Writing a Blog is Hard

June 23, 2008

A blog is a strong commitment. I mean, if you just set up a web page, it's obvious that you're going to update occasionally, maybe once or twice a month, add a new page or two. I've seen viable websites that haven't been updated since before Y2K. But it's OK, because it's a website. Not so with a blog! If you set up a blog engine*, you're not allowed to make just one or two updates a month. You have to keep the pump primed with awesome content.

Most of this just has to do with the design of a blog engine. For one, each post is stamped with a date. The assumption seems to be that if you have a date on something, the date is important. The date on a carton of milk tells you when to drink it by, so maybe the date on a blog post is also some kind of content expiration date? The assumption seems to be that dates on text mean that you want people to notice the date and act upon it. Not to mention that most blog engines have some kind of calendar that points to listings of posts by date. If you have a calendar widget that only has one or two days highlighted, the assumption is you don't care about your blog or something.

Again, it's not any kind of failure, it's just what's expected. Blogs all look similar: they have a home page of posts, which link to full post pages. Pages are tagged for quick taxonomy identification and grouping. Blogs also generally allow comments, upping the conversational angle. So you have to keep your blog pumping content. I've discovered three different schemes of blog content generation:

The Panic Morning News: The Panic Morning News is a strategy where a blogger panics, struggling to create content every day. What you end up with is some content which is well written, and some content that seems to be filler, designed to put something up to fill this day's update.

The Anything Goes Times: These are the blogs where you find incredibly boring posts about accounting suddenly appearing in between exciting posts. I'm not saying that accounting is boring, per se, more that suddenly discovering a post about accounting sandwiched between a post about video games and exploding cars sticks out. Of course, these blogs generally are a kind of string of consciousness blogs, where the blogs are more of a “What am I thinking now” type blog.

The Who Cares Star-Telegram: These are the trailblazers who don't care that you think they're lame for having only one or two posts a month. Their posts are well written, and it becomes obvious that, to them, a blog is more a Content Management Engine* than a two-way communication medium.

But this isn't just a blogging phenomenon… it happens with anything that updates daily. Comic strips and books, websites, news feeds. And filler content usually follows some kind of pattern. For comics, a comic/cartoon character is usually put into a silly situation for a day. Batman has a birthday party thrown by Joker and the Penguin, or Naruto goes on a tangent about ramen noodles for a whole episode. Blogs and Webcomics tend to have their own special type of ‘filler,' usually they have a whole update talking about how difficult it is to write blogs and/or webcomics.


* NOTE: If you want the convenience of a blog without the expectations of daily updates, look at making a wiki or use a Content Management System like Drupal.