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

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SEO Update from Chicago

Everything just got a bit harder with the new Google Caffeine update for the search engine. If you haven’t heard about it yet you can check out the API to see how your website will rank in the new engine compared to the old engine.

I would say that most people began to understand the old engine in a logical way from experimentation over time and many businesses thought they were just “following the rules” building sites in a way that fit with that logic. Now the new engine will be completely different and all that work will be gone. I looked at some sites and saw how they will compare between the 2 and the results are a challenge.

One site went from 12th to 44th for a key search term. Another went from 5th to 23rd. It is almost universal that everyone who develops a business model around search will be hurt by the change whether they are spammy or not.

I am all for reducing and removing spam/affiliate networks/link schemes from google to reveal the real content but the actual companies with the products/services/tools that businesses and professionals use will be hurt by the update and some may suffer financially as a result. Google just doesn’t have the human ability and reasoning skills in a robot algorithm to tell whether a site is spam or not. They’re going after spam and hurting other legitimate businesses.

Investing in marketing might be something we start looking at like investing in stocks/bonds/401K/the market. They have had long standing recommendations on asset allocation between stocks/bonds/international funds/currency and other types of investments. They associate risk levels with each one and say things like; invest the percentage in bonds that matches your age or diversify and reallocate to maintain that level of diversification between investment types 2-3 times per year.

Investment Strategy with Marketing may look the same someday. SEO might bring in X% of revenue and cost Y% of budget but is highly risky, so you don’t invest as much in it, because it is all potentially going to vaporize when Google decides to update. Things like Branding on TV and Radio and Outdoor are more expensive and not trackable, but companies have been using them for decades and they are very low risk. You spend that money on awareness and people know who you are after that. PR is another wild card and social networking (viral) marketing is another component with low cost and high risk.

Companies may want to diversify their marketing and advertising dollars based on risk as well as the ROI because within a few clicks of a mouse in California, the entire web changes and all your efforts may go up in smoke. This idea definitley favors the old methods and in some ways, internet banner ads. Display advertising on the internet is way undervalued right now and people are also starting to look at ads online like they used to on TV. They are actually paying attention sometimes. The conversion rates have gone down on average, but for mainstream brands and trusted sites they are near 5% (up from .01% years ago) when you include post impression data (people who never clicked, but went to your site anyway).

So, I guess the mood I am feeling today is one that is cautious optimism about old advertising methods in light of Google pulling the rug out from under companies, in the way they always do. It doesn’t help that adwords pay per click costs are as high as $20 for many mainstream words and can go as high as $100 perclick. Then when the conversion rates are so low, nobody will pay that. Most of my clients are abandoning ppcads and someday may do the same with SEO. It just doesn’t pay.

When spamming someone bites you back

I am almost in shock of this post on the wired editor’s personal blog that discloses the emails that he has blocked because he got unsolicited emails pitching Press Releases for products, services, and who knows what else because he is a PR person in public lists. I have to say it was a bold move to do that and he must have had clearance from his employer to do it.

It would have worked if he just blocked them personally, but publishing the list holds this to another level. A public standard of corporate acceptability. And that has gone out the window in buzzy boom market and companies where the greed level is high and the oversight is low. I applaud him for publishing them and it is very entertaining to read through the 199 comments on the post. This brings the issue into the online conversations of a lot of people and may even influence the future actions of overzealous PR people.

Bracuda Networks Spam Firewall – Best

emailI have noticed that at work we started using the baracuda networks spam firewall and since then we have had far fewer issues with spam. I used to get spam on an email address I didn’t even know people knew about. I don’t know how spammers find out these things. But a hard working Spam Filter that works like this has made all the difference. And her’s a cool image of an email server I found on their site. Somehow we always knew the answer to spam was going to be a fish.

baracuda firewall spam blocker email