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Kill your blog (wired.com)
36 points by narendra on Oct 21, 2008 | hide | past | web | favorite | 54 comments

A dissenting opinion:

Writing a blog helps you organize your thoughts, improves your writing skills, and teaches you to make good arguments (and recognize bad ones).

None of that requires having an audience. At least an audience larger than your friends and coworkers.

If you like to write, don't stop writing because it's not "where the buzz is at". There's more to life than following trends.

Well said. In addition to that, I use my blog to host content I hope people will find via google, like how-tos or coding gotchas. I'm not going to post a coding trick to my facebook account, even if it has more active readers.

Exactly. Some content, like status updates, is perfect for Twitter or Facebook, but this article seems to assume that that's all anyone uses blogs for.

Please god say it ain't so. I would like to think that people who keep blogs (at least the subset thereof that also read Wired) tend to write more interesting things in them, and I can't imagine that being replaced by 140 characters (this notwithstanding: http://twitter.com/_why/statuses/881768089 )

If this is actually a ploy to get pointless blogs out of Google's index and hidden behind Facebook's garden wall, then I'm all for it!

You can also write in your blog for your great-great-great-grandkids -- family that hasn't been born yet. Or you can write as a way of organizing book material. Or you can write as a way to keep and share memories with just a few people.

Blogging is an internal thing first, external second.

> write in your blog for your great-great-great-grandkids

You think stuff we are producing these days will last? I'm dubious. Paper lasts a decent amount of time, but digital media?

I do. In fact, I think blogging is the next best thing to a resurrection machine. I'll guess there are ten places on the net that cache this stuff (including this comment)

Even now, you'll see people post an article here from five or six years ago. It might have 100 comments on it. Five or Six commenters might already be dead -- including the article's author.

Now multiply that by 50. Most of the net will end up being written by dead people.

I blogged about this a while back -- http://www.whattofix.com/blog/archives/2008/09/the_dead_spea...

Yes, I've had this thought: that this is the beginning of the "high density" version of recorded history.

That, barring a cataclysmic implosion of civilization, the internet archives being populated now will likely be available for perusal 10,000 years from now.

As a corollary thought, an interesting exercise might be to only generate content -- movies, essays, fiction, non-fiction, whatever -- that you think people 10,000 years from now will find interesting. How does this constrain what projects to undertake?

One way to make things that will be interesting in the future is to make things that are interesting now and would have been interesting in the past. If you can span a few thousand years back in time, there's a good chance you have something fairly universal.

This is another reason to study history: so you can imagine what people a thousand years ago would have liked.

Along those lines, looking back at the Greeks -- many of the same subjects we talk about today they discussed 2,000 years ago.

Or as a variation on the Turing Test, create a program that reviews all of your published material, then continues to comment and participate in discussions long after you are gone based on the material you consumed and the comments you made while you were alive -- in effect, transforming you into some sort of virtual living dead.

Somehow I feel compelled to add an evil laugh at this point.

That's what I thought originally. Now I use Indexhibit to manage my site and when I've got a good idea, I write it as an essay, publish it when it's revised. I also give a link to my HN threads page, since I'd think that most of my talking about intellectual matters happens here, and since here you can follow the discussions I'm in and really get some good debates.

I think that the idea of a personal "blog" is dead. Other mediums have really taken precedence. Very few blogs really stand out to me, nowadays; my favorite ones tend to be more unique implementations, such as BigContrarian and Kottke. Wordpress blogs look old and dated in a lot of ways: they try too much to bridge the gap between the formal and the personal, and I think they lose out because of it.

Completely agree. My writing and thought process has improved a ton since I've been blogging. Even better, you get a chance to interact with people and discuss a deep thought more than a twitter message.

And stop writing books people, it's so 1900. Surely you can convey everything you'd write about in a series of 140 char twitter messages.

I think that books have lost prominence, though. People have found that there are mediums that convey their messages far better.

The book isn't dead. But it's not as used now as it was in the past. People with visions and dreams find that it's easier to make movies, or form bands. Some people write, yes, but the book is not as dominant as it was in 1900. The same stands for the play and the concerto.

Blogs still have their uses. But now, things exist that work better for a lot of people. Twitter and Tumblr come to mind immediately.

" People with visions and dreams find that it's easier to make movies, or form bands. Some people write, yes, but the book is not as dominant as it was in 1900. The same stands for the play and the concerto."

Any references to back this up?

I bet it's easier to self-publish a book than it is to make a movie.

Yes. I used to get nearly all of my programming information from books or at least tutorials. Now I get nearly all of it just from resources scattered around the web.

I've never read a book on programming. I read books for certain things: I love books on marketing and I'll probably read Tufte in hard form, I have a copy of his stuff. But for programming I learned almost exclusively online: nowadays, I use the online books that Coda provides.

