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Passion, People and Principles

Is Blogging Dead

post # 71 — May 9, 2006 — a Careers, Client Relations post

Andrew Lumsden communicated with me quoting from a piece written by Guy Rundle at www.crikey.com.au

It was 1977 and my friend Todd had saved for six months until he finally had what every 11-year-old wanted – a CB radio! For a year after he got it, we would tune in and roam the frequencies only to find…airy nothingness.

I was reminded of this recently while trawling the blogosphere which is increasingly taken up with blogs that appear to be dead, dying from neglect or stillborn, with one or two initial entries, now years old.

As with CBs, what thrilled people with blogs was “the ecstasy of communication”, the pure fact of being out there in the wide cyberworld – in other words, the form rather than the content.

What most realise is that blogging is the illusion of connection, publishing into a void and thus doubly isolating. Those blogs that survive will and are evolv(ing) into multi-person sites, some with collective and decentred ways of uploading, others with hierarchies essentially identical to paper editing.

This repeats the birth of newspapers out of the “pamphlet wars” of the 17th century – the latter a product of the creation of a cheap, single operator platen press. This may be the necessary stage of development required to create a media sphere which genuinely overturns the mass media model – one in which a range of well-edited moderate circulation outlets can charge and get subscriptions. Whether they could turn into full newsgathering organisations remains to be seen.

Andrew then asks: Is blogging already dead?

Andrew, I don’t think blogging is dead. What’s rapidly disappearing is the illusion that being successful with blogging is quick, cheap and easy. That all you have to do is “build it and they will come.” That’s never been true with any other business issue, and it’s not true here.

The simple fact is that creating an interesting blog that entices people to want to come back and enter into conversations with you is a slow, time-intensive and hard process. It’s no less hard work than writing a book, a series of well thought out articles, or (to switch analogies) building a network of close friends who want to have a committed relationship with you.

If you are looking for instant gratification (and many, many people are) then the fad of blogging is going to fade quickly.

The same is true for those who wish to participate in blogging mostly by reading, rather than creating their own blog. As we have all discovered, it’s not that easy to find the “soul-mate” blogs that make you want to come back again and again and continue discussions.

There are two reasons for this. First, and foremost it has always been true that you have to go out on a lot of first dates to meet someone you really want to have a relationship with. It’s hard work, isn’t it, to search for sites that consistently contain interesting commentary and match your interests.

To continue Guy Rundle’s analogy of the CB Radio, it turns out not to be that helpful if you have to scan the frequency every time you want to find something interesting. You and I want shortcuts, and that’s why we lapsed back into listening to broadcast radios with stations at pre-set locations and frequencies. The time cost of searching gets too big for the low-probability of a beneficial payback.

The second, related reason is that the technological tools to help us with our search for “simpatico, interesting” people (such as blogrolls, trackbacks, del.icio.us, carnivals) are still undergoing evolution. They reduce the search time, but do not really make it manageable.

Blogrolls are filled with indiscriminatory “friend of a friend” listings that are no guarantee that you’ll find the new blog (or person) interesting, and because someone made one interesting comment doesn’t mean you want to listen to everything that person has to say.

The lessons? Well, just like your parents told you, it is worth making new friends, and it involves a lot of false starts – you have to go to a lot of boring parties, hang out in places you don’t really like on the chance that you will meet someone, talk to a lot of strangers. It’s a pain, but if you want a social life, you’ve got to do it.

Unless, as Guy Rundle suggests, someone comes up with a way for each of us to decide where to go that maximizes the chance that we find like-minded people. That may be a “new” approach, or it may be, as he argues, just a modern equivalent of a preset radio station or print media magazine that targets a market segment and serves both the readers and the advertisers by establishing a clear market position.

(By the way, everybody, I suffer from this problem as much as anyone else. Let me ask all of you out there a question: based on what you tell of my interests by reading my blog, what other blogs should I be reading regularly? It’s like those reviews in music magazines – if you like this CD then you’ll probably like that one. Help me out here, folks!)

Finally, for those interesting in writing blogs, more parental advice you probably received – find something you are passionately interested in, stay true to your vision and keep at it! If you want people to seek you out for ongoing conversations, then you can’t just occasionally say something inetresting or fun. You have to try your best to make it worth people’s time to come back to you again and again. Even here in the blogosphere, this is about relationships, people, not a frenzied search for quick hits!


annette said:

I think this is a really thought provoking post. I started out blogging from a personal perspective nearly 3 years ago. As well as fantastic online relationships, I have met great people offline also. Time is involved, and passion and commitment. I was rewarded with the Best Personal Blog Award at the initial Irish Blog Awards this year which was a great honour but also a reminder that this whole blogging business is nothing other than a relational enterprise.

