How I Decide What To Post



To anyone stumbling across this site the selection of subjects must seem random in the extreme. Actually it’s quite deliberately planned. I don’t carry advertising, and I don’t write much about politics or religion because I’m a confused liberal atheist who has watched the arrival and departure of a thousand political candidates with bemusement ever since I was old enough to vote. There’s politics inasmuch as I note that despite everything we’ve experienced in the last 50 years, The Wrong Milliband led to unelectable 70s throwback Corbyn in the running for Labour leadership while the relatively painless Mid-Centre-Right Cameron plays Captain Sensible.

Instead I keep my head down here and concentrate on a range of ten categories, posting articles that fall roughly into those divisions. Some take a lot of research and some are easily assembled. Some are time-sensitive and others are prepared in advance, written in sections over several weeks. This is standard journalistic training, but any blogger will tell you that it’s a lot of work. In fact it’s far more time-consuming than writing for newspapers, and doesn’t pay.

I regularly try new series within categories, and either keep them going or drop them according to the number of comments they receive. Since lovely Dan Terrell died the sheer volume of posts has dropped (although Helen Martin often holds the fort), and some subjects – like the recently started series on crime – seem to get no comments at all, so will probably be buried.

Esoteric subjects tend to do rather well while mundane topics fail. Writing pieces do better than theatre/film pieces because websites are not one-stop shops. You go to different sites for specialist subjects and I’m meant to be Books. But I’m not defined by one thing and often get quite bored writing about books, so I tend to dive off left and right into esoterica.

While I’m researching I read a phenomenal amount, but I don’t find the Good Reads site user-friendly enough to instinctively post reviews on, so I don’t tend to engage in book discussions on top of what’s here. But if there are subjects you’d like to see more coverage on, please mention them here. It’s meant to be an interactive site and I try to maintain that sensibility.

20 comments on “How I Decide What To Post”

  1. Rachel Green says:

    I was quite enjoying the crime ones. I will comment more in future.

  2. DebbyS says:

    I second that – please don’t ditch the crime.

  3. Jo W says:

    Chris,I read your blog every day,but if it’s on a subject that I’m not particularly interested in,then I don’t comment as I would have nothing to add. Asking for favourite subject matter is,I think,like a DJ asking for any requests. I can never think of one at the time. I’ll have to get my thinking cap on for next summer though,as my son will be getting married for the third time! ‘ Here we are again,’maybe?

  4. carl says:

    I shouldn’t be surprised by the use of comments as a decision metric for subjects but I’d never thought about it before.

    I don’t tend to comment as I’ve nothing interesting to say but I was following the crime series and followed the links to all the external sources. I’ll try to post from now on but don’t expect anything of Dan’s level (by the way I read all the comments too).

    I look forward to your posts turning up in my Feedly app and read all of them.

  5. Vincent C says:

    Your daily posts are a daily delight. I look forward to them, I enjoy them, they are informative, they come to mind during the day and I invariably talk with my wife about them – they provide lasting pleasure. Please treat this e-mail as my continuing thank you for each item you post and my continuing vote that your every blog is a treat.

    The principal reason I do not comment is that it is you people want to read, not my blather.

  6. Alan says:

    “Esoterica”. Yes – this is what we want.

  7. BangBang!! says:

    Please don’t drop any subjects admin! I don’t comment very much but I read every blog without fail and all of the comments too. I’m just a lowly labourer who reads a lot but my writing skills are poor. 2/10 Must try harder!

  8. Susan says:

    I agree with so many of the other commenters. I read every entry and most of the comments. But, as a lurker, I read but do not generally comment. I was introduced to your column by my friend, Vicki. She often would comment and I enjoyed reading those, too. Since her passing, this is one place where I can remember her.

    Please do not drop any of the subjects! Those are why I come here every day.

  9. chris hughes says:

    Agree with all of the above – please continue to write about whatever inspires you. I too think about your blogs during the rest of the day and in a world which sometimes seems to me to be going mad, it’s a relief to read thoughtful, provoking and funny comment from you and all your respondents.

  10. Ruth says:

    Like the posters above, I read your blog everyday and always enjoy it. Your posts are varied but always interesting and I have often thought that you are one of the few writers who could write on almost any subject in a way that captures the imagination and provokes thought. I also don’t comment very often but that it not an indication of my interest level.

