Thursday, October 29, 2009

At the 500K+ mark: on blogging — history, thoughts, and pointers

History. I think it was Hugh Hewitt's giddy discovery and promotion of blogging that finally moved me to dip my toe in, with that first post of 11/24/2004. Hewitt was so taken with blogging that he wrote a book on the subject, so he was beating that drum a lot as I listened on the drive home.

As with most things, I didn't understand it at first, then was slow to adopt. But ever since I became muzzily aware of The Internets in the 90's, since Algore's invention of them, I looked for ways to use the forum for Biblical witness. I was involved in discussion groups and forums such as FreeRepublic and other avenues that allowed any degree of free speech to Christians. Very often the setting was hostile, as it was when I was one of very few Christian voices on a Babylon 5 group which was often visited by its atheist creator, J. Michael Straczynski.

That was... lively.

In an attempt to make relatively untrolled discussion possible, I tried a couple of message boards. But they were invaded by unhinged trolls. One of them variously declared himself demon-possessed, and harped only on irrelevant anti-American themes. Banned under one IP, he'd get another. He eventually obliterated every last post by posting dozens and dozens of one-letter or two-letter "comments."

Somewhere around there I bought the site, to put up some of my writings. But it didn't allow for interaction, and I wasn't tech-savvy enough to make it a pretty or dynamic site. It continues (A) because of the simple URL, and (B) as a place for me to refer to my apologetic, Gospel, and Christian-growth writings, among a number of others.

Blog. So Hugh Hewitt (I think it was) got me into blogging...and someone got me to reading Phil Johnson's solo blog in particular. Wish I could remember who. I had known of Phil from his Spurgeon web site, and also from his bookmarks site. In fact, I'd tried to get listed on his bookmarks site.


I took to commenting at Phil's site, and others, and putting up my occasional posts on marriage, and Christian involvement in public life, and Pat Robertson. I even sort of tag-teamed with Phil, though I didn't know whether he knew me from Adam.

Then came the fateful email I've spoken of often, in which Phil invited me to team-blog with him and Frank (who I didn't know from Adam). I was so thunderstruck that I was afraid to answer. Surely Phil had the wrong "Dan." Just enjoy the dream one more day....

But it was real, and here we are. It's being a terrific blessing, and a terrific opportunity, and a terrific way to network. I'll write about the opportunity aspect in another post, Lord willing.

This blog is probably what you'd call a moderate-traffic blog, while Pyromaniacs is a high-traffic blog. I may average 700-800 visits a day during the week, which is... startling. But at Pyro it's more like 3000. There, we passed a million a long time ago. It will take me longer to get there.

But let me just finish with two disparate thoughts:
  1. I really believe in blogging. F. F. Bruce's Paul: the Apostle of the Heart Set Free was disappointing in many ways. But one thing stood out. Paul was a man who used absolutely every ability, every aspect, every opportunity he could lay his hands on to do one thing: spread the Word. I have no doubt whatever that he would either be a blogger, or he'd have his apprentices at it. What other way to catch people from all over the globe, any hour of the day or night, and give them the Word? I believe in it even more today than the day I started.
  2. Do you want more people to read your blog, but you're nobody? Two simple rules. (1) Do not link-troll. (2) Do interact with excellence. Simple as that. Few are more obnoxious than first-timers who say "Great site! Please come see my blog, tell me what you think!" All you'll give yourself is a stink around your name. Plus, few will do as you ask. Perhaps nobody. But if you go and get to know blogs you like, spend some time, get to know what's going on, interact meaningfully and articulately and pointedly and succinctly — then others will say, "Hey, this brother/sister is pretty sharp. Wonder if (s)he has a blog." And before you know it, Bob's your uncle. And maybe you'll still be nobody, but some somebody will give you an opportunity. Then, who knows?
  3. Do you want people to keep reading your blog? Make short posts, as a rule. I know bloggers whose comments are models of pithy succinctness... and then their posts are 20000-word epics. Avoid that.
One Dan's opinion, your mileage may vary.


Joshua Cookingham said...

Congrats Dan!

I just want to say that your blog has been an immense blessing to me. Perhaps even more so than Pyromaniacs, as I visit this one a lot more. I'm always encouraged by your stand in the Lord, it's something I look up too.

Also, you're funny while maintaining a true theological stance. How many Christians can claim that?

So thanks Dan, thanks for sharing your thoughts since 2004. Can't wait to see what you've got coming down the road.

God bless.

Rabbit said...

