December 1st of last year was the first post on this blog. As I look back over the past year on this little blog I started, I thought I would share some of my thoughts -and thanks!-for the journey that this first year has been.
When I started this blog, I thought that it would be primarily a Minitrix focused blog. The main reason is that I really love the brand for both its marketing, their product quality, and for sentimental childhood reasons. There is also very little content on the internet for English language readers (especially for their more modern, Continental output). However an interesting thing happened in that time as I got to meet more people through this blog and other forums, and I started to see that my knowledge of other N Gauge areas grew along with my evolving and expanding interest in them.
So its been a fantastic journey, and I am truly thankful for the new friends I have found through this blog. A couple of folks I really want to mention are Don who also goes by "Captain Oblivious" and runs a blog (Akihabara Station) that was, and is, a huge inspiration to me. Don also contributes a lot of time and energy to running what is one of the best N Gauge forums around over at the Japanese Rail Forum. He's been a faithful visitor to this blog, and has always been swift to offer thoughtful and meaningful advice and information, and needed encouragement! Even though his interests are Japanese, he was open-minded enough to link to my blog even though its very clear I stray far from pure Japanese models! Thanks Don!
I've also been - what's the right word?- honored to get all the positive feedback from those that have commented, and then returned to read other rants or comments I post, but whose names I don't know. I hope that what I've been able to post has been entertaining, informative, and encouraging for all of you in this fascinating hobby.
I was very flattered by Ken B., who I shared emails with over the summer, who used my track plan as the basis for his own layout. Thanks Ken! Looking for an update on your progress soon!
I also should thank all the forums and blogs that have kindly allowed me to list my blog on their sites. From the Japanese Rail Forum, NScale.net, NScale.org, NScaleLimited forum, and, of course, the Yahoo! Groups Unitrack Forum.
Also, this blog is a collaboration from folks which I always try to link or attribute credit to. I've gained a lot of valuable information and learned exciting new things to do - ranging from wiring Kato Unitrack switches with LED's, modeling and painting buildings, and the always challenging DCC installation and programming questions, from such great gentlemen and teachers as GR Stilwell on the Yahoo Unitrack Groups (I'll be sharing the work using his BCD circuit in a future post), Martin, Bernard, Cteno, westfalen, nik-n-dad, serenityFan, and dozens of others for various inspiration for modeling, DCC, and Japanese manufacturers, from the aforementioned Japanese forum; Bob/Scaper, for his inspirational 'urban modeling' work on Flickr; MooseID, Jimmi, MisterMahony, Gary60s, Frank, DigitalDremz, Perth45, Ghill and a host of others from the NScale.net, NScale.org and NScaleLimited forums.
Wow. That's quite a list! There's even more of course... there are folks on some of the non-English N Gauge forums who have also provided inspiration, however, I tend to be something of troll if I'm using Google translate to read the content. What I can say about these-and a lot of other folks-I've 'met' over the past year while working on this blog or learning more about N Scale, is that they are all pretty cool guys. This is not something most people would say about 'model train' geeks, but in my view, 'most people' are wrong! And I'm pretty honored to have learned or been inspired by all of them. Thank you gentlemen!
A Year of Numbers:
So some 'fun facts' about this blog. Its grown in ways that are pretty flattering. Here's a chart from Google Analytics showing the number of visits since February 7th (I didn't get the tracking code from Google installed until then, so I missed the first month).
How do people get here? This was interesting to me, take a look:
Keywords tell a story of how people got here, and some sort of indication of what's most interesting to them I think:
So, where are my visitors coming from? No surprise, that language is the biggest determinant of who comes to Quinntopia as indicated by 3 of the top 4 counties:
What's really fun about checking these numbers is the 'internationality' of this hobby. Besides those in the top 10, and other "Western" countries (Belgium, Sweden, etc...) which can be somewhat expected, there's also decent amount of traffic from Singapore, Brazil, Indonesia, Chile, and Turkey! How cool is that?!
