Elite Blogger: Rendezvous With John Walkenbach

No he is not a technophile, neither does he dons the outfit of an entrepreneur. But yes, there is weighted reason for his stay here amongst EliteBloggers. He is a computer book author, a consultant, a blogger running JWalkBlog and not to forget his most important personality trait—he is a Banjo player.

John Walkenbach, founder cum editor, JWalkBlog hails from Tucson, Arizona and has lately touched the mark of 2050 days in blogging. The tagline of the blog reads: Stuff that may or may not interest you and the very browsing of the blog would convey similar vibes. Yah, John loves playing here random stuff and hence fall amongst the non-niche family of blogs that is successful in making its own niche. The blog has earned success in driving the interest of its savvy readers to an extent that one of their readers Wendy disclosed: J-Walkblog is now my homepage and I spend around 9-10 hours each day here. And if you aren’t aware then the rebirth of the blog is the result of populated emails sent by its honest readers only.

What’s on the cards for 2051th day of blogging? Just more of the same, I guess. At some point, I’ll probably get tired of it and quit. But maybe not. After five years, it’s still fun, and it’s not a bit like work. John confesses JwalkBlog is an inspiration for running 5-6 blogs at blogosphere and while picking one he pointed towards The Hodge Blog and smilingly said he might deny it, but I’m absolutely certain that I’m the sole inspiration for his blog.

Here is what John has to say to cool our curiosities:

Introduce yourself to my readers and take us to the flow of your day at work.
Hi readers. I’m John Walkenbach, the guy behind The J-Walk Blog. I have no “day at work,” so there is no flow. When blogging starts being work, that’s when I quit. For me, it’s just a fun hobby — a way to share interesting stuff with others around the world. It also keeps me amused. My blog attracts a great crowd, and I love reading the comments.

How would you define ‘J-WalkBlog’? How has been your journey of 2052 days of blogging?
The tagline pretty much says it all: Stuff that may or may not interest you. I post about a wide variety of topics — both serious and not so serious. Many of the posts can best be classified as weird or unusual. There are lots of other blogs like mine, but I try to make it different by posting occasional personal items, polls, and other things that elicit comments from my readers. Posting controversial items is especially fun.

My first blog post was on October 15, 2002. I wrote: “Today I woke up and decided to start a weblog. I’ve had a bit of free time lately, and I’ve spent a lot of it perusing other blogs. They vary from crappy to superb. Hopefully, this one will be somewhere in the middle.”

John WalkenbachUnlike other niche blogs, the featured categories at J-WalkBlog cover all. Why did you choose to have a non-niche blog?
It just happened that way. It wasn’t planned. In fact, hardly anything about my blog is planned.

Which one is your specialized beat?
Man, you sound like I’m a journalist or something. Specialized beat? Well, I began playing old time banjo a few years ago, so I started posting items about the banjo. If you limit yourself to reading only the items in the Banjo category, you have a nice “banjo blog” that’s actually one of the more interesting banjo blogs out there (at least I think so).
Oh, and religion. I love to point out the absurdities of organized religion.

How many posts do you play in a day and how many hands do you have to feed J-WalkBlog on daily basis?
I think I average about 15 posts per day. Some days have much fewer, and some days have as many as 30 or more. I’m the sole contributor to the blog. Quite a few people send me suggestions for links or topics, and I use about 25% of them.

Media coverage about you reveals that thousands of wanna-be bloggers have taken inspiration from the J-Walk Blog, and today take pride in having their own blog. Can you point us to few of those blogs and bloggers?
I don’t know about thousands. Maybe 5-6? One that comes to mind is a blog by a friend of mine in England: The Hodge Blog. He might deny it, but I’m absolutely certain that I’m the sole inspiration for his blog.

How active are you on social networking sites/engines viz. Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon or Reddit?
Not active at all. I subscribe to their RSS feeds and get a lot of material from them, but that’s about it. I’m not really one for anything on the Web that includes the word “social.”

Do you think RSS feeds will have a great future?
Of course. RSS is pretty much how I find stuff. If I had to actually visit the sites that I read, I’d only be able to read about 25% of them. And I’d have to shift through some very poor site designs.

What would you count as USP of your blogs that maintains the sustainability of your savvy readers?
I must be really out of it. I don’t even know what USP means. And Google doesn’t help. Was that question composed by the Corporate BS Generator?

Out of 35-featured categories here, almost half of them are new to me (haven’t seen them before over any blog). What made you play such strange number of posts here?
One part of my blog that I really hate is the categories. When I switched blogging software a few years ago, I spent about two minutes thinking about the categories. I really need to revise them — but that’s a lot of work. I keep wanting to add a Science category It’s easy enough to add new categories, but I just haven’t.

What remains the criterion of your news selection before playing them over J-Walkblog?
As it says in my FAQ, most links meet one or more of these criteria: unique, cool, madcap, groovy, amazing, spiffy, zany, wacky, or mind-boggling. I also publish a lot of anti-Bush news.

