Keep Blogging, Some of Us Still Read

I stumbled upon a sad tweet a few days ago…

… and not surprisingly, a lot of people chimed in saying “don’t give up, we still prefer reading”. Unfortunately, it does seem like the amount of worthy content is constantly decreasing, and way too many quality blogs disappeared over the years, so I’ll try to lift the veil of depression a bit ;)

Smart People READ Technical Content

It depends on how you read stuff, but I’m reading way faster than anyone can (comprehensibly) talk1. It’s relatively easy to go through a few hundred pages of product documentation in a morning while extracting useful tidbits for a webinar once you know what you’re looking for and which bits to skip. Try doing that with a video. Try going back-and-forth with a video. Try searching. Try copy-pasting configuration commands. You get the idea.

Even better, written content is usually of higher quality than a typical self-made video. Nobody (in their right mind) would press the Publish button after dumping their stream-of-consciousness2 into text format. Most video authors have no such reservations, resulting in a 10-minute video that is usually condensible into a blog post that could be read in a minute or two.

Some people try to get around that by speeding up the videos. Supposedly that doesn’t hurt comprehension (at least there’s a 2-column paper claiming that), but that’s not how it works for me. At 1.25x speed I’m usually losing bits and pieces, and it all falls apart at 1.5x speed. Maybe I’m just too old for that.

Takeaway: smart people people who want to learn complex technical topics eventually figure out why it’s better to read than to watch videos. People who want to be entertained watch videos because you can do that even when you’re too tired to think3.

On a related note, you might want to read Deep Work and Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. Unfortunately, his podcast leans toward the stream of consciousness format, proving it’s really hard to produce hour-long ad-lib content on your own.

Focus on Loyal Audience

There are tons of reasons why someone invests time into creating content (more about that at some other time), and we all want to see the impact of our work… but don’t focus on vanity metrics. Page visits don’t matter. Random visitors sent your way by Google et al. don’t matter… unless they find your content so valuable that they want to consume more of it4.

Eventually you’ll reach a few people who find your content valuable. Make sure it’s easy for them to stay in touch – you SHOULD offer both an RSS feed and email notifications.

RSS works best for me. I rarely skip entries in my RSS reader. If I added an RSS feed, it must have been good enough to warrant at least a glance, and if I made a mistake, I’ll remove it from the list of feeds I’m tracking.

Some people love email notifications, others hate them. I’m willing to go through the hassle of sharing my email address if the content is top notch; if I’m stumbling across something vaguely interesting without an RSS feed I’m just walking away. On the other hand, the only way to reach a lot of people is through email. It’s amazing how many course- and webinar registrations I get after a focused mailing.

Speaking of loyal audiences and hassle – stay away from “we’ll happily harvest and monetize the data of your visitors, and make their life miserable with continuous ‘upgrade now’ prodding” sites like Medium. It’s trivial to set up a static blog with Hugo and publish it on GitHub, GitLab, or CloudFlare, or you could start on a site that accepts quality guest posts like Packet Pushers (you can find an occasional guest post on my blog as well).

Takeaway: Whatever your goals are, the impact you’re making is not equivalent to random page views. Offer loyal audiences a way to keep in touch with your content, and measure that if you want to have tangible metrics. You might also get a nice surprise bumping into random people at a conference (or at a customer visit) who happen to recognize you based on your writing. That’s worth way more (to me) than some random number produced by counting browser cookies.

Nobody Else Will Do Your Job

A friend of mine complained that only 2% of his followers see his Facebook posts. No surprise there – a lot of users follow tons of random stuff, and even the graduates of Facebook academy have limited attention span. Add the attention-grabbing algorithms on top of that, and it’s easy to see why your wonderful “this is how you design and configure VRFs on a CSR1K in Azure” blog post doesn’t get the visibility it deserves.

Spreading the word about your content is your job. Of course you should use the social media, but don’t expect them to do miracles. I get 6% of the visitors through social media even though I post a link to every article on Twitter and LinkedIn, and 2% through referrals (links on other web sites).

Don’t Expect Feedback

Thank you for such wonderful content

… said no passer-by ever. The most you can hope for is a thoughtful comment, and even they are rare. In a random week in spring 2022, my blog had ~10K unique visitors5, and they left less than 20 comments.

Interestingly, LinkedIn posts generate more comments (because I made it a bit hard to comment on my blog), but some of them tend to be knee-jerk reactions.

