n June 27th, 2011 I embarked on a little experiment to blog about the dorkier side of being a dad. I was positive that my enthusiasm would peter out by December after six or seven posts and I’d move on to something else. Surprisingly though, here we are a full year later in June of 2012 — and perhaps even more surprisingly, this is DorkDaddy.com’s 100th post. Dorkdaddy.com is a year old. I suppose this is as good an excuse as any to do something a little different.
Now before you click away I have a personal favor I need to ask of you. The rest of this post is going to be a reflection on my experiences blogging over the year (something I told myself I’d never do because once a blog blogs about blogging, it really needs to think hard about whether or not it’s jumped the shark). I tell you this now because I need your help (before your brain signals “*BOOORING*” and you move on with your day). Please stick with me a little longer.
My experience blogging this year has been, among other things, rather profound. If nothing else it’s put into words some stories, sentiments and memories that, at least for my family, are worth saving for posterity. Shutterfly.com has a neat product where you can take images and arrange them into a hardbound coffee-table book. My intention is to take the past 100 posts and bind them together so that we can have a hardcopy gather dust in our bookshelf here at home. I want the pages of the book to look like they have been lifted right from the blog itself – stories, pictures, comments and all. The responses from the readers – those little comments at the bottom of each blog post – are the icing on the cake and in truth they are why I started this blog in the first place. Connecting with people who actually read and enjoyed the material was the entire point. So to you, the person sitting in front of your screen right now, I ask this favor of you:
If you have ever read and enjoyed this blog, and if you are comfortable doing so, please leave a response in the “comments” section at the bottom of this blog post. It can be as long or as short as you like, it can say whatever you like (sappy adoration, righteous indignation, scathing criticism) but it would mean the world to me to hear from you your thoughts/reflections looking back on a full year of DorkDaddy.com. I’d like to save them and make them part of the wonderful memories that these 100 blog posts have chronicled thus far. Please remember to identify yourself (to the degree you are comfortable) in the appropriate field, otherwise you’ll be immortalized as “anonymous”. And for those of you who like to respond in Facebook, as much as I appreciate it, in this case the Facebook comments won’t be included. So just this once, please leave your comments here (scroll to the bottom and click on “leave comment”).
And now, on with the show:
A Year And A Century – reflections after 100 DorkDaddy.com posts
I wouldn’t pretend to offer any advice to prospective bloggers other than the advice that my amazing cousin (who pioneered the blogosphere for our family before I ever dipped my toe into those waters) offered to me at the outset. That advice is the following:
That’s right. I said it. The act of blogging is inherently egotistical. The notion that you have something to say that hasn’t been said before – something that another person would actually WANT to read and might actually find interesting or profound is of course, ridiculous. Naturally there are always people in your life who, because of their relationship to you, are interested in your life – and then naturally, by extension, your blog. The comment statistics in the administrative section of my blog certainly bear that out. Next to me, my mother has the highest post-count followed closely by my two amazing 7th and 8th grade teachers who I’m happy to still be in touch with. When DorkDaddy.com is in its final death throes, Mom, Mrs. M and Mrs. D will be the final three readers who stick it out to the bitter end. Ladies, for that (and so much more) I love you.
Ultimately we blog about the things that are important to us, not necessarily the things that are important to anyone else outside our own little bubbles. That’s probably the best explanation why my blog readership and Facebook follower numbers have plateaued. I’m not spreading virally. Word isn’t getting around. The things I write about aren’t so appealing that people simply have to share them with the entire world. That’s OK. I’ve made my peace with it. There are bloggers out there who are much better at blogging than I am, and their readership reflects that For a good example check out Anna’s blog “My Life And Kids“. She started blogging just about the same time I did. She’s got HUNDREDS of followers and her posts get dozens of responses. Why? Because she’s really, really good at blogging. She’s very relatable, and very amusing. People spread the word. It probably helps that most of her posts are under 200 words, where try as I might to keep them short, most of mine turn into 2000 word epic tomes of loquaciousness.
