Be the Best, Be Discovered
The significance of this experience for me–and hopefully it seems significant to you as well–is that my motivation for working on the site was completely internal. My goal was only to please myself by creating the best site I could and my rewards came in being proud of what I’d done. Visitor feedback was nice, but it only served to tell me that ’some’ people were enjoying the site. I didn’t really care so much about the volume, only that at least a few other people thought the site was as cool as I did. But if I had only ever received a handful of emails each week to say I was doing a good job, I probably would have been happy, and I probably would have maintained the site for a long time.
But I didn’t. Once stats came into the picture, my motivation was externalized. I wanted more visitors, and I started to only enjoy adding to the site when I felt it would see my stat counter climb. Whenever my visitor count dropped I felt deflated. My work on the site began only to matter in as much as it would eventually improve traffic. Predictably, maintaining the site became a lot less fun, to the point where I eventually gave it up.
I believe my experience six or seven years ago has some bearing on blogging and social media culture today. We measure everything. We try to hoard more subscribers, more daily traffic, more Twitter followers, more AdSense clicks, more Digg fans and more comments. We are so focused on this that what we actually do becomes nothing more than a means to an end. If your latest blog post didn’t yield any comments, it was a failure. If your subscriber count hasn’t increased in a month then you need to make your content more appealing. You write list posts even though they bore you, because you know they’re popular. And so on, and so on.
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