Survival of the fittest

Would you like to be writing your weblog a few years from now? Can you even stand the idea of blogging for that long? I don’t have the answers for you, but it has made me think about my own future as a blogger.

This recent interest in blog survival was triggered while reading an online discussions on why people give up their weblogs. The common thread seemed to indicate that the bloggers simply ran out of gas and lost interest. Some appeared to have only short-term goals for their blog.

There are millions of weblogs of every type with an average lifespan of several weeks, yet there are weblogs that have been operating continuously for many years.

What makes the difference?

This subject has been discussed by every major blogger from Rebecca Blood to Dave Winer and I would say my conclusion is that the major difference is motivation.

While backing up to take the broadest possible view of the weblog life cycle, I realized there is something unique about the blogging environment:

There are no natural predators. A blog’s existence is totally determined by its creator.

The only way a blog can shut down is for the creator to lose interest in writing it, or stop paying for the hosting.

The blogging universe merits every bit of analysis that it is getting and more. However, I did not write this post to analyze the Kingdom of Blog in its entirety. That is a monumental effort, like boiling the ocean, and scores of doctoral candidates are already tackling that.

For those who like a detailed analysis, Clay Shirky has hit some of the highlights with some of the most interesting essays I’ve seen.

However, most essays focus on how to generate more traffic, not on how to enjoy writing your blog for years to come. I do not feel that high traffic is counterproductive to creative blog writing, but it seems to demand a popularization of the subject matter if you are going to maintain the flow of visitors.

If you have to write about the latest internet craze like toothing (no link provided) to maintain traffic, you are going down the slippery slope toward common denominator trash and soon there is no way to distinguish your site from the vast midden of tackiness that lies in the darker places on the net.

On the other hand, if you write only for yourself, you will rarely receive comments except from occasional spambots. Reading your own words is like listening to the sound of your own voice. As long as you do it in private, nobody cares.

If you write from your heart and your output is relatively free from whining and self-pity, you will find an audience.

Actually there is an audience for whining and self-pity and you will receive amazing amounts of sympathy for as long as you can stand it. The only downside is that sympathy encourages you to write still more doleful tales and that leads nowhere except downward.

If you write and put some life in your writing, you are entertaining others while benefitting yourself. The more you write, the more rewarding it becomes and the more positive feedback you get.

I don’t think it’s necessary to consciously write inspiring posts. Writing about things that mean something to you is enough. If you rant, at least be entertaining about it. A few of my favorite sites have political views I disagree with, but their treatment of subjects is so well-done that I find it entertaining.

Bitter ranting, even about terrible injustices, wears thin after awhile and probably causes the writer more harm than good. From my own experience, I expect that Gelusil is a staple in the lives of writers who rant continuously and long.

In short, I think there is a hierarchy of factors that will lead to a long-term life for a blogger:

1 Understand why you are writing. Have a mission statement, even if you don’t publish it.
Revisit it occasionally if production drops.
2 Write about things that interest you
3 Write so you do not have to apologize for your choice of words.
4 Try to make your topic as interesting as possible, without bending the truth too much.
Parodies are excepted, of course.
5 When the words don’t come, work on something else.
6 Keep track of what you have written so you will know when you are revisiting subjects.

There are many more possibilities. You might like to add a few from your observations. I’d like to be blogging and visiting my blogging friends for years to come.

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0 Responses to Survival of the fittest

  1. Lee says:

    You make so many good points.

    Personaly speaking, it took me a long time to pluck up the courage to start my blog. And once I had, I still wasn’t sure how long it was going to last. Like you say, I still don’t know the answer to that one, but I’m around the 3 month mark now, which is longer than I perhaps secretly expected.

    For me, a blog is a way of recording my experiences and observations in Tokyo. I’m a foreigner here, and my colleagues are all Japanese, so posting stuff in my blog is not only a way to record such things, but also as a form of release. My colleagues (understandably) don’t see things the way I do as an outsider.

    I think it also helps me to remember better too. I wish I had started blogging a lot earlier, as so many incidents and events have sadly slipped from my mind.

    Like yourself, I’d like to keep blogging for years to come. Only time will tell…

  2. Well David, we expect your blogging efforts to continue for many years yet. No fair stopping. You are required reading. 🙂

  3. oldcatman says:

    I have been writing creatively since junior high school (age 64 now)..bits and pieces all thru my life–never professionally published anything–except for, would you believe, crossword puzzles! I have edited & published 3 different “house organs” at various jobs…….creativity oozes out of me:writing, painting, photography, thought..etc.
    I am writitng more now (since I started blogging June-03) than I ever have. I have struggled with “what to blog”, get the ‘beals’ now and then–and have now found a blog “style” that gives me endless sources to ooze out my creativity–have even considered writing my “last” blog NOW & have someone blog publish it for me! And quickly, I have a couple of high school blogging friends that use their blog to vent their unhappiness of the moment–long live the blogs and the bloggers!