"A few pointers." I'm still snickering at the doggies in the field. :)

Serious question: blogging is not a few-minutes-a-day endeavor. Well, a really good blog is not. How much time do you spend writing your meatier posts, and then moderating the comments and discussion which follows?

SandMan said...

interact meaningfully and articulately and pointedly and succinctly

Oh great, you mean we have to communicate something worthwhile?

Seriously though, thanks for the insights. I can't say that I am trying to create a readership. My blog is mainly for my middle school students and their parents. I have found that blogging is just another way for students to ignore me, high-tech ignoring, but ignoring none-the-less. :-) I tried handing out extra credit for comments and that garnered 11 "followers." They've never been seen or heard from since. Maybe I'll start up something new and try my hand at the "real blog world." Is that an oxymoron?

Anyway, congrats on your milestone.

Rachael Starke said...

Rabbit - I missed the pointer thing until you said that. :D

And I second Joshua C's comment - you lure people in with really creative turns of phrases, with the very intentional purpose of making sure your big points hit their mark right in the center.

One other technique that you employ particularly well is formatting. All those HTML taggie things take time, but the end effect is that often your writing reads more like, of all things, a well-delivered talk or sermon. They elevate it tremendously. I still remember the day I read one of your posts and, I think, extracted it into an HTML editor because I wanted to learn how you did that!

We're all looking forward to the soon-coming day when we can say we knew you when....

Paula said...

Rachael said, One other technique that you employ particularly well is formatting. All those HTML taggie things take time,

Is there some secret way that I don't know about to quickly add html formatting? I use blogger but am not averse to using something else. It's 2009 for Pete's sake. Why do I have to type out all the html tags?

DJP said, But they were invaded by unhinged trolls. One of them variously declared himself demon-possessed, and harped only on irrelevant anti-American themes. Banned under one IP, he'd get another. He eventually obliterated every last post by posting dozens and dozens of one-letter or two-letter "comments."

Why is it that message boards necessarily go off the rails? It's like the 15th law of thermodynamics. If it's a leftist board it degenerates into obscenity. If it's a Christian board it degenerates into heresy.

I used to participate on the Sonlight (homeschool) message boards a few years back. There was a lot of good info there and I especially enjoyed the "Lifelong Learners" board. Until a dad showed up and started spreading his emergent theology. He just would not stop and every thread landed there. This guy apparently had 20 hours a day to instruct homeschool mom in (bad) theology.

I'm fairly sure he was the same "Touchstone" that was eventually banned from the TeamPyro blog. I think these guys must make it their full time job to be trolls!

(this guy completely jumped the shark when he made his case that it was perfectly fine to oggle buxom and attractive women with his eyes, rather than looking away. He said it would be impolite to avert his eyes and was convincing these homeschool moms that they were wrong to teach their boys to "bounce" their eyes)

All this to say, thank you, Dan, for your care in keeping this blog a lively and yet safe place to have a civil, yet lively discussion. Not an easy task to balance!

DJP said...

You mean the hyperlinks in the post, Paula?

Use Compose mode, select the word or words, click the Link button on the toolbar, and paste in the URL to which you want to link.

Is that what you were asking?

Angie B. said...

Do you have a certain time of day when you blog? My blogging--and reading--tends to be spontaneous, making it satisfying, but contributing to my overall lack of productivity. Plus a good blog post takes more than an hour, generally. So both blogging and reading have fuzzy time borders, which is one thing in my life I wish I could correct. I want firm borders! Any pointers there?

Also, getting sucked in to a conversation really takes time, because I monitor the page for responses. So I mostly stay out of things.

Strong Tower said...

succinct- free of excess putrefying, hairy grease-ball matter that plugs the drain.

You forgot to list parasites. Parasites are blogs that don't blog anything of their own, really, they live off of others. The format is: "Link to x blog+ Your thoughts?"

Now that is irritating. Or is that what you meant by link-trolls?

I started blogging because some bald winky-eyed guy thought I sounded lonely. Though he promised if I quit commenting with novelettes, he would give me a link on his blog, I am still waiting. But it did make me start. I thought what the centurion am I doing wasting all this good stuff on others' blogs. You think he was just trying to get rid of me?

By the stats, what I think good stuff must be a narrow spectrum appeal to highly sophisticated readers who wish for the most part to remain anons.

If I had to grade myself on succinting: FAIL

Oh, and another thing, when referencing another blogger, get their name right.

And you've given me name for a blog I was considering.

A Pale Blue Blog...

What do you think?

How about,

Christianal Biblicity?

Kay said...

