Five years to overnight success

The first post here was January 9, 2008, five years ago today. Since then I’ve written over 1900 posts, about one a day.

Not many people read anything here until May 2009 when the post Plain Python got a few thousand visitors. Then the site mostly returned to obscurity, aside from a few random spikes. It wasn’t until sometime in 2010 that readership started growing steadily.

Thanks to all of you who have contributed to the blog by reading, commenting, sharing links, suggesting topics, etc.

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18 thoughts on “Five years to overnight success

  1. Thanks!

    I really appreciate the comments here. When I started blogging, I was anxious about allowing comments. But the comments have been great. I’ve learned a lot from the feedback. And when I make a mistake, I usually find out about it quickly. :)

    Out of thousands of comments, I may have deleted a dozen because they were abusive or irrelevant. The comments have been really high quality.

    (Except for spam. I get a lot of spam comments, but my filter does a good job of deleting those. Unfortunately there are occasional false positives. I used to check the spam filter now and then to see if any legitimate comments were blocked. But now I have enough confidence in the filter, and so much spam, that I don’t check it.)

  2. Am a reader for a few years after a friend pointed me at the blog. Most of my technical blogroll jumps on the same topic each day, whereas you come up with whatever topic interests you. It jumps out. :)

  3. I’m also a regular (if reticent) reader! I’ll second what Rje said about the originality of your content. Great work, keep it up!

  4. Roman Shapovalov

    Congratulations, John!
    How do you think, why the readership started growing steadily at some point? Is there a critical mass of subscribers to change the growth pattern? Or some external factors?

  5. Roman: I really don’t know. The blog and the twitter feeds grow together, so the blog might have taken off when the twitter feeds started to take off. But that doesn’t explain why twitter took off.

  6. @Roman I wonder that too. I think it was a Malcolm Gladwell article I read where he was talking about the “over night success” authors of books that have been writing for years. His argument ended up being that there are a few highly connected people. Get them to love you and you’ll get thousands of readers as a result.

    So … I’d suspect that might be true here too. Someone else well connected said something nice and people checked it out and never left, or perhaps something like a conference talk lead people to look John up and landed and stuck. Would be nice to know the secret sauce so you could copy it but I suspect it often comes down to the whims of a few very influential people promoting you up into their sphere (you got to have talent too of course, but far more people have talent than end up famous).

  7. John, just want to say ‘thank you’. Really like your blog. I’ve just started learning programming. And your posts are thought-provoking read :) Best wishes from Russia

  8. I like the blog too. At first it was a blog about programming to me. Than I realized it was much more than that. I may misremeber, but I guess I found it due to a suggestion by google reader…

  9. Congratulations! You were one of the inspirations for me to begin blogging. Although my blog has a different focus than yours, I aspire to one day have a cadre of readers that generate the kinds of discussions that I enjoy here. Your dedication to the blog is inspirational.

  10. John, thank you for your blog. I read almost every article in it with care and I find them well-chosen and well-reasoned. I like both the programming reflections and the mathematical articles.

    You seem to have a real talent for choosing a “blog-sized” topic to discuss.

  11. Thanks for your excellent blog. I can’t remember how I found you – probably searching for some topic you have touched on. I enjoy the mixture of topics and appreciate your concise style.

  12. I found your blog about a year ago when I was having numerical problems in an MCMC algorithm I wrote. When I google “numerical underflow” the first hit I get is some very good advice that you wrote. That led me to your blog, where I found more great advice but also fascinating discussions about statistics which eventually led me to teach a class on controversial statistics (students are even required to discuss their thoughts online in a class blog). I’m looking at your blog again today to get reading material about irreproducible results. Thanks!

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