What happens when you’ve been tooling along for years with a hundred visitors a day, and then one day twenty thousand show up?

A few days back, Julie Neidlinger wrote a longish post about her wicked Diet Coke habit, which contained this statement I consider well worth repeating:

Let’s just be honest: people who point out the inadequacies in my eating and health regimen are merely quibbling over the bet they’re placing that I’ll die first. You’re telling me I’m killing myself and it’s my fault. You almost hint that I can take the blame for any physical ailment coming my way. I propose that cellular degeneration and the natural order of things might get some blame, and not just that Snickers I ate yesterday.

Upon reading that, I uncorked — okay, unscrewed — a fresh bottle of Dr Pepper. And not Diet Dr Pepper, either.

The word spread. Over six thousand shared the story on Facebook. It was tweeted more than a hundred times. The Google+ counter doesn’t say anything, but I know there was at least one.

And finally:

Today I was out visiting Fort Abraham Lincoln with friends, and my phone kept beeping and vibrating from tweets and email notifications of comments that awaited moderation as we walked through Gen. Custer’s house and the Mandan village. I finally turned off Twitter notifications, because I can’t even process having more than 100 followers, much less deal with comment moderation.

Comment moderation is a tricky business. You’re damned if you don’t (spammers! d-bags!) and damned if you do (you hate free speech! comment nazi!).

I do as little comment moderation as I can get away with, not so much that I worry about being called a Nazi — believe me, there are creatures far worse than Nazis out there, and rather a lot of them are holed up even now in Mordor-on-the-Potomac — but because I am basically lazy and can expect the automated tools on hand to dispose of 90 percent of the stuff.

Still, twenty thousand visitors in a day, half again as many as I’ve ever gotten in 24 hours, will do things to your head:

And now I’m not sure how to write the next blog post because a bunch of people signed up for my email newsletter and it is inevitable that I’m going to write something someday that makes them unsubscribe or unfollow on Twitter and watching numbers on the wane again and losing hard-earned readers after a decade of blogging in what feels like perpetual obscurity makes it tempting to sort of water down my usual post style to stave off the inevitable.

And now you know why I have never had an email newsletter, though I have several hundred subscribers to the site feed. Besides, the one saving grace of perpetual obscurity is that it’s long-lasting; you never have to worry that you’re getting too big for your britches.


  1. Julie »

    7 July 2013 · 3:02 pm


    Love that.

    Anyway, thanks for your take on it. Always good to hear.

  2. Tatyana »

    7 July 2013 · 3:23 pm

    Several hundred subscribers?How these ppl can keep quiet when you touch varied public nerves practically every day – if not with your Thunder reviews, than with Pony chronicles
    They must be strong and silent types…life fishermen in stormy seas…or Anchorage pilots

    My imagination fails me; I can’t imagine what, WHAT could be 20,000 different opinions re: some stranger’s preferred soft drink?

  3. Charles Pergiel »

    7 July 2013 · 3:53 pm

    Popularity comes from word of mouth. I suspect that most any writer could become popular, at least for a while, if there was a big enough marketing push behind them. I just contradicted myself, didn’t I? OK, so not me.

  4. fillyjonk »

    7 July 2013 · 3:59 pm

    “I find your ideas intriguing, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter” – Homer J. Simpson. (Sorry, that’s almost a reflex at this point; it’s an in-joke in another group I belong to).

    I like the idea she put forth about how all of the nannying types are merely laying bets that their target’s demise will come before theirs. (I suppose, though, in Heaven, there’s no meeting up with people and going, “In your FACE,” if, in fact, you are the later one to die, despite those peanut-butter shakes…) I don’t know, I find those kind of “concern trolls in real life” to be the human equivalent of stepping in used chewing gum.

  5. Julie »

    8 July 2013 · 1:49 pm

    “I find your ideas intriguing, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter” – Homer J. Simpson.

    I had forgotten about that line. Love it.

    I need to add that to my collection of canned responses that fit most occasions.

  6. hatless in hattiesburg »

    9 July 2013 · 2:59 am

    #shameless_self_promotion: i liked that “mordor-on-the-potomac” line too…

  7. CGHill »

    9 July 2013 · 7:45 am

    I can’t claim credit for making that up, but I can’t remember where I saw it, either.

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