Ming the Mechanic:
Bloggers who stop blogging

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Bloggers who stop blogging2004-07-16 08:26
picture by Flemming Funch

Hm, didn't get around to blogging for a week, which is unusual. For me it is a certain rhythm, that is real easy when I do it every day. Requires very little energy and flows effortlessly. But if I get out of it, either by traveling and not having access to my normal channels of information, or if I just get busy with something else for a few days, it is suddenly an effort to figure out how to start again.

Doesn't matter a whole lot. There's no change in how many people drop by my blog, really, as many of them come from search engines, and there's plenty of stuff in the archive. It is really just a psychological thing for the blog author.

Many people who think or talk about blogs, like at BlogTalk, worry about the phenomenon of bloggers who stop blogging. People present statistics that show that lots of people have abandoned their blogs, or projections that show that before too long there will be more abandoned blogs around than active blogs. So what? There's sort of an implied assumption amongst people who are blog advocates that everybody really ought to be doing it. Which isn't going to happen, unless a blog gets to be redefined as something else. A Personal Presence Portal maybe. But even then, a majority of people really have little interest in being more visible and present on the Internet. Lots of people try to be as invisible as possible. Blogging really appeals most to people who think of themselves as having something to offer to the world. Who have a message, or particular viewpoints on things, or something to sell, like themselves. Yes, you might just be writing your thoughts or taking pictures of the cheese sandwich you had for lunch, but the underlying factor is that you like sharing it, and you're happy with the attention. Maybe you only want the attention from a very limited group, like your friends or your family, but you're never posting things only for yourself, even if it works well to pretend that you are. It is a bit of a paradox. The focus is usually on you, and most people write kind of like they're speaking to themselves, not directly to anybody particular, and you're somehow just cataloguing what you're interested in, or what you're doing, but the format wouldn't work at all unless there was somebody to share it with.

Allan Karl writes about when a blog is dead. He shares his own anxiety about not blogging and mentions another article by Mary Hodder that notes that some people are travel bloggers, who write predominantly when they're traveling somewhere interesting. Which Allan often seems to do.
So while this quick paragraph reduced my blogging anxiety for a fleeting moment due to the fact that for the past few months the majority of my active posts have happened while I have frolicked somewhere around this grand planet, the fact is I feel that like a newspaper, magazine or newsletter the key word is "periodical". Now define this as you wish but for me a blog is a published piece. And as such it should be updated on a regular and recurring interval. Hence, the result of my anxiety when I have a lapse of week (let alone a day) or two where the pressure (on myself) to blog mounts until I finally grapple with some material I feel to be of value and interest to readers of the Digital Tavern.
Personally I usually have much greater difficulty blogging when I'm traveling, unless I end up somewhere with an always-on WiFi connection, and I have sufficient free time.

Stephanie Booth talks about (mostly in French) bloggers who stop blogging, picking up on some themes from BlogTalk. You know, there's the Blog Blues, which most bloggers recognize. The times when you feel you really should be writing something on your blog, but it doesn't flow, and you have an assortment of anxieties about that. And there's the phenomenon when you start that you feel you have no readers, so it is not worth it. You know, somebody's first post is "Test, test, test", and the second one is "Anybody there?". Nobody comments, and then the third message is "Well, guess I'll come back and try this some other time". And then they don't. It is of course a misunderstanding of what a blog is. It is not a chat channel. Nobody might notice you right away, and if you really aren't saying anything interesting, nobody's going to bother. And it takes a while to build up a network of people who care about what you write, if you don't already have them handy (your friends and family).

But I must note also that it works a bit differently in the blog environment I live in. The blogging program I wrote was originally meant just as a feature in the New Civilization Network. Members can set up a hosted blog without needing any kind of technical knowledge about how it works. A couple of hundred people have set up blogs with that, and a fairly high percentage (for the blog world at large) of them are still active. But many of them are fairly unaware of that larger blog world and don't think much about it. And that is in part because the blog comes with instant readership and aggregation of all the local blogs. There are pros and cons in that, but basically the deal is that there are few enough blogs there that quite a few people comfortably can read all of the postings every day. And new people will right away get welcoming comments and encouragement, no matter what they wrote about, no matter whether it was terribly interesting or not. And if they haven't posted for a while, somebody might come along and encourage them to do so. So one doesn't feel alone at all. But that also carries the potential drawback with it that one doesn't get any further, and one thinks that IS per definition one's audience. And a certain group-think develops where one feels one has to fit into that group, or one complains about other people writing stuff that isn't kosher for that group, etc. Worries that normal bloggers don't have, because they generally start from scratch and then connect up only with the people they somehow are aligned with, and they don't worry about the rest.

