My blog is dying, long live my blog | December 22, 2008

You may have noticed that things have gone a little quiet round here of late. In fact, if you’ve been reading my blog through your feed reader you probably haven’t noticed anything as I average about one post every six week at the moment which is pretty poor. Especially when you consider that at the height of my output I was blogging several times a week and occasionally several times a day. So what’s the reason for this lack of activity? I think it’s several things really.

Too darned busy

The last few years have been pretty hectic and an increasing amount of my time is being taken up by Clearleft and other related activities. There was a time when I’d spend my days reading blogs posts and hacking on web sites, then head home to work on personal projects and blog about my discoveries. These days I spend my working life in business meetings or with my head in my email client. When I get home I’ll simply end up writing that report or catching up the emails I failed to do during the day. Rather than my work being an extension of my life, it seems that my life has become an extension of my work, and without me realising it.

A lack of attention

No, I don’t mean that I lack focus and er, what was I saying again? Oh yes, that’s right. When I first started blogging there were around 10 websites I’d follow on a regular basis and another 10 I’d dip into every now and again. That quickly expanded to 50, then 100 and then, well, you can see where I’m going here. I hit saturation point around 2 years ago and just couldn’t keep up with all the blogs I felt I was supposed to be reading. My attention became spread too thin. I tried to prune my feed reader, but every time I did I ended up discovering more interesting feeds than I’d kill. So I basically stopped reading my news reader two years ago as the number of unread posts was too depressing.

Signal to noise

The ever increasing noise to single ratio combined with a reduction in actual hands on work resulted in less stuff to talk about. Well less techie stuff anyway. I’d fought the good web standards fight and was more interested in UX related stuff or the nuances of running a business. Furthermore, with so many more broadcasters to choose from, the relevance of what I had to say was diminishing as was my reach. That’s assuming I could find time to blog.

New ways of expression

One of the key reasons for blogging is to express yourself and your feelings. I used to get back from a hard days work and want to discuss my discoveries with other people. Blogging allowed me to do this. However with the inception of Clearleft I’d inadvertently surrounded myself with super smart people I could discuss my ideas with and who would usually either tell me that my ideas were stupid or that somebody else had said the same thing more eloquently six months ago.

This is also when services like Twitter and Facebook entered the scene. Now I’m not going to say that micro publishing tools killed the blogging star, but I think they’ve certainly made a dent. Rather than publishing fully formed ideas on your own website, you could post snippets of an idea with much more ease and to a more targeted audience. So I started to find that my desire to express myself was sated by a stream of nano thought published to Twitter rather than a few bigger ideas published to my blog. The format my be different, but the psychological result was the same.

So what’s next

Well I know that I don’t want to stop blogging as it’s an integral part of who I’ve become, if not who I am at the moment. However I do realise that some serious changes need to take place. First up I need to decide if I want to be multi-chanel or single channel. Do I open up my Twitter account to everybody (it’s currently private) and see it more as a micro publishing tool than a way of staying in touch with friends, then keep my blog for longer and less frequent articles. Or do I try and bake some of that instant gratification into this blog and make it more of a tumble log, supplementing the long posts with links, quotes, flickr images and YouTube videos?

I’m sure a log of you guys have been going through the same thing recently, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on the future of blogging and your own blog in particular. Are blogs being supplemented by short form alternatives? Is this the death of narrative cinema. Er, I mean narrative online article writing. How has your blog and your approach to blogging changed over the past few years and what should I do to combat this change, if combating it is indeed the right approach.

Your thoughts, as always, on the electronic version of “the back of a postcard” that is my comments form.

Posted at December 22, 2008 9:33 PM

Comments

John Lampard said on December 23, 2008 1:39 AM

Your thoughts regarding the impact of micro-blogging on ‘traditional’ blogging are interesting. While I use Twitter (sometimes) I find trying to limit a thought or idea to 140 characters, or less, more of a challenge than than I ever imagined. Some people have made an artform out of it though. :)

Nate Klaiber said on December 23, 2008 1:48 AM

I say make it a tumblelog. Have your website be the central repository to update and send out to other sites via APIs (or vice-versa if you prefer). I, too, think the blogging world is over-saturated, and struggle to keep up - not for lack of desire, there’s just too much noise.

Justin Carmony said on December 23, 2008 5:38 AM

I know how you feel. I have about 5-6 nice blog posts that are drafts that are half complete. One thing I’ve found to help me is I’m very, very picky about what I add to my Google Reader. If I find I have a feed that I keep skipping, I’ll move it to my “Bulk” tag, which basically means I don’t mind if I miss a few weeks and just do a “mark all read.” I’ve been trying to fine tune my daily reading into worth while content.

Second, I think some form of tumbleblog might work out well. I’ve also used a WP plugin to share my Google Reader content. This way I can press the share button, and it will show up on my sidebar. That way I have a little extra content always staying pretty fresh.

Ms. Jen said on December 23, 2008 7:17 AM

Hi Andy,

I say bake more of the instant gratification into this blog. Free yourself up and stop expecting that every blog post should be article worthy. See that the posts can be somewhere along a continuum between microblog post and magazine article fetishized.

Let go, have fun, and fall back in love with your blog.

smiles, jen ;o)

AlastairC said on December 23, 2008 9:21 AM

Hi Andy, I know how you feel!

