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A-List Debate: Define Success First

A-List Debate: Define Success First

There has been a lot of screaming and yelling, fussing and fighting, and whining over the issue of whether or not the A-List of bloggers exists and what it takes to be on such a list, emphasizing hard work and sticking to a plan.

Well, they are all wrong. On many points.

First, the myth that there is or isn’t an A-List of bloggers is silly. There have been such lists around since the first small group of bloggers looked around and realized they weren’t alone. There are all kinds of lists on the blogosphere which could be called “A-Lists”. There are top blogger lists, top post lists (Digg), top traffic sites (Alexa), annual who is who and who is the top lists, and other lists that promote the crème de la crème of blogs and bloggers based upon whatever criteria they decide defines success. The Blog Herald even listed the Top 10 Interesting People on the Blogosphere in 2005 as one of those lists. There are even top awards and honors to recognize those whose web designs suck. Such “whose who” lists have been around for ages as pointing fingers towards the “popular kids” is inherent in human society.

Second, I agree. It takes hard work, discipline, and a plan of action to get onto these lists, as it does to achieve anything. Trust me, even those on the Web Pages That Suck List worked hard to make their web design work so successfully bad.

None of this has to do with the true issue that lies behind this debate over the A-List achievers. The real point of the issue is:

What is success?

Without a clear definition, here is no absolute list of how-to steps anyone can write that will guarantee a place in any A-List, Z-List, or otherwise list.

Since all of these lists are just made up lists based upon a person or group’s criteria of the moment, let’s look at the issue of what the definition of a successful blogger is.

What Is Your Definition of Success?

I met a woman today who owns a lovely yarn store in an old farm house near Beaverton, Oregon. The outside is plain, an old house slightly weatherbeaten. The store’s sign was insignificant enough, I drove by it three times before I found it. Inside, it’s a dream of perfect lighting on dark rich wood shelves framing lovely displays of luxurious yarns. It managed to convey a sense of art gallery meets farm kitchen. You just wanted to sit down at the much polished wood tables with a cup of tea and relax among the gallery of soft colors and abstract patterns from by the walls of yarn.

When I asked why she didn’t have a website for her store, she admitted she didn’t even have a listing in the yellow pages. I was stunned. “How long have you been open?”

“Four years.” The shop is so lovely, stuffed with such fascinating knitting and crocheting treasures, and obviously a resounding success within those four years. “It’s all word of mouth.”

Her method works for her. It’s exclusive. Not “everyone” goes there unless they are serious about knitting and crocheting. The prices and types of yarn and materials are not cheap, so if you shop there, you are very serious about what you do.

The owner isn’t richer than Bill Gates, but this works for her and her needs. She’s been in business for herself for many decades and knew exactly what would make her happy in this new venture. She has a social atmosphere without any marketing effort, allowing her to focus on the creative aspects rather than the income-chasing. She’s created a very loyal and supportive family atmosphere around her. For her, she is successful.

lists of blogger listsSome people consider their blogs successful because they are writing down their thoughts, expressing themselves. To them, that’s a huge success, much like overcoming the fear of flying or jumping out of airplanes. They got past their own fears to share their inner thoughts and feelings with strangers.

Some bloggers blog because they have something to say. They want to share their thoughts, lessons, examples, stories, or experiences with others. For them, the act of preserving their knowledge and experiences publicly is extremely satisfying. If they get a comment or two, that’s exciting, but it isn’t the reason they do this. These types of blogger might even have comments turned off because that’s not the reason they blog.

There are a few bloggers who blog because it is an obsession. It doesn’t matter if they make money or not. They have to blog. They have to tell the world what they think and what they are learning. Different from the talker bloggers, obsession bloggers are addicted to blogging. They can’t miss a day of blogging, and may even release 3 or more posts a day, just to get “it out there”. A missed day is a failure.

Some obsessive bloggers also have a need to be first. Being the first out with the news or hot topic is a success for them. They beat the crowd to the finish line! YES! Their post can now become part of the echo chamber around the web. Their reward is being first.

Some bloggers just want the attention. They want to be looked at, read, and pointed to. While there is some measure of attention-getting need in most bloggers, the attention-getting bloggers are into it for the fame and recognition. They work hard on building up a persona that attracts the media, other bloggers, and an audience. Success for them is getting their photograph or YouTube video in Wired or Slashdot and the rest of the world agreeing with their “look at me!” needs.

Others blog for the interaction. They may feel isolated in their community, school, work, or family. They need outside contact, someone to tell them they are not alone. They crave someone to listen to them and someone to talk to them. They want friendship but fear those around them due to shyness or insecurity. They can even recreate themselves to be “better” than they think they are, creating a new persona. Through their blogs, they create their own community, a little village of friends they trust to share their feelings and stories.

For others, it’s all about the numbers and the money.

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  • An A-List, if it existed, would probably be number and money folks – measuring their success that way.
  • The Z-List, if that existed, would be happy if they got a few more comments on their blog than they did yesterday. They are just happy blogging, however they blog.
  • The R-List (Riskers) would probably be embarrassed to be on any list, so it would be an honor but maybe a little overwhelming for them.
  • The T-List (Talkers) have already decided they’re successful, so being on the T-List or any other list wouldn’t even be of interest to them.
  • The O-List (Obsession) get their juice from the process of blogging, allowing blogging to become an addiction. They can’t seem to stop. Being on any list would just reaffirm their obsession.
  • The F-List (First) thrive on being first out of the gate with some hot topic. Being on a list is great, but only if they are near the top and the list recognizes their need to be first.
  • The AG-List (Attention-Getters) would consider their success defined by how many lists they were on, as well as how they ranked on those lists. More attention goes to the top 5 or 10, you know.
  • The I-List (Interaction) would consider 3-4 steady visitors and commenters to be their measure of success, calling them “friends”.