There a parallel (to the question of why people stop blogging) in NCN in that an occasionally recurring discussion is "why do people leave and what can we do about it?". NCN was in some ways a forerunner for online social networks like Ryze or Orkut. It had many cool features before anybody else did, and still has stuff you don't normally see. But nowadays it also a bit dated and disorganized, and still has a look that was ok in 1995, but which isn't particularly contemporary now. Anyway, as opposed to more generic online networks, it has a theme or focus, even if it is a big and all-encompassing one. Basically it was meant for people who want to change the world. So, more than 9000 people have signed up over the years, and many of them thought it was a good thing at one point or another, but now there's probably not more than maybe 100 people who're active. So, some people worry about what happened to the rest of them. Why did they get scared away, how can we avoid it, etc. What is special here is that, even though they often are dissatisfied with something about the place, the people who are there have a certain attachment to it, and in the back of their mind some kind of hope that it could be more than just a place to hang out, so they care. Probably a lot more than Hotmail or ICQ cares that the vast majority of people who created an account have abandoned it.

I can easily think of stickyness features for an online network site. Send people regular messages about how many people have looked at your profile, what messages are waiting for you, what postings are new, etc. And I need to finish implementing that for the network I did create. But, then, how about a stand-alone blog? Are there any personal sticyness features there? For my own blog, I have a graph of daily visitors in the side bar, a list of recent referrers (sites people came from), and a list of search engine searches that brought people there. There's the comments of course. And I religously watch Technorati or Bloglines to see who has linked to me. All of that is very motivating to keep posting. But only if you're already up and running and there's something worth visiting for others. If you just started a stand-alone blog and didn't post much, there will be no activity to make you motivated. There's of course aggregators. If your blog is associated with other people's feeds that you read, and a contact list, or blogroll, where you list other blogs your interested in, you'll keep being reminded of things to write about, and other people will find you, simply because they're mentioned by you.

Anyway, the answer might indeed be to bring more communication channels together in one place. If the blog is merely one integrated part of your interface to other people on the net, and there are many channels available, there doesn't have to be any stigma associated with not posting. You have to share *something* with *somebody* to be blogging, but what you share doesn't have to be some big article thing. It might be pictures, it might be your list of other websites, the feeds you're reading, the weather in your town, the books you're reading, the movies you've watched, or whatever. Not everything feels right for everybody all the time. So, if you have more channels of communication available, both incoming and outgoing, it is more likely that at least one of them will work for you.

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16 Jul 2004 @ 09:14 by celestial : MING,
The SIGN in the picture AND the TOPIC are PERFECTLY MATCHED.


16 Jul 2004 @ 11:51 by spiritseek : I get the blues
but unless I comment more and really get into others blogs I don't seem to get much out of it nor do I tend to write as much. Ideas comes from other ideas etc. and its rather exciting when we write or post similiar articles in sync. Theres always those aha's you get when some other article sparks an idea for yet another article. Its not only the writing of ideas thats so great, its the path you took getting there.  

17 Jul 2004 @ 03:33 by jazzolog : Space
Upsaid.com recently began charging for blog service because it ran out of room. People don't only go away from the site or lose interest, we die. I guess I better put a provision in my will for somebody to visit sites and delete me.  

17 Jul 2004 @ 15:27 by Flemming @ : Bloggers who die
Some people try to do the opposite, and look for solutions so their sites will remain up after they're dead. Which is kind of weird, but useful, I think. I have several friends who died who's sites are still up. For that matter, they still send me visitors. In addition to them having great sites that deserve to keep existing. Of course I don't know any webloggers who died. I'd think I'd prefer to have my weblog left up. Maybe with the comments turned off.  

17 Jul 2004 @ 15:37 by jazzolog : Comments Left ON
I'm hoping more considered action by Ming takes place afterwards actually than heretofore! Ming left "up" however presents an image a little creepy. Perhaps we simply should have an embalming or stuffing a la Tibet. I understand the great film director Ken Russell has provided in his will that he be placed upright in a mausoleum facing a screen where his movies are shown in an unending loop. We could put Ming in a perpetual chat room like that. Enamrani can channel her views beyond the grave, you know.  

18 Jul 2004 @ 11:36 by Allan Karl @ : Keep on Bloggin'
Great graphic, Ming! Nice take on the subject. I think the problem with social networks like Orkut, Ryze etc. is that they are like puzzles. That is, there's a lot of information to fill in, you play with it for a while, but once all the pieces are gone and put into place there's not much to do. You can look at it for awhile but then pack it up and put it away. It happens to all those networking groups on the web. Not nearly as timely and nor attract the passioinate as vertical discussioin groups where commenting and interaction goes on and on and on.  

18 Jul 2004 @ 15:14 by ming : Puzzle
That's a good way of putting it. Puzzles are compelling, but if you're done with them, there's no longer any game there. The trick is to make a social networking site that keeps being an interesting game.  

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Other stories in
2012-01-24 00:50: Intellectual Property
2011-11-03 16:51: Seeing the world through the Internet
2009-06-11 18:53: Blogging/Microblogging and work
2008-02-23 17:19: Web 1, 2, 3 and 4
2008-02-22 11:07: Illusion
2008-01-09 22:45: A Communication Model
2007-12-02 20:41: Give One Get One
2007-10-25 21:47: Static or dynamic web metaphors
2007-09-18 22:54: Rethinking blogs
2007-07-04 23:59: Scrutiny of Information

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