Sunday, 10 November 2013

Looking Back at the Damage Done

A year ago today, on November 10, 2012, I wrote and posted this blog's very first post, almost on a whim, because I'd never thought of setting up a knitting blog until a few days prior to that. A year and 370 posts later, here we are. In the first few weeks of its existence, The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done had perhaps 20 visits a day, and now gets nearly 1000 visitors daily. The Facebook page for this blog, which I set up on November 26, 2012, has become a fun, active page, garnering over a thousand likes in less than a year. Trying to get the word out about this blog and build readership was very discouraging work at first. I used every self-promotion tip I could find on the net and some I thought up myself even though I am not someone who enjoys or is good at self-promotion. Fortunately after about six months of this I felt I didn't have to do that anymore (and for that matter had run out of things to try) and could just stick to updating the blog's Facebook page and my Twitter account daily, and rely on traffic to grow of its own accord over time.

Over the past week I've been doing a wholesale clean up of the archive, which has involved adjusting earlier posts to comply with the style that has evolved for the site, fixing at least some of the embarrassingly large number of mechanical errors, and also cleaning up the labels. (I wasn't happy with the way I'd labelled my posts. I'd been too specific and comprehensive, which meant that the list of labels on the blog had become an unwieldy mess. I'm hoping to finish cleaning up within the next week, after which the labels should be much more usable.) Re-reading all those posts proved a good year-end exercise, as I'd more or less forgotten many of my posts, and going through them all gave me a better sense of the evolution and state of the site as a whole.

When I first launched The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done, my idea was that it should be almost entirely about my reviews of knitting magazine reviews, and that all the other posts would be "filler posts" that I could write in five minutes. A year later, although the knitting magazine reviews have proved to be the site's main raison d'être and draw, with readers telling me that the site makes it very easy for them to keep up with and choose from among the fifteen knitting publications and additional special issues I review, the "filler posts" are more often than not just as time-intensive and lengthy as the reviews and run a close second in reader interest. As you can see, in the sidebar list of the ten most popular posts on this site, four are non-review posts. ‎

It's been interesting to see which posts have proved popular. I don't consider the ten most-viewed posts in the list to be my ten best posts. But they somehow attracted lots of visitors, often for reasons that were ancillary to the post itself. The current most popular post, which has had more than 15,000 page views, is the post in which I analyze Ravelry's Top 5 Knitting Patterns, but it's only gotten so many viewings because it comes up in the search results when anyone Googles for "Ravelry free patterns". My second most popular post, which was on knitted shoes, was a different matter, as it concerned a knitting topic that was unusual and fun enough that it got linked to in some of the places a knitting blogger most hopes for: Vogue Knitting's and Lion Brand's Facebook pages, and on Knitting Paradise. The third most popular post, the post on knitting tattoos, enjoyed a modest viral boost because of its oddball appeal — even non-knitters found it fun. It was through this tattoo post that I got my first-ever traffic spike when my site was a month old, because Glenn Reynolds of InstaPundit linked to it. As for the other top ten posts, Vogue Knitting has such cachet my VK reviews always do well, and there are plenty of Jane Austen, Harry Potter, and Downton Abbey fans who knit to keep those special issue reviews high on the list. Then there's the fact that a post that makes the popular list will tend to stay there because it's so visible to anyone who visits the site.

One of the many things I've learned this year is that a blogger simply doesn't know what posts will get everyone's attention, or when. Whenever I see a TV show or movie depicting blog posts going viral within two minutes of publication, I laugh uproariously. It really doesn't happen that way. I've had medium-quality posts that I'd dashed off quickly suddenly find an audience a month after I posted them; I've worked many hours on a post and proudly posted it expecting it would do well, only to see it drop like a rock. All bloggers can do is keep producing good quality work on a consistent schedule and watch their readership grow in an organic way. Traffic spikes are fun and exciting, but counter-intuitively, they are not all that important to a blog's success, because most of those who visit via a high-profile link will only do so once, and it's the regular, engaged readership that makes a site successful. So I try to rely on my own concept and standards of what's good for the site instead of letting the pageviews determine what kind of posts I'll do, and I hope that the modest traction I've gained this year means my vision of what the site should be is a generally sound one.

