How to Irritate and Annoy People in the Name of Blogging

I came across this blog piece today, in which a number of ostensibly popular bloggers share how they would leverage off-blog time to increase their blog’s hits. I found it to be a fantastically depressing piece, because so much of the advice boils down, essentially, to this: “become a starfucker for more popular bloggers.” Mind you, it’s couched in more corporate-speaky language than that — which is depressing in itself — but starfuckery it is.

Let’s break this down a bit. First, to get this out there up front: If you’re spending your time starfucking a blogger, your sense of priorities are unspeakably out of whack. It’s like sleeping with the screenwriter in Hollywood. The screenwriter who wrote the direct-to-home-video feature. That debuted on the public access channel. In Bakersfield.

Seriously, people. Get a grip. You have better things to do.

Now, note that a lot of “strategies” these bloggers suggest people do for their starfuckery — things like commenting on blogs, socializing with and e-mailing links to bloggers, or linking that blogger’s work to Digg or Reddit or whatever — are perfectly cromulent in themselves. What makes it starfuckery — rank and transparent starfuckery at that — is the reason you’re doing it, which is, for the ulterior motive of promoting your own work.

As in: You’re not commenting on a blog because the article or the other commenters speak to you; you’re commenting on the blog because you hope people will click on your name at the bottom of the comment and visit your own site. You’re not passing on a link to a blogger just because you think it’s germane to that blogger; you’re passing it on because you hope the blogger will throw you a scrap by noting she got it from you, and then putting a link to your blog in the note. You’re not socializing with the blogger because you might actually like the person, you’re doing it because you’re “exploring ways of working together in win-win ways,” as one of our fine advice givers wrote.

Don’t do this. Because people aren’t stupid. Look, I go to conventions and writers’ events, as most of you know. And invariably the most annoying person there is the aspiring writer or neo-pro who is simply there to network, and does so in a graspingly obvious fashion: the guy who goes from group to group, looking for the right people who will eventually let him trade up to standing in a conversational circle with, oh, let’s say, Neil Gaiman, so he can ever-so-casually drop the name of his latest book/story/whatever into Gaiman’s ear.

There’s nothing wrong with networking; there’s nothing wrong with talking about your book with Neil Gaiman (or whomever) either, should you get a chance. But it’s all in how it’s done. To repeat: People aren’t stupid. They know the difference between someone who is engaged in a conversation for the pleasure of the conversation itself, and someone who is marking time in the conversation until they can once again open their mouths and talk about them. By the same token, it’s not all that difficult to differentiate between the people who engage on a blog because they’re interested in what’s going on there, and the people who engage in order to try to get people to go somewhere else. The only person who thinks he’s getting away with it is the starfucker himself. Well: Surprise! He’s not.

Articles like this — “how to get more people to read your blog!” — have been around since the old days of blogging, back in the paleolithic era of the late 90s, when blogs were still “online diaries.” It’s not new. The moderately new wrinkle, as noted earlier, is the dispassionate and soul-squattening language these folks are using to share these ideas, infused as it is with the commodified non-sensery of corporate-speak:

“I would pick 5 top-100 blogs that I felt worked well with my target market, then I would read each of their articles and spend time coming up with interesting and constructive comments”

“I’d engage in social media marketing campaigns using a variety of content sharing sites, social networking and community based sites.”

“Building relationships with influential people is my favorite off-blog marketing method because it gives the greatest amount of returns for all your efforts.”

(emphasis mine)

I mean, for fuck’s sake. Who are these guys? Now, maybe it’s not entirely their fault, since the question the blog owner asked to elicit these responses (“If you had 2 hours a day to devote to no-cost, off-blog (even off-line) marketing for your blog, what would you do?”) is chock-full of corporate mentality in itself, and assumes that people should approach their blog like an exercise in market domination. But on the other hand, just because someone hands you a question like this doesn’t mean you have to answer it in the same fashion. One could just as easily say “If I had two hours a day to market my blog, it probably means I’m missing two hours of sleep, and that’s what I would use it for.” Because, well. That’s what I would use it for.

Let me give you some advice. It’s really very simple. When you comment on a blog, or offer someone a link, or socialize with them, it’s about what you can bring to the party, not what you can get out of it. If you have two hours a day to market yourself online, you’re thinking about it wrong. What you have is two hours to explore and enjoy the online world, to read stuff you like, to read stuff you might like, and to participate and share ideas and thoughts and flames war and whatever else, and basically help make the sites you visit better, for no other purpose than you like those sites.

