Why I dislike Large Blogs

I love blogs. I have been blogging since 2002 when my friend Mugsy emailed me and told me to sign up for LiveJournal. A lot has changed about blogging since then, but the revolutionary idea that if you can type, you can publish easily in a word-processing-like interface on the internet has not. The method of blogging to share knowledge by and for non-programming type people is still spreading to the corners of the globe and helping people’s voices be heard in ways we never thought possible.

At the same time I am growing more frustrated with the technorati and the overload of emails, posts, rss feeds and spam arriving on my accounts daily. I am trying my best to stay on top of the active topics in  the  user generated content world as it has forked into many roads that include blogging, social networking, social ads, microblogging and a whole host of a million little startups with other concepts they want to share with the world. (more than can be kept up with or can survive even if they do all innovate)

I have had to scale back my online content consumption several times over the years when it was in danger of taking over my life and all my time. But lately this getting married thing has taken a large chunk of time out of my life too, (even after the wedding) and as a result I am trying to glean all my updates and news knowledge into smaller and smaller bits of time. (apparently being married means I have to do work around the house and spend a lot of time trying to motivate my husband to stop watching hours of TV and do things around the house. Life just got more complicated and we have to learn how to cook, fix things, do laundry and empty the cat-poop-box with much larger quantities now). My work is also very busy (analytics and metrics seem to go nuts in recessions) and no spare time is to be had anywhere in the schedule.

Therefore, I have gone through many iterations of un-subscribe weeks in my email boxes and cut back drastically on email newsletters, of which once I found very enlightening. Most marketing/advertising/analytics/metrics/SEO/SEM email newsletters  these days aren’t as willing to share any real actionable info without you spending a lot of $ so out they go.

I tried to update myself by trying an RSS reader again (3rd try) and I think its been a few months but I am overwhelmed by that too. Its way to easy to get more than 1,000 unread items in the reader and when it doesn’t tell me the exact number anymore I am less motivated to tackle it because it seems impossible.

I have found Google Reader to be good for sunday afternoon fun feed reading and more personal fun  topics/blogs though. Home design is a great topic in the reader since you really have to see it all to learn.

On the other hand I am re-subscribing to some email newsletters and just un-subscribing altogether to others who insist on posting 30-50 items per day! (assholes!) How is one person supposed to read that many posts per blog per day? It’s impossible and on some level, rude.

I know why they do this. It is partially a play to keep new items being published every few hours to keep the Internet addicts coming back for more traffic and it is also a play for search engine dominance by having more content in the engine for every possible term than anyone else. These teams of writers churn out mostly regurgitated posts about content repurposed from other blogs without much new insight. Some do deliver genuine news and content you can use but scanning through 50 posts is way slower than scanning 5 emails. The content and pics seem to load soooo sloooowly and an email you read, scan and go to what you want quickly. Big offenders of this are ReadWriteWeb (on volume and not separating feeds), Silicon Valley Insider (regurgitating and trying to predict the future even though they’re usually wrong), SEO Roundtable, Apartment Therapy (OMG, holy re-post everyone elses content and fill up with summary posts daily to waste everyones time, generate page views and sell ads), Jalopnik (jebus stop showing us every detail of the 24 hours of Lemons in every city across the country and asking us what our favorite imaginary dream car in a movie with Bruce Willis: waste of space, use summary feeds please! On a cable bandwidth line it takes forever to load all these damn images!) and Media Post (phhbbtt). ALL THESE BLOGS have been banned from my RSS Reader. Some have been demoted to email updates but others are just gone.

Also, I’m not programmed to think to go see my rss feeds yet either so I often forget about them for several days after a good several hour scanning session finally getting the numbers down to below 200 new items. then I return the next time to see 1,000+ again and feel defeated. In contrast I have OCD about keeping a clean email box, and completely forget about facebook until I am completely bored. I guess that is a sign of my age bracket. (34)

I wish that this spammy fluf put out there to fill space could be eliminated. I also wish that these blogs would split their feeds into sections so you would be able to just get the posts you were interested in. Like if new original content and re-purposed other people’s content were separated in 2 feeds, it would be a big help.

I would also recommend that they stop doing summary posts. They piss me off. I wait a minute or 2 for something to load in the darn reader only to see its the same posts from the local editions of the same blog.  Poo, if that happens 15 times in a day I could have spent that time sleeping and then I’m annoyed. 

These blogs also do this because they are in some get-rich-quick rush to make money as a profitable business before Google figures it out and bans them or something. Yes, blogs have an elitism to them that says, duh, if I can make a slice of the money publishing from what the Tribune used to, I am going to do this as fast and as hard as I can. And it over saturates the web with watered down content that is just filler mostly, even if it does increase ad impressions and some adsense revenue if you’re into web-welfare payments.

I also would like to recommend that if you want to start a blog you keep the posts to no more than 2-3 a day and resist the urge to just regurgitate other people’s posts and link to them saying how great they are. Research things you are really interested in and share your own unique experiences. Any web-bot can be an aggregator, what we need more of is real people sharing experiences and knowledge to make social media stick and not die out because of spam/splogs and info-overload. It is these people who become trusted advisors and get the visitors who come back again and again.

