Holy crap. Who would’ve thunk it?
The truth is, I was humbled, impressed, and awed at every turn this month. It may well go down as one of my favorite months as a blogger ever.
The Newbie Blogger Initiative (like or hate the name, I couldn’t think of one better on the spot) was born of curiosity: Could we do it again? We — as in the blogging community, not the Royal We — had a lot of fun putting together a similar endeavor in 2009, and I felt it might be time to give it another try. I had a desire to see new blood in the blogging scene and a nagging sense of guilt that I am not always as involved in the community as I should be nor have I given it as much as it’s given to me.
Starting out a blog is hard. It’s a lot like starting a serious exercise program: You can’t just fiddle about with it and hope to see results; you have to jump full-in, work through the pain and struggle of getting used to this new routine, and stick with it. New blogs require strong, regular injections of content, and then they require exposure to gain readers. The NBI was our answer to both of those: We would dole out advice as seasoned bloggers to the newcomers, and then lavish on them some link love. It wasn’t a guaranteed formula for a successful blog, but it was a major leg-up for anyone who’d want it.
So I thought, why not? I sketched down some thoughts and then started contacting bloggers, sometimes doing quite a bit of detective work to find an email address. I thought that out of the 60 or so that I contacted, we’d get a score on board. I had no idea if this idea would be poo-pooed or if it had merit, but I guess there was something to it, because just about everyone I emailed replied in the affirmative.
That’s when I knew we had a problem. That was a lot of people to wrangle, and I didn’t want to assume a role of a meta-editor going around and checking up on homework assignments. So I remembered that one enterprising member of the previous blogger initiative set up a forum for it, and I followed suit. I tried to create a structure that would be easy to follow, plug into, and grow without my constant supervision. I very much tried to stress that this was a collaborative project that wasn’t “mine” insomuch as “ours.” I asked my friend Greg Moran to supply us with the ubiquitous NBI graphic you see plastered all over the place. And then I invited everyone to head over there, giving them the loose guidelines of announcing the NBI on the first of the month, posting an advice article sometime during it, and linking to the new bloggers and veteran blogger advice posts at the end of it.
You can’t imagine what it felt like when May 1st rolled around and I stumbled out of bed to see the NBI launching all over the place. People were enthusiastic about it, and enthusiasm is infectious. By the end of the day we had our first batch of new(ish) bloggers signing in, and from then on it didn’t stop until the end of the month.
My contribution to all this was organizing and contacting — I’m not the social butterfly that some folks are, and I’m content to do the admin work so that others can just mingle. I was delighted to see that many bloggers started contributing above and beyond as well, tackling ideas that I never thought of. We had bloggers help cement our NBI Twitter hash tag, bloggers who were available constantly in the Q&A forum, bloggers who organized social media and contacts, bloggers who came up with fun challenges for the new folks, bloggers who constructed lists of all the contributions, and so on.
I’ll admit, I was worried, because practically none of this was under my control the second it started. I had no idea if we were just going to annoy the heck out of all you guys with these NBI posts (and, hey, maybe we have). I fretted that there might be a backlash or some bad apples trying to sour the experience for the people on the forums, but pretty much none of that happened. The advice posts were varied, interesting, and incredibly informative. Heck, I learned a lot this month from all you guys! It’s fascinating to see the hobby of MMO blogging discussed this openly and without a lot of preachiness.
The best of all, however, was watching new, struggling, and lesser-known bloggers come out of the woodwork. After seeing how many veteran bloggers signed on (and continued to sign on), I really had no idea what we would reap in terms of new writers in the field. The answer was a metric ton and then some! Geek bloggers, game bloggers, MMO-specific bloggers, photobloggers, humor bloggers, and just about anything you could think of emerged on the scene in May, and it filled my RSS reader to overflowing. You could see the nervousness — and excitement — in many of these new bloggers, but they took the step to do it anyway and I’m incredibly proud they did so. I don’t think they did it just for a traffic boost, but because they saw a warm and caring community that wasn’t going to ridicule them for trying, but do its best to help them on their way.
You new bloggers, you all keep up the great work. I’ll be reading, I promise, and I think a lot of others will be as well.
I want to thank Greg Moran for the NBI graphic, the bloggers who took time and effort to participate, the auxilary sites that gave us lots of promotion, the podcasts that mentioned the NBI, and every reader who clicked on those links and visited a brand-new blog for the first time. You all are why this was a terrific month.
I titled this post “Wrapping up the Newbie Blogger Initiative (month)” because I don’t think that this is the end of the NBI. We’re leaving the forums open for continued promotion and conversations, not to mention a depository of great resources for new bloggers (and I’ll even pay for another month of ad-free hosting). Any new blogger on the scene has free license to drop me a note and ask for a little promotion as well.
P.S. — Today is my 36th birthday. To see the NBI succeed like this was one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. Thank you all!