(It could also mean you have two hours to write something good on your own site. But that’s another topic altogether.)

More simple advice: The most successful networkers don’t “network.” It’s an odious term. The most successful networkers ignore the grasping patheticness of the term altogether. Rather, they talk. They laugh. They share the moment, and enjoy other people’s company; are generous with other people and help them celebrate their successes, rather than asking to scrape up against that success so some of it might crumble off on them. It works the same online and off.

Or to put it all even more simply: Don’t look at other bloggers as people you can use. See them as people. Don’t look at other blogs as places you can use. See them as places you want to be. Really, it’s not hard to do.

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

134 replies on “How to Irritate and Annoy People in the Name of Blogging”


I found these comments to be edifying and stimulating. Thank you for such a smart dissection of an article like this, which I agree contributes to the kind of unwholesome blogosphere folderol that I try to avoid on my own blog.


This entry just makes me oh-so-happy that I don’t have a blog. Since I’m forced to spend so much of my professional time with sales people, the idea of putting up with this on my personal time is enough to make me swear off the on-line experience altogether. Ew.

I am always wondering how much time you spend each day chasing down things on the intarweeb? You always have interesting links on your “By the Way” journal as well as items in your new “Whateverettes” and still manage to write, have a life, etc…(so you say…)

I can’t imagine commenting on blogs just to get readers…urgh!

As someone who has a blog and likes to comment on the blogs of others, I now feel slightly… dirty. Like I should go back to lurking or something, because I’m imagining everyone looking at me suspiciously.

Also, Mr. Scalzi? Maybe you need to take 30 minutes and look at someone of those links mentioned in your Blogcutting comments. Or go spend 15 playing with the furry inhabitants of your house. Because you sound like your blood pressure was a bit up there. And everyone knows that petting cats lowers your blood pressure.

Random Michelle K (and Shawn Powers):

Heh. I wouldn’t worry about the suspicious looks. I definitely don’t mind people linking to their blogs in their comment headers, nor linking back to their blog in a comment itself, if it’s relevant to the discussion at hand.

Note also that I actually do go out of my way to let people do a fair amount of self-pimpery here; I have self-pimp threads here on a regular basis and over at Whateveresque there’s an entire thread for the subject. Part of the reason to do that is because this site is well-traveled and I like to have it as a conduit to other places; I believe in sharing the wealth, as it were.

The other reason to do it, though, is that offering up these outlets helps keep random self-pimpery in check. That’s the crap I dislike.

Preach it, brother. You’re absolutely correct. I’ll admit I get a little thrill when I see inbound links in my wordpress stats from commenting on my favorite blogs. I’m not getting excited over the increased traffic, though. It’s the possibility, however remote, that this author I love or that social blogger I really respect might actually have some small interest in seeing what I have to post about.

Like Michelle said, I feel slightly dirty now, even though I know I’m not commenting for traffic.

Oh, for heavens’ sake, people. Don’t feel dirty about commenting; it makes the site better. Feel dirty only if the primary reason you comment is to put your blog link in your name.

I don’t suspect most people here just post comments to link back to their own sites; the level of conversation and interaction here is too good for that.

As someone who also posted in the “Wanton Pimpery” thread on the Esque today — thanks. :)

I’ll be curious to see the decline in comments on the Whatever…

(in all honesty, I doubt any decline, as I’ve not noticed much so-called star-copulating here. We’re mostly all edumacated and polite.)

This reminds me of the “morally flexible” main character in ‘Thank You For Smoking’. He’s a tobacco lobbyist who will literally do anything to support the cause of his client. Highly recommended, btw.


Every morning I hit about 25 or 30 Japanese Tentacle Porn sites, masquerading as “John Scalzi”, with a link back to the Whatever Blog. I think it would be refreshing to have a sudden influx of tentacle porn aficionados appear on here in the forums, so I see nothing wrong with this at all.

Just trying to spice things up mind you.

I feel dirty when I don’t comment.

Ahhh, now I feel better.

Everyt time I want people to come and check out my blog for the pithy things I say I then go to yours and realize you’d write it better and funnier. Then I go back to trying not to be pithy and write about getting sick or why the cat scratched me.

I wonder if there is a study somewhere about the proliferation of corporate speak in everyday life. A few years ago, my sister, while furious at me, asked me, “where was the value add in [my] action?”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Corporate bean counters masquerading as bloggers, that’s all they are. Sad.