I quite like Simon Willison’s approach, where he has posts and snippets, and you can subscribe to either or both.

My main criteria for inclusion in my feed reader is quality, not regularity. I don’t mind if nothing appears for a while, but if the noise increases I’ll boot the feed out.

So if you go with a tumble log, please do it daring fireball style, and highlight the original posts.

Rick Hurst said on December 23, 2008 9:34 AM

As most people(?) subscribe to blogs via RSS rather than going to the site to look for updates, I think it’s fine for a blog to lie dormant for a while.

I would say keep this blog, for posts just like this where you actually want to create a full blog post, but integrate other services to allow you to throw up links and other thoughts as and when they grab you.

John W said on December 23, 2008 10:38 AM

You’re right about the plethora of social networks and publishing platforms that have emerged in recent years – chances are, most of the people reading this will have a presence on some of them. I tend to think of a blog as being a kind of “hub” for all of this activity, where you can pull in your favourite YouTube videos, your best Flickr photos and your recent tweets alongside the more conventional posts.

So, I wonder whether you might be worrying about your blog unnecessarily. I think there’s room for all of the different types of content you’ve discussed – as Ms. Jen’s comment mentioned, not all posts have to be article-worthy.

I know that your blog was a huge inspiration to me when I was first learning about web standards (I think I discovered yourself and Jon Hicks on the same day, via the Web Standards Awards site – it was a good day). I think you can continue to inspire by sharing the stuff that inspires you.

Eric Meyer said on December 23, 2008 1:16 PM

I’m right there with you: between consulting, An Event Apart, and helping to raise two daughters, time to blog is at a very dear premium. I’d like to implement the idea mentioned a couple of times above, to combine my “Distractions” links and my regular blogging into one “tumblelog”. (Which just goes to show there are in fact worse words then plain old “blog”.) Of course, the challenge is finding the time to make that happen…!

Michael Dick said on December 23, 2008 2:56 PM

Just like you, I go forever with out reading RSS. My view is, if it’s important at all, It will hit my twitter stream.

Nick Welsh said on December 23, 2008 11:44 PM

Hi Andy,
As someone who’s enjoyed your blog over the last couple of years, this is what I think you should do:

1. Go outside, get some fresh air, stretch your legs, walk the dog. Breathe.

2. Visit friends for coffee/dinner. DO NOT take your laptop. DO NOT discuss the internet/social media/technology.

3. Repeat steps 1 & 2 a few more times.

4. Come back, fire up the laptop and think “How do I feel?”

After this, you’ll know what to do. And remember, whatever you decide to do will be the right decision.

Merry Christmas.

Nick at Mono Industries (Cambridge)

Matt Balara said on December 24, 2008 7:01 AM

Andy,

you’ve taken the words right out of my mouth – I’ve been thinking up a post about the same thing for a couple of days.

As a slack blogger myself, I’ve taken this post as nudge to write some thoughts on my own blog about it all. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t come up with any more conclusive answers than you did.

And Merry Christmas! If you’re into that kind of thing.

Kevin Crawford said on December 24, 2008 9:04 PM

I too feel inundated by my feed reader. As a reader, I would appreciate only sporadic and polished blog posts that are of significant interest or utility to the readers.

You could also use Twitter or a different blog category + rss feed (a la Dan Cederholm’s “quick bits”) or a combination of both for shorter posts and to bounce ideas around. Perhaps having a separate blog category/rss feed of this nature will allow you to keep your Twitter account private.

Barbara Pritchard said on December 28, 2008 5:38 PM

Posting once every six weeks works for me. There is so much going on, so many choices to make, that I have come to look forward to fewer posts with more specific content.

And just a note, I found your blog through reading your book which I just bought at the Borders Books in Boulder, CO. It was almost a let down that the famous 11 pages of errata so well documented on amazon (well, I’ve only hit through the first 3) appear to be no more.

So, I guess I’ll read here a bit more, wonder why clearing isn’t dropping into a place of understanding for me, and then head on over to amazon.

Thanks so much for the good work, it really is appreciated.

Ryan Marshall said on December 29, 2008 9:31 AM

I have recently started a new blog site with mulitple authors about the MMO gaming genre.

I discovered twitter shortly afterwards and as I’m using Wordpress I am making use of twitme an addon that auto publishes my posts to twitter (notification of posts anyway). As well as this I will occasionaly post short comments to twitter directly or via the addon from the backend of the site.

Molly E. Holzschlag said on December 30, 2008 7:18 PM

Andy,

I completely relate as so many others here do too. What I see happening is that with a public Twitter stream, even if I’m not talking about Web and just doing a Molly Brain Dump ™ the amount of exposure to a broad range of new and interested folks has come to pass. As such, I think you should open your Twitter stream.

What happened to me was that the blog became a place to send people to for longer articles, news and announcements. So my thought is that we can use multiple social modalities to actually create a steady, interested and interesting stream of folks worldwide you could then expand your less occasional but always insightful blog post readership in a snap, getting the message to more people.

The process is clearly going to need refinement and will likely be different for different bloggers, but I think this is turning out into a successful approach for me.

Molly :)

Andy Budd said on January 1, 2009 2:58 PM

Thanks for the great comments guys. Much appreciated.

jason kenny said on January 16, 2009 6:00 AM

Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.
Jason Kenny