Elite Blogger: Rendezvous With Alex Santoso

Respecting running Saturday and falling Sunday, I decide to make you stroll into a neat side of the web that is maintained by a full time small business owner and a successful blogger. Alex Santoso, founder and editor, Neatorama started his blog in August 2005 as a hobby with little knowledge that it would soon take a shape of a successful business set up. Against earlier petty number of posts, Alex together with his team manages to post average 20 stories per day and shares that the blog is snowballed with over 14,500 posts within three years. The canvas of Neatorama captures random and diverse nature of posts with a common thread: They’re things that interest blog authors and considering their weighted readership, it is obvious that their interest matches readers’ taste.

Had he not being a blogger, you would have known him as a renowned Scientist as he holds a doctorate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from University of California at San Francisco. Okay, he is a Scientist, Entrepreneur, Blogger but at personal front he is also a husband (to a very understanding wife Tiffany) and a dad.

So, ride over to see what the creative mind behind this Neat Space has to say:

Introduce yourself to my readers and take us to the flow of your day at work.
Hi everyone, my name is Alex Santoso and I edit Neatorama, a blog about science, art, pop culture, odd news and other neat things on the web. I don’t have a set “flow” to my day at work – I work full time in my own small business and I post stuff on Neatorama for fun. I mostly add stuff to Neatorama when I have a free time at the office, and late at night when the kids have gone to bed.

What does Neatorama mean and what led to its creation?
Neatorama is actually a slang meaning “something neat.” I started it as a hobby (still is!) because I liked weird and funny stuff on the web, and I thought that a daily feature of interesting things would make a good blog. It started as a few posts a day, and snowballed to over 14,500 posts in about a little under three years.

Alex SantosoAlex, I am wondering Neatorama doesn’t have any tagline or punchline. How would you describe it in one line?
Neatorama is the neat side of the web!

When did you sense an inclination towards blogging? Are you satisfied with the functionality of the blogging eco-system or think there is a need for revamp?
Actually, I’m a horrible writer, and an even worst typist (Neatorama is full of typos – they’re like little tests to see if the blog visitors are really reading the posts).
The great stuff about blogging is that it’s a highly individualistic endeavor – your blog has a different “flavor” than mine because our writing styles and focus are different. It’s also very easy to start your own blog (so many people do!). Both of these factors lead to a huge diversity of blogs, which I think is the blogging ecosystem’s greatest strength and at the same time, its greatest weakness. This low barrier of entry leads to a lot of blogs getting started only to be abandoned a few weeks or months later as people’s interests change.

Unlike other niche blogs, the featured categories at Neatorama cover all. Why did you choose to have a non-niche blog? How many posts do you play in a day and how many hands do you have to feed Neatorama on daily basis? That’s a great question: Neatorama does cover a lot of things, but they all have a common thread: they’re things the blog authors find interesting. Being “niche-less” has its advantages – it doesn’t get boring writing for the blog. I try to get in at least 5 posts for Neatorama – and often as many as a dozen or so. Other authors for the blog contribute significantly: I think the average number of posts is around 20 a day.

Tell us about your must-read or favorites blogs?
I have bookmarked close to a hundred blogs or so that I visit frequently – I categorize them under “Art” or “Science” or “Odd News,” and whenever I want a post on a particular subject, I can visit these blogs with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Provide us with your five favorite posts you have written to date.
Five is too little! I have many more favorite posts than that – actually you can see our favorites listed in Neatorama’s archive section.

You’re stranded on a desert island: What gadget do you bring?
GPS and a satellite radio, duh! :)

How would you like to be known as:
Gadget Guru:
Product Reviewer:

I’d like to be called an entrepreneur and a blogger.