John D. MacDonald in one of his Travis McGee books talked about the “men with slide rules” who would appear around any good product and nickel and dime it to death in order to minimize expense in order to maximize profits. Soon, the products are maximized into crap.

Fortunately, there are still blogs like yours, and probably always will be, that aren’t just all about the traffic. Heck, seems to me that the bloggers who engage in the kind of corporate tactics discussed in that article will simply suck themselves out of existence.

Gosh, I thought blogging was just a bunch of folks shooting the breeze. Now I find out it’s all just marketing.

Ugh. I feel so *used* ;)

Seriously though, I hope those hot marketing tips truly turn out to be duds. If there’s one thing worse than crap on the internet, it’s *loud* crap on the internet.

I would suggest to any blogger with an extra 2 hours to kill: Turn off the computer and go outside and, like, do stuff. Real-world stuff that’s fun and interesting. Then maybe you’ll have something to blog about.

Starfuckery (to use Scalzi’s rather indelicate term) may get some people to visit their blog once, but it’s interesting content that will have them coming back.

I don’t bother putting my blog link in comments like this most of the time, because most of the time my blog isn’t relevant to what happens in this one. Were John a Linux geek like me, that would probably be different.

John: I mean, for fuck’s sake. Who are these guys?

They’re marketing/sales types. I thought that was obvious. If marketing/sales types want to starfuck star quality marketing/sales types, fine. It’s not like any of us interact with those blogs. It’s a closed system.

The thing is, you’re not even using google ad words as far as I can see, so what these people talk about is not something you’re connected to. For some megastar blogs, like Daily Kos, there’s an inevitable amount of marketing bullshit you have to deal with. But not so much for you.

Josh Jasper:

“They’re marketing/sales types. I thought that was obvious. If marketing/sales types want to starfuck star quality marketing/sales types, fine. It’s not like any of us interact with those blogs. It’s a closed system.”

I’m not entirely sure about that. I found the link on Reddit, which has an audience outside of the marketing/sales types. Also, of course, this sort of soulless marketing scheming is not unknown to me here, either; I’ve recently banned at least one person here for attempting this sort of crap.

I certainly don’t need to do this sort of crap; my site is trafficked enough, and I’m not making any money directly from it via ads. That’s correct enough.

What Josh Jasper said.

These blogs are merely the online equivalent of what these people are like at parties. My wife’s been in sales for years, so a lot of the parties we go to (well, used to go to, now that the kids have taken over our world) would be just crawling with sales, marketing, finance, and other “types” that would make the non-schmoozing engineer in me head straight for the bar.

They’re not “real” blogs (whatever the hell that means).

There are many in corporate America who mistake “effort” for “work.” (The former is a measure of resources expended, the latter is a measure of results produced.)

Those who mistake “effort” for “work” run around networking and babbling corporate-speak. Those who don’t frequently leave on time every evening.

I’m with Janeice..
I am happy I don’t have a blog.
I think the most I have ever written in a commentary fashion on the Internet has been here and at Whateveresque.

Have something interesting to say. Say it well. Share. Give credit. Love what you’re doing. Rejoice in unexpected outcomes. Listen. Cherish your readers. Keep talking.

The wiliest traffic-maximizing offline-time-leveraging win-win marketing proposition weblogs are no match for a man who’s taped bacon to his cat.

Hmmm, no idea what Japanese Tentacle porn is…

Clearly my life has been too sheltered.

You know, this constant self-promoting without genuine interest in what is going on is so annoying… Why would you want to engage with people like that? It’s just constant self-promotion, with no end in sight as they climb up the ladder to more and more self-promotion…

Jim Wright is also offering free beer AND cookies at his site! Says:

October 18th, 2007 at 4:12 pm
What the hell is “tentacle porn?”

No way in hell am I googling that, I learned my lesson here a while back.

I couldn’t resist and googled it. Ugh. Now, any suggestions on getting that image out of my mind?

Thanks, man, you’re giving me flashbacks to my last job, where driving traffic and improving SEO was my #1 goal. I’ve… done things. Bad things. (Not here.) I tried over and over to argue that having good content would benefit us more in the long run than raw traffic. Unfortunately, traffic numbers fit into a spreadsheet a lot better than “good content” does, so no one listened to me. You can imagine my mixed emotions when I was laid off because the company wasn’t making enough money.

Anyone who think they’re going to make money with PPC is following fool’s gold. And you can drive all the traffic in the world to your site, but if your site is crap, they’ll bounce right out and never come back.

