Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Friday, July 16, 2004day link 

 Bloggers who stop blogging
picture 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.
[ | 2004-07-16 08:26 | 13 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Elections and Terrorism
picture Al Qaida couldn't dream of a better government in the U.S. than George Bush's. They're a splendid help in the direction of destroying the United States, in providing plenty of new places to have terrorist bases, and plenty of new well-motivated recruits. And Bush could sure use another terrorist attack to boost his ratings. Quite some win-win synergy there. So, what do you say are the chances for that happening before November? Or, even better, around the election itself? Bush's people seem to be planning for just that. Cancel the election, declare a national state of emergency, and just stay on as a dictator. That's a great plan.

It would be quite appropriate if the U.N. would monitor the U.S. elections, like a group of congress people proposed. The U.N. unfortunately said no. And the Bush government wouldn't have let them, of course. The system probably wouldn't stand up to any kind of organized scrutiny. You know, faulty voting machines without a paper trail, run by companies that support the Republican campaign. Plus the long list of other tricks and irregularities. The kind of stuff that Congress strikes from the record if somebody dares to mention it.

Anyway, just wanted to complain a bit. I'm no longer there, but the state of the U.S. unfortunately affects the rest of the world greatly.

Oh, and for something more to be freaked out about, Thomas mentions this story about a lady who believes she experienced a dry run for a terrorist attack on a plane, and the apparent inabilities for the system to respond well to that, because of rules for political correctness, etc. For example, an airline can't take aside more than two middle eastern people at a time, or they get big fines.
[ | 2004-07-16 19:51 | 7 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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