Yes, Daily Blogging Really IS Usually a Bad Idea

I am surprised and pleased that my first post on this topic yesterday received such a thoughtful and diverse response. Thanks to everyone who read and commented on that article for making me think harder.

I realize that blogs (or any type of media) are not one-size-fits-all. There is, after all, a reason why my title for yesterday’s article included the word “usually.” My goal was not to say daily blogging or heavy reliance on the link-only posting format are always counterproductive for every blog.

That said, I honestly do believe that in most cases these practices tend to harm the overall appeal, quality, and usefulness of the blogosphere. Worse, they just tend to make the act of blogging much less fun.

Here’s why…

DAILY WRITING NEED NOT EQUAL DAILY PUBLISHING

Some people who have commented on my posting yesterday observed that daily writing helps make them better writers. I agree with this, and I appreciate that goal – partly because it indicates a desire to serve readers better.

However, that doesn’t mean you should necessarily publish every single day. In fact, if you’re writing daily mainly to hone your writing skills, you probably shouldn’t publish every day.

I’ve trained a lot of writers, helping people discover their own personal ideal writing process. Across the board, there’s one truisim I’ve found: Good writing results most consistently from clear thinking and lots of editing. Personally, I think that people who post daily to their blogs in order to become better writers tend to overlook the value of both.

If you want to write daily, that’s admirable and helpful. I honestly don’t want to deter you from that. However, I think you’ll develop more effective and versatile writing skills if you save most of your postings as drafts and edit them over the course of a few days. Revisiting your work with fresh eyes and making improvements is an important part of any writing process. It’s very difficult for most people to clarify their thoughts in one raw draft.

A DEEPER LOOK AT SELF EXPRESSION

Of course, not everyone strives to be a great writer, or to reach a specific target audience, or to use their blog to achieve other coherent goals. Many people blog purely as self expression – including expressing their desire to share and connect with other people. Mark Vande Wettering said this well last night in his Brainwagon blog posting, Why Daily Blogging Is A Good Idea:

“I have simply no idea who [my blog] visitors are. Given that I don’t know who they are, how could I possibly judge what pieces that I choose to write about are of value? So instead, I write my blog for me.

“…Most of the time I have no idea what posts are going to tickle people’s fancy. Some of the things that I most enjoy gather nary a peep from my listeners. Some of the things that I barely care about seem to generate the most traffic to my site. I simply can’t tell when I first get an idea for a posting what category they fall into. So, I’ve stopped trying, and merely post everything that pops into my head.

“…Trying to sculpt or optimize my blog entries to chase some popularity points ultimately bores me. Even the relentless pursuit of quality ultimately bores me.”

“…My philosophy of blogging is simple. Blog if you want to. Blog when you want to. Blog for whatever reason you want to. When someone says “don’t blog if you’re not willing to do Xâ€?, then ignore them. Somebody in the long tail will find something interesting in what you have to say. Don’t make it harder for them to find it.”

Those are great points, Mark. Personally, I like much of what you write in your blog, although I don’t read your blog often. (I do listen to your podcast more often than I read your blog, I probably catch about every fifth show.) You are a remarkably clear thinker and communicator, and generally a very thoughtful, creative, and intriguing guy. I respect and appreciate your personal blogging style and goals.

That said, I think that the quality of content Mark generally produces through his “post everything on my mind” approach is far better than what I see coming from most bloggers who follow that philosophy. This is probably due to the quality of Mark’s intellect and clarity of his thinking. Most people simply aren’t at his level.

Clear thinking takes a lot of hard work, practice, and (yes), talent. No, I’m not saying most people are stupid. I’m just saying that clear thinking and good communication don’t come naturally to most people.

Mark is right: It is not absolutely necessary to care about writing quality. No one is going to get arrested, evicted, or executed for spewing vast volumes of slapdash, poorly considered blog postings. (Well, probably not…)

That said, most bloggers I’ve spoken with who cite self expression as their main reason for blogging actually have a deeper reason, once you really get into that topic with them: They really want to connect with people. They do care whether they have an audience, and whether their readers generally find the experience rewarding. They may not know or care who their readers are – but they want to reach out to people and make connections. Mark’s article indicates this desire.

In my experience, most people who keep blogging past an inital foray hope to have an effect on others. They want to contribute their voice and value to the public conversation. We’re human, we have a fundamental urge to communicate, which is simply a way to feel connected, to be part of a greater whole. That’s central to our nature, and it’s honorable.

Failing to connect adequately with readers may be a big reason why most blogs get abandoned. (I’m just guessing on that.) Mark’s article indicates that he does indeed care very much about sharing and connecting with people. He simply prefers to accomplish that through intuition and serendipity, rather than conscious planning and editing. He’s one of the few bloggers, IMHO, who can pull that off.

