“The Tech Blogosphere has Peaked”

5 Apr ’06

I was expecting to read Phil Sim’s post about the peak of the tech blogosphere for novelty’s sake and then toss it aside. And then I read it, and realized that he’d answered my own questions about why so much of what I’ve been reading recently just doesn’t seem blogworthy. Gist:

When I was an editor, two years was always as long as I felt I could give a job. After two years you find yourself recycling the same old stories, writing the same old opinion pieces, producing covers that looked like something else you did last year. I like to live under the delusion that I could find an angle on a flag pole but at that two year mark, I run dry. Actually, I reckon you start to run dry after 12 months but you can probably hang on for another year with selective recycling.

A lot of your more interesting bloggers will be hitting that point now. They’ll be writing something thinking ‘god, this sounds like that other post I did about…’ On top of that, their families might be starting to tire of the old, ‘As soon as I’ve finished this blog post’ routine and then there’s the kicker – Web 2.0 itself is getting stale.

Turn over to TechCrunch and tell me how many of the new launches are really inspiring or new. Mostly they’re tweaks on the same old ideas – social networking, search, photo sharing, news aggregators, etc. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m missing the Web 2.0 ballyhoo!

The debate carried on in Phil’s comments asks whether traffic really has really peaked, but I think the data issue is really beside the point, and Phil has nailed something important about the lifecycle of blogging, or more accurately, the lifecycle of a blogger. Don’t bloggers – like writers – need new fuel to the fire?

For now, I’m prepared to speculate that one of the (many?) differences between writers and bloggers is that writers are less motivated by the charm of the new (isn’t it also about the writing?), but I’m not really sure that’s true. And I have a growing suspicion that one of the side-effects of the intensity of the blogosphere is that it burns through the charm of anything new pretty quickly. (After all, it’s awfully hard to get too excited about your next post when everyone you read is writing about exactly the same thing.) It’s also true that blogging has sometimes seemed less about conversation and more about talking to the hand, and also too much about reading alpha geeks who are overly fascinated by how they compare to each other (please – no more about who was the first to spot a new trend or have an idea or about who slagged whom and why), than by what is actually happening in the world around them – all of which tends to put a quick end to creative thinking. And, all of which suggests that Phil might really be on to something.

For now, Mathew will only say that his thoughts about Phil’s post might someday grow up to be a blog post, but I’d like to hear more from him and other ink-stained wretches. Can everything old be new again? Is it about the writing? The subject? Both? Do bloggers have their best writing behind them a mere 12 months into it (and if so, who’s next)? Are the aggregators ruining good writing by encouraging bloggers to pander to what’s topical, and therefore overexposed and boring before the best words are written?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Patrick Dinnen April 5, 2006 at 08:12

Rob
There are some good points here about blogger burn out and it’s causes. A few things comes to mind, I’m not sure if I can weave them into anything coherent but here goes:

– I wonder if part of the reason for bloggers finding that everything gets old quick is the fact that most blogging is opinion rather than reporting or investigation. It’s much easier to write a quick post with my opinion on what someone else posted than it it to go out into the world and find something new. That’s not a bad thing, it just means that nearly everone takes the less difficult route (myself included) and there’s a lack of balance. By taking the easier option a lot of the richness of the real world is missed and we end up with a a large part of the blogosphere talking about the same things, in a kind of a feedback loop.

– A suggestion I’ve heard from Merlin Mann recently was that it’s a great idea to start up a blog on a particular, focused topic but with a finite life expectancy. That way you can post the hell out of it, while knowing that you don’t have to keep doing it forever, which should help to avoid burnout. I guess this is the same thing as Phil Sims saying that he won’t edit a publication for more that 2 years, to keep it fresh.

Has tech blogging peaked? I don’t think so, but I’m an optimist on these things. I suspect we’ll start to see a shift in the topics and styles of tech blogging, perhaps rather than 1,000 bloggers all posting on web 2.0 (and linking to the same stuff) we’ll see 900 blogging on web 3.0 and 100 posting on their own niche interests and expertise. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more original content too, so that the 98% of the world that isn’t currently blogged gets some attention.

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