To be fair, I'm not a brilliant programmer. So I don't know if I'm missing out by learning online.

I self-published a book in my senior year of high school, so yes. That's possible.

However, I referred to the set of genres overall. The book certainly is not dead. However, it takes up less of the "fine arts" market proportionally than it did a hundred years ago, and that's because other genres exist that allow people certain other freedoms.

It is easier to form a band now than it was a hundred years ago. A hundred years ago, it would have been extremely difficult, and there was less of a popular focus. There wasn't the insane level of attention to rock stars back then. And motion pictures didn't exist at all. Neither did animated pictures or video games.

This is applicable to the blogging situation as follows: 5 years ago, if you wanted to write online, a blog was the best way to go. Now? Not necessarily. Now you can Tweet if that serves your purpose, or you can maintain a videolog or a tumblelog. Many friends of mine abandoned their blogs for Tumblr for precisely that reason: it fits their needs. And yes, that's still technically a blog, but the format has changed. There are different rules and there is focus on different things. It's entirely different from maintaining a blog on Wordpress or Movable Type.

Nowadays, I don't see very many interesting posts from personal blogs. The blog posts I DO find interesting come from only a few places. The attention has changed to a variety of different mediums. Look at r/bestof/ on Reddit: suddenly, there are people who come to attention entirely through metaposting. Or, to take my example, I now link to my HN threads on my site and I've abandoned my blog for essays. It lets me build up a better relation between content that I write on the fly and content that builds up, that I slowly formulate and revise.

Of course the book isn't dead, or even dying, though in my opinion it's been 50 years since the last truly revolutionary piece of pure literature (Beckett). However, now if you've got a mind for expression there are more writing-based venues available. 100 years ago, you either wrote poetry, wrote novels, or wrote plays. Now you have lyric writing, film-writing, and game writing available. That fits what people want much more.

Look at the invention of science fiction: when movies first appeared, literature stopped dealing with sci-fi largely for several decades, because the minds that were attracted to sci-fi were attracted to cinema. The same thing is happening with video games right now: not all but many writers are joining on the science fiction game bandwagon. And so, if I were a game designer looking at a bunch of college students interested in science fiction, I might very well advise the students that novel writing might NOT be the best way to go on with sci-fi. Some people would ignore that and go on and try, but with so many other venues available, there's less of a pressure for books. That's how I see this article: it's an argument that a blog isn't necessary anymore. That doesn't mean people won't like it, and use it, but it means that blogging is no longer the primary source of content on the Internet.

"I self-published a book in my senior year of high school."

I'm curious, what did you write about? Fiction/non-fiction? Still writing or just hacking?

Putting a book together at that age is a respectable achievement.

It was a novel. I published it through CreateSpace, so it could be found on Amazon; it's online at Scribd at http://www.scribd.com/doc/3319195/gstepl.

I still write, though I haven't written anything as ambitiously. My start-up is one that focuses on creative writers who want to learn to write at a more professional level, so it lets me get away with doing both. And I'll probably be writing something for NaNoWriMo in November: if I like that, I'll spend a little bit revising and seeing if any publishers are interested.

The two things go nicely together, because with literature you get used to putting things together haphazardly until they work: hacking gives you a more utilitarian approach to doing things. I find that when I'm in the middle of programming, I write better - if that makes any sense to you.

Interesting speculation.

Are you somehow saying that a band is in some way equivalent to a book? Songs are just emotional, they don't transfer any information. I don't even know how you can make the statement you made - a book can convey so many thoughts because it's slow and complex. You can absorb ideas by reading that you cannot by watching movies. Movies run at their own pace, books run at your pace.

It's NOT easier to make a movie. A movie is a masive logistical effort. Forming bands is just a trendy thing, but most bands I know produce silly music. They say banal things.

Writing is still the backbone of human thought. In whatever form it comes - the well thought out written word will always accompany human civilisation.

Are you somehow saying that a band is in some way equivalent to a book?

A songwriter and a novelist are both instances of artists. Such is my point: there are more levels of entry for writers nowadays.

Songs are just emotional, they don't transfer any information.

Several bands I listen to weave complex narratives into their music. Similarly, several novelists I read transfer very little information through their novels. Your statement is not entirely accurate.

You can absorb ideas by reading that you cannot by watching movies.

Of course! But you must remember that the opposite is true as well. Movies can convey things that books can't possibly attempt to show. The same with music, for that matter.

Movies run at their own pace, books run at your pace.