INFORMATION OVERLOAD: BE FAIR TO READERS

I strongly disagree that the “post anything on my mind” approach to blogging is generally a good way to share and connect with people. What’s the main complaint about the blogosphere? That most postings are trivial, poorly thought-out crap.

Many devoted bloggers and blog readers tend to dismiss this criticism with a blithe, “Well, you just have to take the time to find blogs that you like, that meet your needs and make you think.” I’ve even said that myself. However, upon further reflection I realize it is ultimately not fair to put the burden for discovering quality entirely on people who read (or who might start reading) blogs.

Most people have too much going on to spend lots of time wading through crap. For too many people, diving into the blogosphere feels like swimming in mud. That’s not because it’s so difficult to find blogs that offer topics and perspectives that they’re find worthwhile or appealing. Rather, it’s generally because so many blogs post mostly trivia and crap. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true.

Content overload is a kind of pollution. It make it harder for us to thrive in our mental and social environment. We all bear a common responsibility toward our environment if we hope for it to continue to sustain us.

Often, the blogging crap geyser is powered by the common, erroneous compulsion to post daily, or even several times daily. It’s just too much for anyone to follow.

HAVE SOME FAITH IN THE BLOGOSPHERE

Millions of people are writing blogs. Let this take some of the pressure off you to publish daily. Don’t feel that you have to say everything, or that you need to keep talking/posting all the time. Have you ever been cornered at a party by someone who only talks about herself and won’t shut up? Ugh….

Why bother being the 500th person to link to some hot new site or article unless you truly have something original to say about it? How rewarding do you really think ubiquitous link-only postings are on a regular basis?

If you blog daily, consider this: Would you want to read everything that you post, every day? Be brutally honest about this. If your answer is no, even a little bit, then you and your readers might enjoy and value your blog more if you focused less on quantity and schedule – and more on quantity.

Of course, if you really do blog well on a daily basis, then fine. Go for it. You may indeed be one of the rare exceptions.

But if you’re not sure, ask your readers what they prefer. You don’t have to totally kowtow to your audience’s tastes. However, you probably will find blogging more rewarding if you solicit readers’ opinions and take them into account to some extent. Also, ask your friends what they think of your approach to blogging. And most importantly, ask yourself.

Life’s too short to spend significant time and energy on things that just don’t matter. Why blog daily if your individual postings don’t matter much? Try publishing only when you really have something significant to say. Just see how it feels. You might like it better.

16 thoughts on Yes, Daily Blogging Really IS Usually a Bad Idea

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  1. Hey Amy. Thanks for the plug, as well as your thoughts. I do actually understand and even agree with them, at least to a point. I don’t actually think we are having a disagreement, we just come to rather different conclusions because of our different views. Let me try to explain my view somewhat differently, not to demonstrate that you are mistaken, but rather just to show that other views are possible.

    Last year I read “Rebel without a Crew” by Robert Rodriguez. He’s the director behind films like “El Mariachi”, “Desparado”, “Spy Kids”, “Sin City” and the like. The story behind El Mariachi is an interesting one: as a film student, he decided that he would learn to be a director by, gasp, directing films. Rather than wait for an opportunity, he raised something like $9000 of his own money, wrote, filmed and promoted a movie. He didn’t do anything the “right” way. The “right” way was to spend time revising, shopping a script around, trying to get funding, hire a bunch of people, and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars before even getting a single frame of film out. Had he listened to people who promoted “the right way”, he’d still be struggling to make his first film.

    It’s clear that you are a writer and an editor. I don’t do what you do. Hell, I can’t do what you do. If I have any talent for writing, it is purely incidental to all the other things that I pursue in life. But the Internet provides me with an extraordinary, cheap opportunity to express myself and deliver whatever I have to say to others, be it in the form of the written word, audio via podcasting or video. If I chose to write my blog the way that you do, I’d never say anything.

    Another brief story: When I was younger, I earned money to buy my first computer largely by doing yard work for people, including my Grandma Francis. She was a terrific lady, and a fabulous cook. One day after I had purchased my first computer, I was standing in her kitchen busily explaining something about my new computer and why it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. This was probably in
    1981 or so, and computers were not in the mindset of most people, much less senior citizens. Still, she looked interested, nodded her head at appropriate intervals, and said “hmmm” and “oh my” until I ran out of things to say.

    I wandered out into the dining room and overheard my mom having the following conversation:

    “Boy, Mark sure likes computers doesn’t he?”
    “Yes, he does.”
    “He seems to know a lot about them.”
    “Yeah, he’s pretty smart.”
    “I don’t understand a single thing he’s saying.”
    “Yeah, me neither.”
    “Does he know that?”
    “Yeah, I think so.”
    “He doesn’t seem to mind.”
    “Nope, he sure doesn’t.”

