Bloglogic and the Litmus Test for Link Love

litmusDoc Searls adds his perspective to Dave Wallace’s post about second opinion, affirmative traction, connections and flow.

Dave did a little analysis of his traffic after being mentioned in one of Mathew Ingram‘s second opinion posts and concludes that he got a little subscriber boost, but that the better by-product of such links is the initial connection that might lead someone to return to a blog because of the content.

Doc points out that he doesn’t blog for traffic, popularity or money. He blogs for effect- to get topics he cares about on the conversational agenda. That’s a true statement for Doc, as well as a lot of us who aren’t trying to monetize our blogs. It’s a synopsis of the approach to blog building that I have ended up with, by one of the guys who taught it to me.

But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet.

Goals and Focus are Not the Same Thing

Many people on both sides of the traffic argument confuse a focus with a goal. As a result they often talk across each other.

Here’s what I mean by that.

For all the reasons I’ve talked about recently, making traffic and links your focus is not the most effective way to build a blog. Most of the people who have been at the table when we’ve talked about it seem to agree with that.

But just because traffic and links aren’t the focus doesn’t mean they aren’t legitimate goals. To tell someone that traffic and links don’t matter at all is a little like a rich guy telling a poor guy not to be so concerned about money. I don’t obsess about money, but making some is certainly one of my goals when I head out the door each weekday morning.

The key is to have many goals, but a narrow focus.

The Litmus Test

Here’s the only question you have to answer to determine whether traffic is one of your blogging goals: would you blog happily for an extended time if no one ever read your blog? No Comments, no clicks, no links. Just a dark corner of cyberspace where your blog sits idle and completely unnoticed.

If the answer is yes, then traffic is not one of your goals. And you are either fooling yourself or you are a rare bird indeed. Let’s do some bloglogic: if blogging is conversation and conversation takes at least two people, then is an unread blog really a blog?

That’s not to say that traffic is the be all, end all of blogging. It isn’t and it shouldn’t be. To say it is is like joining a conversation with the hidden agenda of selling something to your new friends. It might work for a while, until you show your hand. Then it all falls apart.

So What’s for Dinner?

Here’s how I see our little corner of the blogosphere. There are a lot of bloggers, including, but not limited to, Doc, Scoble, Stowe Boyd (who, just for the record, is seriously link obsessed), who live pretty close to where the tech action is, have jobs that are at least somewhat related to tech and, by now, all know or know of each other through non-blog means. There are others who have joined the party to varying degrees over the months (we have to talk in months when speaking of the blogosphere), including, but not limited to, Steve Rubel, Dwight Silverman, Fred Wilson (who needs to check out Vault Radio), myself and a few of my fellow wagon trainers. This is the blogosphere’s equivalent of the Friday night dinner group. Some sit at the head of the table, some sit with me at the foot of the table (which, having done my time at the kiddie table, is not such a bad place to sit), but we’re all involved in the conversation.

When the longtime members get to the table, there’s no need for an introduction or even a greeting. They just fall into comfortable conversation. There’s nothing in the world wrong with that- it’s just the way life, dinner groups and the blogosphere work. In fact, the prospect of going to dinner is what leads a lot of us to the blogosphere.

But if you’re new to the party, you have to walk up and say hello- just like you would in the real world. I have learned that the diners will gladly welcome you into the group if you can carry on an interesting conversation, but they don’t sit at the table and watch the door for someone new to walk through.

You come in, say hello and over time earn your stripes. Again, that’s the way it should be.

The Beautiful Chair

But just like at the dinner table, it’s polite to wait to be asked to sit down. It’s very rewarding when one of the old guard pulls out a chair and it’s equally rewarding to pull out a chair for someone you find interesting. And in the blogosphere, the chair is made of traffic and links.

So I think it’s perfectly normal to have traffic and links as a goal, or at least something you hope for. Because they are the by-product of being a part of the conversation. Sure, they matter more to the new person at the table. But that’s usually because he or she is striving for acceptance.

It’s a little intimidating to walk up to a table where people who know each other are talking. It’s also a little scary to start blogging in a room full of people who are already deep in conversation. All of us need to remember the way it felt when we hit the “Publish” button on our first blog post.

So Enjoy Links

Give ’em. Get ’em. Love ’em. Just remember they are evidence of the thing and not the thing itself.

And look forward to the Friday night dinners. There’s a lot of fun to be had. Even at the foot of the table