Ruby Read

According to Tim O’Reilly’s always interesting quarterly analysis of the book industry, Ruby is doing extraordinarily well, with a 689% quarterly increase in sales and is now approaching Perl in terms of book sales.

Caveats include the (some would say profound) difference between book sales and use. Most Perl programmers already have accumulated books on the topic. Similarly, C# showed a spike in book sales, but that is almost certainly largely a reflection on the release of VS2005 and not an indicator of a sudden shift towards that language.

Having said that, an important component of programming language popularity is “buzz” and the perception created by a sudden increase in books/seminars/articles. With sites like Digg creating “flash-interest,” and increasing the volatility of the marketplace for attention, “buzz” may play an even bigger role in whatever The Next Big Language is than it did in the success of C++ and Java (two languages whose success was undoubtedly boosted by the amount of associated teaching / discussion).

On Being Dugg

On June 19, I posted 3 articles, “15 Exercises to Known a Programming Language,” which came to the attention of Digg and was, for a few days, on the front page (and even the top item) in the Programming theme.

I’ve finally gotten around to reviewing my logs. While the article got about 8 times as many hits as my next-most-popular article ever (about ~40,000 hits), the click-through to the second and third articles dropped dramatically (5297 and 3919). I’m not disappointed by these click-through rates: each article was several hundred words long.

It’s difficult to determine how many people subscribe to your RSS feed, since there is not a 1:1 relationship between hits to your XML file and “eyeballs.” My blogging software (dasBlog), like many, puts a Web bug in each post, though, so I use the average number of aggregator-based reads as an indicator of whether my blog is gaining or losing ground. By that standard, it doesn’t appear as if being Dugg made a long-term difference. From my baseline rate, I saw a 17% spike in June (the month the article appeared) and a return to the baseline (actually 94%) in July. (Hmm? I should switch that to median rather than average?)

In terms of immediate economic boon, I have a minimal AdSense presence on my Website. AdSense TOS forbids discussion of your actual income, but in the spectrum of latte-book-graphics card-rent, 40K hits from Dugg was in the high-latte / low-book range.

Thoughts:

The article was pretty on-topic for this blog, so I was hoping to pick up some long-term readership. While I may have done that, it’s not apparent in the data. I have been having a long-term growth in my aggregator reads, and while there was a spike, July actually fell back a little (on the other hand, my posts in July have been pretty lame, because of my hardware problems).

The 40K direct hits are nothing to sneeze at. I imagine that if I had been pitching something (a book, a tutorial, etc.) and had embedded an ad in the article, that might have led to some income. However, I think in-post contextual ads are beyond the pale, so for me it highlights the fact that ad revenues for a programming related blog are trivial. (Having said that, I am convinced that blogging is easily the most cost-effective form of marketing there is for a consultant. Absolutely worthwhile.)