And this is also better for the rest of us who have to go clean the cat-poop-box and have a life offline now that they are married.

Update 10/29/09

http://scobleizer.posterous.com/why-i-dont-use-google-reader-anymore

I guess Robert Scoble agrees with me to a point, though he blames Google Reader for a bad format and experience and not the blog owners for copious amounts of useless content hiding the good stuff. I guess there is always room for improvement and certain people discover it before others depending on how they use the info/product.

Update 11/5/09

How much content is too much content? Read Write Web chronicles these mega content sites and their race to populate the web all by themselves by posting 200+ posts per day. We should call it the Answers.com business model.

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/the_age_of_mega_content_sites.php

Google is not making us Stoopid in the Attention Crash Its Productivity Stupid

This article by Nick Carr in the Atlantic last month brought up some interesting points about the attention crash and Google in regards to whether these innovations are hurting us more than helping in productivity. This article on marketing brought up some more points today.  I have been through this internet addict cycle and back again and maybe some of my experience can help those looking to prune back the hedges of web information overload (or overlord) in their life.

Is Google Making us Stopid? I think not!

Is Google Making us Stopid? I think not!

First off, I don’t agree that Google makes us stupid (or stoopid) but I do think it influences how we consume information and creates a false sense of know everything because we are plugged in every day, searching on every idea that comes to mind and reading a million blogs, emails, widgets and feeds every day. If we have full Internet access at work, good luck getting any work done if your company doesn’t block perezhilton and facebook.

We live in an era of information overload and we skim everything and really read and absorb nothing. No one can consume at this rate. People are stressed out by the number of media sources they have to keep up with daily (and on weekends) and we feel constantly inadequate because of all the bragging that goes on about successful products launched, and big money made on the net.  It’s no surprise then that we are constantly driven to consume more information and media to fill the brain with more discovery serotonin and yet we feel that we aren’t getting anywhere since most of us aren’t paid to consume this information and analyze it for a living. It is very contrary to most of our life goals with our jobs and families.

I started blogging and consuming massive amounts of media in 2002 and was completely burnt out by  2005 from a mix of Scoble, MicroPersuasion and every social networking site available plus news, alerts and emails. (plus following every move of the google monster as it grew) I did not really get much done at work, luckily I was very good at my job so I could get it done in less than the time allotted and I tried to move my real job towards this social media category. I was consumed by all the feeds, blogs, feedbliz emails, IMs, regular emails, networking sites and Flickr. It didn’t get me anywhere I wanted to go though, except the inside track on some new things I could talk about socially before other people knew about them.  (big deal) I ended up looking for a new job instead. My job seemed uninteresting and unimportant compared to the new, exciting and really important things happening on the web. This despite being the one thing that paid my mortgage.

So,what’s an internet marketing girl to do when all this media does relate to your job somewhat but it is also crushing your life? 

1. I did find a job with greater flexibility and more use of my media knowledge. But I also turned a lot of the media off.

2. I abandoned RSS feeds. Too many to keep up with. Too little importance to my life.

3. I stopped blogging everywhere for nothing and just maintained a few blogs that really mattered and one that provides some small side income.  

4. I cut out radio, TV, papers and magazines with the exception of TIME Magazine (because I need something to read on the train) and Netflix (because I don’t have cable and like to have something decent to watch once or twice a week after work). (radio was cut out because of the train also, if I was still driving to work I would listen to NPR)

5. I won’t lifestream (too invading of my privacy) and dislike twitter (I don’t need another internet addiction). This means I miss a lot of info and some trends but I don’t get worked up about it because I found that most of these super mini-micro-trends never make it to mainstream anyway.

6. I unsubscribed to a boatload of emails and started a new email account that was less spammy.

7. I also stopped reading a lot of blogs. The only ones I read now are bookmarked as links in my browser and if I don’t find something useful there for a few weeks I delete them. (or if they are friends they get linked into LJ) And I can’t read the buzz building blogs of Forester, Scoble and Giga Om. Scoble is great but no one can keep up with that man. (he is a 24 hour blogging machine!) Forrester and GigaOm are always wrong. I am sick of being led astray into an area that doesn’t fit or benefit mainstream business. I did start reading PerezHilton though. Its quick, about 5 minutes, scan through what looks interesting/funny and skip the rest.

8. I also have kind of cut back on signing up for every site beta that comes up because there are millions of them and the purpose of these sites has gotten further away from positively influencing my life in the past few years and more about distracting me. I still sign up for some, but by the time the beta password comes in, I usually find it wasn’t that relevant after all.

9. I stopped checking in on social networks daily. Once a week is enough. And flickr gets updated maybe once a month.

10. Oh yea, I also got a boyfriend and found that being with him was much more rewarding than being online all the time consuming information about everyone else’s successes.

I have come back from the attention crash and maybe some of these tips can help others. Yea, some of these blogs are going to see traffic drop but we will all be able to sleep better at night and work better during the day as a result. And when your family and mortgage are counting on it isn’t that really what is most important?