    I’m still the same 30 years later. I don’t write as a service. I write because I like to talk about things. People are free to jump in and voice their opinions, but that isn’t central to my enjoyment of blogging either. I think the world in general would be better if people chose to talk about things rather than worry about whether an audience for their ideas and views actually existed before going to the trouble.

    You are correct in that we are literally being buried in a media hailstorm. But one of the thing that got me into podcasting (and one of the things that makes me shake my head as it becomes more mainstream) is that the unpolished, rough, but honest communication of podcasting was more appealing to me than alternatives which were littered with advertising, cliches, and just plain stupidity.

    Lastly, I don’t place any burden on anyone. If they find my blog, fine. If they don’t, that’s also fine. If they read it once, fine. If they read it every day, fine. It’s all good to me, because I am doing exactly what I want to do.

    Oh, and I love your blog. 🙂

  2. Thanks much, Mark. I don’t think we’re really disagreeing either.

    Before I delve further into this, let me ask you this: Do you feel in any way required or compelled to post to your blog daily? If so, why?

    How often do you take a day (or a few days) off?

    …See, the problem I’m highlighting here is when bloggers feel required or compelled to post daily – to the detriment of their content quality, relationship with readers, and general reputation. When I come across those “must…post… every…day” bloggers I just want to scream, “Spew you!”

    Back to you, Mark. And thanks for having this conversation. 🙂

    – Amy Gahran

  3. My 2 cents: I’m caught somewhere in the middle. I do a lot of drafts for the week ahead on Saturdays and Sundays, purely because my job is so demanding. That said, I feel that the quality of my posts improves because I read over them a couple of times before posting.

    However one of the true joys about blogging is the spontaneity. The ability to type, hit post and instantly share your thoughts with the world is tempting. Espeicially because a lot of times, the spontaneity captures your enthusiasm and feeling on the subject. There’s nothing worse than having a great blog entry in your mind and then losing the emotion behind it either because of editing or the time that has lapsed between your original thought and your final post.

    Just to be awkward I can neither agree or disagree with either viewpoint. God bless the Gemini inside of me I guess 😀

  4. Thanks for your commen, Piaras.

    Again, I’m not trying to kill sponteneity in blogging. I’m only saying that it’s probably not a good idea for most bloggers to try to maintain a daily (or multiple-times-daily) posting schedule. Geez, if anything would kill energy and sponteneity, that would!

    – Amy Gahran

  5. For what it’s worth, I tend to agree with you. Especially in holding back, editing and revisiting. Although, depending on your style and blog purpose, a quick daily rant can be very funny. I wind up posting about 5 days a week, when not “in rhythm.” Good or not, remains to be seen.

  6. I do post (usually multiple times) on most days. This year I’ve posted 522 entries (I just checked) which averages out to about 3.18 posts per day. (Wow, even more than I thought.) These posts break down into a couple of different categories. 1) Podcast announcements 2) Details of my own personal projects, photos, whatever 3) Cool stuff on the Web I link to. 4) Rants and raves. I don’t feel particularly compelled to write posts, it just usually works out that I do so as the result of my habitual surfing of the web and goofing around, but you might say I’m obsessive. Out of the 164 days so far this year, I’ve posted on 154 of them.

    So, I guess I’m destroying the blogosphere. 🙂

  7. Well, having just said that I will comment less and post fewer ‘link to this’ posts, I recently set up a blog for a client of mine, as an example of what blogging can do in terms of Knowledge Management.

    And of course, because the blog is part of an educative process for my client (to help bring fellow communications pros in the group up to speed on the new communications technologies) I have just posted a series of links with almost no comments taken from the Ragan Communicators Conference in Las Vegas.

    So I guess I have to amend my thoughts ever so slightly — sometimes *just* linking is a way of quickly bringing colleagues up to speed…

    Hmmm… what food for thought you have delivered to us, Amy!! {smile}

  8. Hot Topics: Full RSS feeds, how often to blog
    Shel Holtz on posting full RSS feeds. There has been a lot of back and forth on this for the past few weeks. Shel’s argument for full feeds pretty much sums up all the

  9. Mark wrote, “I do post (usually multiple times) on most days. This year I’ve posted 522 entries (I just checked) which averages out to about 3.18 posts per day. (Wow, even more than I thought.) …I don’t feel particularly compelled to write posts, it just usually works out that I do so as the result of my habitual surfing of the web and goofing around, but you might say I’m obsessive. Out of the 164 days so far this year, I’ve posted on 154 of them.”

    OK, so if I understand what you’re saying, Mark, you feel naturally inclined to post several times daily, but not required or compelled to maintain a daily posting schedule. And in fact, you didn’t post on 10 days so far in 2005.

