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Why the Kids Don't Blog and Grandma's on Facebook (fastcompany.com)
38 points by davidchua on Dec 16, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 35 comments

I think there are two ways to blog: altruistically or narcissistically. If you're blogging altruistically you're blogging for others primarily and yourself secondarily. If you're blogging narcissistically you're mostly blogging for yourself.

Most of the great blogs that I visit are all done altruistically. They are well maintained, post useful information, and very rarely waste my time. They also require a huge amount of effort on the part of the blogger because they really have to do work to gather and present interesting and useful information for their readers.

What a lot of the press has referred to as blogging is "narcissistic." Instead of coming up with interesting information and vetting it for their readers they mostly just spew whatever thoughts they had that day onto the page. It doesn't take a huge amount of effort, but the signal to noise ratio is also very low.

With the rise of Facebook and Twitter, narcissistic blogging can happen more in the sphere you want it (your friend group). Narcissistic bloggers are usually doing it for attention and their friends' and acquaintances' attention is more important than strangers'.

Altruistic bloggers, on the other hand, have useful information to present so they want to present it to as large an audience as possible. While I think we'll see more narcissistic bloggers moving to Facebook and Twitter in the future, hopefully the altruistic bloggers will continue putting the time in for the public.

Blogging is seriously under-appreciated due to the media portrayal of all bloggers as narcissistic bloggers. In reality, altruistic blogging is very common and requires a lot of thought and hard work from the blogger, who is essentially a scarcely paid writer (a few exceptions aside).

I really like this distinction; it jibes with advice I've given would-be bloggers before. When you write a blog, you should have an audience. It's ok if you end up writing about yourself, but you should envision writing for the audience (mine was, initially, my mom---later expanded ;). It meant that, when I was regularly updating my blog at least, I had a readership in the several dozens. The difference between what you call "narcissistic" blogging and my idea of blogging "for mom" is the difference between "I'm writing about me because everyone should be interested in me" and "I'm writing things about me that an audience, however small (hi mom), would want to hear." It does make a difference.

In contrast, one can appear on the surface to be an altruistic blogger---writing about things rather than yourself---but still fall into the trap of narcissism, in this case, saying things about your topic because they pop into your head rather than because you think they'll aid your audience.

Are "altruistic" and "narcissistic" antonyms of each other? The opposite of altruistic is selfish. I can't think of a single word that exactly conveys my impression of the opposite of narcissism, but in this context I would use the phrase "Interested in the behaviour of other people."

Thus, you could have a blogger who blogs for selfish reasons but blogs about the behaviour and affairs of a wide range of people because they are interested in other people. This is how I view myself: I blog because writing out my thoughts helps my crystallize my thinking and ultimately manifest changes in my own life and career. But while I blog about my own work I also blog about things I observe that interest me, and many of these things are concerned with other people.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

I don't think this distinction is very useful. I read many blogs that are "narcissistic" in the sense that the blogger is doing it because he or she enjoys writing about a particular topic and likes having an audience. I read them because the authors write skillfully about topics I am interested in.

A blogger "spew[ing] whatever thoughts they had that day" just makes them a shitty writer. It doesn't matter why you're spewing them; if you write shoddily about arbitrary topics "for others", it doesn't make the blog any better. There's no need to do a bunch of categorization beyond that.

This is strange, why are you all posing the narcissistic blogger as a negative here? I usually write whatever comes to my mind on my blog and still get some readership. I seriously don't get the problem you have with people like me. Blogging mainly started as lifelogs of people which they published on the internet, I believe that is what a narcissistic blogger does and nothing is wrong with that.

That's a good point. I should imply a distinction between truly narcissistic bloggers who are doing it to gain attention for themselves and bloggers who are instead focused on themselves. They blog as a personal activity without viewership in mind. I Perhaps I should write a blog post on all this and bring it full circle.

I don't know of any people who blog just to get attention, but even if someone did whats wrong with that?

I know I should blog, and I have a blog that gets updated about once every three months. Blogging is really labor intensive. IMO making blogging truly streamlined and easy has still not happened. Posterous's blogging by email was a great attempt. I also liked a blog engine I ran into[1] that just pulled Markdown formatted text files out of a git repository (it was powered by Sinatra).

