The Evanescence of Blog Postings

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August 2nd, 2007

While I was away from my blogging activities for the past six weeks (see my July 30th post, “I’m Back,” for more details), my NetNewsWire blog aggregator dutifully continued collecting blog postings from the 50-60 blogs to which I subscribe. I cleaned it out from time to time, but typically carried a backlog of some 400-500 unread articles. Now that I’m focusing on blogging again, I’ve been trying to catch up; I’m now down to 174 unread entries, but there are several blogs with 10, 15, or 20 unread entries — and that doesn’t even count the hyperactive blogs like Scobleizer, which has actually quieted down somewhat in recent weeks.

What I’m finding is that cleaning up a pile of unread blog entries is somewhat like cleaning out one’s accumulated email after returning from a month’s visit to a “dead zone” (i.e., some remote part of the earth where it’s impossible to get email); or to use another metaphor, it’s like returning from a 4-week vacation and discovering that you forgot to tell the newspaper delivery service to discontinue your paper while you were gone. I know some fanatics … err, ummm, dedicated news-readers … including a couple members of my immediate family, who feel a personal sense of duty to read every article in every issue of the piled-up newspapers; and there are people who insist on reading every one of those emails that piled up while they were away from their computer. But most of us find that we barely have time to make a quick pass through the accumulated pile of material to pluck out one or two items that (a) we haven’t already heard, seen, or read about from some other source, and (b) still seem timely, relevant, and substantive.

The vast majority of the piled-up material fails criterion (a) and/or (b) — i.e., the email telling us that Mary got promoted and Bob got fired is something we heard, in the form of gossip and rumors, from several other sources. The front-page newspaper article about Britney Spears’ latest shenanigans may have been momentarily titillating on the day it was published, but a month later, it’s so obviously irrelevant that it’s a waste of time to even read the headline. And, sad to say, the serious, in-depth, thought-provoking article about the state of affairs in Iraq has probably been superseded by a full month of bombings, bloodshed, and political idiocy on the part of all the political parties in both America and Iraq.

It turns out that the same is true of blogs: just looking at the title of the blog, conveniently organized by NetNewsWire, makes it obvious that the majority of the postings were superficial or frivolous when they were first written; and many of the non-frivolous postings from serious bloggers are probably no longer worth reading a month later — either because I’ve picked up the same information from various other sources, or because the information is now obsolete.

Of course, there’s no reason why I should be surprised by all of this; if anything, the “noise ratio” of blogs is probably much higher than that of newspapers, though I do try to concentrate on bloggers who have something serious to say. Still, it reminds me that it’s not absolutely necessary to read every blog posting, every day of the week. Indeed, there might even be a good argument for letting them accumulate all through the week, and then making a quick pass through the accumulated collection on a quiet Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, I still have 173 unread postings that I need to either read or delete …

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