It's been a pleasure and will, no doubt, continue to be so.

Herding Grasshoppers said...


Yours is one of the few blogs that I check every day I'm online... nearly every day.

Well done,


Brad Williams said...

Congratulations, Dan.

On a totally different note, I cannot comment at the Pyro's place anymore. For some odd reason, the word verication box will not show the letters for me. Has anyone else mentioned this to you?

CR said...

I concur with Joshua. Most of the time, I don't have much time to visit other blogs that I like, Pyro and JT so I know I miss out on a lot. But I make sure I visit Biblical Christianity and I visit it a lot more than I do the others.

Mesa Mike said...


...and it wasn't me who ran up the counter (this time).

Gordon Cheng said...

Now that is irritating. Or is that what you meant by link-trolls?

No, a link troll is someone who just turns up out of nowhere and says "Great blog! Now check mine out right here!"

Right Dan? ;-)

Thanks for your work, I actually enjoy your personal blog more than Pyros, except when they do their regular Spurgeon post. That man was made for blogging, but 120 years too early.

DJP said...

I knew someone would do that. But you, Gordon — why you??

DJP said...

Let's try to catch up some. Been quite a week at work; may be a slim HT tomorrow. If, you know, tommorrow even comes.

Joshua, thanks so much. I appreciate it a lot.

Rabbit - odd moments. Nature of my job allows me to do some writing in between calls. Or I'll iPhone it to myself one way or another and develop later. I get up very early, have some time then. Just squeeze it in when I can.

Thanks to the iPhone, I was able to keep things flowing over the weekend I was away from home, approving (or rejecting) comments from airports, etc.

Thanks, Sandman. No, no one needs to be succinct or substantial except me. I was just saying, if anyone wants people to get the itch to check out their blog, and his name doesn't rhyme with Xil Xohnson or Flohn Fliper or something, that's a good way.

Thanks, Rachael.

Paula, I think the only answer is a robust way of banning. I never found a msg board that had one; maybe they exist now. As you see, Blogger doesn't yet offer one, and the service I (briefly!) tried really didn't suit me. Hence the moderation, which I just flexed again the other day. It's just the least-worst option at the moment.

Angie, I'm sure it's very individual. I sit down sometimes, dry as the Sahara. To try to be proactive, if I even have the stub of an idea, I'll make a stub of a post — maybe just a title and a sentence, or a URL — and save it as Draft. I have dozens, still, many of which will never be published.

As a rule, the earlier it is, the better I am for writing and such. Later day, not so much. I didn't do all-nighters in seminary. One night, with a totally-unwritten paper due the next day, I went to bed the normal time, and then got up at 1 or 2 and did the paper.

(Got an A or A+.)

Julie and Kay, I love it that you come, read, and comment.

Strong Tower... you are one of a kind.

Brad, no, no one else that I know of.

REM said...

Congrats Dan. Your blog is excellent and stays that way. You were always an encouragement as I blogged before I blogretired because of 4 under 7. Wow. Celebrating blogging and being a Benny frenny all in a week. You slow it down, big fella.

Herding Grasshoppers said...


If you can't see any letters (for word verification) then click on the little blue wheel-chair and you'll get an audible.

Strong Tower said...

If I can't use heres, here, well... I didn't want anyone visiting anyway...

Flohn Flipper?


I have even had dreams...

Turn it up, you'll like it.

lee n. field said..., the only online place JMS would look at, for fear someone would accuse him of stealing story ideas.

Yup, I remember, back before usenet was overrun with spam and porn.

Blogging -- also takes time. I have one, that's just a placeholder, and another I started to park a couple of articles I wrote back in the day. And...haven't had time to compose anything to add. < sigh>

Paula said...

DJP said, Use Compose mode, select the word or words, click the Link button on the toolbar, and paste in the URL to which you want to link.

Yes, that!! How do I get composite mode??? It's soooooooo time-consuming typing the link tags, italics tags, bold tags...that's all I know off the top of my head. Actually, I don't know the one for links. I currently go to the Blogger Support page and copy the code from there, which is really lame.

DJP said...

Paula, you have mail.

candy said...

I remember eagerly awaiting Phil's debut on his own blog. Bruce and I had read his other website quite often. When you first joined Teampyro I thought, "Who IS this guy anyways!" We had our moments didn't we. :)

I now totally love your writing, your blog, your contributions to TeamPyro. God bless you in your quest to spread the Gospel.

DJP said...

LOL, Candy, you weren't the only one!

