On October 8, 2010, I posted my final entry on Windows Live Spaces, the original home of The Writings Of Dennis Earl. There was a very good reason for this. Microsoft, the company that started Spaces, was shutting down the service for good by mid-March 2011. An unexpected development, to be sure, at least to me it was.
But there was also some good news in that announcement. Those who wanted to keep blogging could transfer some of the contents of their site (all original postings, blog photos and reader comments) to WordPress.com. All website owners had about five months to make up their minds before Microsoft deleted all the remaining Spaces automatically.
Reading that announcement while signing into my site in early October, I felt something I hadn’t experienced in quite a while: genuine excitement for my future as a blogger. Like anything else you feel passion for initially, over time those feelings dim and you slowly start to lose interest.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve never regretted starting my site and have always enjoyed writing online. It’s just that by 2010, it was becoming harder and harder to maintain the level of productivity that sustained the early years of the site’s existence. I was having a consistently hard time finding fresh ideas to pursue and felt frequently frustrated by various distractions.
But after reading Microsoft’s announcement, I got excited again. A change of address was an absolute necessity. I didn’t want to lose my stuff. More importantly, the move would make this four and a half year experience seem brand new all over again.
Indeed, the day after I switched over to the new digs, the thrill of blogging returned. On October 10, 2010, exactly a year ago today, The WordPress Era began. That month, my first on WordPress, would turn out to be unusually productive (10 overall pieces in three weeks), a hopeful sign.
Truthfully, despite some slow periods now and again, the number of pieces have indeed increased, but only slightly. To be fair, the main reason I had so many posted entries in the first couple of years was because I dumped a lot of my old writing on here. It was a great way to showcase work from throughout my life that had been unseen by a vast majority of people. Prior to being posted online where anybody could read them, only teachers, family members, friends, fellow students, ex-girlfriends and local readers had ever laid eyes on most of this material.
Doing that bought me plenty of time to come up with original pieces written exclusively for the site which would then be sprinkled in with the old stuff. Over time, there would be more new writings than old, the latter of which making only occasional appearances. That’s pretty much the formula I still follow today.
After being at the new place for a year now, I can tell you it’s a much more enjoyable experience. As proud as I was to be a longtime Windows Live Spaces user, WordPress is so much better. When you’re working on an entry, your draft is routinely being saved automatically. (On Windows Live, I had to manually save my work over and over so I wouldn’t lose it.) You have an unlimited amount of categories or tags to use in order to help label your pieces which you can create from scratch. (Windows Live only allowed a limited number of original categories amongst several generic ones they created.) But the best part of the service, without a doubt, are the Statistics.
Windows Live never did figure out how to maintain accurate hit counts. In fact, by 2010, they did away with their own flawed Statistics altogether which annoyed me greatly because, imperfect as it was, I still had a basic sense of how much traffic I was generating. Yes, you couldn’t access your entire history (only recent information up to a few days at a time) but there was an overall hit count that helped you understand where you stood with your online audience. It was a decent barometer of how I was doing.
And I was encouraged by what I saw. After a pretty dismal first year (3200 hits generated from mid-February to late December 2006), I started averaging 10000 or more annually, thanks mostly to my Sun Media coverage. Sadly, I have no rough numbers for much of 2010 with the exception of my first three months on WordPress. As noted recently, from October to December that year, this website was only accessed about 1100 times.
But it’s been all uphill from there. Since January this year, hits have steadily increased to the point now where instead of receiving hundred of hits per month, this website is generating thousands. (There were almost 5000 in July alone.) In fact, thanks to the return of Gene Simmons Family Jewels, there have been more than 2100 hits already in the first ten days of October 2011, a huge increase compared to the measly 363 hits generated for the entirety of October 2010 (the 10th to the 31st).
The Gene Bump has been the real revelation this year. Almost half the hits I’ve generated in The WordPress Era (more than 16000 as of this writing) have come from the five pieces I wrote about Family Jewels (about 7600 collectively).
Even though it was written in June, What’s Really Going On With Shannon Tweed & Gene Simmons? continues to be actively sought out and remains the most popular blog posting here, by far. Recently, I reported that it had passed the 5000 hit mark. Today, it’s now over 6000. With the show back for its seventh season, it continues to attract a remarkable amount of interest. No other entry on this site has generated as many thoughtful comments and viewings as this one. Based on what’s been happening these past four months, it will continue to rack up the hits. I couldn’t be happier.
Being on WordPress has given me the confidence to try some ideas I didn’t think would work on Windows Live Spaces. While I continue to prefer writing longer entries, I’ve also experimented with shorter pieces that would never have been done in the early years. (With the exception of poetry, I always felt longer was better.) Generally, I’ve been pleased with my 2011 output.
Even though I have yet to make a dime with this site, the growth over the last year has convinced me that a few more significant breakthroughs may lead to actual paying gigs in the future or at the very least, a steady income as a writer and hopefully, as a broadcaster as well. (Those three years of taking TV in college and the five years I spent volunteering at its Cable FM station shouldn’t go to waste.)
In the meantime, I’ll continue to write in this space and hope more people will not only discover it but come back for return visits. This is shaping up to be a record breaking year for The Writings Of Dennis Earl. Let’s hope it’s just the beginning of even more great successes very soon.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, October 10, 2011
CLARIFICATION & UPDATE: Family Jewels actually returned to conclude the second half of its sixth season. Speaking of that, A&E is releasing all of these 2011 episodes in two new DVD box sets. Look for Season Six Part One and Season Six Part Two on June 12. The real seventh season should start airing later this year. No official announcement of the show’s return has been made yet.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Wednesday, February 29, 2012