The number of long form blog post have been declining for years. Most speculate that it’s because most of us spend more time microblogging on Twitter and Facebook. Certainly, when I started blogging in 2004, I blogged a lot of things that I would only tweet now. In November 2010, Jeff Bercovici wrote on Forbes:
53 percent of hobbyist bloggers say they update their blogs either somewhat less or a lot less than they have in the past. [...]
Those who say they’re blogging less often were then asked to say why. While the most popular answer was “work/family commitments,” the next two most common choices were “I am devoting more time to microblogging (eg. Twitter)” and “I am devoting more time to social networks.”
I think it took a bit longer for that trend to happen in open source software and my technology blogs, but it has come. I found myself really missing good blog posts by independent individuals and decided to see if it was my imagination, or if I really was reading less blog posts than I used to and here’s what I found on my two favorite planets: (Numbers not 100% accurate.)
While I didn’t have a good way to measure microblogging numbers by the same authors as were in Planet, I do know that most of the people whose blog posts I miss are regularly posting on Facebook or Twitter.
The thing is, I miss reading all those blog posts. I’ve tried looking for more blogs to follow but not been really successful at finding new ones. I’ve tried reading more nonfiction books but books don’t provide the same type of thought food or blog ideas as blog posts do. Neither do tweets or Facebook posts.
At the same time, I have to admit my own blogging has gone down drastically from an average of 6 blog posts a month in early 2011 to an average of maybe 1 a month now.
It’s possible that microblogging is a better medium for the 5 blog posts a month that I now tweet instead of writing. And that the one post a month I write is the only one that should have been in long form to begin with. But I don’t think so. I think I am just sharing less well thought out ideas.
What do you think? Do you miss blogging? Have you noticed the decline of blog posts? Do you miss them?
Here are the top 7 reasons I haven’t published some of the blog posts I’ve written.
Half baked. My idea was half baked. A lot of times I find myself blogging about things I’m still trying to work out. Perhaps those half baked blog posts would spark interesting conversations but I often find myself saving them as drafts and starting a conversation in email or in person. These are the ones I think maybe I should publish.
Twitter. I tweeted it instead. Many things are only worth a tweet these days. When I first started blogging in 2004, I used to blog interesting links. Now I tweet them instead.
Too personal. Often I realize I need to talk directly to the person, not blog about them. Many times I want to blog when I’m frustrated about a person or a situation. In those cases, I usually just write the post, save it as a draft, and then call or email the person I’m frustrated with.
Too rude. The person I was blogging about would know it was about them. I actually keep a list of the funny things I want to tweet or blog about but I need to wait a few months so that the subject doesn’t know it was them … these are usually the really funny ones. Although often they are tweets, not blog posts. And no, that tweet was not about you!
Too private. I used to blog a lot more about my kids and my personal life. After some really negative comments on a post about my kids, I decided to make most of these private. I still tweet about the funny things they do and blog about some of the insights they give me, but most of my posts about my family are now private.
Time. I have lots of really good topics I’d like to blog about. In many cases, I’ve started the post. I just haven’t taken the time to polish it and publish it.
Not mine. I find this the most frustrating one. Often there’s a really good opinion, idea or a news item that I think should be shared but it’s not really mine to share. I’ve often offered to interview or guest post for someone but they rarely take me up on it.
Take a look at the draft posts you have. What are the top reasons you haven’t posted them?
Do you think I should post more of the above topics? How would you suggest I do that?
As most writers can tell you, you write for somebody else. You write because you want someone else to read your opinion, your knowledge or your funny stories. The problem is that many of us bloggers don't know exactly who we are writing for. A couple thousand people a day may land on your blog and despite the best analytics you may not know who they are. And who you write for may change. I originally started writing for my friends but over time I've picked up a large readership, many of whom I don't know personally. A very small percentage of readers actually leave comments so I don't really get a chance to know them.
I ask who you blog for because lately I've gotten a lot of comments about what I'm writing about, and I have to say, I've found some of them flattering, some of them funny and some insulting. I write about what I find interesting or important and I hope others find it interesting or educational, that's why I share it. I don't believe I actually write for any one audience. (Although occasionally I have an audience in mind when I write a particular post.)
So here are some comments I've gotten (I find many of them funny) and my response:
"You don't do much work, you're always talking about surveys or hunting or kids." Hmm, this is Stormy's Corner, not Stormy's job log. While I tend to work a lot, I do lots of other things too and I write about whatever I want to share at the moment with no thought on how much I've blogged about "work" versus "family" versus "hobbies". (You can read about my work in the Foundation blog. And see the next point.) So if you think I have too much time to write about other things, I think perhaps you should get a few hobbies of your own too. Also note that most posts take me 20-30 minutes so it's not like I'm spending hours and hours writing …
"You write too much about work." I actually feel kind of bad for my readers that started reading this blog before I was allowed to blog about work and now are learning much more about open source software and GNOME than they ever wanted to know. Well, guys, it is an important part of my life, and I do think it's really important you understand how important open source software is for our world. Hopefully you can tell from the title whether or not you want to read the post and skip the rest.