I thought that blogs were for your own personal edification so that you could share your thoughts with the world, if anyone wanted to read it. I guess that’s why, when I took the “What is your blog worth” test, mine was worth nothing. Zip, zilch, zero.

Re: Sean @ #1

I totally agree with this post and enjoyed reading it and many of the comments. However, I am sad to see the sarcasm and irony missed in the very first comment. It made me snort my drink. Thanks!


To address this, in a vaguely topical fashion, in the days when my blog was new and shiny, and when I was at Walter Reed, being treated for side effects of my vacation in the cradle of civilisation, I discovered that an author I really liked, had linked to a comment I made at Making Light, and said swell things about it.

No way in hell that would have happened if it wasn’t just me writing about what was going on in my life to share with my friends.

Want more traffic… write about what moves you.

Not only will that get you more comments/traffic, it will get those from people who actually care.

Chris Gerrib, I couldn’t agree more. One of my company’s guiding principles is “activities are interesting, but results count.” Unfortunately, there are many sales-types who still think the activity is the thing. To borrow a phrase from Steve, it makes the “non-schmoozing engineer in me head straight for the bar.”

Where I can drink Jim Wright’s beer.

Wow. You know what those ostensibly popular bloggers you excoriated with your (admittedly astute and witty) comments did? They reinvented the wheel.

Specifically, they just about exactly “reinnovated” public/media relations. But between blogs, instead of from overly-coiffed PR spokespersons and/or eager small business owners to trade magazines and/or local newspapers.

Reinnovation, it’s so the keyword (no, make that “tag”) of the naughties.

You have put this image in my head, from ‘Ghost Busters’, of the accountant’s party, the one where all his friends were his clients.

I’m not sure you can be forgiven for that because now I’m going to have to take time to find out whether it was in Ghost Busters or Ghost Busters 2.

Life is short. We’re meant to enjoy it. Thank you.

I’m also reminded of Oscar Wilde, and what those who know the price of everything don’t know.

And so, naturally, in the course of a jeremiad against mindless references and referrals you sneak a reference to another blog into your post (A Perfectly Cromulent Blog). Once I got over the flush of sadness over finding out that my hero had tentacles of clay I looked at the BLog and found it was, at first glance, interesting.

Anyway – I have to go post some responses on that blog so readers will fantasize that I am erudute and witty.

Old Jarhead

John – how is sending you a link in hopes that you’ll drive traffic my way different from sending you my published book in hopes that you’ll read it & review it on your site? Or sending you a free cellphone so that you’ll mention it and the provider’s name on your site?

I think this is just more of the same. In fact, link-baiting offers an advantage that meatspace pimpery does not. It has to do with the way Google works. By commenting on your site & including my blog’s URL behind my name, I create a link from to And since is a highly trafficked site, the link’s mere presence on this page increases my blog’s Google PageRank, whether anyone clicks on it or not. This means my blog will come up more often in Google searches about topics I write about, which not only increases traffic to my site, but does it in a way that attracts self-identified interested readers. It’s a win-win! ;-)

I’ve never commented here or anywhere else just to increase my traffic, but I can understand the appeal.

One other thought: networking is not pathetic. I’m not in sales (I’m in I-banking technology), but I have found networking hugely beneficial throughout my career. Not so much in the cocktail-party, corporate boondoggle sense, but in terms of helping people find jobs, helping them fill open positions by passing along the names of qualified people, recommending vendors, telling people when I change positions or roles within a company, or even hiring people myself when their skills match what I need. Networking is a way to increase trust and build relationships. I’ll hire ten people I know and trust before hiring one stranger with an (apparently) awesome resume any day of the week.

I dare say that the knee-jerk rejection of networking comes from the same place as the often misplaced notion that all large corporations are inherently evil…

Will it be starfuckery if I agree with you and then digg it? ;)

Seriously….when I read the linked article, I thought, “I don’t recognise any of these bloggers at all.” And then I looked at a few of the blogs, and they all seemed to be in the sort of blog-self-help category. Or just plain self-help. So when I took a look at the content, it all seemed to be part of a giant circle of recycled advice. Even the stuff that was self-helpy seemed to come more from 101 Lists You Can Put On Your Blog. (In fact, one blog was almost entirely consisting of posts like X Number of Things.) It lacked, dare I say, the personal touch.