But regardless of the tools, truly quality blog posts take time and effort to plan out, research and write. The end result is the vast majority of blogs are nothing but noise (including my own).

One thing I am working on to fight this is getting my company to sanction a company blog. Where I can dedicate some real time to a development blog. The benefit being we can hopefully start attracting an audience, and gain a foothold when we open source some of our bits. The real goal being finding new developers when it's time to hire that much easier as we will hopefully be seen as a quality company to work for. Almost the same reason individuals blog and release stuff on github.

[1] http://www.restafari.org/introducing-marley.html

"But regardless of the tools, truly quality blog posts take time and effort to plan out, research and write."

What's interesting is that the blog posts that are the most successful on HN and other social news sites seem to be the ones that take around 8 hours to write, plus or minus two. If one spends 30 hours writing a blog post then it's generally as unsuccessful as if one spent only three hours writing it. There are definitely exceptions, like I'd bet Fred Wilson writes most of his posts in only a couple hours, but for the most part this rule seems to hold well.

I'm curious: how do you know how long it takes writers of successful blog posts on HN to write those posts?

Your number feels right—I've written a number of "successful" HN posts myself, and they've all taken about 6-10 hours to write—but I wouldn't want to make the kind of statement you've made, that "for the most part this rule seems to hold well," until I've seen lots and lots of data.

In addition to my own experience, Guy Kawasaki also said that his blog posts took him about 8 hours to write on average. He's sort of the archetype because originally every single one of his posts was approaching the platonic ideal, and he made the technorati top 100 only a few months after starting his blog.

In general though it's not that hard to tell roughly how long a blog post took to write just by reading it. The typical breakdown of a successful blog post is usually something like:

1) Two or three hours of reading a few journal articles or digging up a bunch of facts and citations from Google.

2) Two or three hours writing down what you want to say in roughly the order you want to say it. The sweet spot is usually 800 to 1200 words.

3) Another two hours restructuring the writing so that your the voice, flow, formatting, grammar, etc. maximally resonate with the people who you ultimately want to upvote your post.

4) Another hour or two polishing the post, especially the first two or three paragraphs so that you can maximize the amount of people who actually read what you write once they click on the link. Also optimizing the title, coming up with a snappy conclusion, making sure the whitespace is aesthetically pleasing, etc.

5) Another hour to turn the post into HTML, make sure all the links are working, fix HTML formatting issues, correct last minute typos, and go live.

If you spend longer than this doing research and coming up with more original ideas then your posts will no longer resonate with as many people because even though it's more insightful, it's less anchored to stuff they already know and accept as true. And the only people who can really do a good job faster than this are those who can get away with writing in the same voice they speak in, which is very few people because most people aren't very good at speaking. So generally only people like Seth Godin can do this and still get lots of upvotes. Similarly, you can also shave off some time if you're someone who can draw on vast amounts of professional experience in addition to research, like Fred Wilson. But again there aren't that many people that can do this and still be credible, because even if you're legitimately a well-recognized expert it still only works for people in a handful of professions.

In general you will rarely see Paul Kedrosky's blog making the front page here, because most of his blog posts are just a list of new statistics without much explanation. And even though these are often brilliant and have the potential to completely reshape your worldview, people apparently have trouble understanding the implications without any further explanation. And similarly, rarely do Salon.com or Edge.org articles make the front page; people have trouble believing that Salon articles are true because there's a lot of research they haven't heard before so they think that it must be false because if it was true they would have already heard about it, and in the case of Edge.org people don't like to think for themselves about whether or not the vast amounts of original ideas are likely true.

That's because the most difficult part of a successful blog has nothing to do with technology, and everything to do with words.

Great bloggers aren't great bloggers because of their blog platform.

I'm glad kids these days aren't blogging. Less competition for my websites.

I wish someone would create a wordpress plugin that puts a Facebook publishing tool at the top of your blog and makes it that easy.

Over in the Drupal community, there's been a guy trying to do this for Drupal, but he's been at it for more than a year and doesn't appear to be close to finishing any time soon. It's a real pity.

His project: http://drupal.org/project/facebook_status

Would the P2 Theme interest you ? http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/p2

Interestingly little information in this article besides the headline.

The URL is interesting too, note the embargo notice -


Yeah, I dunno if it was just instinct, but that was the first thing I noticed.

