Monday, July 09, 2007

I write a blog, but I don't read them...

I confess that while I urge/coerce, everyone I know to read my blog, I don’t reciprocate.

I don’t read more than a handful of blogs regularly – I don’t even pour over my subscriptions in my readers with any frequency.

This confession is a result of having read and agreeing with Jakob Nielsen's article, published today, “Write Articles, Not Blog Postings”. In the article, Nielsen highlights the uneven quality of blogs:
  • Sometimes people toss off a posting in a minute. Other times they spend hours.
  • Sometimes a writer happens to know a lot about the topic at hand, possibly because they've just spent several months working on that exact problem. Other times people know nothing--which doesn't keep them from voicing their opinions :-)
  • Sometimes people are lucky and get a blinding insight. Other times they post more out of duty than anything else.
While I like blog’s conversational, personal and generally less rigid, more open style, I also like to have background information and in-depth analysis.

Too many bloggers feel required to blog regularly regardless of whether they have anything useful to say. Or perhaps blogging is just so trendy, everyone is doing it regardless of whether or not they have anything to add or any writing ability. (I live in a glass house, so I’m not throwing stones at anyone I wouldn’t throw at myself.)

Perhaps my general dislike for blogs is that in many cases blogs are about topics that I don’t care passionately enough about to justify the uneven quality and singular focus. Then there are blogs on topics I thought I cared deeply about, but then upon finding blogs on that topic, (eg. Xena or Shakira), I just couldn’t possibly care about it to the degree that the bloggers do. I also haven’t found blogs on some specific topics I care deeply about (eg. the cultural aspects of the Internet or the Web from a production standpoint – all I have found are blogs focusing on the business aspects eg. marketing, investing opportunities, etc. or are too tech-geek for me).

If considering starting a blog, Nielsen cautions (in his utilitarian way):

To demonstrate world-class expertise, avoid quickly written, shallow postings. Instead, invest your time in thorough, value-added content that attracts paying customers.

But it takes so much time to write at that level of insight and quality. I understand and appreciate the allure of the ease of blog publishing, but it is true that while a blog posting is easy to do, it may often offer minimal return.

I don't promise consistent quality or insightful value-add commentary, so to be fair to my friends and family, you are forgiven, if you, like me, just don't see a convincing reason to read the blog.


Bargainista said...

You're not expected to read every blog, just the ones written by people who share your interests and have interesting insights to share. It's the niche factor, n'est pas?

stephen fetter said...

I agree with bargainista ... but I'd add this as well:

I think that a blog needs to have a fairly well-focused purpose. If that purpose is clear ... and if the writer sticks to it ... then readers who are interested in that topic are unlikely to be disappointed. The blogs I've given up on don't follow this rule ... and I don't want my inbox full of a wide variety of random, unfocused thoughts on everything from laundry to dishwater.

I can imagine choosing to read different sorts of blogs with different purposes in mind. I might read one by a family member, for example, whose purpose is simply to keep the family up-to-date on what she's up to. It would save her from writing a hundred personal emails a week that all say the same thing ... but it wouldn't have a lot of appeal to someone who didn't know her personally. I wish my university-student daughter would do that ... I might hear from her more often!

A blog I do actually read really is mini-articles. I scan them for information, and read about half or less of what's there ... but I know that I can go back to that blog if I want the info, and even having the subject headers is useful.

I read a blog like yours because it gives me a window on a world I'm kind of interested in, but only participate in from the edges. I'm not a professional webdesigner ... but I dabble ... and it's interesting to see what catches your interest. I certainly can't relate everything you talk about to my dabbling ... but it's food for thought.

I admit, too, that partly I read your blog because I know you face-to-face a little, and it's an interesting way to learn a little more about you and what you think about. People interest me ... especially the people I know in other contexts.

Glen Farrelly said...

My blog posting was unintentionally offensive to the few, but dedicated Webslinger readers who are also bloggers. I do read some blogs - but the only ones I read regularly are the ones by the these two commentators and a few others. I also like to read blogs by people I know, as I get to know them better. I like the sense of personality that blogs have that is lacking in other media. My apologies - I was being too provactive!

stephen fetter said...

Well, Glen, I didn't find your comments offensive at all. In fact I agree with a lot of what you said ... so please don't think you stepped on my toes.

In fact, I think it's an important question. There are millions of blogs out there ... if someone really wanted to, they could do nothing else but read blogs. Sounds hellish to me, but there you are. For me, it makes me a whole lot more selective over what I'm willing to spend time on. I'm sure I'm passing up good stuff, but I simply don't have time to look at everything that catches my eye.

So ... my comments were intended to describe a little of how I do my triage on the information overload. I'm assuming that every other person reading blogs has to set rules for themselves too!