Around 76 Excel books have been written all under the name of John Walkenbach. How do you manage time for them and I am curious what developed your interest for writing Excel Bible, formulae, charts and others?
I think the number is more like 50. But if you count the foreign translations (which you shouldn’t), then it’s probably more like 150.

The book writing happens in spurts. When a new version of Microsoft Office is released, then I get to work. And I mean work. As it turns out, I’m a pretty efficient writer and I know my stuff –which helps.

My book-writing career is a complete accident. In grad school I was writing articles for scientific journals, and I liked it. So I expanded into writing software reviews for computer magazines. For some reason, InfoWorld and PC World kept giving me spreadsheet-related assignments, so I became known as a spreadsheet guy. Then one day, a start up book publisher asked me if I wanted to write a book. I’d never thought of such a thing, but I decided to give it a try. The book was a guide to 1-2-3 For Windows — a lousy product that never sold much. My book was great, but it never sold much either. But I realized I could actually write a book, and kept it up. Eventually, I quit my job and did it full time — which actually means about 1/3 time.

How would you like to be known as:

Probably in this order: Author, blogger, banjo player. Not a technophile, and definitely not an entrepreneur.

John Walkenbach

Quick bites:
Hours you invest digging net: Around 4-6 hours
Biggest blogging mistake you did: When I decided to stop the blog after about one year. I couldn’t believe the number of emails I received from people who actually liked the blog. So the end of the J-Walk Blog lasted only one day.
One hidden truth: I am Toad and Toad is me and we are all together.
If asked to post only on one blog (not J-Walkblog), which one would that be? I can’t think of a single blog that I would want to contribute to. There are plenty of good blogs, of course, but I’m just not the type who contributes to other blogs.
Advice you would have given yourself five years ago? Spend some time thinking about the blog categories, you fool.
If not a blogger, then Ballerina?
Life without Internet: I’d survive. I’d probably subscribe to a newspaper, and maybe even a few magazines. And my banjo playing would improve quite a bit.
One thing you hate about J-Walkblog: It’s all good — except for the stupid categories.

Tell us about your ‘must-read’ or favorites blogs?
Well, I have about 50 of them in my RSS reader. If I had to choose my favorites I’d say (in no particular order):
Huffington Post
Think Progress
The Panda’s Thumb
Futility Closet

Provide us with your five favorite posts you have written to date.
I’d love to, but it would take way to much time to figure that out. I’d have to go through all 25,000 of them, rate each one on multiple criteria, create a few pivot tables, and maybe even do a regression analysis. And even then, no one could trust the results.

Is J-Walkblog endurance enough to make monetary innings or you are engaged with some other thing also?
My financial goal with the blog is to earn enough to pay for my hosting fees and other blog-related expenses. That goal is met, and I usually have a few dollars left over for beer every month. My real income comes from book royalties, software sales, and hot dog vending.

Whom do you admire the most and take inspiration from at blogosphere? That’s easy. Myrtle McNeedle.

Do you think blogs are or can be as popular as NYTimes, Time, NewsWeek are?
Yes I do. I don’t know why, it’s just a wild guess. I really don’t care.

If asked to read only one blog, which one would be that? (besides J-WalkBlog)

What is your business model? From where do you tag monetary innings?
1. Wake up
2. Make some blog posts
3. ????
4. No profit!

Share one of your unfulfilled desires that you wish blogosphere to accomplish?
Get Bush and Cheney booted out of office before the end of the year. It’ll never happen, but we can dream, can’t we?

You’re stranded on a desert island: Which is that one thing that you wish to have there with you?
I must agree with Joel Mabus on this one: “You’re goin’ off to a desert island for five long years. You can only take one instrument, what’ll it be? Why I’d pick a five string banjo every time. Because nothing – and I mean nothing – kills time like a banjo.”

Is it good to have an individual identity of a blog or run it as a part of a blogging network?

Every blog network that I’m aware of pretty much sucks. So I’ll go with the individual identity.

If asked for giving three tips to a greenhorn blogger, what would that be?
1. Don’t take yourself too seriously
2. Post every day
3. Don’t even think of making any money at it.

Having completed 2052 Days of blogging, what’s next for John and J-Walk?
Just more of the same, I guess. At some point, I’ll probably get tired of it and quit. But maybe not. After five years, it’s still fun, and it’s not a bit like work.

Give us your views on EliteChoice.
To be honest, I had never heard of EliteChoice until you asked me to do this interview. After looking at the site with Adblock turned off, I can’t say that I’m impressed. Its way too cluttered for my taste. Sorry, but I prefer simplicity in Web site design.

Zola: John i appreciate your honest remarks about my blog. I feel the same for my blog as far as presentability is concerned, hence my technical team is working on its new face.

John WalkenbachWhom would you recommend as my next EliteBlogger and Why?
Gerard Vlemmings from The Presurfer. He seems like an interesting guy, and I want to get back at him for not being available to meet when I was in Amsterdam.

You can ask me one question.
So what have you got against banjos?

I am a guitarist. But is it actually against Banjos Can’t say!

And here we thank John for sparing time for my readers and his kind interest for making up to my EliteBlogger series. Wish you luck John for your future endeavours.

John Walkenbach

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