Let's Get Ready to Ramble

I actually started working on this post on Monday, but I didn't have enough time to make it coherent that day, and other events caused me to post something else, so decided to post it on Tuesday. On Tuesday I edited and added and tried again to be coherent, but again I ran out of time and other more pressing events were blogged about, so I put it off until Wednesday. On Wednesday... same thing. So here we are on Thursday the 30th and I can just go ahead and delete the original first paragraph that talked about how I was posting these thoughts on a month of posting daily a little early because the 30th was (is) The Beaner's second birthday, and I'd probably be posting about birthday-related stuff on the 30th. (Ha, ha! What was I thinking? Of course I will put all birthday posting off for at least a week, if not a month.) So anyway, I've kinda given up on being coherent. Here are some random/rambly thoughts about the past month of blogging.

Which is worse: All of us posting daily, or only 0.1% of us posting daily?
On Monday one of my work colleagues forwarded an article on Participation Inequality by Jakob Neilsen that included the following tidbit:

There are about 1.1 billion Internet users, yet only 55 million users (5%) have weblogs according to Technorati. Worse, there are only 1.6 million postings per day; because some people post multiple times per day, only 0.1% of users post daily.

This bit seemed relevant to NaBloPoMo, which is all about posting daily. (Aside: I wonder if we will throw off Technorati's numbers for November?) Why is it "worse" that only 0.1% of users post daily? I guess I understand that Neilsen is trying to make a point about participation on the web, and the fact that only 5% of web users blog and only a tiny fraction post daily supports the point that participation on the web is skewed toward a handful of users. But should we all be posting daily? At the end of it all, I think I'm in the "probably not" camp.

On the plus side, writing daily encouraged me to analyze events that I probably wouldn't have otherwise. I often process what's going on around me by writing about it—see six years of hockey blogging, not to mention many of the entries here on avocado8, for evidence of this—so the prompt to write daily has been extremely useful in what's turned out to be a difficult month of parenting. On the minus side, I often rushed to post a filler piece about something that really needed more mulling over just to remain in strict compliance with NaBloPoMo. I guess that's not a huge minus, though, since my normal M.O. would be to scribble some notes on a piece of paper and then not write about the subject at all. There's not much difference between the two, really... and if I post the scribble to my blog, at least I have a record that something happened, even if it's not clear what.

I've got a million of 'em
Despite my nervousness about filling 30 WHOLE DAYS with blog posts, I found I had plenty of things to write about. It's very normal for me to have 2 or 3 blog posts (or rather, potential blog post subjects) knocking around my head at any given time; what usually keeps me from writing daily is a lack of time to fully develop those posts, or a sense that maybe no one else is as fascinated with the topic as I am (although, to be honest, that hasn't stopped me before). I actually wrote two whole posts this month that I discarded completely because when I finished writing, they just sounded... dumb. Boring. Below my usual standard (which isn't even very high). I also posted twice in one day a few times, so in the past 30 days I've written more than 30 posts. There are also a few things that I intended to write about but haven't yet; how is it that I could have a bunch of thoughts about The Devil Wears Prada (both book and movie) sitting in my mental Outbox for nearly six months without writing them down? And hello, I took tons of notes and photos about our dinner at Nobu on the 18th, and I *still* haven't written about it. (That one's easier to explain: the photos are all on the downstairs Mac, and I spend the day upstairs. I've learned to download photos to my work Mac now so I can upload them to Flickr while I'm waiting for builds.) UPDATE SINCE I WROTE THIS ON MONDAY: I totally thought I had this problem solved last night—I uploaded the remaining dinner photos while I was downstairs doing laundry... only to discover that Flickr had timed out, and none of the photos actually made it into my stream. <sigh>

Welcoming positive feedback since 2000
In addition to writing in my own blog (and keeping up with my day job and parenting responsibilities), I tried to keep up my commenting on other blogs this month. I know how much it means to me when someone takes the time to comment on a post I've written, and sometimes a comment can even bring a recommendation or insight that helps break through some of the frustration I've been feeling about some situation or other. For example, Jane happened to use the phrase "getting down on his level" in a comment on the Toddler Time post, and it dawned on me how much The Beaner's 24th month and his 12th have had in common. I need to explore that further; at the moment, it just feels like a light has gone on over my head. (Thanks for that, Jane!)