  4. Beth W. says:

    Bravo, David. This jives perfectly with my experiences of reading and writing blogs. It had not occurred to me that dissertations are already being written about this phenomena, but I am sure you are right.

  5. ChefQuix says:

    I worry about coming up with new ideas. Most of the time I try to avoid the common discussions (celebs, politics, current events) in favour of ideas. Doesn’t seem to bring in the traffic though, but I’m enjoying myself. I suppose one has to get out of the mindset that #vistors = validation, but that mentality is hard to drop. I guess if you go into the blogging world trying hard to become a net celebrity then you’re probably going to be dissapointed. I just wish I didn’t feel I was going crazy.. 😉

  6. Denny says:

    I’ve been working out in my gym for years. Who knows…maybe I’ll be doing the “heavy lifing” of literary strength-building for years, too.

  7. Charu says:

    Thought provoking…. I really enjoyed this post…. I particularly root for your comment no. 6 – when the words don’t come, work on something else….

    I have often struggled with the question of ‘who do I want my audience to be’…. as a commercial / social researcher, I sometimes write posts which are focussed on marketing / research techniques…. which do not elicit any response because people who read my blog come looking for ‘general’ stuff (going by the kind of posts that evoke comments)….

    is focus necessary in a blog… for it to surbvive….. I don’t know the answer….

  8. Patrix says:

    You certainly make some pertinent points in an age when blogs are dropping like nine pins. It is extremely important, as you say to know why do you blog and what keeps you going. Lack of time is merely an excuse for the ones who drop out and shows that blogging was just a passing phenomenon that they wanted to be a part of.

  9. Cindy says:

    I’ve stopped by before via Spinning and experienced a bout of comment anxiety – sorry about that.

    The list you put together is wonderful, and I plan to keep the link handy each time I ask myself why I continue to maintain my blog. When I can’t find the words, I take photographs instead.

    Thank you, and I’ll be stopping by more often!
    —–
    PING:
    TITLE: Blog Roundup
    URL: http://ozguru.mu.nu/archives/089306.php
    IP: 67.19.5.2
    BLOG NAME: G’Day Mate MkII
    DATE: 06/14/2005 07:34:05 AM
    Due to the mild level of interest (5 positive, 1 negative and 12 neutral comments), the review blog is still here. Well sort of. Actually it is somewhere else 🙂 Welcome to the first blog roundup at mu.nu. I would especially like…
    —–
    PING:
    TITLE: Blog Roundup
    URL: http://ozguru.mu.nu/archives/018969.php
    IP: 64.91.238.2
    BLOG NAME: G’Day Mate!
    DATE: 03/28/2004 04:49:30 AM
    Due to the mild level of interest (5 positive, 1 negative and 12 neutral comments), the review blog is still here. Well sort of. Actually it is somewhere else 🙂 Welcome to the first blog roundup at mu.nu. I would…
    —–
    PING:
    TITLE: Blogging to Myself
    URL: http://www.mamawrite.com/pastlife/04/03/blogging_to_myself.php
    IP: 66.33.197.19
    BLOG NAME: Mama Write
    DATE: 03/25/2004 07:45:32 AM
    David St. Lawrence writing about blogging survival — If you have to write about the latest internet craze like toothing to maintain traffic, you are going down the slippery slope toward common denominator trash and soon there is no way…
    —–
    PING:
    TITLE: Ripples: Survival of the fittest
    URL: http://www.whyweblog.com/2004/03/ripples_surviva.html
    IP: 66.151.149.26
    BLOG NAME: Why We Blog (and you should too!)
    DATE: 03/24/2004 11:15:08 PM
    Ripples: Survival of the fittest Would you like to be writing your weblog a few years from now? Can you even stand the idea of blogging for that long? I don’t have the answers for you, but it has made
    —–
    PING:
    TITLE: How Long Can You Blog?
    URL: http://www.danavan.net/weblog/archives/how_long_can_you_blog.html
    IP: 203.194.197.227
    BLOG NAME: Dana’s Blog
    DATE: 03/23/2004 04:48:55 PM
    When I started my weblog about a year ago, I had the express purpose of blogging so that I could work on my writing, (anyone who wants to write needs to write at least every day), keeping a personal knowledge base, and communicating with peers. I’ve no…
    —–
    PING:
    TITLE: Are you a survivor?
    URL: http://brand.blogs.com/mantra/2004/03/are_you_a_survi.html
    IP: 66.151.149.26
    BLOG NAME: What’s Your Brand Mantra?
    DATE: 03/23/2004 02:29:14 PM
    David at Ripples offers a great post on Survival of the Fittest. He asks the question, “Would you like to be writing your weblog a few years from now? Can you even stand the idea of blogging for that long?

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