Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Dilemma of a Different Sort

I first noticed it last March, during Women's History month. Some of my readers who subscribed to my blog had their email subscriptions bounced by their ISPs. The first time it happened I only lost a couple of subscribers, and while I'm always disappointed to lose readers I didn't worry a lot about it. The second time the same thing happened I lost even more subscribers. That's when I became concerned.

When I looked back on the two blog posts I'd written that triggered those events I realized immediately what was going on. Can you guess? Without mentioning those two blog posts by name (and risk getting this post bounced too) let me just say that they were articles I'd written about the history of various items of women's clothing. The ISPs had bounced some of my reader's subscriptions to my blog because I'd used some trigger words in those posts. Which words were triggers? I can't say for sure but I can make a few good guesses. Did those folks who lost their email subscription to my blog still continue to read it? I have no idea.

Like most of my fellow genea-bloggers, I'm concerned about my readership. I've worked hard for quite a while now to build it up and I certainly don't want to shoot myself in the foot by writing content that will lose it for me. On the other hand, I've got what I think are some interesting genealogy articles in mind that I'd like to write but I'm worried about setting off ISP triggers and losing readership again. Nobody tells you the rules on this sort of thing. I don't even know for sure what words I need to avoid. Am I copping out by not writing the articles because I'm concerned about my readership numbers? Or am I foolish to write what I know may well lose me readers? This is my dilemma.

Before I go any further, let me just play this safe and say that for the purposes of this post I will refer to the three letter word that starts with s and ends with x as _e_.

I've made no secret of my background. I've previously mentioned that I majored in psychology and minored in sociology as an undergrad and went on to earn an MSW (Masters in Social Work). I worked for years as a clinical therapist and the subject of _e_ is something I'm quite comfortable discussing and writing about. I had to take classes in _e_ therapy as a student and became desensitized to even the most graphic discussions on the subject. Having said that, I realize that this blog is not the place for open discussions of _e_. It's about genealogy and family history (OK and sometimes it's about Stephanie Plum books ;-) and the other stuff doesn't belong here.

Or does it?

Where would we be today if not for _e_? Isn't it the very basis of family history? Whether we openly acknowledge it or not we wouldn't be here today if grandma and grandpa weren't doing the late night tango. It is a fact of life. And a fact of family history. Mind you, I'm not thinking about turning this blog into one about _e_ and genealogy (although that would be fun wouldn't it?). But the articles I want to write would include certain elements of a _e_ ual nature and to try to write them without mention of such would be like trying to avoid mentioning the 800 lb gorilla in the room.

I've thought about trying to use things like "_e_" for word substitutes but I don't think that would work well. It's easy enough to do when it's only the one word I'm substituting but to try to come up with enough substitutions for even a small number of might-be-trigger words would create a downright comical post. And while I'm all in favor of lighthearted banter when it comes to discussions involving _e_ I don't want to turn a serious subject into a comedy.

Doesn't this post feel awkward to read, like I'm dancing around instead of being straight foreword? It certainly feels that way as I'm writing it. Yeesh.

There are so many unknowns to consider... Does the vocabulary in "comments" get screened by ISPs so that even if I avoid using trigger words I could lose subscribers if those who write comments don't? And what about outside links... if my fellow bloggers were to mention my article and naively use the trigger words I'm trying to avoid, will that somehow reflect negatively on my blog and drop it's rankings/ratings because it becomes associated with those trigger words?

So where do I go from here? I'd really like to hear from you, my readers. If your email subscription got bounced by your ISP would you still read my blog regularly? If you're a blogger, would you avoid mentioning my articles (when you otherwise might not have) because it might trigger a loss in your own readership? How concerned are you about your readership numbers? How interested are you in reading what I might write on this subject anyway? Would you be offended by the idea and quit reading my blog if I were to discuss _e_ and family history here? Am I over thinking this?

I would appreciate your feedback on this subject. Please use discretion when making your comments and avoid what might be trigger words. And for heaven's sake don't write a blog post saying "Jasia's considering writing about genea- _e_ on her blog" and then link to this article! If you don't feel comfortable writing a comment, please at least vote in the poll I've place in the column on the right. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration and feedback.

Now tell me, what are your thoughts?