To be fair, this is on a short gander through. But I did think they were all focused on gaming the interweb, and less on presenting new, original viewpoints or content. A few people (like the Zen Habits guy) did focus on content creation or making stuff for people to use. But to me, a lot of it came off as…we’re gonna game the system that other people built. I mean, if you like and feel proud of your own content…then you don’t need to worry about your technorati ranking. (Well, you don’t NEED to, but sometimes its fun to know. I have a whopping authority of 14! Woot! Go me!)

So, yeah, a bit starfuckery.

Am I bad for having a link to my blog going with my name here, lol?

Actually, I like people to have those because I sometimes come across interesting comments and want to know more about the commenter and click the bloglink. I have found some blogs I read regularly that way.

I like the interaction with other bloggers via the comments, I love to share my photos and snippets about history with readers, but I prefer them to visit my blog because they really care about the contents, not to up some statistics (I don’t even have a stat counter).

Blogging should be fun. Starfucking sounds like too much work, or like hanging out on parties with Paris Hilton, yawn. *grin*

Brian Greenberg:

“I dare say that the knee-jerk rejection of networking comes from the same place as the often misplaced notion that all large corporations are inherently evil…”

Well, as I wrote “there’s nothing wrong with networking,” in the entry, I know you’re not suggesting I reject networking. I don’t, via knee jerk or otherwise, and if I did I’d be a damned hypocrite. I do believe networking strategies are more effective, both in the long and short run, if the motivations behind them are not baldly self-serving. It doesn’t increase trust, as you say, if the vibe people get from you is that you’re just looking out for yourself; indeed, and speaking from rather ample experience, you get more out of “networking” if people feel like you appreciate them on a personal level, rather than what they can do for you.

“John – how is sending you a link in hopes that you’ll drive traffic my way different from sending you my published book in hopes that you’ll read it & review it on your site? Or sending you a free cellphone so that you’ll mention it and the provider’s name on your site?”

Aside from the fact I get delicious swag in the form of books and gadgets from the latter two, who is saying there’s a difference? I’m rather more likely to promote a book from someone who I like and believe is not using me merely for promotional purposes than I am from someone who I believe sees me more or less merely as a promotional tool. I get lots of books, you know. I don’t promote them all.

Sara Genge Says:
I couldn’t resist and googled it. Ugh. Now, any suggestions on getting that image out of my mind?

1) Apply lye.
2) Rinse with very warm water.
3) Apply chlorine bleach.
4) Rinse with very warm water.
5) Repeat 2x.

It helped me when I was foolish enough to google a rather…unfortunate kink mentioned here several months ago.

Changing gears:
Once upon a time, back in the days of online journals, I was accused of such star-fuckery by the friend of a relatively prominent online journalist (the friend had her own online journal). Never mind that I read his stuff because I just plain liked the writing. It brought me up short and I ended up not sending any more appreciative emails to him, even though I could have counted the number of emails I’d sent him over the previous couple of years on one hand. I still read his stuff (he’s a blogger now), but I very rarely comment.

Oddly enough, a few years ago I started receiving comments on my blog from a couple of bloggers/journalers that I’d long admired, and later found my blog linked on theirs. I won’t lie – it gave me a bit of a thrill, especially since I hadn’t sought them out, but merely commented once in a blue moon. Turns out they happened to like what I wrote. I’ve since met them multiple times – they’re just as cool in person.

Carol Elaine at 62: Lies! Horrible, nasty lies. I went to your blog and there were NO mixed drinks or cake available. For shame for taunting us with the thought of free cake!

(Sorry, Kate Baker, I much prefer cake to pie. Unless, of course, you actually HAVE pie at your blog, unlike that evil trickster Carol Elaine.)

Steve, you were just too late. I had lots and lots of mixed drinks and chocolate cake, but the swarms descended rapidly and took all I had in mere moments, leaving me a huge mess to clean up. I must have been taking out the last of the recycling when you stopped by, ’cause I didn’t see you there!

I just pulled some apple scones out of the oven. But going to my blog won’t get you any. I blogged an 8 month trip because it was more efficient then emailing text and photos to friends and relatives. There have been . . .um . .4 posts since I settled down 2 years ago.

Apparently my life/thoughts are no longer interesting.

I don’t usually link to my online presence from other sites. If I were writing for the general public, I might, but I’m primarily writing drivel about what my tomatoes aren’t doing and where the cat most recently threw up, and anybody who knows me well enough to care about that also knows where to look.

