I might be keeping up with your blog.

David Weinberger recently wrote in his blog:

But we’re now well past the point where any of us can keep up with all the blogs worth reading from the people worth keeping up with. Even with an aggregator. I just can’t do it any more.

I can understand David’s frustrations. I can even identify with them. To wit, I don’t actually read David’s blog at all – I read about this particular post at Universal Hub, a Boston-area community and news website. But rather than simply giving up, I’ve taken steps to solve the problem. Basic Assumptions
The fact that I want to pursue a solution to the problem, rather than simply giving up, is based on a few assumptions:

  1. Blog reading is an activity that I want to pursue.
  2. The time I spend reading blogs is time well spent.
  3. The blogs I read are interesting and compelling.
  4. The actually blog-reading task is simple.

All of these assumptions are true for me. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t be pursuing a solution. For someone who has made the judgment that the above assumptions aren’t true for them, I wouldn’t expect them to pursue blog reading.

So, on to solving the problem.

Cutting Back
One of the issues that has accumulated over time is that I have built up a very large number of blogs in my blogroll. After examining the way that I handled these blogs, I realized that I simply wasn’t getting anything out of many of them. I’ve already covered this topic in my post, A Bloglines Diet, so go back and read it if you haven’t already. To summarize, this has involved changing my blog reading habits, making hard decisions about what blogs are valuable, and making decisions about how high up on the blog-reading food chain I need to position myself.

Interjection: Link Posting
At this point I want to interject a bit about one of my pet peeves: link posting. One of the fastest ways to get yourself dropped from my blog reading list is to simply have a blog where 90% of the content is links that you have found from other sites. Even if you accompany those links with a paragraph or two of commentary, I still can’t stomach it. I keep some blogs of this type around for a while just to make sure that they really are falling into this pattern, and then I unsubscribe them with extreme prejudice.

I do, however, make a few exceptions to this rule. If you run a blog that is explicitly a link blog – for example, a del.icio.us feed, or something like Kellan‘s Mindless Link Propagation, I’ll subscribe to that, and I’ll skim the links.

Prioritizing
There are a great many blogs out there, but there aren’t necessarily many great blogs out there. Therefore, after having weeded out uninteresting, irrelevant, redundant blogs, I’m left with the blogs that I generally do care to read. However, even within this smaller set, there are those blogs on which I place more importance. For ease of processing, I have grouped my blogs into sets, and ordered the sets by descending importance. Blogs in groups close to the top, I tend to follow with great dedication. I read all of the posts on these blogs at least within 24 hours of posting. If your blog is at the top of my list, you can safely expect that I have taken time to actually read your posts. In blogs at the end of the list, I may not read posts immediately, and some times I may not read them at all – simply marking them as read. This probably means that I’m passing up some potentially interesting articles, but I have decided to be okay with that. I don’t need to know about everything that’s going on all of the time. In any case, here is my list of blog groupings, in the order of precedence:

Our Feeds: Mainly for utility. This tracks all of the various prwdot.org feeds, so that I can make sure they’re working.

Friends: This is really the top tier of my blog reading. The people in this list I care about enough to read every single day. This list includes people that I work with on a daily basis, close friends from college and from back home in Ohio, and even a few people I’ve met online who I find particularly cool and would like to consider my friends. There are about 30 blogs in this group, though not quite 30 people are represented. Some people have more than one blog that I follow.

Meetup Folks: People who I have met at real-life meetings, such as Meetup events. I may have spoken to them a few times, and there’s a chance that I’ll see them in person now and then, so I try to keep up with their blogs.

Acquaintances: People who I have never met, but have corresponded with a few times for one reason or another. I skim their blog titles in case there is something of relevance to me.

Watched From Afar: People who I’ve never met, and who may not even be aware that I exist. I may have commented on their blog from time to time, but in general they don’t acknowledge my existence. I tend to keep these folks on my list because they occasionally have very interesting posts.

Mac-Related: More or less on the same level as Watched From Afar, but grouped specifically because they post about Macintosh related topics, write Macintosh software, or are otherwise involved in the Mac community. Sometimes I will read this group before Watched From Afar.

Blog-Related: Similar to Mac-Related, but, you guessed it, they’re people who have something to do with blogs. Blog software, blog punditry, etc.

Official Blogs: These are blogs that are generally the official publications of various corporations or entities. They appear just above the news categories because more often than not, their posts are corporate news.

