Blogging Ain't What It Used To Be ...

In her blog 11D, Laura McKenna wrote about how the blogosphere has changed since she started blogging six years ago. The post is from July 2009, but many of her points are still relevant (and will be for a very long time, I suspect). For example:

3. Norms and practices. Bloggers have undermined the blogosphere. Bloggers do not link to each other as much as they used to. It's a lot of work to look for good posts elsewhere, and most bloggers have become burnt out. Drezner and Farrell had a theory that even small potato bloggers would have their day in the sun, if they wrote something so great that it garnered the attention of the big guys. But the big guys are too burnt out to find the hidden gems. So, good stuff is being written all the time, and it isn't bubbling to the top.

Many have stopped using blogrolls, which means less love spread around the blogosphere. The politics of who should be on a blogroll was too much of a pain, so bloggers just deleted the whole thing.

Neatorama's own John Farrier (where I found out about McKenna's post) wrote:

McKenna notes the decline of linking and blogrolling. I think that this is because of the staggering size of blogosphere. It's no longer a community in any sense, and only very specific niches can maintain a sense of community, where people know each other beyond blog name in the header.

four years ago, when I taught classes on blogging, I said "Blogging is a communitarian activity. Don't just write stuff and expect people to link to you unless you link to them. Don't expect people to read you unless you read them. Don't expect people to blogroll you unless you blogroll them."

To an extent, this is true. And it's especially true for new bloggers who have yet to develop an audience. But eventually, the monkeysphere grows too large and interesting content matters more than relationships. [...]

... there has been a decline in hat tipping. At least, that is my assessment from a very limited perspective. In a more niche communitarian model (such as the Methoblogosphere), not hat tipping will hurt a blogger's reputation. In a commercial model, hat tipping hurts your bottom line by suggesting that readers visit your competitors.

Neatorama did away with blogroll a long time ago. In our early days, we happily blogrolled those who asked, but that quickly turned into more of a linking scheme than a true list of interesting blogs.

I think Neatorama still maintains a healthy habit of "hat tipping" or providing via links (by the way, this is my pet peeve about social networking websites like digg and reddit and image hosting services like imgur which rarely provide them) but I did notice a decrease in diversity of post type as well as via links, especially in my own posts. Back in the days, I used to roam the blogosphere looking for interesting small blogs. I don't do that anymore because of two big reasons: 1) it was very time consuming (Browsing the web after having kids? Forget about it!) and 2) I've developed a list of "go to" blogs that always have great content. Going to these blogs give more bang for the buck when looking for neat things to post on Neatorama.

Nevertheless, I think the lack of diversity can hurt this blog in the long run. For one, it decreases "uniqueness" - if you see the same posts on Neatorama as you did on Boing Boing, Gizmodo, Huffington Post, digg, or reddit, then why visit?

Perhaps it's time for me to hit a reset button and change something in my routine. I'd be most interested to hear your opinion about what we can do to make Neatorama better in this respect.

(Photo: the Internet visualized by the Opte Project)


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One of the few things I enjoyed about high school was the diversity of teachers we had. Culture, Fact, Poetry, Art, Science, Drama, Math, "Industrial Education"... they all inspired in different ways.
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Bilal wrote:

Neatorama stands out in my list of places to check because it contains links to true researched and knowledge based pieces, not just weird facts and lists. There's a science aspect here that isn't well reflected in other places I consider that a strength and would suggest keep building on it.

This, I've suspected, is one of Neatorama's strengths, so it's nice to hear confirmation. Neatorama readers tend to want more than just a picture and a link. They seem to want an explanation, some cursory fact-checking, and links to topical resources.

I've also sensed that readers like limited editorializing -- just the facts, ma'am. That's why I try to write in a very straightforward and condensed style, like an encyclopedia article.
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I really like Neatorama and in particular the Upcoming Queue. The only complaint I have with that is that maybe you should check the upcoming queue as well. I've seen posts on the UQ first and then later you posted them on the actual blog and labeled the one in the UQ as a dupe (yep, happened to one of mine too). This is frustrating for those of us who find something neat and would like to contribute.

Also, when you do link a story, it would be nice if instead of just the word LINK it tells where the link is going. My office bans certain websites (sending up a red flag to the IT guys who then report me to management) for sites like cracked and i-am-bored. If your story is linked to one of those (and others like it) I wouldn’t click on it if I knew that ahead of time.
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I remember when "blogrolling" was a play on "logrolling" -- the somewhat unsavory practice of "I'll blog about your blog if you blog about my blog." I don't think I've ever heard (until now) the word used to describe the practice of keeping a blogroll.
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