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Monday, November 13, 2006

Popular Blog Posts

I asked several bloggers about their most popular, or one of their most popular, blog posts – the kind that made an impact on people, had skyrocketing traffic numbers, or triggered a meme or changes. Here are their answers (please note that I adjusted case for some answers, and picked a single post when multiple where named).

Darren Rowse (

>> 18 Lessons I’ve Learnt about Blogging

“This post went crazy when I posted it. It went to the number one on a lot of social bookmarking sites and was linked to widely. I didn’t really set out to write a blockbuster post with it – it started out as more of a reflective exercise for my own benefit than anything. I suspect it was partly the pictures, partly the fact that it was a list and partly that I admitted in the list that I’d been ’lucky’ that got people’s attention.”

Joel Spolsky (

>> How Microsoft Lost the API War

“Robert Scoble once told me that after I wrote ’How Microsoft Lost the API War’ everybody inside Microsoft was talking about it quite seriously. That made me proud, at least.”

Chris Pirillo (

>> Windows Vista Feedback

“The ’Windows Vista Feedback’ threads certainly went pretty far – which happened largely because I spent a large amount of time composing something that was controversial, detailed, and germane. Couldn’t say that it changed the Web, but I know it influenced a few decisions in the Vista product development cycle – so I’m happy to have done it.”

Dave Winer (

>> Scripting News: 9/11/2001

“I’m pretty sure the highest traffic day was 9/11/01.

Scripting News was serving as a distribution point for information about the disaster, not just for bloggers, but for reporters, families and web newbies.

There were about 250,000 page reads that day.

It was written up in the NY Times on the 12th, as part of their coverage of 9/11 on the Internet.”

Nathan Weinberg (

>> Banned Xbox 360 Ad: Best Ad Ever!

“On InsideMicrosoft, my most popular post was about the Xbox 360 commercial, ’Stand Off’, which featured a huge amount of people in a train station ’shooting’ each other with finger guns. The ad was never aired, and rumors were it had been banned. I was passed along a copy, and on November 22, 2005 I threw it up on YouTube, which was very new at the time. My upload was viewed by 1,649,050 people, becoming the second most popular video in the short history of YouTube, until a little thing called ’Lazy Sunday’ changed the game. I’d like to think that I gave YouTube a little push with an extremely successful viral video ...

Ironically, my YouTube account was deleted months later, due to a separate case of copyright infringement, prompting a short-lived campaign against YouTube. Now, YouTube is a part of Google, I’m a big fan of the service again, and my post is still drawing search engine referrals. I hold the number one spot on Google for most Xbox 360 advertising related terms, and the post has amassed 231 comments, with more coming every day.”

Michael Arrington (

>> Completely Unsubstantiated Google/YouTube Rumor

“Most page views by far ...”

Om Malik (

>> Six Apart buying Live Journal

“I think our buzziest post was Six Apart buying Live Journal. It had more linkbacks and trackbacks and that sort of stuff. It was basically a scoop on Live Journal being bought by Six Apart. Plain news story.”

Niall Kennedy (

>> Google Reader API

“I published my findings on the Google Reader API on December 26 last year and it attracted a lot of attention. I listened to the packet flow between my browser and the Google Reader backend, tweaking each call to see if and how the system could be used by programmers outside of Google to leverage their parsers and storage and allow a new abstraction layer for development.

Within a few hours I had confirmation from Google Reader engineers and later the PM (on vacation in Hawaii at the time I believe) that they designed the Google Reader system for outside API access from the beginning and they helped fill in a few parameters I had missed.

A few weeks later I visited the Googleplex to meet the team and learn more about their approach to Reader and the backend API. We discussed possible API changes, design decisions, and where the products (frontends, APIs) are headed.

I was one of the top results for ’Google Reader’ on Google for many months, above even the official team blog. I still remain on the first SERP, but new articles about the product’s recent rev have climbed in the results. The post started conversations I couldn’t have otherwise initiated with folks inside Google, and helped expose a broader plan for Google as a platform. (this was pre-GData)”

Nick Denton (

“... hard to measure, but celebrity babies and Apple announcements always do very well.”

Steve Rubel (

>> Forbes Cover Story Blows It, Calling Bloggers Lynch Mobs

“This particular post took off because I was privvy to this story before any other blogger. I was interviewed on CNBC with the article’s author the night it went live. As soon as I got home, I found it and posted it with my perspective. The reason it garnered so many links is that the piece really attacked bloggers as a group. Anytime you can find a way to relate your post to the masses and make it unique, you’re going to get a lot of links.”

Tony Ruscoe (

>> What’s in Google’s Sandbox?