Someone needs to learn pretty URLs...

You'll find that's true for anything on fastcomany.com Not sure how that shit keeps getting submitted and upvoted here.

I think we've ended the historical period where younger people will always be more tech-savvy than their slightly older counterparts. I wonder if having internet and ubiquitous connectedness just be a part of the background for younger people will actually make them less likely to be early adopters of something unknown or up-and-coming.

I don't think we can know if that's true or not.

Younger people have been more tech-savvy because they grew up with the technology whereas the older generations had to learn stuff that wasn't around when they were young.

Depending on how tech changes in the future, that could well be the case again. We already know that in thirty years the industry will be SO different to what it is now, will everything be a massive scaling up of what we already know, or will new technology arrive that the new younger-generations will grow up with while we'll be growing old shouting "I REMEMBER WHEN..." - only time will tell.

Funny how the internet is slowly transforming to just pointing and saying "Wow!"

I was just thinking of this yesterday. It's as if there isn't any kind of symbolism on the web. AFK, if I want to talk about apples, I can use the word "apples" and people will know pretty much what I'm talking about. But on the internet, if I want to talk about something, I'll just link to some other webpage that says what I want to say. It's as if, every time I wanted to talk about apples, I had to bring an apple to show people. Where did the meta go?

I friend of mine wrote on that spot, but regarding rants. If your want to rant on something its likely someone else already did http://devnull.li/~jerojasro/blog/posts/rule_no_36/

I'm sorry: where's the "why"? All I see is "Data: kids don't blog..."

the why is that the stats provider calls the same behavior two different words - what they used to call blogging (livejournal) they now call social networking (facebook)

Is Tumblr a blog? It's growing like crazy. OTH, Posterous growth as a blogging platform seems to have peaked, which may explain their pivot to Groups, which is a social networking and media sharing play, the heart of Facebook and instagr.am.

I think the reason that Grandmas have adopted technology at a faster pace is that technology as a whole is becoming easier to use - probably due to a stronger focus nowadays on UI/UX. As opposed to engineers being in charge of design, we now have more real designers in charge of design - see what's happened in spaces like email marketing with Mailchimp. Another obvious example but in hardware is the iPad. Grandmas don't have to worry so much about booting up, operating systems, etc. They just press a button and it works.

I think kids don't blog as much because it's so much easier for them to get an audience through their current social media networks - primarily Facebook. Most blogs don't have huge audiences - mostly just friends and family. So, why would someone create a separate blog and then try to drive traffic to that blog when they can just post similar content on Facebook or Twitter and have it served up to their friends and family? I'm sure they get way more comments on their Facebook updates than they do on a blog anyway. Particularly for a narcissistic blogger, that's what they're looking for anyway - affirmation.

I think kids don't blog as much because it's so much easier for them to get an audience through their current social media networks

I actually like this comment: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2012444 (which you reference towards the end) on why kids use Facebook, which makes a distinction between blogging altruistically and narcisstically. The former means blogging chiefly for others and offering information they couldn't find elsewhere, while the latter means blogging chiefly as a way of raising one's own status.

I'm guessing most kids don't have enough knowledge of ways of structuring what knowledge they do have to make of interest to others -- who they (mostly) don't care about anyway.

We are becoming the borg. Teenagers don't blog because they don't have the time, and are becoming incapable of thinking independently of their collective. Information streams into their brain at a rate they are unable to comprehend, and so their world is this ultra-fast blur of data, just basic I/O, without any processing.

Oh, and stay off my lawn.

Facebook is now more popular than LiveJournal and MySpace. News at 10.

Kids don't blog because most don't write in essay form and are trending towards shorter form, shorter attention span communications.

Grandmas are signing up for FB in record numbers to see pictures of their grandchildren, which they obsess over.

Well most people don't blog. We just don't have that much to say.

I hope that is not true. I think it is more a matter of organizing your thoughts into something you deem presentable to an audience. Maybe the Dunning-Krueger effect explains the generally low quality of many blogs - Potentially high caliber bloggers are overly self-critical and don't publish, for others the converse.

Maybe. There are a number of things I don't find original enough to be worthy of a blog post or don't have enough data to feel comfortable saying. There are a few rare things but they fall under the terms of the exclusive lease my employer has on my brain.

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