“Blog is dead” and the change in information consumption

I read this post about the “Blogs are dead (we’ll not really/but they are)” thing…

Sometime in the past few years, the blog died. In 2014, people will finally notice. Sure, blogs still exist, many of them are excellent, and they will go on existing and being excellent for many years to come. But the function of the blog, the nebulous informational task we all agreed the blog was fulfilling for the past decade, is increasingly being handled by a growing number of disparate media forms that are blog-like but also decidedly not blogs.

Instead of blogging, people are posting to Tumblr, tweeting, pinning things to their board, posting to Reddit, Snapchatting, updating Facebook statuses, Instagramming, and publishing on Medium. In 1997, wired teens created online diaries, and in 2004 the blog was king. Today, teens are about as likely to start a blog (over Instagramming or Snapchatting) as they are to buy a music CD. Blogs are for 40-somethings with kids.

It is curious, because I’ve never used blogs (or RSS, for what matters) as a way of “reading the news“. I think all the alternative ways of communication (Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, etc) are very good for talking about the now.

Twitter is great, but a timeline is really focused in what’s going on today. That’s great, but I can easily miss articles, because, for any low number of people you follow, you simply need a lot of time to be “updated”. And is hugely biased over people tweeting a lot. Again, is a great tool. It’s fast and it’s great for provoking conversation. And incredibly funny. I use it everyday, but it is not a good tool for deep thoughts, or for learning.

Facebook? It’s oriented to friends and family. It’s great to keep in touch, to share photos, but it is oriented on the personal side.

Reddit or Hacker News? Great curating content and discovery, but I lack control over what is displayed there. I can’t follow someone that I (not a community) find interesting.

Those are all great tools for discovering. For sharing content. But I still value a lot my personal RSS selection, when I have been selecting channels for years. I think is (so far) the best way of following articles that aspire to talk about something more permanent than this week sensation. I have an automatic reading list of “things I don’t want to miss“.

It is probably true that blogs (and RSS syndication) are not “hot” and that now teens start using other tools, and public spotlight is in other technologies. I’m fine with that, I understand that the rest of the tools are fantastic and fill different needs. But I still think that blogs are the best posible tool at the moment for the kind of deep exposition of ideas that I still like, including the strongly personalised selection of my sources. 

I’ve also argued that they are good for creating a community of readers and the comments on blogs typically add value to the original article. I know that I am on a minority here, but I think that the comments on blogs belong with the article, not on a external service.

I guess that I think that just because something is not “the next hot thing in tech”, we shouldn’t be treat it like it is dead.

Notifications and emails

Air Mail Envelope
Yet another vintage representation of Email

We all now that email, being a technology created a long time ago and developed organically into some sort of lingua franca of Internet persona and communications, has a series of problems. No easy ones. Manage the email is a problem of its own, and there are lots of articles about it on the Internet.

One of the most annoying is the notifications. We all receive too much email that are only reminders of something relatively interesting in a different app. That could be a new comment on a blog post, an update on LinkedIn, or even a new post on a forum (yep, that used to be a huge thing). GMail’s recent move to group together all notification email is a great example that this system is quite inefficient. It is difficult to find the balance between keep a user informed and not sending spam.

To increase the annoyance, notifications typically will be produced in bursts. There is some discussion in a blog, with 4 or 5 messages in an hour, then it stops for several hours, and then someone else post another comment, producing another couple of comments.

My impression is that any serious app that produces a significant number of notifications (not even very high, something like twice a week or more) and wants to show some respect to their uses should move to a notification system. Hey, Facebook has done it. Remember when Facebook used to send tons of mail everyday with new likes, friends and posts? They changed that to make a notification system in their page. That mean you can always close Facebook, and when coming back, you can easily go to everything since last time.

But, of course, Facebook is a special case, because most people keeps it open or at least check it regularly. Most of other apps that are not that frequently used needs to use email, or no one will check them.

So that’s the deal. Send only one email. One saying “You have new stuff on app X. go to this link to check your new notifications. No new email will be sent until you visit our page” And maybe send another reminder after a week (that can be disabled). This way, if I don’t want to go immediately to the page, no more spamy notifications are received. If I’m interested in the app, I’ll check every time I get that email, but the email is not spam. It allows a very interesting natural flow. And it also shows up respect for your users.

PD: Yes, I know that this is inspired by the way phpBB works, but in a more high level approach. Not sure why that way of doing stuff is not more common.

Internet y el fetichismo de los números

Una cosa que no he entendido muy bien de la “cultura internetera” es esa reivindicación tan fuerte de los “followers”, los “likes” y la difusión mal entendida.

Y de todos, todos los colores
Y de todos, todos los colores

Vale, en cierta medida, si tu blog lo siguen 10.000 y no 10, llega a más gente y (se supone), es más interesante. Sin embargo, especialmente en España, se llega a casos ridículos al querer utilizar los números como arma arrojadiza ante cualquier situación… O, al menos, se justifica todo a través de ello…

¿Que no me gusta lo que has dicho en Twitter? Hago un unfollow que además lo canto a los cuatro vientos: “¡Eh! Que te fastidias que tu contador de seguidores baja, eh, ¡que lo sepas!”

¿Que te peleas con alguien? Sacas a colación el número de seguidores, las visitas a tu página web o el número de reproducciones de un vídeo.

Por no hablar de compañias que “venden” seguidores, tanto en Facebook como en Twitter. ¿Qué valor tiene un seguidor comprado?

Un caso claro es el hecho de mandar todo a Menéame, a pesar de que tus anteriores artículos los hayan puesto a caldo. El caso es que te lea gente, aunque sea una audiencia totalmente distinta a la que (en principio) debería ser tu target… Sinceramente, la audiencia media de Menéame (y otros sitios por el estilo) está tan llena de trolls, que yo nunca pienso que merezca la pena enviar nada, y mucho menos promocionarlo activamente, como hace mucha gente.

Creo que estamos locos. Nos estamos dejando llevar por querer ver “quién la tiene más larga” y no por “quién está más satisfecho con sus relaciones”. El número de seguidores / lectores de tu blog / etc es el tamaño de tu audiencia, pero es mucho más importante la CALIDAD de esa audiencia… Que nos olvidamos de que una visita, sin más, no implica nada. Puede ser alguien a quien no le aportas absolutamente nada (y, por tanto, irrelevante), o, en el peor de los casos, alguien que te pone a caldo sin motivo…. Especialmente si no vendes nada, como suele ser el caso (aunque, incluso si vendes, el hecho de que las visitas que tengas sean “de calidad” puede ser muy importante para tus conversiones)

Algo de promoción con cabeza no está de más, y es necesario. Pero creo que estamos sacando todo de madre y nos estamos poniendo el énfasis en el lado equivocado de las cosas.