Er, did I say "positive"?
I started out fairly strong on the commenting front, but over time I found I just didn't have the energy to seek out new blogs after a while... which actually brings me to some thoughts on the wider blogosphere, as well as back to my original question: Should we all be posting daily? I don't know how we'd all keep up with one another if we did... and honestly, I'm also not sure the quality would be sustainable. Since I'm often disappointed when the blogs I read regularly don't update as often as I'd like, I was surprised to find that suddenly some of my favorites weren't my favorites anymore when postings were coming on a daily basis. Mostly this was because the quality of writing just wasn't there anymore. I think I'd rather refresh impatiently for a couple days than read drivel daily, wouldn't you? (And yes, I knowingly posted drivel a couple times myself this month.)

As for the wider blogosphere (or at least that part that participated in NaBloPoMo), at the risk of calling the kettle black when I am most decidedly a pot, I feel compelled to confess that I found few gems whenever I went surfing with the NaBloPoMo Randomizer. For every blog I added to my RSS reader, I hit another 10 or 20 sites that were Not For Me. Some of these were well-written, thoughtful, original sites...on topics I wasn't particularly interested in. Others didn't differentiate themselves in any way (and some even went to so far as to remind me of the time I worked as a student assistant to a Spanish teacher and had to grade 30 papers that all started with the sentence, "As far back as 100,000 years ago, people were living in what is now Spain." After the first four papers, I reported to the teacher that I thought there was some cheating—or at least plagiarism—going on. After the next 20, I faced the fact that these students were just incapable of an original thought, or at least incapable of an original approach to a tired topic). If that sounds incredibly harsh, I don't mean it to be—just as, I'm sure, many of these blog authors never meant for anyone other than close friends or family (if even that small crowd) to read their blogs.

Moving on....
Back to the Neisen article for a second. He writes:

User participation often more or less follows a 90-9-1 rule:

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don't contribute).
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time.
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don't have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they're commenting on occurs.

He goes on to say:

Blogs have even worse participation inequality than is evident in the 90-9-1 rule that characterizes most online communities. With blogs, the rule is more like 95-5-0.1.

It's hard to imagine that my readership extends so far beyond the people who actually comment; I had assumed that about 30% of the people who read my blog comment once in a while, and about 10% comment regularly. (And that may actually be the case, since my blog isn't particularly popular, nor is it the center of an online community.) It may also be the case that my commenters represent 100% of my blog audience, which would probably make Jakob Neilsen happy. I'm not sure active participation by a large percentage of a blog's audience is really necessary, however. Although I enjoy both making and receiving comments, I would write my blog even if I thought no one was reading it, and I get the feeling many others out there feel the same way.

In summary:

  • I *like* the current level of participation in the blogosphere, and though I welcome new readers and constructive commenters, I don't plan to seek them out. (I do, however, tend to find RSS reader-worthy kindred spirits from among my commenters, so if you haven't commented yet and think we have something in common, please add your two cents! Chances are I'd enjoy reading your blog.)
  • I'm not sure the number of daily posters is a good measure of participation on the web... although I guess it *is* fairly representative of the type of participation found in other online media. There will always be a few people who seem to spend ALL their time online, but honestly, it's the people who have lives outside the computer whose blogs I want to read. And generally, that means waiting a couple days between posts.
  • I will probably try to post more regularly, if not exactly daily. If you see drivel posted here after today, it'll be because I couldn't help myself, not because I was forced to post it.
  • Goddamn, the world needs more blog template options (and easier ways to change default styles). I actually hit 4 blogs in a row with the exact same Blogger template one day, and I thought the Randomizer was broken. It's bad enough that every blog author thinks she's being original by calling her site "my own little corner of the Internet"; do all the sites have to look identical, too?
  • I hope the NaBloPoMo Randomizer or (something like it) stays in business; it's fun to cruise around the web that way, even if all I learn from my travels is that I'm not really missing anything.


And that's the end of that.

Posted by Lori in bloggity goodness at 4:41 PM on November 30, 2006