Archive for February, 2005

February 18th, 2005

Pondering Changes to ITotD

When I re-launched Interesting Thing of the Day on June 1, 2004, I promised that there would be at least one full year of daily articles. Now that we’ve completed nearly 9 months of that year, I figure I have enough data to begin thinking about what happens next.

Originally, my hope (or perhaps fantasy) had been that by the end of that year, ITotD would produce enough income that I could make it my full-time job. But the site’s total revenue has averaged around $300 per month—a figure that has remained relatively consistent even though daily readership has increased markedly. Of that amount, the majority goes toward taxes and business expenses. What’s left is roughly enough to pay for the coffee that keeps me awake while I write the articles.

But it’s not really about money: ITotD has always been a labor of love. The real problem is one of time. The average article takes me about 3–4 hours to research and write. But since ITotD isn’t putting bread on the table, I have to spend my days doing work that does—writing books, ebooks, and articles about computing, and doing technical consulting. That means I usually end up working on ITotD in the evenings, when I’d rather be resting, spending time with my wife, reading, doing t’ai chi, or just having a normal life. To be candid, I’m getting burned out, and something’s got to give.

I think that if I could financially justify spending even half my normal business hours working on ITotD (scaling back my other work proportionately), it would make sense to continue the site in roughly its current form. Although there are undoubtedly some things I could do to increase the site’s readership and income, all these things would require even more of my nonexistent time or money to implement. So I’m not expecting to see such major financial improvements in the next few months that I can reasonably plan to keep spending so much time on this project. One way or another, I have to cut back the number of hours I spend on ITotD, which in turn means the site must change.

I see no point in turning it off altogether; if the content that’s already there is useful to readers, it might as well stay there. On the other hand, barring some miraculous occurrence in the near future, I’m equally certain I can’t continue doing what I’ve been doing, every single day. I’ve been thinking about options for changing the site.

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February 15th, 2005

Statistical Anomalies

My standard morning ritual includes answering my email, reading a bunch of Web sites, and checking the statistics for things like the number of Take Control ebooks sold, visitors at Interesting Thing of the Day, AdSense revenues, sales from affiliate links, and that sort of thing. While going through my email this morning, I saw a message from an ITotD reader who had information pertaining to the article on Non-Human Farmers, which was written a couple of weeks ago by guest author Rajagopal Sukumar. The message basically said that in addition to the animals cited in the article, there was a type of jellyfish that also farms algae. Since I didn’t write the article, I said I’d forward the comment to the author in case he wanted to make any changes.

Moments later, when I checked today’s Web stats, my eyes popped out of their sockets when I saw how many visitors we’d had today. Even before noon we were just a few visits short of a record day. (Because of this increase, AdSense revenue is also way up for the day—always a nice bonus.) A quick glance at the referrers showed me that the spike was coming from BoingBoing, and all these folks were following a link to the article on Non-Human Farmers. I wrote the author a congratulatory note, but I couldn’t help being slightly chagrined that the site’s biggest day wasn’t due to one of the hundreds of articles I wrote myself!

Meanwhile, another faithful reader wrote to tell me she found today’s article on Cascading Style Sheets completely incomprehensible, and my Backups article on Macworld.com dropped down to a less prominent position on the page. So…good day for statistics, bad day for my ego. Ah well. As my mother would say whenever a minor misfortune befell me, “It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”

February 14th, 2005

Front-Page News

Last week Adam Engst sent me an email in which he mentioned that Macworld magazine was going to have an excerpt from my latest ebook, Take Control of Mac OS X Backups, on their Web site. Apparently there had been some discussion about putting it in the printed magazine, but for a variety of uninteresting reasons everyone agreed that it made more sense just to put it on the Web site. I was not part of those discussions, and I really didn’t think about it much. I’ve had articles published in the print edition of Macworld, and excerpts from all my ebooks have been made available in many different forms. This didn’t seem like that big of a deal. I didn’t even bother to visit the Macworld site or ask which portion of the ebook had been excerpted.

A few days ago, I began noticing that sales of the ebook were up significantly, and I also started getting email messages from folks who had read the article. These are both normal occurrences anytime I have something new published, so again, I didn’t really think about it. Then I got a message from a company whose software I’d referred to in passing; they felt that perhaps I’d given their product short shrift. Before I could reply I had to go over to the Macworld site to see exactly which portion of the text they’d published. And there, to my surprise, was my article at the very top of their home page—the equivalent of front-page news in the Macintosh world.

On the one hand, I was delighted: publicity is always good, and the extra sales don’t hurt. On the other hand, I was a bit embarrassed—I hadn’t updated this blog in a long time, and readers have been checking it out. D’oh! It’s like having company on a day your house is a mess. Oh well. I guess that’ll get me typing. It’s not as though I have a shortage of things to write about, only a shortage of time.

February 10th, 2005

Excerpt of Take Control of Mac OS X Backups

New Macworld article: A two-part excerpt from Take Control of Mac OS X Backups (Part 1, Part 2; February 10, 2005)