“By commenting on your site & including my blog’s URL behind my name, I create a link from to X”

I’m pretty sure Google stopped following comment URLs quite some time ago, probably to reduce the attractiveness of comment spam (to those doing the spamming. It was already unattractive to everyone else.) Look up the nofollow tag for details.

Now my dilemma – in the past I’ve advised people trying to market their books online NOT to go out and spam every damned blog and forum they can find. (No dilemma there!) However, I’ve been telling them to participate in the community instead – be a real person, not a book for sale.

In light of your post, I’m just hoping they didn’t interpret my words as ‘comment often, comment widely, and always leave a link to your blog’ because that certainly wasn’t the intention.

I’m usually moved to comment if there’s something pertinent I want to add, and if nobody else has already said much the same thing. (That’s one reason I rarely comment on Whatever – thanks to time zone diffs, by the time I’m three coffees to the good about two hundred people have said everything I could possibly think up, and plenty I wished they hadn’t. Tentacle porn? Eeps.)

“Apparently my life/thoughts are no longer interesting.”

My father-in-law is assiduously blogging his recent pilgrim’s walk across the North of Spain, with pics and plenty of detail. (It’s the third or fourth time he’s done the walk, and he’s about to hit 70.) I don’t think he has a hit counter, and he probably wouldn’t want one.

However, he’s finding it much more rewarding than printing and posting bound copies to family and friends overseas, and the potential audience is unlimited.

I’m always flattered when someone new drops in to look at my blog. Even moreso if they come back later. Then the anxiety sets in about having to write more presentable things in the future to keep them entertained… o.O

Meanwhile, I’ve also heard of content theft… that is, you write something interesting on your blog, then someone comes along and plagiarizes it on their own blog. Think those starfuckery types are doing any of that?

I learned my lesson about proper networking at my very first con – fortunately not the hard way – when the Guest of Honor commendeered me and one other tall woman (GoH was a short guy), pulled us to a corner and proceeded to have a nearly hour-long conversation with the two of us. We were selected because we were the only people he had met in the first day of the convention who weren’t hitting him up for something (as well as our convenient, view-blocking height). I met a delightful guy who happened to be well known, and he remembers me more fondly than any of the people who came there explicitly to network with him.

When I was dating my future wife we rented some anime DVD’s so she could see some of the new stuff I’d heard was good. Unfortunately the rental store had misshelved one of the ones I asked for and gave us the Robot Tentacle Porn episode of “La Blue Girl.” I recognized the series name and suggested we skip it, but she said “How bad could it be?” She found out. And I have never looked at vacuum cleaner hoses the same way since…

I think I’ve found most of the blogs I like to read from following a comment back to its maker – and several of those have been comments here. But what attracted me in the first place was that those comments were relevant to the topic under discussion and had something of substance to say. Which merely points out that the Scalzi Whatever community is smart, interesting, and real.

As I’m another of those engineer types, the whole schmooze/networking thing definitely makes me want exit stage left, (virtual) beer in hand. And no, I don’t offer any free drinks, cookies, pie, or cake on my site, just ramblings that might interest a very tiny minority of those who surf the web.

Speaking as someone who’s self-conscious to the point of paralysis at times (especially in a new venue, on-line or otherwise) I can’t get into the head of someone who’d just post blog links for the sake of posting blog links. I mean, spamming yourself? I for one don’t want people to look at me like a Nigerian Viagra salesman. . . I’d prefer to be the wallflower lurking in the corner.



John –

Good and thoughtful post. I didn’t start reading your blog until the Saberhagen/Wikipedia brouhaha. I am glad that brought me here and I have found your writing enjoyable, witty, insightful, and thoroughly entertaining. And – it has sent me out looking for your books. I am still kind of mystified by lots of the blogs out in cyberland….if you aren’t selling something why spend the time writing about how you had a good meal or poo yesterday – unless it is your way of staying in touch with friends and family. I do read my friend’s blogs because they are my friends and it is one more way to stay connected with loved ones. I read the blogs of writers I like because it is already established that I like their writing style so frequenting their blogs means I get to read even more of their well crafted words.

Two extra hours a day to me means – two extra hours I could spend hanging out with friends (live and in-person), hiking, traveling, cooking, reading the old fashioned way with a hardcover book in hand, scouring antique and book stores for treasures, and just watching the night sky. On the other hand – I do love cyberland and I have met lasting friends and stay in better touch with old friends through this medium.

