My "State of the Line" Address

2016 Update: This post references a now-defunct blog I once operated, Across the Line. The blog covered the intersection of music & technology. Many of its posts, including all original content I wrote, have been imported into these archives.

Hello friends.

It’s been well over a month now since I re-launched my Across the Line domain as this experiment in blogging. I’ve received a fair amount of feedback from close friends and casual readers alike on what they think works and what doesn’t. As a reader of my blog, I’d like to take some time to share these findings and my plans (read: “best guesses”) for the future.

First, some background. ATL began on the recommendation of a few friends who all independently suggested I start blogging about the intersection of music and technology. I’m both a musician and geek myself, having run the gauntlet from playing in rock bands to creating software. I vividly remember coming home from this year’s annual SXSW Interactive/Music/Film festival in Austin, TX inspired to create something. It was actually a conversation at a coffee shop with my impromptu roommate (and now friend) that sparked the thought that got me started on this thread.

In the weeks since I started, this blog evolved from a simple idea that began as “hey guys, is this any good?” to a project that I sometimes devote as many as 20 hours per week to. In fact, I’ve come across the bittersweet discovery that there really is not that much original content in this space. This is both a challenge because my resources are so limited but perhaps more so it’s a benefit because I can contribute to a discussion that I am passionate about.

All that said, let’s cut to the important part. I’ve had a lot of fun trying out different styles, mixing and matching content from different sources to share with you. 

First, here’s what I know doesn’t work. Yes, you can expect all of this to stop:

  1. Multiple posts each day - For a while I felt like I had to post a certain amount each day. A few friends recommended I try out John Gruber’s blogging style, a la Daring Fireball, so I experimented with that. The trouble is, I run this blog in my spare time while holding down a full-time job. More often than not, I’d feel like I had a “quota” to fill. That attitude is not honest to myself and is certainly not honest to readers. Gruber can pull it off because he does DF full-time, but ATL is not my primary gig.
    Outcome: Expect fewer but more meaningful posts; less quantity, more quality.
  2. Flooding social networks - This blog is hosted by Tumblr, an excellent blogging platform and a thriving social network. Admittedly, I’m not a social butterfly even on the internet. I read somewhere (probably Chris Brogan’s blog) that you’re doing it wrong if less than 4 of your last 10 tweets do not include @replies. Because I post so much, I don’t have time to monitor Twitter and properly discuss my posts with my followers. Bad form.
    Outcome: Expect to see me Tweet less but discuss with my followers more on Twitter. I’ll also plan to turn off Tumblr’s auto-post to Facebook.
  3. Irrelevant Content -  I freely admit that some of the content I’ve posted on here has been at best music-only and unrelated to technology and at worst fluff and filler.
    Outcome: I will only feature artists that I think are using technology in interesting ways, be it how they create their music, or interact with fans. I also plan to branch out into the other end of the spectrum, technologists that work with music.

Now that we’ve established all that, here’s what I know does work:

  1. Interviews - My interview with Quiet Entertainer remains by far the most viewed post on this blog. I also received a tremendous (for me at least!) amount of positive feedback on my style and humbly accept that my passion for the topic of music and technology is evident in that piece.
    Outcome: I have several interviews pending publication that you can certainly expect to see soon.
  2. Recommendations - My posts on playlists and music recommendations are the second most viewed and more importantly, spark the most discussion on Twitter and Facebook. I’ve created a new play list every month for the past who-knows-how-long. Friends often ask me where this music comes from and if I can share it with them.
    Outcome: You can bet on seeing those posted here with song-by-song commentary.
  3. Infographics - People seem to love infographics, judging from the discussions that have came about around those I’ve posted. Especially popular are humorous ones, like the Friday I’m in Love t-shirt.
    Outcome: I may even try my hand at creating my own infographics and will continue to post only those that are directly related to music+technology.
  4. Original Pieces - Much to my surprise, my own longer-form thoughts on topics like the iPad and on-line music sales are surprisingly enjoyable to some. Naturally, I’ll  continue this, but do expect to see less about Apple; it’s just challenging this day and age to find sources out there on music+technology where Apple is not mentioned.
    Outcome: I’ll post an original essay from time to time and promise to they will be coherent pieces, not rambling rants.

So there you have it: as much of a plan for the future of this blog as I feel is necessary. (If you think I should be more detailed, I suggest you read the chapter on planning from Jason Friend and David Heinemeier Hansson’s book, Rework.)

The timing for this reflection could have actually not been any better. In about a week, I will be embarking on a professional endeavor that is brand new for me. (More on that later!) I knew that assessing the “State of the Line” was inevitable; I planned from the start to press the pause button and reflect after a month or so. However, because the readership of ATL has humbly grown as it has, I don’t feel it’s right to stop posting without explanation and hope for iterative improvement.

Once again, I want to express my thanks for your continued support. I hope you continue to enjoy reading Across the Line. As always, I would love to hear your feedback, positive or negative.

-Bill