    I suppose you have to gauge the interest level somehow – would some sort of like button be unpalatable?

  11. Sue McSilva says:

    Hi Christopher, I’m a Yank living in Oakland near San Francisco (where no one can afford to live anymore), but adore the Bryant and May series. I also check your blog daily for a little taste of the world outside of our abysmal U.S. news coverage and lame social media.

    I followed your recommendation of Craig Brown’s “Hello goodbye hello : a circle of 101 remarkable meetings” and enjoyed reading most of it last night–such superb use of the English language! Thank you.

    I can imagine how much work the blog is–you post every day! But we love you for it.

    Many thanks for all your hard work,

    Sue in Oakland, California

  12. Chandon says:

    I read a lot of your posts but do not comment unless I have something valid or interesting to add. Others have often made interesting comments sooner or better than I could ever have done. I enjoy the crime posts, so please do not ditch these.

  13. snowy says:

    I don’t like quoting chunks of an original post in a comment, it can look argumentative, [when they are really just much needed footholds for those of us whose writings skills are less than fluent.] With that stated.

    *Takes a really deep breath*

    To anyone stumbling across this site the selection of subjects must seem random in the extreme.

    Blogs that focus on a narrow range of topics eventually become stuck in a loop of their own making, start repeating and become a very dull read.

    I don’t carry advertising…..

    Strictly speaking this is not quite true, but it is done with such a feather-light touch that it goes mostly unnoticed. [It is entirely possible (and fairly easy), to run ads on a blog that don’t ruin the readers enjoyment and yet still buy the owner a cup of coffee at their favourite Mussolini themed cafe*. Provided one is not sniffy about increasing the starnglehold of a certain on-line retailer.]

    ….I don’t write much about politics or religion….

    I will avoid commenting on any posts where politics are to the fore, [unless there is a chance for a cheap gag], Since I think they are all a complete shower of……… chancers.

    [Though the mask has slipped a few times during current infighting and junior mouthpieces have said, not that ‘Beardy’ “will not help them get elected”, but he “will prevent them gaining power”.]

    A ‘pox on all their [taxpayer subsidised second] houses’.

    ….while the relatively painless Mid-Centre-Right Cameron plays Captain Sensible.

    The mental image of him standing on a stage being repeatedly gobbed at, is surprising pleasant. [Even if it does require of the reader an in depth knowledge of the history of punk rock!]

    This is standard journalistic training….

    Hold up there Scoop! and hang on to your green eye-shade.

    Blogging isn’t ‘Journalism’ and indeed ‘Journalism’ isn’t journalism. Blogging is journalism and that is what makes it interesting, if done properly.

    OK let’s stop the bus for a moment and sort out a few terms, hopefully quickly, journalism; [small ‘j’] , was the practise is writing observations on things, places and events that interested the author. A blog is journallism shared.

    Journalism, [big ‘J’], is just a way to make money.

    The problems that come of writing a blog piece like a standard article will come up later.

    ….but any blogger will tell you that it’s a lot of work. In fact it’s far more time-consuming than writing for newspapers, and doesn’t pay.

    Try it from this side of the blog, mush…… you think the pay is s…. s…. scanty your end? We are paying for our own biscuits ‘ere!

    I regularly try new series within categories, and either keep them going or drop them according to the number of comments they receive. Since lovely Dan Terrell died the sheer volume of posts has dropped (although Helen Martin often holds the fort), and some subjects – like the recently started series on crime – seem to get no comments at all, so will probably be buried.

    Some series do need a time to ‘bed-in’ and shouldn’t be killed off too early. And early efforts may suffer from defects that get smoothed out over time. The initial material might be too well known or not engaging to a wide audience where such crimes are commonplace.

    Esoteric subjects tend to do rather well while mundane topics fail.

    Er… um…. how to broach this in a diplomatic and considered manner that won’t be considered in any possible way arch or offhand?

    Well I’m completely out of ideas on that score!

    You write MYSTERY STORIES for people that like MYSTERIES! I’m sure you could divine a possibly linkage somewhere. 🙂

    Writing pieces do better than theatre/film pieces…..