"Your posts are really different than the other posts on Planet GNOME
and I appreciate reading about topics I wouldn't otherwise think
"You blog about hunting." Actually, I think I've only blogged about hunting once or twice. I understand many of my readers are vegetarians. Many of my friends and some of my family are vegetarian. My hunting posts are mostly about the people I hunt with not the nuts and bolts. Hunting is actually a highly controlled sport that is used for population control and revenue generation in the states, and I don't think it's evil but I'm not going to talk lots about it one way or the other. I don't push hunting here and I'd appreciate if you wouldn't insult my kids because you don't like the fact I hunt.
"Where do you find time to blog?" I usually blog about things I've been thinking about. You could say I blog when I'm walking the dog or driving the car. By the time I sit down "to blog", I can usually type up the blog post in 20 minutes or so. (And sometimes I don't have enough time to think about any one thing long enough to construct a blog post – see the last few weeks …)
"Where do you get your ideas?" From everywhere, all day long. I have a list a mile long on things I could blog about. Hopefully I screen enough of them that my blog is interesting. It seems to be working for my current readers.
So who do I write for? I don't really know. I know my readers contain:
family – A couple of years ago I discovered that a great-aunt I hadn't seen since I was 3 years old was reading my blog! How awesome is that? I've also gotten to know a few of my cousins better though blogging.
Planet GNOME readers
Some press folks
People interested in open source software
People whose blog I read
People who think my kid stories are cute (who doesn't
People who found one or two of my posts really useful and so subscribed to the rest
When it comes to making choices, people often default to "safety in numbers", i.e. what everyone else is doing. While the internet is widely applauded for bringing lots of information and reviews about products, it also allows you to judge what's most popular. For example, on Flickr you can see what cameras people are using:
Amusingly, I felt somehow good that I had bought the most popular camera without even knowing it was the most popular or "best" by popular choice. (Although I'm sure if I'd bought one of the others, I'd now be telling myself I did good not buying the camera everyone else bought!)
The internet is providing us more and more interesting data whether we use it for personal decision making, product decisions, political motives, convincing others, …
There’s a very cool diary of a World War I veteran created from his journal and pictures by his grandson. If anybody would like to do something like this with any of my family members, I’d be happy to help out on the technical side!
On a similar note, my grandmother had a blog. She wrote out all the stories long hand and mailed them to my mom who typed them in and posted them. Then my aunt would print them out and take them over to my grandmother’s for her to see. She was very proud of being an author – she loved sharing stories.
I really enjoy reading The Pioneer Woman’s blog and I even bought her calendar because I like her pictures so much. This is the woman who left Los Angeles, married a rancher and now home schools her four children. And takes 75-150 pictures a day of life on the ranch. I’ve wondered several times what she sounds like in person and what she looks like. Well, she was featured on CNN so now I know!
Blogs are like diaries but they are public. They are obviously meant to be read, to be shared – otherwise why put them on the web, right? That said, there are some blogs that make you wonder why people are writing that in public. And I have to admit that lately there’s been a few times where I had to stop myself from writing something on my blog – something I was upset about, wanted to share, but probably shouldn’t share with the whole world. (For example, imagine you are upset with something a colleague did or said at a meeting and it’s so Dilbertesque that you want to write about it. I had second thoughts on the wisdom of writing about that …) People that write blogs like that try very hard to keep them anonymous.
There are a couple of blogs that I follow that I’m not sure why I read them. One of those is Violent Acres. I feel like I’m reading someone’s diary and yet I enjoy reading it. Some of the things she says are things people never say in public but make total sense to me. Like why are women obsessed with being fat? Or of course she’s writing for traffic not for herself, or she would have just written in her diary and stuffed it under her pillow. So I can’t understand why this reader got so upset about it:
This is why I’m done reading Violent Acres:
“For the official record, though, of course I write for the traffic. If
I were ‘writing for myself,’ I’d type this shit up in microsoft word
and put it under my pillow. I’m here to entertain you. If I wasn’t
entertaining you, I’d likely stop writing…despite the fact that this
site does turn a profit.”
That absolutely sickens me. Some of the things that V wrote about
were very personal, tragic, and terrible. Very few people (me being one
of them) would understand what it is like to go through some of the
things that she wrote about. And now I found out that she wrote these
things for a profit? What am I to think about that? Were any of them
actually true? Did she embellish her stories to draw more people in? It
is my belief that anyone who writes for traffic can’t be trusted to
write honest content.
Basically, they no longer plan to read her blog because it was written for an audience! Did they really believe that Violent Acres was writing a diary in public for herself with no regards to who read it?? They obviously wanted Violent Acres to keep up the charade. (By the way there’s a lot of hoopla right now – people are trying to figure out who Violent Acres is. I agree with the group that says "I don’t care." It’s highly unlikely I know the person anyway … and I’m not really worried if her stories are 100% accurate or not. I read them because I enjoy reading them.)