Building Traffic through Networking
This post is a little aside from my usual development topics but it's something I've found very interesting. I've often wondered how people like Jeffrey Zeldman, Dave Shea, Molly Holzschlag and (insert your favourite web professional here) have achieved success.
I believe it comes down to passion. You must be passionate at what you do. Jeffrey Zeldman wasn't the first person to use web standards but he was one of the most passionate. Dave Shea wasn't the first person to use CSS but his passion launched the CSS Zen Garden. And Molly, well, she's passionate about everything. Becoming an advocate for something is a great way to get noticed.
Get to know people
But I also believe another great way to get noticed is to network yourself. There are sites like LinkedIn or Orkut that are supposed to help you do that but it certainly hasn't been effective for me. What has worked is starting up a conversation with someone. It might be in person, via email or via instant messenger. The key thing is the conversation. You're establishing a deeper connection.
What does that deeper connection accomplish?
First of all, it just feels nice to talk to people who share the same passions and interests. Even better, though, is that people start coming to you. They start telling other people about you. They start linking to you. And you do the same for them. We often forget that the online world is much like the offline world. There's no entitlement. I've sometime felt entitled. "Why are they so successful? I know just as much as they do!" But one of those things that I've learned is that it's often who you know and not what you know.
People have often asked me why I joined the 9rules network. While the site referrals are nice, the more important thing (and the thing I least expected) was the connection to other passionate people. Suddenly there was a community that helped each other and did so willingly and for free. It might be a subtle thing like a site critique but it was also more overt things like getting linked on blogrolls or in articles (the best links of all!).
Now, this may sound clique-ish and I can certainly see why you might think that but I believe that a clique serves to exclude. Whereas those of us who blog (including those in 9rules) serve to include. We want to share with everybody!
So, are you passionate?
You might be happy to find out that 9rules is about to open the doors for another round of submissions. If you have a blog (about anything -- it doesn't have to be about the web) then I definitely recommend getting your name in. In the meantime, if you ever want to chat, my door is always open. You can also expect to find me in Austin for SxSW 2006 where you can be sure I'll be taking the opportunity to strike up a conversation or two.