If readership is the ultimate goal, I did learn one very important blogging lesson earlier this year. My old friend Carlos put it into words best: “Figure out who’s trending in pop culture, blog about them, perhaps get them to read it and then let the virus spread”. In early January I wrote a post about watching science-oriented television shows on TV, reflecting on the shows I watched as a kid and the ones I watch with my own kids today. I titled it “From Marlin Perkins to Adam Savage” and on a whim tweeted it (more on Twitter later) to Adam Savage’s personal Twitter account. Well, Carlos was right. Adam read it, and re-tweeted it (which means he shared it with the thousands of people on twitter who follow him) and this is what happened to my blog:
There are dad-blogs out there that actively encourage their readership to spread the word. I just can’t bring myself to do that. Ultimately we write to be read, and nothing means more to a writer/blogger than when someone else thinks your work is compelling enough to be worth sharing. To those of you who HAVE spread the word about my posts (or who might in the future), you have my most sincere and heartfelt gratitude. I can’t tell you how much it means to me.
Another trap that dad-bloggers tend to fall into is turning their blogs into a de-facto diary. I have tried to stay true to the mission of my blog. Those who know me know that I have very strong thoughts and feelings about all sorts of things (read: religion/politics), but I have worked very hard to keep those elements out of these pages. More than anything else the most important thing in my entire universe is parenting, and I have tried to use this blog to give the slightest glimpse of how much I love my children as seen through the lens of my own personal dorkisms.
That was not necessarily the original vision for DorkDaddy.com. Originally I wanted it to be a place where parents could come together and share the love they have for their own kids via *THEIR* personal dorkisms. I imagined the Oakland A’s fan sharing how he sits his kids down to every game on TV, collects all the baseball cards, and dresses them up in full team-regalia complete with face-paint when they go to the stadium. I pictured the model-rocket dad sharing how-to links and videos with us. I pictured dads putting together a list of kid-friendly events at Comicon. I pictured insiders sharing a “heads-up” when a new awesome lego set was in development. I wanted to build a community – all of us taking cues from each other, sharing the ferocity with which we love our kids, filtered through our own dorkness. I even set up a “guest DorkDad” page to encourage other DorkDads to share their stories.
Well, that didn’t happen – for the better I think.
Here’s another little blogging universalism I’ve learned that, if my blog had any legitimate readership, might throw the blogging-elite into a conniption – ready for it?
I have 131 Twitter followers (pathetic by Twitter standards), compared to 70 Facebook followers (again, pathetic). When I publish a new blog post I throw the link on Facebook and Twitter at the exact same time. Later when I look at my administrative statistics to see where my blog traffic is coming from, for every hit I get from Twitter I probably get 30 from Facebook, if not more. In the dad-blog-twitterverse people follow you not because they like your blog, but because they’ve got a blog too and they want you to follow them in return. Ultimately my Twitter-feed is a frenetic mess of bloggers screaming “Read my blog. No, read my blog. No, mine. Mine. Mine.” There are, of course, a few gems out there that I look forward to, but the rest is just noise. You could make the argument “what about the Adam Savage-effect? If you weren’t on Twitter that wouldn’t have happened.” True, but I’m very dubious about how many people who peaked through the window that day are still around now. In any case, the 1:30 Twitter:Facebook referral ratio is enough to close the case for me. I now pronounce my judgment:
Twitter – good for Arab Springs (and Adam Savage-effects), bad for dad-blogging.
All told though this year, this experiment, this experience has been resoundingly positive. It gives me a chance to scratch the creative itch and take my inner dormant Liberal Arts-major out for walk around the block on occasion. What feedback I’ve had has been overwhelmingly positive – even touching. But I suspect the real value will come decades from now when the kids are all grown and we pull the book off the shelf, dust it off and look it over fondly. I can see it now, “Wow, I’m so glad we wrote those things down. Look at how small the kids were. Oh my goodness, I totally forgot about that. Woah! Look at how much hair I had”. If the internet suddenly disappeared tomorrow, my year with DorkDaddy.com is definitely something I would want to remember.
