Feed Pruning, or, The Zero-Sum Game of Blogging

I find it amazing how quickly a person can adopt a technology and, after having adopted it, grow impatient with it when it isn’t used to maximum effect. Take email for instance. In the early days of email I felt the urge to reply to nearly every email I received to let the sender know that I had received it. Today, replies are by necessity only. We are assaulted with emails so we don’t want our fellow emailers to waste our time.

Which brings me to blogs. Now that I have more than 100 blogs that I scan daily, I find it necessary to prune a few blogs from time to time. I have no formula for how I decide which blogs to keep and which blogs to delete from my RSS reader, but there are some traits common to those blogs that I have parted ways with.

After all, because time is a finite resource, there are only so many blogs a person can follow on a daily basis. Which means that every blog I add tends to come at the expense of a blog that I delete. Which means that I expect the bloggers that remain to not waste my time. There may be a billion blogs out there, but from the reader’s perspective, it’s a zero-sum game.

I’m really only referring to those blogs that purport to be about something, like VoIP or travel or Web usability. I subscribe to these blogs to learn more about these topics or issues and I tend to get annoyed when the authors spend more time writing about their personal lives than the actual topics. Occasional off-topic postings are just fine (like this one, for instance) but too much off-topicness and I will consider pruning that particular feed. A year ago, I was much more tolerant than I am today. Either I’m getting more cranky or I’m becoming a more demanding blog reader.

So here is my advice to bloggers who want to avoid being pruned…

Have Something To Add
If all you do is point to other news stories you have to ask yourself – are you adding value or are you just aggregating? Aggregation is fine on occasion (I’ve certainly done my share), but eventually you’ll be made redundant by someone who both aggregates and adds value.

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid
I love bloggers precisely because they don’t have editors. I like the unfiltered thoughts, ideas and predictions. When I want an edited piece of work I read the paper. However, sometimes I wish bloggers would do a little bit more self-editing. For example…

Don’t blog to tell the world:
1. you are not feeling well today
2. you are tired today
3. you are tired of all the blogging you’ve been doing lately
4. you are going out of town for a few days
5. you just got back from having been out of town for a few days
6. you will be offline for the next two hours
7. your server went down and that’s why we haven’t heard from you for the past two hours

You get the idea. A writing teacher of mine used the term furniture moving to refer to wasted prose. These types of posts strike me as furniture moving.

Anyway, I’ll step down from my soapbox, prune a few blogs and get back to back. I’ve got lots to do as I’m getting ready to go out of town for a few days!

Just kidding.

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.