    That’s good 🙂 Here’s why:

    It seems that, from looking back over your blog, you’re never bored with what you’re posting about. Each item you post has a real significance to you. They’re not all top-priority stuff, but they matter to you. You’re not just filling space, struggling to say anything to get your daily post out.

    I’m not opposed to profilic bloggers as long as they consistently seek to offer value. As long as every time they post, they care. Too often, in too many blogs, they don’t. They’re just filling space, talking just to say something. That’s really sad as well as counterproductive. THAT is an unnecessary burden on the blogosphere.

    Also, it doesn’t seem like you expect people to read everything in your blog, which is realistic and good. As long as you don’t mind that most visitors to brainwagon probably won’t read most of what’s there.

    Pure self-expression, very short postings, and prolific blogging are fine and valid. This new medium is broad enough to encompass those approaches and much more.

    However, I challenge you to examine your statement “I write my blog for me.” I don’t doubt that’s true — but I suspect you have a deeper goal of connecting with people. Would it be more accurate to say, “I blog because I want to connect and share with people, and I need to do that in an authentic, spontaneous way.”

    I mean, what if nobody ever read your blog? What if you never got any feedback, especially positive feedback? What if people constantely criticized and ridiculed for it? Would you still feel like blogging, regardless?

    I contend that you do, in fact, care about your audience, Mark. No one (including you) will be surprised by that. Your connection with them is intentionally intuitive and spontaneous, which suits you (and them, too, probably). But the connection still matters.

    Am I right? Tell me if I’ve gotten something wrong here.

    Personally, I think you’re offering value and benefit to the net in general and to your readers in particular. I don’t think you’re destroying the blogosphere 🙂

    But I do think a lot of people are, by posting thoughtlessly according to a schedule.

    If you don’t even care about the content of some or most of your postings, that’s a major red flag that you’re doing some damage — perhaps to the blogosphere, and definitely to your own reputation and goals.

    All IMHO, as always 🙂

    – Amy Gahran

  10. Lee Hopkins wrote, “sometimes *just* linking is a way of quickly bringing colleagues up to speed…”

    Agreed. However, it’s not the only way.

    Personally, I find one of the best ways to get newbies interested in and engaged with blogging is to ask good questions. Figure out what they’re interested in, and push their buttons a bit. Encourage them to comment, participate, and post.

    If they’re engaged with the content, they’ll put forth the energy to participate in the process.

    – Amy Gahran

  11. Blogging isn’t like regular writing. I’m not the greatest, but writing every single day is critical. It brings people back to the site day in and day out. If people see that you aren’t updated, they come back less and less and less. Essentially this game is about traffic and one has to balance between making it perfect and having new content available. If it wasn’t about traffic, it would be written down in a journal and not shared with the world.

    The other thing is that there is no “best” way of blogging. That’s the best part of it–people do what they want and readers get to see something that catches their fancy. There are no moderators out there and that’s a good thing.

  12. Fine, except you’re being MUCH too mild. There is WAAAAYYY too much low-quality,
    poorly-developed, impulsive crap being published. That was true even before the
    internet. It is 100X as true, today. Logorrhea has been unleashed and is on a
    wild rampage. YES, set aside ALL posts for AT LEAST 48 hours. Let it digest. Then
    EDIT, EDIT, EDIT. Then, perhaps, set aside again. What’s the rush?

  13. As a blogger and writer and professional-crastinator, I agree with you. I have nothing to lose but my manacle-mouse!

    Here’s the thing, though, as a blog reader, I am most attracted to those bloggers who do write just about every day. I don’t read every day’s blog, I’m not always interested in what they’re writing about, but if I’m interested often enough, I come back to the ones that post every day because I’m pretty sure that there’ll be something to look at.

    Perhaps the difference is that you use RSS to keep track of blogs and I prefer the ethos of ‘dropping by’ various people’s places. I’m not primarily interested in blogs so as to capture good data or writing, but to keep up with friends.

  14. What I see as a graver danger, Amy, is the trend of turning against Comments, turning them off, and saying that if you’ve got something to say, start your own blog and trackback to them. That’s how they prefer to interact, er, avoid interaction, with readers, er, passive blog potatoes, soaking up sermons from the impatient geniuses.

    To post too frequently, then burn out from over-achieving exhaustion, is truly a danger to the blogger.

    But the Crusade Against Comments is a frightening retreat to the old world mass marketing broadcast realm: you shut up, I don’t feel any need to hear from you, not even in a moderated captcha-enabled forum of delayed postings, you stay quiet and passive as I pour my mind into yours. Shhh. Not a squeak now. Silencio!

    Thanks for being one of the few genuine Blogologists and for researching and experimenting with wikis, podcasts, and other new tech.

    You are my guru, like it or not.