The Curse of the “Follow” Button
September 21, 2013 24 Comments
Some of that support is provisional, though — offered in hopeful accordance with the implied adage of “I’ll follow you if you follow me!” I’m not sure how many online communities this largely unspoken expectation pervades. When MCC first launched, I kept this guideline in mind, especially in the early era of single-digit daily traffic when any sort of response, human or otherwise, was a welcome change of pace from spending quality time with the Void.
The longer my resulting reading list grew from everyone I Followed in turn, the less I wanted to keep observing that adage. And yes, I mean “reading list”. I tried keeping up with all of them/you, even if the subject matter didn’t interest me in the slightest. It seemed the most honest response. I still read many, many blogs in any given day, but I’ve had to perform some serious triage for the sake of my free time and sanity. I’m unclear on when the “Follow” button became less a simple, literal statement for some users and more of a token to be swapped with passing strangers like marbles or pogs.
For some of my oldest followers…I think using the “Follow” button jinxed them.
Tonight on a whim and a caffeine overdose too hefty for any homebody after 9 p.m., I decided to investigate the top of the MCC follower list and answer a question that popped in my head the other day: how many of those earliest followers have kept their own sites active to this very day? What became of those bloggers who were among the first to nod in my general direction? Are they still out there, plugging away and writing the good write? Or did their disappointment with the experience drive them to abandon ship? Would they later come to regret using that button so freely?
In an attempt at meaningless quantification, and because I love counting things almost as much as I love listing them, I decided to click through the profiles of the first 177 followers on the list and note the date of their most recent post. (Why 177? Because I meant to stop at 100, enthusiastically passed that point without realizing it, and ordered myself to draw an arbitrary line somewhere so I wouldn’t still be awake at 5 a.m.) I’m too tired now to try reshaping the data into a snazzy bar graph, but I do have results to report.
The last posts ever seen by the MCC Original 177 break down according to the following time frames:
Within the last 24 hours: 30
Within the past week: 27
September 1-14: 17
August 2013: 18
July 2013: 2
June 2013: 11
May 2013: 7
April 2013: 4
March 2013: 4
February 2013: 3
January 2013: 2
December 2012: 6
November 2012: 5
October 2012: 2
September 2012: 7
August 2012: 3
Site now defunct: 21
Site overtaken by spammers that I’m fairly certain weren’t there before: 2
Site relocated/restarted under new name/host: 6
* * * * *
Only 41.8% percent of those longtime readers/followers have maintained a presence on the same site since 9/1/2013. Of those, I can claim personal interaction (anything from a courtesy Like to actual dialogue) with only a scant handful. I’ll shoulder plenty of blame for that myself if need be, in all fairness.
Curiously, two of the bumps shown above — September 2012 and December 2012 — coincide with my two Freshly Pressed posts. That particular WordPress Reader section draws an above-average number of eyes and, I presume, a steady influx of WordPress newcomers. I’m sure somewhere out there is a statistician who can tell us the discouragingly high percentage of bloggers who surrender within their first month and go chase another impulse instead, but I don’t have that statistician’s contact info handy. With or without their stamp of approval, I’m willing to bet the FP timing accounts for those mild anomalies.
Long-term users or not, it’s still a shame to see so many people try out the format and then give it up. That’s assuming they walked away willingly, mind you. Theory B: my Follow button is cursed.
That 41.8% consistency rate translates into a failure rate (or tendency for frequent hiatuses between entries) of 58.2%. If we ignore any contraindicating stats and cherry-pick the data that suits us, we could easily make the case for warning people away from that dreaded Follow button, lest the fates strike harshly at the site that means the most to them. Woe betide ye who dare to state your intentions of regular fellowship! Dare ye make pretense of entering these virtual halls on a dedicated basis, at the risk of sacrificing your own writing urges, your creative sparks, or your very livelihood itself? I’d wager some ought to think twice before tossing caution to any of the four winds and clicking that hideous prompt.
In retrospect, I’m not sure if any of this means anything too deep in the final analysis. I dreamed up a list-based project, I went for it, and thus it was written. I’d be curious to hear better interpretations, concurrent analyses, or elegies for those dearly departed.
For those of you who’ve stuck around and meant it, even for the boring entries: thanks very much. Seriously, it means the world and several moons to me.