The “Random Post” Effect: WordPress Wants Your Blog to Succeed
I don’t know if people who read this blog but aren’t WordPress users have access to this option, so you’ll have to tell me in the Comments section — do you get a little drop-down menu at the top of the screen called “Blog Info”? If you do, there’s an item on it (first one in my version of the interface) called “Random Post.” That pretty much does what you’d think it does.
I’d ignored that feature for the last year and a half. I tend to read the most recent three or four posts when I visit a new blog and decide whether or not to come back based on those. But a coincidental bit of lag and a sticky mouse pulled it up a few days ago, and lo and behold, there was one of my favorite old posts from this blog (The Hunks of the Western Literary Canon, if you were wondering).
That struck me as a fair way to get to know a blog better. Everyone has off-weeks — what if I’ve been passing up on good content just because I was linked to someone during their “meh” period? The idea bothered me, so I took some time to test the feature out on my own blog, clicking through a number of random posts to see how spread out they were, whether one-line “sorry I can’t post today” posts were weighted equally with 1000-worders, and so on.
The results were startling. For one thing, I’d forgotten most of the posts I found ever existed; it was like reading a lot of this stuff for the first time. Three times a week times a lot of weeks adds up to more random crap than I apparently knew. But more importantly the content seemed to be consistently good.
Regular readers know that the content isn’t actually consistently good, so I suspect WordPress of weighting things somehow. Longer titles seemed better-represented. Perhaps there’s a keyword influence there? Many of the posts were the more readable (and sometimes off-topic) list-format ones that tend to be easily readable. With no creative editing or glosses, the first five clicks of “Random Post” (not counting that first accident) got me this:
- Successful Debuts of Famous Authors
- Traditional Diets for Writers
- Waffles, Writing and the New Year
- The Writing Life: How to Thoroughly Abuse Caffeine
- “Am I a Writer Yet?” — Paid, Professional, Published and Other Benchmarks Defined
They may not be the best posts I ever wrote, but all of these are solid. I can link them here without feeling embarrassed. Since that can’t be said about everything on this blog, I’m inclined to conclude that WordPress really wants my blog to succeed.
What about you, oh loyal readers? Does a random sampling of your blog turn up the posts you’d like it to? Do you suspect WordPress and its random number generator of stacking the odds? Leave a comment and let me know! The usual nonsense returns on Monday as usual…