Now that I’ve moved over to business blogging I know from my experience that it will take all of that again to build the new space. Instant gratification isn’t in it!

posted on May 9, 2006

David (Maister) said:

The exception proves the rule, Annette. Once in a while, someone like you reacts immediately and it’s GREAT! Thanks for the input and the timeliness.

posted on May 9, 2006

Bill said:


You’re right. I’d love to have the peer-recommendation for blogs that Amazon leverages for books.

“We’ve noticed that people who read David Maister’s “Passion, People, and Principles” also tend to read this blog. Here are links to a few posts that you may like. Enjoy reading them, and remember you can subscribe to this recommended blog by pressing the RSS link.”

I’ve found that personal recommendations tend to work well. Several times, I’ve copied the permalink to one of your posts, put it in an e-mail to a friend and said “This post relates to an issue you’ve been wrestling with. Here are a few insights.”

That sort of approach (personal recommendation) really works well. It cuts through the clutter of the web and creates a personal connection.

I think the answer lies somewhere between automated recommendations and personal recommendations. Maybe a little bit of each?

posted on May 9, 2006

Shaula Evans said:

One of the new tools that I particularly like out of the evolving blogging toolkit is http://www.blogcode.com.

You start by entering the information about a blog you really like into their system. BlogCode then asks a series of question (using sliding scales—very easy to fill out) about that blog, and BlogCode generates a list of recommendations for similar blogs from their database.

Different users can enter the same blog multiple times, and the scores average out. It seems advantageous to enter the blogs you like yourself, because then the matches are based on your own perception of your favourite blog.

Bill, I was excited by BlogCode because it really does seem to be a mixutre of automated and personal recommendations. If you or David try BlogCode, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

A similar tools is Otavo.com, an “intentional search engine.” The idea with Otavo is you can post a question in their system about what you’re searching for, and different users can pool their searches or answer each other’s requests. In other words, it runs on the theory of the wisdom of crowds. (Otavo is in private beta right now, but if you request a beta invitation, they are very responsive.)

The issue with many of these tools is that to be successful, they rely on an active user base. On the positive side, the knowledge base that drives these tools should continue to grow as the user community expands.

[Un-disclaimer: I’m a beta-tester for Otavo, but I have no bu$ine$$ relatioship with either site. I’m just very impressed with both their products.]

posted on May 9, 2006

Joan said:

As a blog newbie, it seems like I’m starting my business all over again… forging relationships, waiting for that first comment to appear. I agree that anything worth doing well takes time. Tell me, do you think the blog will replace email newsletters in B2B communications?

posted on May 9, 2006

David (Maister) said:

Joan, my track record in forecasting is not great, but for the moment I think email newsletters have a strong place.

Blog audiences are often measured in the hundreds of visits even for very successful sites, whereas an opt-in list of thousands is quite reasonable for an emailing.

With blogs, you don’t know who has been watching unless you have incredibly good tracking software, but with email newsletters you can track things a bit better.

Of course there is a convergence taking place, as it is now a common option for people to elect to receive their blog updates by email.

One difference remains, and that is a newsletter seems to serve well by being periodic (monthly or so.) Blogs are uopdated more frequently (2 -3 time a seek or more) and it’s a different audience that wants to hear from you that often.

So, I think the two devices play separable roles and will co-exist.

posted on May 9, 2006

Ian Welsh said:

As you note fresh, good, constant content is the key to blog success. There are ways to drive traffic to a blog, but they won’t work if the content on the blog isn’t good content which makes people want to come back.

There are other things to do – mainly around building a community (and a good community also has the function of making the writer or writers want to keep writing, because they enjoy the interaction), but the bottom line is the same as for a newspaper or magazine – people have to be thinking “gee, I’m really looking forward to the next article. Let’s go see what they’ve got up.”

Different types of blogs have different expectations. In the political blogging world, a succesful blog requires multiple posts a day, which is one reason why group blogs are proliferating. Even people who can keep up the pace for months or a couple years eventually burn out on that pace. (There, are, of course, occasional exceptions, but they are very very rare.)

E-Mail newsletters have the advantage (again from a political blogger’s point of view) that they reach a different audience. People who don’t read blogs, read e-mail newletters and e-mail lists (a slightly different thing.) Indeed I belong to a couple of e-mail lists, and they keep me informed in detail of events I otherwise could never follow closely due to time constraints. E-mail lists (not newsletters) pool the knowledge of the people active in them.

