The word "finally" grates on me. This hasn't always been the case. For the vast majority of its existence in my lexicon, the word had little to no impact on my life. However, the tech press has perverted its meaning recently with inane headlines proudly conveying their ever dwindling patience. Like petulant children, stamping their feet about and demanding to know, "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" Not content with savoring the moment in which we live, their insatiable lust for traffic, clicks, precious pageviews, drives them to find any modicum of drama in each action taken by the companies they cover. So and so company finally does such and such. "Finally" implies that something has happened, but not before a ludicrous amount of time passes, to which stirs the thought, "Just what the hell else were they even doing this while time?" It's not often, though, that such a word could reasonably apply to a tech company like Apple.
But the press is persistent, and they drill these memes into the ground. They are the gossip girls, the obnoxious high school cliques that are pleasant (most of the time) when interacting with you directly, but transform into insidious, cold, and malicious fel beasts when they have the opportunity to spin something out of nothing. To create controversy where none exists. Everything's just the worst, even when it's not. Every headline must plant some seed of doubt. Every story must cast some aspersion, however nebulous or detached from reality.
"Finally" is an easy word. It plants that seed in your brain and makes you question the dubious actions of the tech giants. No matter how inane the claim (like when inexpensive USB-C cables finally arrive for a MacBook that hasn't even shipped yet), a single word says more than an entire article. All you need to know is that this thing should have happened already, but through nothing other than sheer negligence or malice imbued deep within [insert company here, but I could bet that it'd be Apple]'s culture, this crucial thing has only just arrived.
"Finally" is a rotten word.
So, last Tuesday, May 19th, when I saw The Next Web's "finally" article about the iPhone 6 compatible dock from Apple, I commented a brief correction to them (something I damn near never do, because comments sections). I also noticed other sites glom on to the same headline, with the same inability to check for facts before hitting the publishing button. You know the way they work. One gets a scoop and the other sites just slurp up and regurgitate in a never-ending game of "who will be the last to post this crap?"
So I wrote about it. Briefly.
I also tweeted the link to my post to John Gruber. I thought he'd get a bit of a smile out of it, if he hadn't already seen the articles himself.
This is your site on Daring Fireball
I never heard from Gruber. I was okay with that. He gets bombarded by Tweets, and I'm just another voice adding to the noise. I didn't think much of it, and I expected the post to perform as my posts usually do. I am very lucky to have a core group of friends who read what I write, and typically have things to add, or great questions to ask that make me think about things from different perspectives. Most of the time, no one else comes here.
Sitting on my couch with my wife that evening, I would've never guessed that I'd be receiving an iMessage from my buddy, Jeff Bear.
That sums it up nicely.
I couldn't believe it. It took all of my self-restraint not to just hop around the apartment brimming with joy. I still feel like maybe I should be ashamed to admit that, but I'm not. Someone I look up to gave me recognition, and #NoOctothorpe was linked by my favorite site.
I wasn't sure what to expect at that point. I immediately opened up Google Analytics and saw over a hundred and fifty people active on my site at the same time. To clarify, I'm lucky if my unique visitor traffic breaks 100 in a month.
After the intial congratulations from friends and random strangers, I was typically asked two questions:
- How did your site hold up?
- What was your traffic like?
To answer the first question: very well. Squarespace handled the sudden deluge of visitors with nary a hitch. I am very happy with them, and I highly, highly recommend you use them.
The answer to the second question, in a nutshell: unreal.
To answer it in multiple nutshells:
This site has been around for a little over a year at this point. During that time, I've had some decent months, and some paltry months. Before being linked on Daring Fireball, the most unique visitors I saw in a month was 409. That was a year ago, after I wrote something that I later linked to in the comments section of an article on The Verge. Needless to say, that jump in traffic didn't do much to boost my ongoing readership.
I chalk that up to a couple things: my inability to stay motivated and write consistently, and the self-consciousness I feel about trying to promote or market what I do outside of my circle of friends. I do very little to get this site "out there" in front of the eyes of the masses. My nascent readership is comprised mainly of people close to me. I love them for it.
So with all of that in mind. Let's take a gander at what this past week looked like in comparison.
As you can see, initial numbers were very exciting. In the first three hours alone, #NoOctothorpe saw nearly 2,300 unique visitors. This number increased by over 260% the following day alone. My post has over 10,300 views thanks to Daring Fireball, and the rest of my site saw a nice boost in activity as well. Even my donation page has seen over 100 page views now. Sadly, no bites there because of it, but I can dream. I'll just have to keep writing.
A sharp dropoff occurred after May 20th, but there continues to be a sizeable trickling of visitors to the site, many of them new. However, I can only imagine this number will steadily dwindle over time. I definitely expected this to occur. I'd never kid myself into thinking that my site will suddenly gain explosive popularity over one night because of a single link, and I'm cool with that. I still can't believe that more people have continued to visit my site each day than what I usually see in a month. Insane.
What remains to be seen at this point is what the residual effect of this will be. I suspect Daring Fireball will continue to send some views my way, but nothing substantial. What I want to know now is who continues to come back after their initial exposure.
That sounds like I'm monitoring a virus.
I don't have any real idea what things look like moving forward. The first week's surge was huge, and I doubt I'll see traffic like that again anytime soon. The number of RSS subscribers seems to have increased greatly, so that gives me hope that I've gained a bit of traction. However, I just don't have enough data to see what the lasting impact will be of all of this.
That's not the point of this piece.
It feels bizarre to admit it, but getting linked by Gruber was a dream come true. When I began writing #NoOctothorpe last year, I never would have expected something like this to happen. As the year progressed, and I became more and more neglectful, my aspirations for the site being anything other than a silly hobby seemed pointless. Last Tuesday, I was coming up to the final few days of my Squarespace subscription. With my passion for the site all but extinguished, I was deliberating with myself about whether or not I was going to let #NoOctothorpe die.
The unexpected influx of visitors was incredible. That dozens of new people continue to view what I wrote each day since then means the world to me. That something I created, no matter how small, or silly, or–let's be honest–petty, was seen by thousands of people... Well, this seems like an incredibly long way of saying I have no words.
Metrics aside (don't get me wrong, they're really cool), the thing that meant the most to me through all of this was the showering of kindness I experienced. The congratulations from my friends (and former colleagues), the kind Tweets that people sent my way, to the random people that said that they enjoyed what I did, and they'd be returning for more because they liked what I saw. I would have never guessed that this little hobby of mine would be so well received, and that people would take the time out of their day to tell me they liked it.
Those are feelings you can't measure on a fucking graph.
I wrote to John the evening he put #NoOctothorpe on Daring Fireball. I thanked him for what he did, and said that it must seem like such a small thing; he links to people all the time. How silly to be thanked for that. But that small act on his part reinvigorated my passion for this site. I knew at that point that my decision would be to keep #NoOctothorpe around. I'm not going to go down without a fight. Lethargy be damned.
Between the Linking Incident (I hereby declare that May 19th be known as the day of the Linking Incident) and the random acts of kindness of strangers on the Internet, a fire has been lit under me. I've toiled with my sedentary approach to creating for too long. Years of dwelling and dreaming and starting projects or websites only to hang them up because I can't follow through.
I'm finally motivated to do this.