Sometimes it’s just a waste

Another pebble on the road to But Still They Blog: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009


On October 14, I said I was pausing for breath–stepping back from the project, after finishing the first draft of the first five chapters, to write some essays for the next Cites & Insights and to take a fresh look at what the statistics say about the state of liblogs, at least for the portion written so far.

I wrote an essay–and since it’s more than 22,000 words long and there’s the second half of 50 Movie Comedy Classics to report on, that’s probably it for the December 2009 issue. (Probably out next week. Possibly a little later.)

I also reviewed the chapters, came up with a small number of additional insights, and edited them to 2nd draft status.

And, since then, I’ve prepared chapters 6-9:

  • Chapter 6: Standouts and standards–blogs showing the most consistency in key metrics either across metrics or across years.
  • Chapter 7: Patterns of change, 2007-2008.
  • Chapter 8: Patterns of change, 2008-2009.
  • Chapter 9: Correlations (which turns out to be very short and not terribly interesting).

Shortly, I’ll print out chapters 6-8 to review for better ways to describe what I found–much as I did for chapters 1-5.

But then there’s this, from the October 14 post:

Maybe it would make sense to look at a subset of the 521 blogs that might be called the “common blogs”–ones that have a significant number of posts in all three years, ones that have full metrics for all three years, ones that aren’t current awareness services in blog form–and see whether those blogs, possibly 200-300, show more distinct patterns than the overall set.

Common blogs or the core set

The more I thought about it, the more I thought his would be a neat idea–and added Chapter 10, Core blogs, to the outline.

And prepared a trimmed copy of the spreadsheet, as follows:

  • Deleted blogs that didn’t have at least 3 posts in March-May 2007, March-May 2008 and March-May 2009.
  • Deleted blogs that lacked length metrics (ones where it wasn’t feasible to determine the total length of posts).
  • Deleted “a handful” (maybe 5?) of extremely prolific blogs that seem to function more as current awareness services than as ordinary blogs, and one blog that consists entirely of links.

That left me with 265 blogs. So I began Chapter 10, then started preparing quintiles and other analyses to see whether I’d find anything particularly interesting.

See the title of this post?

Oh, there will be a Chapter 10–but it will be one of two primarily narrative chapters about why people blog, how blogging changes and why/how blogs disappear. The Chapter 10 that I was working on doesn’t exist any longer, although one paragraph (much shorter than this post!) does appear, as part of Chapter 1.

Sure, there were changes in the patterns–but they were all changes that were essentially mandated by the way I trimmed blogs. There was nothing “interesting” at all.

Oh well, only a couple afternoons’ work; in the past, I’ve spent much longer periods on projects that I abandoned or found useless… (Up to and including the very first book-length manuscript I ever wrote, the only one I ever wrote on an electric typewriter, the research for which gave me a lasting hatred of microfilm readers…that was probably close to 1,000 hours of work, and I don’t even have the ms. to show for it.)

Come to think of it, this post isn’t very interesting either. Such is life. It’s Friday, and there’s a skeleton on our front porch with some creepy little spiders on it…

A couple of weeks later: Not so quick, bucko. Note the comments on this post, which I started thinking about. To wit, maybe averages could be slightly meaningful for “ordinary” liblogs–that is, stripping out those that are current awareness services, sponsored, etc.

So I redid a trimmed set, not including the “significant number of posts” but requiring full metrics and removing a very small number of blogs that seemed to be special cases. And, instead of quintiles, I looked at changes in totals and averages from year to year…and came up with some mildly interesting data, which will be added to the Correlations chapter.

Thanks, John: But for your comment(s), I wouldn’t have thought about this a second time.

5 Responses to “Sometimes it’s just a waste”

  1. Ivan Chew says:

    Heh, “interesting” is subjective. I found this post a good example of the editing process in preparing a book.

  2. walt says:

    Ivan, thanks for that. And yes, once in a while, “chucking it all” is the right outcome. Fortunately, it was only a couple days’ work, not a couple months or years…

  3. John says:

    Hi Walt, I’m following your “But still they blog …” notes with interest. I have recently noticed something, and wonder if I’m just wandering down another false path in the forest, and thought I’d check your way since you keep numbers on these things.

    Are blog posts, on average, getting longer?

    With the advent of Twitter, blog posts tended to be freer of short status-type posts. But recently, I noticed that posts are getting longer, the kind that we would call TLDR. I take it as a good sign for long-form writing, but just thought I’d check your way.

  4. walt says:

    John: I don’t do averages any more–they’re just too misleading or meaningless for the universe of liblogs; it’s too heterogeneous. So, for example: For the 326 blogs where I could measure length in all three years, the overall average post length increased by about 2% from 2007 to 2008 and a little over 1% from 2008 to 2009–but the average of all word-per-post lengths increased about 5% each year.

    What I did find is that most blogs (where I could measure) do have slight increase in word counts, with the wordier blogs (on a per-post basis) increasing even more. I agree that long-form writing is increasing, but it’s nowhere near a universal pattern. (There are no universal patterns…)

  5. John says:

    Thanks Walt. In their book, Microtrends, Penn & Zalesne (2007) observed that between 1995 and 2005, it was the “wordy” magazines like Atlantic Monthly that were increasing in circulation. I speculate that the blog trend might be following this pattern. As you say, there’s not enough data yet.