The following sections all contain blogs or news feeds from various news sources. I generally employ a headline-skimming technique with these. I have all of the feeds collapsed so that I only see the titles. If I see one that piques my interest, I open it and read it. Otherwise, I mark them as read. Done and done!

News: Localized News: General Tech News: Mac-specific News: General News: Entertainment

Podcasts: I leave these down near the bottom because, since I listen to them, I don’t have to read them when I read the rest of my blogroll. I download the enclosures at a later time and listen to them at my leisure.

Infotainment: Stuff like BoingBoing, Snopes, Tricks of the Trade, etc. Sites that are totally unnecessary to read, but nonetheless can occasionally provide good nuggets of humor or interesting links. At the very bottom of the list, they’re the most skippable and least important for me to read.

I think organizing and prioritizing blogs in this way has significantly reduced the time I spend reading blogs, brought the most important blog entries to my attention, and ensured that I don’t miss anything from people I care about.

How I Read Your Blog
If you don’t see your own blog in my blogroll, then I most likely don’t read it. Sorry. If you think I should, please let me know. I’ll take a look at your blog, and if it fits somewhere into my blogroll, I’ll add it and read it as defined by the section in which I place it. There are a few exceptions – I read the blogs of a few people who do not have any type of feed that I can subscribe to. And I also read a few blogs where some entries are only visible via the website itself. But 99% of my blog reading can be seen in my blogroll.

If your blog is near the top of my list, you can expect me to have at least skimmed all of your blog entries, though I might not digest everything if the topic isn’t of interest to me. If your blog is further down the list, you might need to refresh my memory or send a link to a specific post if you want to discuss something from your blog.

How You Read Our Blog
It is not realistic or fair for me to set expectations on how other people read our blog. However, I can outline some hopes that I have:

  • In general, if I assign your blog a certain priority, I would hope that our blog would be of a similar priority to you, and that you would be just as likely to have read our blog as I would be to have read yours.
  • I hope that the people we interact with on a daily basis read our blog at least every other day.
  • I hope that our family members read our blog at least every other day.
  • I hope that if I post a comment or trackback to your blog, you at least stop by our blog for a glance.

You Aren’t Me
After all is said and done, what it really comes down to is that you are not me. You have different priorities, different parameters, different lifestyles. David Weinberger, for example, is a widely traveled and sought after public speaker. He has an extremely busy schedule that includes a lot of travel, and he has far more many people involved in his life than I do. In a follow-up comment on his blog, he posted:

…the people I’m not keeping up with is a much smaller group, the bloggers I’ve spent time with on-line or off, people who I’m likely to run into and who might expect me to have kept up with their blog because I care about them.

This group sounds roughly like my ‘Friends’ category, which has about 30 people in it. In David’s case, however, regardless of whether this ‘small’ group is smaller or larger than mine, he probably has a lot less time to devote to blog reading. I don’t know whether using any of my techniques would allow him to better keep up with these people. At least one suggestion can be gleaned:

I will read your blog on occasion, either because I’ve been thinking of you or because something reminded me of you. Maybe it’ll be because you sent me an email pointing to a post you think I’ll enjoy. Go ahead! I’d love to hear from you.

Most blogging software includes (or can be modified to have) the ability to notify a group of people when a new post has been written. So if you know someone like David who is too busy to keep up with your blog, you might want to use this ability to bring up the posts that you feel are most important.

In Closing
Keeping up with the onslaught of blogs may seem like a difficult task. I applaud David Weinberger for coming clean and admitting that he’s not keeping up with blogs. I honestly hope that anyone I know would do the same for me – if you’re really not keeping up with my blog, I hope you’ll tell me. But I also hope that even as the blog reading forecast seems bleak, and you feel like giving up, you would stop to ask yourself, as Jean Valjean did in Les Miserables, “Is there another way to go?”

Can keeping up with our friends’ blogs be something other than a “joyless duty”? I think so.

One thought on “I might be keeping up with your blog.

  1. michelle

    Great post Peter. I read your blog pretty much every day during the work week via Bloglines, and I try to comment when I have time. Some entries I just skim (i.e. some of the “techier” stuff 🙂 ), but most I read full text.

    I wish everyone had an RSS feed, because there are a few really good blogs out there I don’t have time to visit every day or even every week to see what is new, and using Bloglines gives me a one stop shop to do that from.

    Reply

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