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On the fickleness of crowds

October 20, 2007

Blogging can be a disheartening business. It’s hard work, it doesn’t pay, and no one reads what you write. It’s no wonder so many people give up.

I feel I should write what people are interested in reading. This is frustrating, as it’s not always what I want to write, or even feel is helpful to write.

This is a screen shot of recent hits on my blog:

The spikes are one of two things: articles about Israel, and articles about how shit South Africa is. It seems like that’s all anyone wants to read.

Posts about Burma, posts about trade unions, and posts about other things that interest me just don’t get read or commented on.

Does this mean I have found my niche?

As an Afro-pessimist and scourge of Zionists?

Writing vitriolic diatribes against Mbeki, Blair and Olmert while drunk on single malt, late at night?


I wrote a lot of negative stuff earlier this year about South Africa. My stats were the highest they’ve ever been, but I was criticised for it, and I took the criticism on board: I now try not to write the doom and gloom unless I can make a positive contribution as well.

The thing is, no one is interested in the positive contributions, the things that I offer that I think are unique, or different and interesting.

It’s easy to write angry posts. There’s so much to be angry about, and so much evidence to back up any assertion you wish to make that the world is going to hell in an SUV, with the benefit of SatNav. We know how this story ends.

Writing positive stuff, or any analysis that seeks to get under the surface of things, requires significantly more thought. It is easier to destroy than create.

Recently, I wrote an article about how the crime problem in South Africa isn’t one that can be solved by policing, because the rot goes all the way to the top.

In my next article, I suggested some solutions, saying we need to collectively decide what kind of country we want to be. I might be completely wrong, but I still think it’s a discussion we need to have.

Guess which article was read. It’s all in the spikes on the graph.

I am not interested in writing only angry and complaining posts. I am not that cynical yet.I am interested in looking beyond the confusion and chaos for evidence of change, of people finding innovative solutions, of signs of hope.

But people don’t want to read that. We’re addicted to doom and gloom.

I guess I have learned what newspaper editors have known all along: bad news sells.

Fortunately, I don’t have to please anyone with my writing except myself, so I don’t have to worry too much about hits. I’d rather connect with the few people who find the more thoughtful, less scandalous posts worthwhile than pander to the whims of the majority for controversy and outrage.

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