Until you define what success is, there can be no one-size-fits-all list or instructions on how-to-succeed-at-blogging absolute list. For everyone, it will take hard work, working as hard as they need in order to achieve their measure of success. For some, no effort works, too. Luck, passion, motivation, and incentive will also help them towards their goal, but the path is different for everyone.

All these so-called top notch lists are just someone judging others by their own limited visions. They decide what makes a blogger a success and put together a list. It only means something to them, not us. You can feel as good as you want to be on any list, but it is just a list. You decide how much credence you want to give it. It can’t be imposed upon you.

My friend, Edrei of Kamigoroshi – Footsteps in the Mirror, explains his definition of success has changed over the years of blogging:

Success in its own right is defined by why we do the things that we do. I never thought of the number of my posts as a measure for success. I tried to measure it with everyday unique hits but as much as that may matter for a lot of people, including myself, I found it a poor reason to measure how much this blog has grown.

Popularity comes and goes. Spikes from incoming links are nice as your blog becomes widely covered, but for blogs like mine, blogs that have no niche, no specific audience to cater to, it’s not those 15 minutes of fame that makes the grade. It’s the consistency and the community that define, at least for me, the success of a personal blog.

Copyblogger sums it up this way:

Then you’ll see, that it is not the A-List that holds you back, it is only yourself.

We can only judge our success by our own definition of success.

What is your definition of success as a blogger? Would your blog be on any of these “lists”?

Lorelle VanFossen blogs about blogging and WordPress on .

View Comments (12)
  • A facinating post for me, as a z-lister, to read. My blog is still young enough that when I get a comment it makes my day. But I’m aware it’s a case of ever-shifting sands: if I get to a stage where I am getting comments regularly then I’m sure I’ll start worrying about the next step. But with more readers comes responsibility – can you still be yourself when you are a one person newspaper?

    I wonder if there’s another list? A list of bloggers who simply blog on a subject they’ve seen other people doing well with.

    Great blog.

  • The list of bloggers who blog on a subject they’ve seen other people doing well is known as the “blogosphere”. ;-)

    The other lists are for those who stand out from that crowd.

    You ask a very good question. With more readers, and commenters, comes responsibility. Does it change who you are and how you blog when you move beyond the basics?

    As with everything, as you grow there will be changes. A favorite quote of mine is “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional”. The same goes with blogging.

  • success is a personal thing. the other day my friend and i were chatting. her idea of success was to know all the people to know. mine is to know all the creative, intellectually forward people.
    my blog has great ideas and tips for people and just stuff to ponder. however, blog wise i would have to define success as making an income. i write my blog with 2 intentions. one for info and two to make income. however, if i did not make an income i would have to drop my blog. i probably would still keep a personal blog because i like to write and i have a big mouth.
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  • Hi Lorelle,
    I love this article! Your lists are so on the mark. I’d like to add two that I would call the “black hat” bloggers

    LTS bloggers blog anything that will links, traffic, or search engine juice. They write sensational headlines, name drop, and stuff posts with key words thinking those things help. They make long link lists of other bloggers to game the system, hoping other bloggers will pick up the list and pass it on giving them link after link after link that is tied to no content.

    IU bloggers writer impolite, unprofessional emails asking for things such as link exchanges and favors from other bloggers they don’t know.

    and to end on a high note
    LLH bloggers — they’re the one in a million blogger you meet who you know from the first word is going to be a lifelong friendand hero.

    You, Lorelle, are an LLH blogger for me.

  • OOOh, a new category of bloggers for just you and me, Liz! ;-)

    Good additions.

    I would probably also add FW-List bloggers who use the F-word and other “shocking” language and bad behavior, lacking moral values, bloggers who do what they do because it generates and attracts negative attention and energy.

    There are so many lists out there, exploring what it is that defines success for them helps us to understand more about why people blog and what they get out of it that makes their blogging a success. For them. Not the list builders.

  • Yes, there are so many types of bloggers out there that at one point, I don’t think it really matters. There really isn’t any right or wrong way to blog. We all have our different styles, traits and personalities that make us unique.

    But if your style caters to a small group of people and you want a larger audience, then you probably have to change the way you write.

    It’s much like being in real life. People like me want to be who we are but at the same time we also like the company of others. Yet who we are isn’t always accepted by others. It’s a tradeoff there, but we eventually learn be more than just who we are and in that gain people we never thought of as friends.

    In blogging terms that simply means blogs are as they are. We might not agree with them, but that doesn’t mean other people do. If we don’t, we have an option not to read them. They may grow up and learn new ways or they won’t. In the grand scheme of things, it works no matter what happens. We will all still be in our own communities we create. If they complain about why they don’t have much of a community being who they are despite offers for help and guidance, then that’s their business, their life and their blog. Where they go from there is up to them.

    I don’t know whether I made any sense there or not. My thoughts are a little jumbled bringing out this point.

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