Of course. But that's irrelevant to my argument, which is that the book is no longer the only place to which writers flock. If you're young and want to write, a novel isn't the only thing you can write anymore. Just as people with ideas for scenes sometimes write movie scripts now rather than plays. A friend of mine is like that: I write play scripts, he writes movie scripts. If movies didn't exist, he might have become a playwright instead. Similarly, somebody who would have been a blogger 5 years ago might subsist entirely on Twitter or even Facebook Notes now.

I would also mention the TV show as a counterpoint to what you said, wherein episodes become almost chapters. You can either watch slowly, once a week, or you can watch it in massive doses when the DVD comes out. I just watched Twin Peaks like that last week.

It's NOT easier to make a movie. A movie is a masive logistical effort

I never said it was easier, I said it was an option. And it's easier for movies to convey certain types of information.

Forming bands is just a trendy thing, but most bands I know produce silly music. They say banal things.

Look at Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields as a perfect example of somebody who uses the lyric to greatest advantage. But either way, that's not my point. People who want to write nowadays very often write lyrics. I'd say more write lyrics nowadays than write novels, or poetry. That means that the pool of poets and novelists is less, because people have more venues to follow through.

Writing is still the backbone of human thought. In whatever form it comes - the well thought out written word will always accompany human civilisation.

Of course. I never said it wasn't, or that it wouldn't. But words appear in multiple mediums. David Foster Wallace said in interviews that he thought the best-written thing of this last decade was The Wire. I think the best-written thing I've read was either Achewood, which is a comic, or House of Leaves, which borders on visual art. Things branch out, and that's the point I wanted to make.

If you want to share medium-sized amounts of timely information, blogs and screencasts are the best conduits that I know of.

As for "expressing yourself" with Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter, photos, throwing pillows at people, and 140 character ephemera do not substitute for a solid, well-edited blog post.

"The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter."

One word: SUBMARINE.

What a linkbait title. Blogs aren't going anywhere, people are just figuring out what's appropriate on their blog versus Twitter/Facebook/[insert social network site of month here].

Personally, I see my blog and Twitter feed as two very different types of communication. Twitter, etc is great for quick little comments, sharing links, short updates of what's going on my life, questions to friends, etc, whereas my blog is good for more in depth posts like technical projects I'm working on, longer opinion pieces, tips and tricks, etc.

Similarly, I hate reading individual's blogs that simply talk about their boring day to day life, but 140 character chunks of that stuff is ok. On the flip side, there's no way to fit anything substantial (like my typical blog post) into 140 characters.

"A stand-alone commentator can't keep up with a team of pro writers cranking out up to 30 posts a day."

My approach is to not to subscribe to these kind of high volume "professional" blogs, but rather lots of little low traffic blogs.

I figure if there's something truly important posted on one of these mega-blogs my peers will inevitably post about it (on their blog, Twitter, or Facebook) and I'll find out about it anyway. Plus I'll see a huge variety of posts and little gems that never make it up to the big guys, rather than a zillion "xyz company released abc cell phone" posts on Engadget. I'm a gadget fiend but that shit gets old after awhile.

So don't let Wired and the mega-blogs discourage you from blogging. If you write something interesting the big guys will link to you anyway. My blog has been linked to from Slashdot, Daring Fireball, Ajaxian, TUAW, etc over the last year, and I only post about once a week when I have something I think is at least moderately interesting.


I think Paul Boutin might have a crush on me.

some anonymous troll named r0rschach or foohack

Um... "foohack" is only used by one troll, afaik, and I'm not anonymous. :P http://tr.im/h9f

This is the same Paul Boutin who was so impressed by my resume. http://tr.im/h9g

Was there ever a follow-up story to the VW post on your resume?

No, not that I know of. Though I did get pinged randomly by a yahoo employee from china who saw the story and looked me up in the corporate directory.

Is that the old guy who wears sunglasses at night or?

"Cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths."

"Paul Boutin (paul@valleywag.com) is a correspondent for the Silicon Valley gossip site Valleywag."

This made me giggle even though I sometimes view Valleywag as having more journalistic integrity than TC.

They're just trying to be sensationalistic.

To each his own. If you prefer the blog format, by all means keep blogging. If you prefer twitter, go do that..

exactly what I was thinking... Soo, just because some people stop blogging and move to other platforms everyone should? Screw that.

Of course, if you intend to use your blog to make some dinero and pay some of the bills, it's probably not going to work... but neither will twitter or facebook for that matter. If you just want to express yourself, use whatever you want and whatever your public will use.

And can't you have a blog AND twitter, facebook, etc?

This is awful advice. Our blog has, on some days, received more traffic than our actual site. In addition to generating sales, it has also helped us substantially with SEO and connecting with our users.