Quick bites:
Hours you invest digging net: At least 3 hours
Biggest blogging mistake you did: Not starting sooner!
One hidden truth: Be yourself when you blog – even if you decide to blog anonymously, let your inner self shine through.
If asked to post only on one blog (not Neatorama), which one would that be? Why, the most important blog in the world, of course: Nothing to do with Arbroath
Advice you would have given yourself five years ago? I’d have myself to start something: a blog, a wiki, a website, whatever – just start something!
If not a blogger, then A Scientist. I have a PhD in biochemistry and I actually like science a lot – I think I’d be happy doing basic research.
Life without Internet: I remember life without Internet – it was slower and more enjoyable :)
Count of professions you have been into: Three: student, small business owner, and blogger!
First gadget you kept your fingers upon: Nothing I remember – I’m actually a techno-luddite – I don’t have many gadgets and the ones I have are given to me as gifts (I don’t buy gadgets)
One thing you hate about Neatorama: It’s SO time consuming!

Is Neatorama endurance enough to make monetary innings or you are contributing to any other blog?
One thing I find out the hard way about is that server and bandwidth cost skyrocket with traffic. When I started Neatorama, it was on a shared server and only cost me a few dollars a month, then as traffic grew, we got kicked off the server and had to upgrade to VPN. When the blog outgrew that, it had to move to a dedicated server … then to a multi-server environment. Thankfully, we now have sufficient ad income to cover these costs.

If asked for giving three tips to a greenhorn blogger, what would that be?
1. Persistence
2. Persistence
3. Persistence
“Stick-to-it-iveness” is the number one, two, and three ingredient for blogging success. It took Neatorama about 2 years to become a popular blog – I posted at least 5 items a day, even when there was no one visiting.

Besides content generation, networking comes as a part and parcel of a blogging. What is Neatorama or Alex doing at that front to maintain the frequent visits of its savvy readers?
This is something I’m particularly poor at. Interaction with readers (who comment on the blog) is one of the neatest things about blogging. I don’t comment nearly as often as I should have – If I were to blog full time, I’d devote more time to commenting.
Is it good to have an individual identity of a blog or run it as a part of a blogging network?
Both are good – I think if you want to start blogging, then you want to start as an individual blogger. That way you can develop your own style and focus – later, you can expand the blog by inviting authors or join other blogs as an “established blogger.”

Whom do you admire the most and take inspiration from at blogosphere?
A lot of bloggers inspired me: Boing Boing, for example, for creating the path and popularizing blogs; Gizmodo, for their inventiveness and reach; mentalfloss for coming up with such brainy yet entertaining articles; and Miss Cellania for her cheerful approach to blogging!

Do you think blogs are or can be as popular as Nytimes, Time, NewsWeek are?
Actually no: I think blogs can complement, but not replace traditional news media. Blogs are great in picking up stories that mainstream media ignore, but there’s a big difference between blogging and journalism.

Where do you see the Blogosphere in the future?
Expanding, yet contracting at the same time. Let me explain: more and more people will blog, but most will abandon their blogs due to lack of time or lost interest … At the same time, a select few blogs will dominate the blogosphere (for example, Gizmodo and Engadget dominate the gadget blogosphere – it’s very difficult to break into that niche. Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and other big political blogs dominate the political blogosphere and it’s hard for a new comer to make it big there).

Give us your views on EliteChoice.
It’s neat what you’re doing, Zola – I enjoyed answering the questions!

Alex SantosoWhom would you recommend as my next EliteBlogger and Why?
Miss Cellania. She’s a great blogger and a perfect example of someone who managed to gain friends, influence (and fame!) through blogging.

You can ask me one question.
Thanks Zola: what gave you the idea of interviewing bloggers?
My wits! Also, i am a social animal and this initiative is to create a platform wherein all the bloggers can share their experiences and views about the growing implementation of blogging. I believe the first-hand information coming right from the concerned bloggers’ about their stay in blogosphere can offer a guided and safe journey for evolving bloggers’.

Cheers to Alex for this lovely read and devoting time for EliteChoice readers. Wish you luck Alex.
Alex Santoso

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