They can also be a huge time suck, like blogs, but used correctly they function as feelers, an information gathering network, and a resource you can turn to with questions and have dozens or hundreds of experts in a field who are often able to answer your question off the top of their head.

posted on May 10, 2006

Stuart Jones said:

I have referred to this posting to help “would be” bloggers and existing ones as well.

posted on May 10, 2006

Bill Peper said:


I recently discovered this fascinating blog through the “Cool Friends” feature at http://www.tompeters.com — a very good place to find quality business thinkers and sites/blogs of interest. Its author, Jeff Angus, is a management consultant and excellent writer. His passions are baseball and management topics. Based on his real-world success using baseball analogies as a business consultant, this blog illustrates insightful business observations derived from major league baseball.

Admittedly, my inner baseball geek heightens my enjoyment of the blog. However, a few of my friends who are not non-baseball fans are enjoying the site. After providing the baseball context for the lesson, Jeff Angus states the general business lesson.

While not obvious at first glance, major league managers perform virtually all of the tasks and face the same pressures that my corporate client’s managers do: slumps; intervention decisions; improving processes; forecasting performance; constant tension between the short run and long-term success, and on and on.

Three things distinguish this blog. First, the blog focuses on day-to-day management and operational issues. This is a topic sorely in need of further discussion — a need met in part by David’s blog. Second, Jeff Angus spends time thinking through the examples and how to provide the context needed for the lesson. This is not a blog (I do not think) that the author produces extemporaneously. The final attribute is Jeff’s engaging writing and storytelling style. Here is an example from Jeff’s May 2 blog:

Beyond baseball, you see people and processes stuck behind other agendas all the time. A friend of mine has a daughter who works at a mid-scale restaurant chain’s location in Missouri. She works as a hostess (no serious money available no matter how hard you work). She’s been trying to get promoted to waitress (where good customer service skills and diligence result in a legitimate lower-middle class income). But their model is not to promote if they can avoid it—it’s to use kids as long as they can and then dump them for new ones. As long as they train reasonably well, it’s a viable form of parasitism, since the knowledge and abilities that go out the door can be replaced with a short term, low-cost investment in the next victim.

And the turnover conforms to Angus’ First Law of Organizational Dynamics, “All human systems tend to be self-amplifying”. Because the kids aren’t treated very well or rewarded for loyalty, the ambitious are likely to move on, and the ones who remain will tend to be roster plaque, the unambitious who expect to give a half-hearted effort for a half-hearted income. And then management comes to believe there’s not much talent out there so the existing environment (they’ve actually crafted) is “reality”.

posted on May 11, 2006

Dennis Howlett said:

You’ve got an appreciative audience David – no worries there. The wider issue is interesting. When I kicked off, I went to places I saw have a lot of traffic as I came across them. Places like Scoble, gapingvoid and Micropersuasion. Over time I started commenting and in some cases arguing over issues – largely because I couldn’t make sense of them.

These are not natural bedfellows for accountants and yet I’ve gone out my way to attend conferences where I’d find some of these people. I’ve learned a huge amount in under a year and it has radically changed the way I see the profession and how it can take on trusted advisor status.

Your ideas are feeding into that process and I wish I could remember how I first came across you, but it certainly wasn’t another accounting blog. But in this medium, time and distance evaporate.

The linking, commenting and trackback devices along with RSS all serve to change the way we communicate.

Rather than worry about traffic, I am glad that at the grand age of 53, I see the potential for real and lasting change where everyone’s a winner. I’m glad I’m in on this thing early. Beceause the ride has only just begun.

Now if you’re as ecited about that as an idea as I am, then you’ll have no worries getting a serious and international audience.

posted on May 12, 2006

Shaula Evans said:

David, further to your question in this post about finding new blogs to read, I have been hearing some good things lately about Sphere, such as today’s Business Week Online column about “battling blog fatique” –

http://www.sphere.com/ points out other blogs similar to the one you’re currently reading. I have just started playing with it myself and it is quite easy to use: they have created a button you can drag into your browser toolbar.

posted on June 1, 2006

loki mona said:

You are right ,its not so easy to get fame being a blogger within no time, i concede it takes time..’rome was not built in a day’

posted on January 30, 2007

grisha said:

I think the answer lies somewhere between automated recommendations and personal recommendations. Maybe a little bit of each?

posted on May 24, 2007

K.Sako said:

I Kombucha (kind stocks) to sell. U.S.A in kombucha to people looking for a sale. Details, e-mail us.

posted on November 5, 2007