This is quite possibly the worst advice I've ever seen on HN in recent memory. Just because you can use facebook/twitter et al doesn't mean you can't have a blog. They aren't mutually exclusive. One word of caution, if you're spending tons of time on your blog with very little to show for it, maybe consider getting rid of it or cut down your post frequency.

Gary V. had great advice: "people ask what social networking tools I should use ... twitter, jaiku, etc. The answer? Use all of them"

There is nothing exclusive about twitter & blogging. You'll note those with the biggest personal brands and most followers are often bloggers. This is because facebook and twitter are both bad at content/person discovery.

Blogging is a good way to let people find out who you are.

Ugh. I dislike that advice very much.

I'm not a fan of people who use social networking to advertise. I know there are practical benefits, but the idealist in me wishes that people wouldn't pick up media just to abuse it. Some things are great: I remember there was a comment here about somebody who complained about Comcast on Twitter and got an instant response. But I've seen too many people who use Twitter and Jaiku and Tumblr to post links back to their content and that's that, and I hate that.

Of course, the idealist in me thinks that you shouldn't advertise in every venue possible, that you should work until you've got something so useful that word-of-mouth brings people in, and that's not entirely practical either.

Disclaimer: TicketStumbler uses Twitter, Facebook and Blogging

What if you have people come to you instead of vice versa? For example, you never follow anyone on twitter you make people follow you. I agree that the spammers are a huge problem, but I think some of these tools can be used for good.

I raged about Comcast on Twitter yesterday and they haven't done anything. Bastards.

The ones you mentioned are okay if you're using them decently. I can see why TicketStumbler would benefit from Twitter, absolutely. And Facebook and blogs are different: blogs help you reach out to your current users, and Facebook Pages are built to let you attract fans. I guess that's not the misusage I was thinking about: I referred more to the spammers and the people who sign up for every service imaginable just to attract people. (The owner of AllFacebook, which I used to write for, did that a lot on Twitter, and it always just seemed slightly wannabe to me.)

So a guy who presumably makes his living on being a professional blogger is lamenting the lost of the personal touch in blogs... hmm

writing a blog can demonstrate your subject matter expertise to investors, employees, and business partners. philmichaelson.com has very small readership, but the leads its generated have already been worth the effort.

Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook don't allow you to share the same length and quality of content outside your friend network

He assumes blogs make media hard to upload. Posterous breaks that rule. Then there's my site, OurDoings, where the photos you upload form the skeleton of a blog, backdated by when the photos were taken. You can leave it as just photos or fill it in with as much writing as you want.

Please do quit if your goal is to bask in the adoration of other bloggers.

If you've got useful information or clever insight, by all means continue. For god's sake, I wouldn't know how to program these days without all the "5 steps to XXX" blog posts out there.

Why are they mutually exclusive? Seems like they each work best when supported by everything else. The defining characteristic of 2008 is not twitter, as it was blogging in 2004, but rather the growing interconnectivity of all web services.

What is this blog thing? A site with a RSS feed? The BBC website has RSS and news aren't posted in batches. So is it a blog? Nope.

Isn't a blog supposed to be personal? The mentioned sites aren't really blogs, so the article is irrelevant.

Blogs still matter when it comes to details that aren't discussed in the media. In my native language blog posts and forum discussions are among the top results and I often learn more and understand my country better from this content than from the PR-dominated media.

I am glad that some of the bloggers I read have started micro-blogging - I am not interested in reading what they ate for dinner last night.

I like traditional personal webpages.

He makes the mistake of thinking there's some limited number of blog readers and you have to compete against TechCrunch for them.

Also Calcanis may have quit blogging, but his posts now end up on top 10 blogs every time.

I totally disagree. I don't see the point in stopping to write web log entries just because twitter or facebook exist. I do not write on my web log in search of some form of hype. The reason I do write on it, is to serve two purposes: To keep track of stuff that I know I will eventually forget (and it will be extra fun to re-read it later :)), and to communicate some form of information to my friends and family.

Maybe, now that I think of it, it might be more interesting to start storing carrier pigeons or messages inside bottles, hmmmm...

Although this is a worthy topic to explore, the reasons the article mentions are are lousy. So what if there are people making a living blogging? Who cares if Jason Calacanis or Scoble changed their blogging patterns? Who cares about all the noise in the blogosphere, and competing services like Twitter.

The most valid reason is that blogging is hard, and most people aren't willing to put forth the effort to make their blogs readable.

In the programming world, there is a healthy ecosystem of bloggers. If Steve Yegge switches to Twitter, I quit.

One great thing about the web is that you can structure your content however you want.

How about this: kill your blog if it sucks and no-one reads it and you can't think of any improvements you could make to get people to read it.

You need your blog, because it's part of your portfolio. It's what people who want to find out more about you read.

clearly a flamebait ...

Shiny object!!!

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