Some things I still do that have survived the internet pruning:

1. Subscribe to feedbliz emails for about 10 blogs directly related to the media I work with and personal finances. (frugal living type topics since we are in the middle of a recession)

2. I keep up with emails from work and friends.

3. Use IM to converse quickly and the phone (gasp!) for longer conversations.

4. Read TIME magazine weekly. It has evolved into a much hipper, savy, snarkier mag than you think.

5. Check the news on the yahoo login page for my personal email for news.

6. Keep up with google alerts on terms related to my work, friends and family. I guess this is super targeted and as behavioral as one can get. You would have thought they would have put ads in Google alerts by now.

7. Blog on my personal blog, marketing blog and other blog about once a week. That is about all I can keep up with.

8. Most weekends I am offline entirely. If I want to spend time with real people it has to be out of the house and therefore offline. Plus laundry and dishes need to be done sometime!

9. I have a cut off time whether all the stuff is done or not because sleep is more important to me than you might think. I try and got to bed by 10 or 11 but 12 is the cutoff for sure.

10. I remain anonymous and aliased online because I want to be able to say what I think when I want without the fear of someone’s difference of personal opinion affecting my professional or personal life.

So, in summary I think my findings indicate that it’s not Google that is making us Stupid (or Stoopid) it’s ourselves and the decisions we make about how we will spend our time (and money).

Why FriendFeed is no big deal

I am so lost on why so many people are gaga about friendfeed. Of all the web apps that have come out this one has the least technical savy and is not at all new in function. Is it useful? Yes, but has it been around somewhere else since 2002? YES!

I started using Livejournal in 2002 and one of the things that hooked me about it was that all my friend’s LJ blog feeds were listed in reverse cronological order on a friends page. This was great. I didn’t have to go to each blog individually to read them and I could scroll and scan through a day’s worth of posts in a few minutes. Later they added the ability to add other RSS feeds into LJ for reading as a friend. I added everything I was watching at that time. I fed everything from fickr feeds to blogs like Scoble into the mix. They even allowed you to categorize your friend feeds into different groups for more organized reading commenting was also possible direct from the feed although if it was not an LJ blog the comment would not be submitted back to the original site, just on LJ.

All this was great but almost too great. I stopped using RSS all the time in about 2006 because there were too many feeds to read and too much information to process. I couldn’t keep up. It was taking hours to get through everything even just scaning and skimming. I pretty much abandoned the feed page there even though I still post occasionally.

So, basically I am not excited about FriendFeed since it is just another incarnation of something I already have and there were limits to how much information and how many feeds and posts I could reasonably process a day. I have actually gone backwards in tech terms now and I use link buttons in my browser for the blogs or sites I read daily and I know that when that row across the top of the browser is full, one has to go if I add one. It’s is kind of a limit to how many I can monitor and keeps it under control. I also use the feedbliz email subscriptions a lot too. It creates a lot of extra email, but it is easy to scan and delete if it isn’t pertinent info and if there isn’t good info for a month I unsubscribe.

Anyway, maybe some day soon people will come to their senses and find a way to balance being aware and alert of what is happening on the net but not wasting an entire day following blog posts and feeds. It is a huge hit to productivity in America because the discovery process is buzzy and addictive when you find something huge and you always think it will be there and then your day is lost.

What to eat? Cheap Food & Eating on a Budget

I was recently looking for budgeting blogs to tune in to and read about how other people save money and I ran across the Trying to Follow blog, (which is a religious based blog, although I am  not religious in any way) which had a post about living on a budget. I give credit to those people who do live on a budget because I have always found it to be difficult. Especially living in Chicagoland and working downtown, the costs of transportation, food and rent are a lot higher than I would like. Anyway, this blog had a budget of $1,000.00 per month for living expenses. That isn’t much. It broke down as:

Rent: $500

Car: $100

Food: $100

Miscelaneous: $100

Entertainment/Fun money: $100

Emergency: $100

I pay more than double in all those categories! This led me on a search for blogs that are about eating cheaply (and healty if possible) and how to cook cheaply at home. And suprisingly while there were a lot of suggestions there were very few sites that had any usable information for me. I only found 3 reasonable recipies on the Cheap Eats blog in 3 years worth of posts. I also got a suggestion of SlashFood which was useless because is a blog mostly about making expensive gourmet cuisine and just had one post abou very vauge ideas about how to maybe save money on food. I am beginning to think that the people who do know how to live affordably aren’t really interested in sharing how they do it. And I guess they don’t have to really. A lot of what is on these 2 food blogs is also really fed by advertisers. About 1/2 of the posts on Cheap Eats were reviews of free food he was given by manufacturers. And the cost per meal for those foods was $5-$7 bucks. That’s not going to get you through the month on $100.00 or less. Ok, so it may not be possible to live on the budget listed above in Chicago, but I still think it is good to look into and find out more about. Since these blogs havan’t really helped, do you have any suggestions on how to cut money from your budget? Cheap recipes? On food or any other area?