you in a manner that will leave you puzzled. However hard you try there is a good likelihood someone is going to misquote you or take you on strongly in an unanticipated way. Some of this may be unavoidable and needs to be factored into your assumptions. However some of it will be avoidable, and do follow up such incidents to figure out if there are any learnings that you can apply the next time. A great way to do so is to write a mail back to the commenter or to the blogger who may have linked to your post and get a better understanding of his/her viewpoint.

  5. Don’t title spam your readers : Every so often I come across a post with a provocative title, but which does not live up to the title at all. I prefer call this title spamming, since lot of the spam I receive has a provocative title, but often irrelevant content. Title is important. It influences readership strongly. But if you title spam regularly, it might help you get 2-3 posts higher readership, but its going to hurt in the longer run.

  6. Understand how blog aggregators and networks work :It is important to understand the demographics of different blog aggregators. If you would like your blog to be read by larger number of people, be clear in your mind which demographics you are targeting when writing your post. Some aggregators like javablogs.com and artima.com will target specific programming languages and work off an RSS feed. Explore your blogging software and see if it offers category / tag based feeds. If it does use the categories / tags to ensure your rss feed registered with these aggregators sends only relevant posts to them. I use wordpress and it supports tag / category based RSS feeds. Networks like dzone.com, news.ycombinator.com, reddit.com, slashdot.org, digg.com have very different demographics. Don’t blanket post to all networks. Register your post with those networks where the readers are likely to find your post helpful. I have occasionally come across people wondering whether one should register one’s own posts to a network. My opinion is that it is an acceptable activity.

  7. Ensure you have blog analytics enabled : Over a longer period of time you will start gleaning useful information about your readers. eg. what part of the world do they come from, which links do they come from (eg. you can get statistical information about the referrers such as google reader (RSS), blog aggregators, blog networks etc.). You can also get information about what searches led the search engines to your blog. I prefer wordpress.com stats plugin for wordpress and google analytics. The former is better at providing more immediate feedback, whereas the latter is more comprehensive.

  8. Pay attention to search engines as well :Most blog aggregators and networks will drive substantial traffic to your blog for the first 24-48 hours. Search engines will send a small trickle initially. However there is a big difference. Traffic from aggregators and networks will dry up after a few days for any post. But traffic from search engines will keep on coming. Over a sustained period of time, search engines can start driving a substantial traffic to your blog. Read up about Search Engine Optimisation and see if you can help your blog. I would recommend however that you use such optimisation fairly and only to the extent that it is not misleading.