Don’t Give Up

So your blog has 250 views a day (or a week) and a comment every other week? Don’t give up, keep going. It took me years (with almost-daily publishing schedule) to get a reasonable audience, and I was pretty early in the game.

It’s definitely harder to reach readers these days – the Internet is full of noise and low-quality **** (see also: Sturgeon’s law) – but there’s a shortcut: a few of us are still publishing curated links to good content. After writing a masterpiece, send a nice email with a link to it to Packet Pushers, Russ White, Scott Lowe, or myself.

  1. I know people who have to read aloud in their mind (that obviously limits their reading speed), but I have no idea how widespread that is. ↩︎

  2. Which happens to be incoherent rambling unless you did tons of preparations. ↩︎

  3. The end result is obviously just a waste of time, but it’s amazing how much time we’re willing to waste. ↩︎

  4. If you use something like Google Analytics, focus on percentage of returning visitors and bounce rate (how many people leave after reading a single page). ↩︎

  5. Or so Google claims. Anyone browsing in incognito mode would be counted as a new user every time they drop by. ↩︎


  1. Thank you for such wonderful content, Seriously.

  2. Thank you for such wonderful content : )

    Joke aside, your site is a holy grail for all the continuously blasted engineers with a slew of crappy stuff, usually in video form. Mainly, I am irritated by "gurus" who preach about passing certification examinations in a month with no prior experience and other such rubbish. Furthermore, video content from well-known learning organizations is so poor that even some of the most popular learning companies embrace the "quantity over quality" strategy. The content they post is rubbish and is not worth the monthly fees they charge.

  3. Spot on Ivan! Long time reader, first time commenter.

    Thanks for all the wonderful content over the years.

  4. Ivan, your blog is on my daily read-list, usually the first one. Not every post is relevant to me, but almost all are at least interesting. And it's particularly fun on Monday mornings when I discover you posted bonus content over the weekend!

    Thanks for your excellent content, your site is one of my go-tos for solid explanation on things.

  5. yours is the first blog ever by far.

    Keep producing Ivan please !!!!



    1. Your blog has always been my favorite! Hope to enjoy for a long time to be!

  6. If I had to write a comment to tell you your content is great each time, you'll had considered me as a spammer. I consider you a model and often ask myself "What Ivan would have suggested here?"

    1. Amen to this - especially video as entertainment vs. text for dissemination, speed, search, etc.

      Thank you for all the thought-provoking and informative content. I've been reading widely on your blog, and even where the topic isn't relevant to what I work on, there's a lot gained just from understanding how you approach things. Especially the footnotes. :)

  7. Daniel is absolutely spot-on. Short attention span and incapacity to focus are 2 of the worst diseases these days. Forget about reading, even watching a 45' documentary is too much for some(many) people. That's why I'm very pessimistic about science and technology these days. It's all flash and no substance mostly, with collapsing complexity everywhere you look. A civilization of little character and low spirit, have no WILL to work on the hard problems. Period. Ancient Greeks and Samurai Spirits should be made mandatory topics in schools if we want things to change.

    Didn't you notice already, that the amount of comment on your blog has reduced considerably in the past few years, compared to say, 2017 and before that? That too, is a sign of the times.

    But like you said, people who have a passion for writing should still publish, as their loyal readers will still read their content, and it's these people that count (another application of Sturgeon Law). Plus, above all, they should write for themselves, because that's what they want, and that's what they are. If you've put a lot of hard work and thought in a blog/article, you don't need any external validation to know that you have produced something of value. The work will speak for itself.

    I have some disagreements with you here and there on the technical aspects, but I always greatly respect your old-school work ethics and conscience, and this one is definitely on-point on all aspects. It applies equally in and out of IT.

  8. A little anecdote.

    I was on a long sabbatical. One day in 2012, some old colleagues told me: "Henk, you need to come back to work. We have this new thing called SDN. Customers want to buy it, VCs want to pour money into it". So I started googling for "SDN". In those days, SDN still meant: "OpenFlow". I read about OpenFlow. I was wondering: "What am I missing here? This can't be serious? This will never work?".

    I ran into your blog, Ivan. One day there was a post that said: "OpenFlow is just a forwarding-table download-protocol". That answered all my questions. Yes, they were serious. No, I wasn't missing anything. And indeed, it never worked.