“By far, my most popular post (going off my visitor stats) ... It received over 42,000 page views during an eight-hour period – 80% of which came via Digg (where it’s now got 2207 Diggs).

I think it generated a lot of attention because it gave an insight into what Google could’ve been planning – and because I released the source of my information so that people could see it for themselves, meaning there were no cries of “fake” or “liar”. People love to speculate and by providing them with clues, they’re able to carry out their own investigations and add to the speculation. To date, four out of the fifteen services I found in the sandbox have now been released: Writely migrated to use Google Accounts; Google Talk was opened to everyone; Google Image Labeler and Google Marketing Tools both surfaced in September too.

Not only did this post receive a lot of attention from the public, but it also got a reaction from Google, who switfly removed all traces of most of the services I found in the sandbox within 48 hours and cancelled my account.”

Jeremy Zawodny (

>> Diet Tips or How To Lose Weight with a Spreadsheet and a Web Site

“The one that surprised me and was remarkably popular for a few days was my first diet post ... Traffic numbers are hard to come by, but I know the diet post got over 50,000 views during its first week.”

Phillip Torrone (

>> MAKE’s Mostly Under $100 Gift Guide 2005!

“Late at night on 12/1/2005 after reading a couple dozen “gift guides" on all the techy sites with stuff that was in the thousands and tens of thousands of dollars I thought it was ridiculous that there wasn’t anything out there for folks who like to make things or at least not spend a zillion bucks. So I asked our team to put together some ideas and I banged out a post with some of my picks... you know, like PVC pipe, that stuff is only $2 a foot and you can make a ton of fun things with it, kids love it

Right after I posted it up it seemed like I wasn’t the only one who was already burnt out on the gold plated flying cars with HD screens as a “must buy" for the holidays... don’t get me wrong, I want one of those too, er, maybe... but I think the DIY spirit is pretty compelling during the holidays.”

Seth Godin (

>> Small is the new big

“... because it was really pithy and captured a moment in time and came out within hours of an independent post by Jeff Jarvis.”

Dave Shea (

>> Google Maps and Accountability

“... the post I did about Google Maps and accountability was hugely popular. It even landed in the print version of Wired ...

I imagine it resonated because it used a brand new service to present data in a way that hadn’t been experienced previously. The ability to easily access satellite imagery is lending itself to new forms of data visualization; numbers of acres of clearcut in a spreadsheet don’t communicate the scale that satellite photos of bare patches are able to.

And, obviously, once it crossed over a little bit into a non-tech audience it got a lot of linkage on tree-hugger sites. (Literally in some cases)”

Thomas Hawk (

>> PriceRitePhoto: Abusive Bait and Switch Camera Store

“My most popular blog post was the one I did on PriceRitePhoto when they tried to bait and switch me a camera ...

They were super abusive and the post resonated with people. It was the number one story on Digg in 2005, was also Slashdotted, Boing Boinged, etc. etc. It hit many blogs and even resulted in stories in the mainstream media including The New York Times and the New York Post.

I think it skyrocketed because people could identify with the abuse that I took. I think people saw promoting the story as an opportunity to turn the tide on companies that would provide such horrible service and be abusive to their customers.

It was probably the first big post that got people talking about sites like Digg being used for vigilantism and sparked concern that in other causes you might find a crowd mentality that could do damage.

The first day the story broke I had 60,000 uniques. The next day when it hit Slashdot (combined with Digg and the resulting blog coverage that was building) it hit over 100,000 uniques. Traffic continued flowing to the story over the course of the next few months and still it generates traffic today.

After all of the negative publicity from the blog post and the resulting delisting from the various comparison shopping engines, PriceRitePhoto was forced to shut down and then reopen under a new name Barclay’s Photo. When Barclay’s Photo was able to reappear back on Yahoo’s shopping site a mere few months latter this also generated more traffic and interest in the story – especially to the extent that the shopping comparison sites were not doing a good enough job protecting their users from bad merchants.”

Deane Barker (

>> Why Macs Suck

“Second on Google for ’macs suck’ ... That results in a lot of comments from various people searching for the subject. I have a dozen others that fit this profile, and they often involve people wanting to bitch: posts that are well-positioned for ’paypal complaints’ and ’ebay problems’ are high too.”

[Images courtesy of their respective bloggers, except the following Creative Commons licensed ones: Mike Arrington by Jdlasica, Thomas Hawk by Laughing Squid, Nick Denton by Megnut, and Seth Godin by Miraclebaby. This post & blog are also CC-licensed. Steve Rubel CC-licensed by Steve, Jeremy Zawodny CC-licensed by Jeremy.]


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