    Theatre reviews may not attract much comment, particularly if of a preview performance in a theatre hundreds of miles from the reader. Who if they ever manage to see the production, it will be months or years hence in a different place with a different cast.

    Film reviews, again if it is a preview or festival screening months before a general release similar problems arise. Holding a piece back and slotting it in on opening week would work slightly better.
    [Old films, re-viewed have a commonality of experience that can stimulate discussion.]

    [And yes I hate myself for using that phrase already.]

    Exhibitions, unless there is an on-line catalogue, are a bit like hearing what a fun time every one else had while you stayed in!

    The reasons many people do not comment despite reading have been very elegantly detailed by commentators above. [Been said, said better, modesty of commentator, writing not coming up to commentators internal quality threshold, the feeling that the time to comment has past.]

    Thus comments alone are a very poor way to judge the value of anything. It is a judgement based on a ‘Single Figure of Merit’**,but if you are wedded to the idea, then a slightly more rational figure would be ‘Page Views’. You would judge the success of a newspaper by the circulation and not by the number of ‘Letters to the Editor’.

    It’s meant to be an interactive site and I try to maintain that sensibility….

    Depends what is exactly meant by interactive. There are different models, OtM, MtM.

    Notwithstanding if the goal is just more comments then removing the slight barrier between commentators that is linear comments and consider iimplementing threaded comments, this allows discussions to break out in their own little ‘playpen’ without derailing the general flow.

    *[Operation Eiche, for those insane enough to care!]

    **[Always be wary of people who extensively quote ‘Single Figures of Merit’, they are often chosen deliberately not reveal the whole picture.

    Like the factory manager who was pleased to announce that sausage production was up 12.5% that week, without mentioning the 4 staff who fell into the mincer.]

  14. snowy says:

    Oh I forgot the pitfall that professional writers seem not able to avoid. The habit schooled into them of tying up all the loose ends and rounding off the article. It works in a paper, but on a blog it gives commentators no way to hook into the article and add their thoughts.

    [PS. Just in case it slipped you by the Sunday Indy did a very long piece on the Denmark Place arson from 25 years ago. I remember it came up in discussion here ages ago.]

  15. m says:

    I’m a Bryant and May fan from San Francisco (we’re only here because of rent control) who reads this blog almost daily but mostly lurks. By the time I see the posts usually someone has already said the thing and much better than I would have. A very belated thank you is in order for the many great books and movies that I’ve discovered here.

  16. Phil says:

    I always read your postings, will remember to add my thoughts rather than keeping them to myself. Keep going with the crime postings, always interesting.

  17. agatha hamilton says:

    The important thing is – please keep going, whatever the topic! It must be a tad depressing if you put the effort into writing a daily blog and don’t get much response. Perhaps we readers ought to pull our socks up and write a comment, even if we do feel someone else has said it better, or that what we are going to say is a bit random.
    I was interested, too, in the crime blogs so please don’t abandon them, plus always interested in the London ones (bad news about Denmark place), and all your forgotten or neglected authors ones.

  18. I too am a reader of your blog and it’s replies. As a matter of fact yours is the only blog that I consistently read and enjoy. Still I remain a lurker and like many others readers have noted some one beats me to the punch and says what I want to reply but much better. I am a Bryant and May fan and am about up to your ninth mystery. Also immensely enjoyed your two memoirs. Looking forward to reading some of your other novels.

  19. Wayne Mook says:

    I read the pretty much all threads but as I’ve said in the past, laziness and a lack of confidence mean I don’t always post. I have written many things only to delete them. I also start to write things and then wander off onto other things, a 3 year old daughter does not help.

    I like the crime and London stuff, I am a reader of Pretty Sinister. a lovely crime site. To be honest I like most if not all the threads.

    As to politics best left alone, as too religion. Corbyn piece in The Daily Mail was right, did I imagine that, was it really real and that funny? Next thing you know house prices will crash.

    Snowy that was Happy Talk.

    Just keep mixing it up Admin, there are plenty that lurk.

    By the way I prefer your more supernatural stuff like Nyctophobia and I enjoyed the Hell Train romp, oh and Film Freak splendid book.


  20. Alan Morgan says:

    They all get read, and enjoyed. I tend to save them up so that once a week I can have tea and an egg with plenty to enjoy. I try to comment when I have something to contribute, but not otherwise.

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