You are very right in that if someone is only in your face to market themselves and see how they can use you – without any more substance and meaning – it’s pretty sad. I think most folks can tell sincere interest from a sales pitch much of the time. Although – I have been suckered in and have had to learn the hard way who to believe in – it is a painful lesson.

You said – “I do believe networking strategies are more effective, both in the long and short run, if the motivations behind them are not baldly self-serving. It doesn’t increase trust, as you say, if the vibe people get from you is that you’re just looking out for yourself; indeed, and speaking from rather ample experience, you get more out of “networking” if people feel like you appreciate them on a personal level, rather than what they can do for you.”

Amen! Well said John.

Thank you ,
-Patricia Rogers

PS- I don’t have a blog. Too busy.

I’m an engineer too, and I used to be the one who hid in the corner at ‘meet strangers’ events, but after blogging and conversing online with people, I can often find bloggers at the tech events to talk to, which saves me from the hell of small talk.
I would like to apologise for the effect the Technorati 100 has on the ones that article was for; I recognise some of the names from the ‘whinging to Technorati when their rank went down after we removed the spamblogs linking to them’ group…

Tentacle porn is what happens when you go to a con with some people you don’t know that well, and they run into some people they know that you don’t, and you doze off on somebody’s floor, and wake up an indeterminate amount of time later to a falsetto voice screaming in Japanese, cheesy-dramatic porn music, and then you open your eyes and see what’s on the TV…

I am scarred for life, you understand.

No matter how many times you people mention it, I will NOT google “tentacle porn.” Not even for free beer or a throbbing ponies. Not even if you come to my blog and make comments and offer me free stuff. And you can’t make me. So don’t even come to my blog and try. Even if there is really cool stuff there and you’re all missing out in a major way. Not going to happen.

(reverse psychology starfuckery! Woohoo, take that!)

I resisted for a time, but finally I could no longer resist and looked up tentacle porn. I must say, I don’t get it. Throbbing ponies, sure, that I understand, but tentacles? Really? Hm.

Nope, still don’t get it.

I just put a Stat Counter on my blog (for curiosity’s sake, really. My “target audience” is friends and family) and it’s been really interesting to see who visits. Not many bounced off this site or any similar ones, and those who come rarely come back. (Not that I blame them.) Fortunately, the target audience does visit regularly, and that’s all I expected anyway.

Thanks for the opportunity for talking about my blog, John! ;)

(I’m waiting ’til I get off a work computer to look up Tentacle Porn. I gotta get edumacated some how don’t I?)

Oh my goodness. Jim Wright has totally acknowledged and complimented me on a popular blog that fits well with my target market. He must love me, and in return I should visit his blog, returning often, and inviting all my friends that enjoy clicking on ads. I hope he has ads. Big ones that are made of flash, because they’re so pretty I love them.

You know, I’ve had my blog for five years, and I’ve never really worried about how much traffic I get. I have a counter so I can see where my readers are from, because I think that’s kind of neat. I was invited to participate in one of those high-traffic blogs once, and it seemed too much like another job. I’m just not getting the whole “increase traffic” thing.

John Scalzi Says:
October 18th, 2007 at 5:07 pm
I can’t say I have too much sympathy there. “Tentacle Porn” pretty precisely lets you know what it’s about, just in the description.
That’s precisely the problem, I thought with a name like that it couldn’t be all that bad. I thought someone was joking or something.

Thanks, the lye and three hours of studying did the trick.
1. My father-in-law is assiduously blogging his recent pilgrim’s walk across the North of Spain, with pics and plenty of detail. (It’s the third or fourth time he’s done the walk, and he’s about to hit 70.) I don’t think he has a hit counter, and he probably wouldn’t want one.
(Can’t remember who said this, not scrolling back to check)

Really! I walked this pilgrimage quite a few times. Tell him good luck and “Buen Camino” from me.

This was a really interesting and thought provoking post. I guess the reason there were quite a few people feeling “dirty” about commenting is the line between linking/commenting for self-gain and because hell you’re a really big fan of the person is a thin one.

I will admit to linking to new writers who I think will make it because I enjoy the smug feeling of being right and I get kick out of people telling me they enjoyed an author because I recommended them. I link to established authors because I do talk about their work on my site as in many cases it has had a big impact on me.

I think it’s all in the intention. I link to stuff I think my readers will enjoy – most are family and friends who have similar interests and not because I think I will garner attention. I would think basic statistics and logic would put pay to the theory you can garner attention from A list authors in this way.

Are there people who really think that approach works?