    What I appreciate most about this blog is the honest opinions and direct descriptions. No wish to obfuscate things. No tendency to always use friendly words. Not afraid to say that something is wrong or useless in the real world. This saves us so much time, to not have to wade through marketing bullshit.

  9. @Dave, Adis, Brad, Merrill, Andrea, Jeff, Niall, LineNoise, Minh and Henk: thanks a million for your kind words ;)

  10. It really depends on why the content is created. Some are for commercials, some to help out (or give back), self-note, learning, or could be just as simple as a lamentation.

    If we wrote and expect to monitor readers and likes, this will only go down to one particular path.

    The joy of writing and sharing should rise not from the external factor and you're right mentioning not to expect feedback but yet feedback matters (your own rules, it-depends) especially when it comes from a reputable source. I like the "don't give up" section which reminds us again why we write.

    Nothing wrong with writing vs. video content but I could not comment on which one is better. It just has a different engagement model. One is for your eyes only, and the other is for your eyes and ears. Oh, by the way, the style matters a lot to keep the audience engaged (i.e. RFC 2328 or RFC 1925).

  11. Prefer to read and have been for many years and appreciate all the blogger who truly selflessly contrbute to our industry by sharing their knowledge, experience that we as technical consumers may not be exposed to at the same time. A blogger may experience and share a technical solution a year before the consumer of the blog does and the consumer uses that information to help them. The more bloggers who write solid content the more eyes on the fluid and dynamic aspect of our industry are covered and that helps the engineering consumer and our industry as a whole tremendously.

    I find the videos are okay for the "how to" on GUI type content. Pod casts are great if you are on the go but for most part for me the blogger's written content is still the Rosetta Stone.

    1. I totally agree with you that a video might be the best way to demonstrate GUI or even CLI capabilities... but it takes tons of prep work to make a good video, and most of the stuff out there falls into the "Inspector Clouseau Investigates" category.

  12. Ivan,

    I have been a regular passive reader for your blog (I check and read it once a week) - but i have never used watched the Video recording though there are free tier subscription. I prefer reading over Audio / Video for technical contents. I take this moment to thank you for your several great articles over many years. For me personally when someone reads he could try and visualize / imagine - how this might be or work and Video's you fixed on screen and just had to follow. The joy of reading and learning would be hard to replicate in the video. But we are also moving towards people searching on the you tube instead of google. Continue with your great work of honest view on networking , I am sure there are several thousands who read passively and appreciate what you do.

    1. "I have been a regular passive reader for your blog (I check and read it once a week) - but i have never used watched the Video recording though there are free tier subscription. I prefer reading over Audio / Video for technical contents."

      Thank you for the feedback! Would love to hear what you think about the videos if you ever decide to watch a few of them.

  13. You and others already summed it up nicely. Call me old fashioned, but if it's got tons of cookies, trackers, links & ads, I usually just close a page or site right away. Quality content usually doesn't need all that. Sites/blogs like yours and e.g. prove that it might be somewhat more work to stay sustainable, but a working strategy nevertheless. Fewer comments can be a plus, the lot of them are insighful and worthwhile reading material as well. Even if we don't shower you with Likes and Thumbs, we do (like). The number of people I refer to ipspace is my way of Like-ing :-)

    1. "Call me old fashioned, but if it's got tons of cookies, trackers, links & ads, I usually just close a page or site right away. Quality content usually doesn't need all that."

      Yeah, I don't get it either. Why would someone destroy great content just to fund a morning visit to Starbucks (or equivalent) once a month... and thanks a million for spreading the word ;)

  14. I'm obviously late to the party here and I rarely comment, here or anywhere else, but this topic is very much deserving of a comment. I wholeheartedly agree with the previous comments made and;

    A good piece of written text will always outperform any video or audio piece attempting to cover a technical topic and more importantly as expressed in the post, consume a lot less time. Attempting to glean knowledge from most audio/video postings is stressful at best due to the sheer investment of time required.

    @Ivan, I stop by here now and then and really appreciate the content you produce so, thank you!

  15. " I rarely skip entries in my RSS reader. If I added an RSS feed, it must have been good enough to warrant at least a glance, and if I made a mistake, I’ll remove it from the list of feeds I’m tracking. " I'm jealous and want to get good RSS entries in a reader as well. How to get one ? Would someone share a nice list of feeds to start from ? :)

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