That said, where does DorkDaddy.com go from here? I told myself I would shut the project down when and if it ever felt like work. I’m happy to say that day hasn’t come yet. I’ll keep going for the foreseeable future, although I may post with slightly less frequency. As a birthday present to myself I’m going to relieve myself of that oh-my-goodness-I-haven’t-posted-anything-in-a-week feeling. I’ve found that the ideas for blog posts present themselves pretty reliably, but the opportunity to actually sit down and craft them is far more difficult to come by. When I started this blog I had two kids who were relatively self-sufficient. Now I’ve got another, along with all the demands on my free-time that come along him. Additionally, next month I’m finally fulfilling a longstanding promise I made to myself to get back to teaching at the University one day a week. I feel guilty enough about the time that that will take away from my family.
After all that I think it’s only appropriate to close out a year of blogging with a few thank-you’s:
ANDREW RAASTAD– I’ve never actually met the guy in person, and our views on politics and religion couldn’t be more opposed, but our paths crossed in a way that could only happen in today’s Facebook-world when he married an old high school friend of mine. In addition to knowing his wife, he and I have one other thing in common: he is a hardcore Dork Dad. He has consistently contributed to the DorkDaddy facebook page (something you are all encouraged to do). When his wife suggested that I write a book about how to be a dad, it was his comment “I’d read it” that ultimately planted the seed. If you have ever enjoyed one of my posts you have him to thank for putting the idea to start a blog in my head in the first place.
CHRIS “RELAN” FISHER– For many years now Relan has been my go-to guy when I get a harebrained scheme in my mind that vastly surpasses my computer/graphic/web skills. I imagine the eye-rolling on his end when his instant messenger pings at work and he sees it’s a message from me. A year ago it was “*ping* Hey, I want to start a blog. What do I do?” He’s the one that pointed me to WordPress. It’s worth noting that I’ve noticed he’s spent more time logged out of his instant messenger during the days lately.
RON MATTOCKS– Another guy I’ve never actually met. In the dad-blogging world he’s a sort of luminary (if there is such a thing). Take a visit to his blog “Clark Kent’s Lunchbox” and you’ll see the DNA we have in common. I discovered his blog early into my own experience, and it vexed me that his blog looked EXACTLY like I wanted mine to look (Relan narrowly escaped another instant message headache there). It motivated me to dig deeper into the mechanics of my blog to give it the “feel” I wanted. A quick makeover and I had something I could work with for the rest of the year. More than that though, reading Ron’s blog and following his story, he has earned my respect as a man and as a father (indistinguishable in my book). As my own blog has matured I have looked up to him as a sort of big-brother in blogging.
ANDE DAVIS– Dude #3 I’ve never met in real life. Ande is another dad-blogger “Squatch Makes Three” – or at least he will be when his little Squatch is born in about 3 weeks and he officially, legally becomes a dad. It’s as simple as this: Ande reads my blog and he almost always drops a line in the comments when he does. That is EXACTLY the sort of connection I wanted to make when I started this project. I have come to anticipate his responses and I’m thankful for that. Bonus – I read his blog too and genuinely enjoy it. It was his idea to designate my kids Episodes IV, V and VI (a reference to the original Star Wars trilogy for the un-Dorks out there). Plus, he’s a Giants fan. Ande must have come to me from Twitter, because he gave up on Facebook some time ago. Dude, you really need to get back on the FB scene ’cause you’re missing the updates as I build Episode V’s Halloween costume. Here’s a preview:
MY DAD– If I do anything right raising my kids it’s because I learned it from you.
MY KIDS– You three are the reason I wake up in the morning (literally and figuratively). You are my inspiration. Nothing has given my life more purpose, more meaning, more fulfillment than you three. It is a gift to be your father and I am humbled by it. Raising you is so terrifying and so joyous. I don’t even remember who I was before you came along. I try as hard as I can to do right by you, and to show you how much I love you. I promise, whatever I manage to get across doesn’t even come close to what I feel in my heart.
MY WIFE– For putting up with this experiment at all. For putting up with me at all. For lowering her standards enough to marry me in the first place, and for staying married to me for 10 years (our anniversary is next month). For finally relenting and agreeing to let me offer this bonus DorkDaddy.com post to those of you who stuck it out through this entire post. Marrying her was the smartest thing I ever did.
Again, thank you beyond words to all of you who’ve read, enjoyed and even contributed to the DorkDaddy.com experiment. 100 posts in a year isn’t too shabby. There will be more.
May The Force be with you all.