So which is the key ingredient to a cromulent comment? Being altruistic and pure of heart, or being witty, germane and interesting? Or is it the same thing? Seems to me one could leave a comment that adds both hilarity and handy tips to the discussion, and do so for the crassest of reasons. But the thing is, I never see anyone actually do that. Most of the time, marketing-based comments fail the “prove you actually read the entry by mentioning something in it” test. Which I suppose is the demarcation between marketing and spam: spam is never indiscriminate, but marketing could be. Maybe.

“it’s not all that difficult to differentiate between the people who engage on a blog because they’re interested in what’s going on there, and the people who engage in order to try to get people to go somewhere else. “
Absolute. Gold.

I can’t believe there are this many net-savvy folks who’ve never heard of tentacle porn.

It got me before I even logged on. Much like Bruce, but substitute “DVD” for “VHS” and La Blue Girl for… I don’t know. Something that involved exploding underwear and very, very bad dubbing lurking in an innocuous clamshell that ought to have held RG Veda.

John, I followed a link through Making Light. it’s nice to see this sort of advice– especially since it can be applied to so much of the rest of our lives. it’s really hard sometimes to turn off the part of my brain that says “talk to people, make connections, they can help you professionally”, because it’s so much more fun to make connections because I want to have a human connection. (It also makes me very glad my blog is a personal diary-type thing. I don’t WANT to promote it. :D)

Awesome article! It’s like I say in my networking talks I give: good networkers are always trying to make *friends*. Real, lasting friends. Not connections, not contacts, but FRIENDS. A networker never *uses* anyone, because she concentrates on being someone’s friend first and foremost, and then when the time comes you’re friends doing favors for each other.

well call me flo and bite my lip. love this post, also here via leahpeah. thanks for bringing this up, it’s been something i’ve been trying to articulate and understand more having only been a blogger for a little over two years.

i started commenting here and it got too long, which i plan to write a post on my own blog about this post b/c it’s just that engaging and interesting to me.

and not b/c i’m trying to promote myself. i really prefer “attraction rather than promotion” in blog life and real life.

thanks for feeding my brain.

rock on.

I stumbled on this blog whilst googling for the blog of a writer friend in order to give her a link. What a fabulous, refreshing post. I have only just discovered Twitter and have been similarly vaguely depressed at the desperate marketing aspect of some of its members. Where is the *fun*?

A great post that I will recommend to the writers at, which is a small group of blogging writers in the UK who have a sense of humour about what they’re doing and will appreciate your piece, John. Thanks!

Hi again John, I’ve got a question. I’ve just found you on Twitter and am now following you on all of my 4 Twitter accounts (one personal, one for my publishing company, the other two are daily feeds from chapters of my books.)

OK, I was really surprised that you only follow one person and wanted to ask why this is? I was very impressed by a blog article by a guy called Scobleizer, entitled The Secret To Twitter in which he expounds similar theories to yours about the misuse and misunderstanding of social networking. And yet the following is what he says about followers and following on Twitter. This is not a criticism of you at all John, I’m sure you have your own reasons for not following others on Twitter, but I’m intrigued at the seeming incongruity between your stance in this post and your following/follower balance on Twitter. Besides, the British entrepreneur, Richard Branson, head honcho of the Virgin group, is someone whom I admire greatly, and he follows over six and a half thousand people. Including me! ;)

Scobleizer’s quote:

1. Getting followed just means you’re popular. Yes, that’s cool, but it hardly will make you interesting. Paris Hilton will have more Twitter members than I will, when she joins.
2. Getting followed a lot might mean you’re using it for a publishing system. If all you have is followers what makes that different from owning a newspaper, a radio station, a TV station, or, even, a Web site? Hint: nothing.
3. If you’re just trying to get followed you’re probably just needing attention or you might be Jason Calacanis.

But what does following a lot of people say?

1. You’re trying to learn more.
2. You’re trying to meet more people.
3. You’re trying to be a better listener.
4. You’re communicating to the world that you’d like to be listened to (golden rule: treat people how you’d like to be treated).
5. You’re trying to find out about more stuff. More events. More stories.

Now, who would you rather hang out with? A person who only talks and doesn’t listen? Or a person who listens to as many people as he can?

I know I’d rather hang out with someone who listens to more people.

This assumes that

a) One can’t use other avenues to follow people’s twitter feeds (for example, one’s RSS feed);

b) One has an interest in being seen to be conversational and engaged at least as much as one has an interest in being conversational and engaged. I’m less concerned about the former, personally.

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