A review of 2010 and plans for 2011

2011 is coming down the road

The year 2011 is almost two weeks old, and by now you've probably read every other review/resolutions/plans blog post out there. Now you have time to read this one :).

But first of all: Apologies for not having blogged for weeks. I've been moving to a new home over the last two months, the holiday season took its toll and there were a few other personal and job projects that demanded my attention.

Now, normality (whatever it is) is starting to come back and I can start devoting more time to this blog again.

This blog is now one year old, although I had been blogging for more than five years before. Time to reflect, plan and flip some switches for the future.

Here's a quick recap of 2010, some plans and ideas for this blog, a call for feedback and hints to some other projects for 2011.

2010: The Good Stuff

There's a lot of new stuff that I learned and gained experience with in 2010: Drupal, Creating a blog from scratch, hacking PHP, HTML and CSS, building a small army of close to 500 subscribers, not to mention all the new and cool technology that Sun and Oracle have been rolling out over the last year: Solaris 11 Express, SPARC T3, Cloud Computing and much more.

I wrote 44 articles for this blog and I'm proud of all of them. I consciously decided to go for quality instead of quantity (which is a huge credo of mine) and I'm very happy with the feedback and reactions I get.

Thanks to you, dear reader, for being part of all that good stuff, your feedbacks, comments, blog post suggestions, advice, and first and foremost: For reading this blog!

In addition to that, and together with cool people like Rolf, Andreas, Johannes, Marc, Jan and dozens of studio guests and interview partners and more than a thousand of loyal listeners, we completely redesigned and relaunched Systemhelden.com, home to a German podcast for sysadmins and other IT professionals. If you read this blog and understand German, definitely check out the HELDENfunk podcast. Thanks a lot!

2010: The Less Good Stuff

I set some big goals with this blog and didn't quite fulfill them:

  • Instead of 52 articles (one per week), I only wrote 44.
    Well, one article per week is tough when you have a job, a family, move to a new home and juggle half a dozen of side projects. This is not meant to be an excuse, it's more a lesson: I'll be more careful with goal-setting and try to find a better balance between the goals I set and the many other cool and interesting things out there that ask for my attention :).
  • I didn't make it to 1000 subscribers, and barely touched 500. I'm sure this is a direct result of article volume and other time spent on the blog so I'm not too worried about this. Better have 500 readers that care about your blog than thousands who just forgot to remove you from their RSS readers.
    And if you subscribed to this blog (see, the friendly orange RSS symbol in the "Syndicated Thinking" block), I thank you for being part of my small army of readers!
    That said: If you like this blog, consider linking to it, tell your friends and mention your favorite articles on Twitter, Facebook, del.icio.us etc. and help me grow. Thanks!
    1000 or more subscribers should still be possible in 2011 and I have quite a few ideas on how to get there.
  • I did start a new podcast however, if you count the relaunch of Systemhelden.com, even though it was just a relaunch. The amount of work and effort we put into it certainly qualifies as a new project and I'm glad it worked so well.

2011: Looking Ahead

I have lots of ideas. In fact, I have so many ideas that I need to cut down on reading books and other blogs so I can devote more time to prioritizing, testing and implementing more stuff, both with this blog and with some new projects. Here are a few things I'd like your feedback on:

  • A Mailing List: RSS subscribers are fine, but they're also anonymous. How about a mailing list?
    Many professional bloggers swear by their mailing lists and I feel this could be an opportunity for me as a blogger to engage more closely with you, my readers. If I do a mailing list for Constant Thinking, I'd make it something like a premium service: Some articles would be mailed out instead of posted, or mailed out earlier, there would be other extras like surveys, exclusive offers, etc.
    The idea is that if you trust me with your email address, you should get something in return, something that the regular, but anonymous RSS subscriber won't. Let my know what you think!
  • Some Monetization: Many thanks to those who clicked on the Flattr buttons (here's a video on what Flattr is about)! Ironically, my critical article about Flattr was flattred more than any other article on this blog. Thanks!
    I've also seen some encouraging stats out of the two free ads that I placed on the right column. Cool.
    And I got a $10 gift certificate from Amazon for some accumulated referral links over the last months, Woohoo!
    I'm going to experiment a bit further with blog monetization, but again, I have high standards here: Full disclosure, minimal annoyance and only excellent and trusted products will have a chance to be featured and referred to on my blog.
    But why monetize?
    First, this blog costs money: I spend about EUR 15 a month for hosting (shared with systemhelden.com and some other projects). I paid some money to the fine people of KillerCovers.com (affiliate link) who did a great job of designing the header for this blog. And I'd like to invest more in books, courses and other contractors to help me make it as high quality as possible. The point here: A good blog should be self-sustaining over the long term.
    Second, I have a strong feeling that the value of this blog should be measurable. One way to measure this blog's value are stats (subscribers, pageviews, etc.). But the best way to measure the value of something is through good old cash.
    No worries, however: This blog will continue to focus on good, free content for you, that is the point of blogging in the first place.
    Again, let me know your thoughts and experience: What's your take on blog monetization? Flattr/Donations? Premium Ads? Affiliate Links? Special, paid content? Consulting and other Services? Your own experience?
  • More Diversity: According to Google Analytics, the top 15 articles on this blog are about ZFS, Oracle Solaris and home servers. This is no surprise.
    But you know, life offers more than just that. Some of my articles went beyond the usual topics and I always try to find something inspiring, motivational or otherwise out-of-the-norm that helps my readers broaden their horizon.
    Examples? Check out this article about the Art of Non-Conformity, or this one about the need for more creativity on your career, or this list of cool SF books that have relevance to your real future.
    Expect more of these articles. Again, it's your turn: Do you like the occasional out of topic, but interesting article, or do you prefer the standard ZFS/Solaris/Homeserver drill?
  • Another Blog: I plan to launch a second (or third, if you count my involvement in Systemhelden.com) blog. Actually, I have two topics in mind that are radically different from this blog's, but that I'd love to blog about.
    Google tells me that 12% of my page views come from browsers with a German language setting and 17% of the visits to this blog are from Germany. So I'll try a German language blog next. Germany seems to be still in a development state when it comes to blogging, so I hope to contribute to improving that soon. Stay tuned!
    Meanwhile, my German-speaking readers, go check out the HELDENfunk podcast. It's good.
  • Comments: I love your comments, but this post got me thinking. Still, I'm still pro-comments for now, and I make it a point to answer each and every one of them in a relevant way. Another topic of wonder is: Does outsourcing comment management make sense? I'm very pleased with Disqus.com for handling all the heavy lifting of comment management, spam protection, social network integration etc.
    On the other hand, outsourcing also means giving up ownership to a certain extent, so some people would argue for running your own comment infrastructure.
    Again, let me know what you think or what your own experience is.

Quite a laundry list, not counting the many small things I'd love to tweak on this blog like videos, design tweaks, automation etc. But like any other pet project: A blog is a never ending adventure!

Your Chance

Here's how you can help: Leave a comment below or send me feedback and tell me what you think of this blog. Let me know your thoughts about your favorite topics, new topics I should be writing more about, mailing lists, monetization, English vs. German blogging, and any other suggestion and feedback you have. I read every comment and every mail that I get through the contact form and I answer every one of them.

Ahh, the luxury of not having thousands of readers :).

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