Yep, it's been quite a run. Meeting and fellowshipping with you and Bruce was a blessing, and is a happy memory.

Matt Gumm said...

I've read some excerpts from the B5 boards before. You, sir, are a brave man. Fearless.

I liked your two disparate thoughts (expressed as 3 points) at the end. I admit I've found myself wondering lately if anyone will ever be converted by internet blogging, but at the same time I have no doubt whatsoever that what you say about Paul is true, and that, by extension, he would no doubt have been a blogger.

Keep up the good work. And I still find myself hoping for an opportunity to meet you in person one day. Maybe you'll come visit Frank in LR...

Kristine said...

I've been a Christian for 3 years, and have been a pretty regular visitor of your blog for 2+ years now.

I don't always comment, but your insights, exhortations, and even the "lighter" stuff has been a real joy :)

Susan said...

Like Joshua, Julie, and CR (and whomever else I forget to name), I also visit this blog more than I visit Pyro. To use a food analogy: If Pyro is a top-notch steak house I can count on, then Biblical Christianity is a delightful dinner buffet I look forward to. (Keep those varieties comin', Dan!) :)

~Mark said...

Congratulations Dan!

Funny you were inspired by Hugh Hewitt, I was inspired by Michelle Malkin! I was flipping channels one day, came upon C-Span and after a few minutes thought "Who is this beautiful minority woman spouting these lovely conservative thoughts??"

'Cause I don't see that very often.

Next thing I know I'm visiting her blog and thinking "this seems like fun!"

CR said...

I'm curious about one thing you said here when you explained how you were invited by Phil Johnson to team blog with him and Frank.

Does this mean that some of use who comment on your blog regularly may perhaps be invited to team blog with you on your blog? I don't know maybe call it, Biblical Christianiacs.

SO Kidding.

Frankly, I don't know how bloggers balance the time. I have a hard enough time to read and comment here and there.

Gordon Cheng said...

I knew someone would do that. But you, Gordon — why you??

Sorry Dan, it's been a week of not enough sleep. That was a bit of an 'et tu Brute' moment I induced there. But the comment about liking your blog stands!

Fred Butler said...

I have been noticing recently the occasional blog post where some blogger wonders if blogging is even a healthy spiritual discipline for the Christian. You know, the typical things: waste times, better time spent with family, friends, etc., and then he or she announces a retirement, as if the person has achieved some higher level of holiness than all us carnal Christians who still blog.

Honestly, I started blogging because I like to write on theological subjects and I wanted to create an archive of lay friendly apologetic/theological material on a variety of themes that are not normally addressed by a pastor. Blogging offers one of the easiest and best mediums in which I can accomplish that task. I have a website also where I can transfer articles, but blogging allows for interaction with the good and the wacked, and that helps me sharpen my thinking and my presentation when I defend the faith. I am not even close to exhausting the things I want to discuss and hopefully it benefits the Church.

Make short posts, as a rule. I know bloggers whose comments are models of pithy succinctness... and then their posts are 20000-word epics. Avoid that.

Yep, that's me. And though my longer stuff may not keep my visit counts up, I do know that at one point, someone will encounter an angry KJV-onlyist, and when the person does a web search on the subject, he or she gets directed to me and I get to help them out. I just love it.

DJP said...

You were not on my mind when I wrote that. But I know you know at least one who was.

(Don't name him/her, I won't post it.)

CR said...

Fred, interesting comment. I think blogging can be unhealthy if it replaces prayer or fellowship or if prayer or fellowship is hurt as a result of blogging or commenting on blogs or whatever.

You know, you've probably heard this before, but people will say things like, TV is really hurting Christians or making them waste their time. But the problems are much deeper than that. For example, what did people do 100-150 years ago when there was no TV. They played cards or went to cock-fighting. There is always something to distract people and even a good thing can be distractive.

But to me it seems the real problem is not the thing itself but a deeper spiritual problem. I don't know.

threegirldad said...

Well, I am afraid that I don't have much to say that hasn't already been said by others, but...

- This blog is a real blessing to me. It has become like an old friend that I look forward to seeing. I try to check it every day (sometimes, that isn't possible)

- I appreciate your "policing" of the combox

- "Hither and Thither" is my favorite "regular feature" of any blog I read, hands down. I hope you have the energy and inclination to continue it for a long time.

SandMan said...

Dan, I know this thread is starting to resemble the left-over tuna fish long forgotten in the back of the fridge, but I wanted to let you know that this post inspired me to get out there. I won't link troll or anything like that, just wanted to say, "thanks."