Looking back, I'd say my best and/or favourite posts include: the Twentieth Century Series; the post on the history of knitted bathing suits; the Mad Men post; the posts about how to knit your own Chanel sweater and how to make your own buttons; the posts about Shaker knitting and Amish wedding stockings; my posts about knitting breast prosthetics for cancer survivors and bandages for leprosy patients; and the posts about strange and unusual yarns. I especially enjoy writing posts about knitting history or with a politicized angle, I really like putting together posts of selected patterns on a given theme, and of course the knitting fables posts are always lots of fun to do. But then I liked writing almost all of the posts for this site, and have wound up laughing hysterically over something I stumbled across more times than I can count, and I take that as a good sign.

When I first launched the site I was concerned I'd run out of material to write about. I soon stopped worrying about that. Knitting has undergone such an explosion of creativity since the rise of the internet that I always have at least a few ideas on hand. It's never taken me more than five minutes to come up with a post concept, and then I often research and write one post only to come up with three or four new ideas for future posts during the process. Though there is supposedly nothing new under the sun, there's always something new on the net. What has become a concern, however, are time constraints. I have put far more time into this site this past year than I ever expected, and much more than I should have. I've done no other writing than what you see on this site, and while 370 posts is a very respectable year's output (in terms of word count it's probably the equivalent of at least two books), I do want to have time to write about things other than knitting. I want to begin posting to my woefully neglected book review blog again, and to work on the novel I've had in progress for never mind how many years. At the same time I am still enjoying my work on The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done and want to see what will grow out of the groundwork I've laid this past year.

So, what I am going to do is to cut back my posting schedule on this blog. From now on the posting schedule for The Knitting Needle and the Damage Done will be only three days a week: on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I decided this past July that I would keep posting daily until the end of this blog's first year in order to build a solid archive and then move to the new posting schedule, and far from second guessing my decision I've been looking forward to this anniversary as though I were getting out of jail. A daily posting schedule is more than a little gruelling when your posts can take up to four hours to write, and generally only bloggers who are making a living from their work can maintain that kind of pace. I am sorry to disappoint those of you who have told me you read my blog every day, but I feel sure that it's necessary that I cut back on my posts here.

What I can promise you is that my posting schedule will not be further decreased so long as I maintain this site, and that in those 156 posts a year I will still be doing all the knitting magazine reviews I've always done plus a good 60-70 posts on knitting-related topics, so the site will offer you the same kind of reading experience it always has, if somewhat less of it.

And of course I must thank everyone for your interest and your feedback during this past year. When I first came up with the concept for this site, I decided that since I'd never liked the typical style of knitting blog that I was going to write the kind of knitting blog I would enjoy reading, and it's been so gratifying to find that there are other knitters who do indeed want that kind of knitting blog and that even some non-knitters whose eyes would normally glaze over at the phrase "knitting blog" have enjoyed reading it. I never forget that there are thousands of knitting blogs out there for you all to read, and that you've paid me the compliment of reading mine.

Thank you all for visiting this blog, I will continue to do my best to make it worth reading, and I want you to feel free to contact me with any comments or suggestions you might have for the site.


  1. Oh, I'm kind of sad that you're cutting back. I have loved the daily addition to my inbox and the funny and/or useful content within. Good luck on the novel-as-old-as-knitting! ;)

  2. Well thank you for writing such a great blog. It's something I look forward to reading, and I'm glad it's here. FOUR MORE YEARS. FOUR MORE YEARS.

  3. I found your site through Metafilter and have slowly been working my way back through your archives. I've frequently marveled at how comprehensive your posts are for being produced every single day, and I imagine you feel a lot of relief at cutting that back to three days a week. Congrats on the anniversary, and I look forward to your continued success!

  4. I've been a reader for a few months now and really enjoy your publication review posts because of your great sense of humor and their practical utility.

    Thanks for all your efforts and hope you find more time for other things with the new schedule :-)