One of the things I wanted to do with this blog, was not be an 'expert'. There are a lot of experts who have a lot to contribute, but it can be intimidating and discouraging to realize that your knowledge (e.g. electricity/DCC), skill (building, modeling, soldering), and resources are not as good as others. The folks I mentioned above have all been inspirations and encouragement and each have given of their time with humility and patience and good material on the web or forums. It is their example they have set that I hope to share, and will try to continue to share, with this blog. As I explain on my 'about me' blurb, I do this N Scale stuff becuase its fun, interesting, and inspiring....not just the trains...but the connections I can make with others on a forum, through email, or this blog. If you're not sure if you should comment or post or ask a question on a forum or on this blog, do not be! All are welcome, and ignore the grumpy 'bad apples' (who really should consider moving out of N Scale to O Gauge or something).
What I've Learned So Far:
- If you want to start a blog, or already have a blog, let me - and others - know! You've got to self-promote, as 'self-serving' as that may sound, there really is no other way for people to know 'you are there' (of course, it helps if your focus is similar to the blog or forum or whatever site where you want to 'promote' yourself!)
- List your blog wherever you can - particularly where its most relevant
- In light of the above, BE CAREFUL about self-promoting your blog in forum postings! It comes off as very self-serving and...tacky. But I always feel its okay IF the information your are linking is relevant to the thread. But DO add your url to your signature so that folks like myself can choose to find out more about you.
- Provide an accurate and exciting description of your blog!
- Be consistent with blogging. I've had to discipline myself to think up and be creative about what to post (which is acutally fun for me), even during 'slow times'....I think if you don't maintain some activity on your blog, people will assume you've shut down. The reality is, the past 6 months has been about creating a lot of buildings for my layout (and I'm sort of surprised that my site traffic has grown...perhaps there is more interest in this area than I think, but certainly not as much interest compared to locomotive reviews, layout pictures and plans, or Unitrack). This sort of 'urban modeling' stuff only appeals to a very small segment of fellow hobbyists, which is okay, but posting about another building, etc.. can get sort of boring. So what else can you share? The post I wrote on "N Scale Cars" was just something I thought would be interesting and break up a series of 'building' oriented posts. The inspiration came from a post on the Japanese forum, and it was an interesting topic for a lot of folks, and I could use my blog to share some photos and observations of my own "N Scale Cars".
- Use pictures...and add meaningful titles to those pictures! Why? First, look at the number of visitors who have come to my website through a Google Image Search....you can help Google image search by changing the 'meaningless' default coding / naming that your camera creates for your photos, with a relevant description...which could be the name of the train, the manufacturers model numbers, etc... this really helps for people who look for pictures of things they want to learn more about!
- Distribute your 'content'. While not a big source of traffic for me, if you have videos, post them on YouTube, DailyMotion, and other video sites, and provide a link and description of your blog for folks who come across your video.
- Build your own 'brand'. Yes, you can do it. Its all about developing a style, an easy to remember name, and being consistent with it. It really does help!
- Use tools like "Google Analytics" to help discover what works...in other words, what people like and want more of! I think I made a mistake with a clever/stupid German name for my post talking about my Unitrack experience! What a dumb idea! Most people don't know what "Unitrack Obersten" means if they don't speak German! Yet, it still gets a decent amount of traffic.
- Remember...for most of us, this is a hobby, not politics. :-) There really aren't 'right' and 'wrongs'. There are 'more prototypical' and 'more detailed' etc... but that is not always the goal of everyone else into N Gauge!
- I also think its better to keep it uncluttered. Previous or long time visitors may recall that I used to have several 'webring' ads or promotional gadgets in my sidebars. They're all gone now. First they really didn't bring in any users, and second, they make the website ugly, and most webrings aren't really well managed, so the next 'site' in a webring could be totally off topic. Better to focus your energy on creating good content that search engines can 'pick up' for people really looking for it. And yes, I don't, and won't, have ads. Google is always pushing their 'AdSense' product on Blogger users. That's just my personal thing.