March 16, 2006

On the Future of Blogging

Seth Godin says that with so many blogs and with a high noise to signal ratio RSS fatigue has started to set in. His analysis:
Blogs with restraint, selectivity, cogency and brevity (okay, that's a long way of saying "making every word count") will use attention more efficiently and ought to win.

This was once a blog with restraint, selectivity and cogency (though I admit I don't have the virtue of brevity) and I've never had much traffic. Recently I've kind of forgotten those virtues and have been blogging more often, less carefully and without putting in as much thought as I used to. And I like it this way. I'm not sure I want to go back to three posts a month because that's no fun. I think there's a line where too much restraint and selectivity begins to harm your blog.

I'm still going to stay away from commenting on every news or trend that might be popular elsewhere in the blogosphere. I'll still only write about things I find exciting and where I add any value to the discussion. I'll still try my best not to convert this into just a link blog. At the same time I'll try to post more often and not wait until I've made complete sense of an idea.

No one likes to see a blog that doesn't update. There are blogs where you want very high frequency of updates (several times a day) like the gadget blogs that everyone loves - Engadget and Gizmodo. I love going there every few hours to see what's new. I've also read popular bloggers like Kottke commenting on the pressure that comes with high expectations of frequent entries.

So I don't agree with Seth that in the future good bloggers will post less often. I think people like to see frequent postings and this will stay this way. I think the answer is relevance. As long as the entries are relevant to the interest of the user, the expectation to be continuously fed with good posts will mount as one becomes more popular. (which is not good news for bloggers like me that purport to write about one subject but actually cover a wide variety of areas therefore always leaving part of the audience disappointed)

The problem of information overload however will only get worse with time. So how will that impact the world of blogs? Not by making bloggers post less often but by making you, the reader of blogs selective about what you subscribe to. I've always been aware of the problem and been extremely selective about the blogs I subscribe to. There's also opportunity for sophisticated AI filters here that scour the blogosphere and get you the stuff you really like.

To give Seth some credit, in an update to the post he admitted that filters like tagging and Digg help. But to me those are unsophisticated mass filters. They are not personalised and they can't tell you that I will like a post and the person sitting next to me will not. I think there there's a tremendous opportunity for filters that watch what I like for a given period and then serve such stuff on their own. I'm sure there are people already working on this and I know Google's Desktop Search tries something like that even though it's far from perfect.

Btw, in the update Seth goes on to say that he's not asking us to post less. What a volte-face! He obviously is/was. Read his post from the start.

UPDATE Mar-22: A snippet from SXSW interactive keynote between bloggers Jason Kottke (Kottke.org) and Heather Armstrong (Dooce.com), which is available as a podcast:
Armstrong: Do you think posting more often on your website has an effect on the traffic.

Kottke: Absolutely.

Armstrong: Why?

Kottke: One of the things I've learned over the past few years is that I've sort of these longer posts that I do - kind of movie review and book reviews and I have my remaindered links which is basically 2 or 3 sentences about a link and then the link itself. And I've learned that the remaindered links are really good for keeping people that you already have. So people come back [...] and there's something new there every few hours. And they keep coming back and it becomes like a habit and they just keep coming back and keep coming back.

And the longer posts are really good for getting people in the door. You write these long posts and its good meaty stuff and it gets linked in various places and you get this influx of traffic. Maybe it'll get slashdotted or digged or whatever and you get this influx of traffic spike and it kind of declines but you have a couple of more thousand readers than you have.

(he explains being slashdotted for 50 fun things to do with your iPod and how it got him 10,000 more new readers a day)

7 Comments so far      

Blogger PRASHANT SINGH:

Well lets address this problem by using an analogy form NewsPaper . a typical newspaper contains various pages with current news items "a description of event as they happened" they are categorized in sections Like Stock ,Politics,movies,sports etc

and there is Editorial page where there is nothing but Analysis,Commentary and opinion which are more or less subjective and mostly post-facto judgement (Monday Morning Quarterbacking or rans of "I told you so " type wizards )

i have seen there is a reader ship for both of the type of content . when i need to now latest gossip i check DelhiTimes :-) and when i want some economics material i check Swaminomics on TOI Sunday .

So I don't think its more about frequency of post but its about Quality of Post and knowing what your Audience is looking one of my fave software Dev blogger is Eric (http://software.ericsink.com ) and Ranganwald (http://weblog.raganwald.com) they don't do frequent posting and talk about the stuff they know and lived they have a dedicated fan like me .
but problem starts when you start doing "Gallery Playing " i mean when you start writing what your reader wants you to write . Blog was a tool of self expression not "Crowd reflection" but sadly it is more and more about eyeball and viewership .

if kottkee don't have something to say he shouldn't say anything and reader should respect it . he is not an expert in every thing .

almost everyday i visit emergic . with all due respect i hardly read what Rajesh jain writes there i just follow the link and read the article firsthand . i trust the guys choice of article not his commentary or analysis (honestly i never examine them ). this might be the third model where a blog start an conversation .

there is no universal best or bad model for everyone . there is a different model for every person , every task and every mood .i didn't read what seth has said on it . will read it now :-)
-
Prashant

www.knowprashant.blogspot.com

17 March 2006 19:52:00 GMT+05:30 link  
Blogger Manu Sharma:

but problem starts when you start doing "Gallery Playing " i mean when you start writing what your reader wants you to write.

I agree as far as personal blogs are concerned. The thing is, celebrity bloggers like Kottke can't afford not to write what the reader wants particularly now that Kottke is blogging as a professional. A lot of popular blogs are professional blogs these days - both Engadget and Gizmodo that I mentioned have full time staff of people writing the entries. I don't see anything particularly wrong with the idea as long as they maintain integrity and stay true to the form of blogging.

18 March 2006 10:53:00 GMT+05:30 link  
Blogger Manu Sharma:

Btw, responding to Seth's post, VC Fred Wilson said essentially the same thing regarding information overload as I did: a) filters will emerge and b) no it won't lead to prople blogging less often.

18 March 2006 14:44:00 GMT+05:30 link  
Blogger re:invention marketing:

Please - "Ye Ol' Rennaissance Seth" needs to ruminate about long tails, Top N-lists, link love, and tagging.

Post whatever the heck you want. I'll tag what I like.

Seth is getting a little fuzzy (in spite of his bald head) if he doesn't understand how tagging (del.icio.us, EVDB, Twaggle, and the like) acts as a defacto blogging filter. How many people use feeds, RSS or aggregators anyhow?

p.s. Purple cow tar and feather my butt for saying so, but if you ask me, Seth's just jealous that some people are more intellectually prolific than he is. :)

kindly,
kirsten

27 March 2006 14:35:00 GMT+05:30 link  
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