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Interview: The Major Geeks of MakeUseOf

Ryan Dube
Web Site Marketing Strategy

Get the inside scoop on MakeUseOf, a highly popular tech blog that seeks to be the website for major geeks, or more specifically, where the "cool geeks" hang out.

About The Major Geeks of MakeUseOf

It started as a very simple idea in the mind of Aibek Esengulov, as he hunted for a way to release his pent up energy and fascination with "cool stuff," on the Internet. Within just a few years, MakeUseOf has become one of the fastest growing up-and-coming blogs on the Internet, with over 58,000 RSS subscribers and a loyal fan base. The website has capitalized on the fact that while it was uncool to be a major geek years ago, being a geek today is considered by many as a very cool thing. Aibek sat down with LoveToKnow Web Design in this exclusive interview to discuss how the idea for MakeUseOf originated, what it was like in the early days of the website, and any advice he might offer to other web developers who hope to eventually have such a successful website someday.

How It All Started

LTK: On your "about page," you mentioned that your idea for MakeUseOf was inspired by Amazon's bestseller Naked Conversations, by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. Do you recall what it was specifically about that book that gave you the idea to start MakeUseOf?

AE: I had been doing different things on the net for a while. Before starting MakeUseOf I was already involved in developing a number of web apps, including a temporary email provider, a song lyrics site, a HotOrNot clone and several others. Most of these sites were eventually sold on eBay after staying online for 5-6 months... I was making enough money to pay for things like rent and to cover my expenses, but the thing is - I was never really happy about working that way. I wanted to get into one project and keep working on it. Somewhere during that time, I read Scoble's "Naked Conversations," which kept emphasizing the growing importance of blogs and how search engine friendly they were.

That's how I got the blog idea in the first place. As for the topic, for years my biggest problem with the web was the lack of sources where users, like myself, could learn about other useful websites. Finally, I decided to create a site/blog that would ultimately become the "user's guide" to the web, and a top choice for finding "cool websites". And that's how started.

What It's Like To Run a New Website

LTK: When you first started MakeUseOf in 2006 and registered the domain, did you find it difficult to get started, either coming up with the design or with the technical aspects of running a blog?

AE: Well, both yes and no. When starting, I was already familiar with HTML, PHP and MySQL. So stuff like the Wordpress setup and occasional troubleshooting of plugging were easy for me. I did have few difficulties with CSS when adjusting the first MUO theme template files, but nothing major. Obviously, as the site continued to grow, so did the rate of issues where something wouldn't work for no apparent reason. I would frequently spend hours fixing something that would take a pro, at most, 5 minutes. This led me to hire someone who would maintain the technical side of the website. Now we have two such people.

LTK: At the beginning, were you on your own with publishing content? And if so, did you find it difficult to keep up with producing new content often?

AE: Yes, at the beginning it was just the two of us, me and Kaly. Back then, we would publish on average 1 article every 2 days. I'd say coming up with original articles was our main challenge. This still remains a challenge for us, and we spend a great deal of time coming up with articles that would make our site standout from the rest and keep people interested.

LTK: You mentioned that your friend Kaly was instrumental to developing the concept for the blog. At the beginning, was it just the two of you building up the site and the content, and what was that like?

AE: Yes, Kaly played an essential role in shaping the final concept of the blog that is now reflected in our tagline: "Cool Websites, Software and Internet Tips".

What It's Like to Have a Successful Website

LTK: When did you first consider MakeUseOf to be a "success" as a blog? Was there an income level or a reader membership level that you were shooting for?

AE: In 2007 MakeUseOf was featured in Top 100 Undiscovered Websites, published by PC Magazine. I think that was the first time when I felt that MakeUseOf was doing really well.

LTK: Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs who are looking for similar opportunities to create a successful blog or website on the Internet?

AE: If you are thinking about building a successful site, you need to work both hard and smart. I don't think it will work otherwise.

Final Words

What this interview reveals is that it's not only possible to start your own website or blog and have it draw a great deal of interest and traffic, but it's also realistic to think that you can make a fair income from doing so, and have a great deal of fun in the process!

Interview: The Major Geeks of MakeUseOf