The Importance of the Digestible Blog
Posted by Dave
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One of the most energetic blogs on today's web is something I hold as a beloved example of what blogging should be. Streetsblog USA has all this going for it:
- It is a grass-roots publishing effort (or at least appears to be)
- It covers transportation, and advocates car-free living - it aligns with my interests
- It doesn't muck up its desktop presentation (too much)
- It's updated regularly
- It has RSS available
And yet, I don't read it. Or at least most of it.
I subscribe to its RSS feed but inevitably when I land on its daily-refreshed article list in my RSS reader, I only pick through but a few of the articles at most, skimming for the gist, then moving on to someone else's content.
So, what's happening here? What is the seemingly perfect blog in my eyes doing wrong such that while I certainly appreciate and advocate its content, I keep it outside of my thorough field of daily online consumption?
We're supposed to respect blogs that build up their content engine as aggressively as Streetsblog USA. Even more so when that volume of output doesn't result in the diluting of the substance of that content, again as we can observe of Streetsblog USA.
Something just doesn't jive. I should really be eating Streetsblog USA up.
After some mulling I came to realize that, for a blog, it actually publishes too much for the moniker of "blog".
It's a firehose, and that's a problem. It seems to produce at least three articles a day, and when you factor in a missed day or two of purusing the RSS reader, this results in a wall of articles to wade through.
You might think I'm (Pea) Nuts
Pretend that it's 1975. You subscribe to a newspaper and inside the folds of its many sections back then, you open up to the daily funnies and look for your favorite strip. Peanuts by Charles M. Schultz was my favorite as a kid, so we'll pick that strip for this example.
What if on that funnies page there were not just one clean four-panel row of a Peanuts gag, but, say, there were 30 of them. 30 rows of different Peanuts strips taking up virtually the entire page.
You might read the first two before realizing that there isn't enough coffee in your cup to read all 30 separate cartoon strips of the same title, not to mention consume your other favorite strips and newspaper sections. I mean, you do have to be at work in an hour.
So, it's a great cartoon strip and you love it -- but even though you mechanically have all the capability in the world to indulge it, you simply don't have the luxury of that much time to do so. You didn't wake up looking to read a book. And that means you don't read most of what you love.
That would be comic strip fail. And in the same way, it's blog fail for publishing entities who crank out articles every 5 minutes. I should pause to mention it's not as if Streetsblog USA is the only example.
So, now, as far as I am concerned, blogs that do this, worthy as they are as conduits of information and viewpoints for niche subjects, are not actually consumable as blogs. They can be something else, "news sites" maybe, "repositories of data and commentary" about a topic, perhaps; but not a blog as long as we add the additional criterion for blogs as something that produces pointed content that can be digested in a single breezy pass. This pacing attribute turns out to be crucial.
My thinking here is certainly open to critique because of its subjective assertion. Maybe some people don't pan a list of blogs each day. Maybe some people are hardwired to consume more, faster, and might feel cheated not having a buffet of articles waiting for them each morning.
Many blogs are deemed failures when their producers under-produce and "wane away". But not much attention is given to the other extreme. To me, the blogging form feels most right when, whether weak or strong, a single impression is left before turning the page of a day to consume the next.