What not to post

Maybe I’m getting superstitious, but after reading through a quarter’s posts on 520 (or so) liblogs, I have a suggestion for anyone who’s been neglecting your blog for a while, but thinks you’ll do better in the future:

Don’t write a post saying so!

Just, you know, start blogging again. Or, if events turn out differently, don’t start blogging again.

See, here’s the thing: On too many occasions, the most recent post I saw on a blog was along the lines of “Sorry I haven’t been posting much, but I’m going to do much better”…

And, well, “the most recent post” means anywhere from a month to two years ago.

Sure, there were a few cases where someone noted their absence, said they’d do better, and actually kept on blogging…but more often, when someone returns from unplanned blogging hiatus, they just do it.

If I had to guess, I’d guess there’s a very strong correlation between swearing you’re going to do more posts…and never doing any more posts.

It could be coincidence, of course, and correlation doesn’t always imply causation, but it’s such a frequent pattern. And I wonder whether, in this case, there isn’t a causation of sorts: You recognize that you haven’t been doing it. You take the time to craft a careful message saying “I’m back!”…and you get blogger’s block.

So what do I suggest, if you’ve been away from your blog for a few months and you really do believe you have things to say that belong on the blog?

Just do it.

Let the new posts speak for themselves. Oh, if you feel the need to note why there’s been a hiatus, that’s as interesting as any other post–and frequently there are good reasons. (Marriage? Health problems? New job? Ennui? All good reasons…)

Just leave out the part about “And I’m going to do lots more posting.” It may not always be the kiss of death, but it sure does feel that way.

PS: My guess is that, for most of us, where most readers subscribe to a feed, a hiatus isn’t noticed all that strongly, with a few high-profile exceptions. As a reader, I’m always delighted when someone who’s been missing returns–but I can’t say that I necessarily notice their absence, any more than most of you would notice mine, or should.

But now, as an informal researcher, I get nervous when someone who’s been missing returns with one of those “Hi guys, I’m back!” messages…because I wonder whether they’ll ever be heard from again.

15 Responses to “What not to post”

  1. Jeff Scott says:

    Funny post! I read all my blogs through a feed reader. When people post, I read it, when they don’t I don’t notice.

    I also think when you have a blog and you don’t have anything to say, it’s better to wait until you do. I compare it to being on the radio. When people are speaking, but they need a moment to formulate a thought, they say uhh or mmmm. If they do it too often, it’s annoying (I think radio people are trained specifically to avoid this). Instead, people who pause their conversation without sound appear more thoughtful, poised. I think the same goes for writing.

  2. walt says:

    Thanks–and I agree with your points. But my tongue was only halfway in cheek: I really did see an uncomfortably large number of “I’m back!” posts…followed by silence for months on end. (Picture tumbleweeds blowing across the screen…)

  3. Bobbi says:

    I agree with the last bit, if they didn’t point it out, I’d probably never notice! Best just to not mention it and move fwd.

  4. You’re right about the “I’m back” or “sorry for not posting” posts. As a reader I don’t want to read apologies for not blogging. I’d rather read new interesting content, or not having it clog up my feedreader (I have enough stuff in there).

    And because I have so much stuff in my reader I am only paying attention to the stuff that is there. Not the stuff that isn’t. So like you I might not even notice if someone hadn’t posted for a while.

    Also when you’re blogging it’s useful to commit to a certain frequency of posts (I’m at 1-2 per week), just so you build a habit of doing it.

  5. 🙂

    I think there’s some valuable sociology in this post – something like the complement of the claim that people who write messages saying they’re leaving a mailing list aren’t really going to do it. Maybe it’s all a symptom of what we think we ought to do, versus what we actually will do (like New Years Resolutions and I’ll-eat-less-exercise-more starting tomorrow)

  6. I think bloggers assume some reader cares, but you seem to be saying that no one cares, that only content matters.

    I sometimes assume that someone out there cares why I haven’t posted, but apparently I’ve been wrong.

    But I understand what you mean: the “sorry” message is just posted out of a guilty feeling, but is often the last message that blogger will ever post.

  7. walt says:

    Another poster child for the truism, “You can never tell which post will attract comments”!

    effing: I’m not saying nobody cares. I am saying that, in most cases, if we wanted to monitor your well-being on a day-to-day basis, we’d be using Facebook or Friendfeed or, you know, email or the telephone or something like that.

    The post was mostly just a true observation: That the “I haven’t been posting, but I’m starting up again” is, more often than not, the kiss of death for a blog. I think Seth may be on to something; too bad I’m not more of a sociologist. What I can say: Within the limited realm of liblogs, I believe this is a true observation.

    Andy: Well…for people, as opposed to libraries, I’m no longer fond of the “x posts per week” idea. Either you have things to say or you don’t, and as I’ve found, those things don’t arrive like commuter trains. I suspect that really good readers can spot when someone’s committed to X posts per week and has (X-2) worthwhile things to say that week…

  8. John says:

    Then there’s those of us who claim that they’re going to stop posting, and just can’t seem to find a way to quit …

  9. John says:

    … I’m talking about me, of course, when I set an end-date to my blog. Blogging causes more blogging.

  10. kittent says:

    I’d just like to thank you, Walt, for that gentle nudge. I’m not a high profile blogger…I’m just an evening circulation supervisor and stacks manager but I committed to doing a library blog, and you have convinced me to get with it. (I actually just posted an “I’m back” message…yesterday, before I read your post today.)

  11. Sonia says:

    Very good points. I’d like to add another- please try to be concise. If I see a post that’s more than, say three paragraphs, I’m outta there!

  12. walt says:

    Interesting discussion…and I hope it continues.

    But, Sonia, I have to wonder why you’re here at all, since my posts are rarely as short as three paragraphs. Personally, I think the mix of social media has changed so that essay-length posts may be one of the best uses of blogs–but that’s me.

  13. Sonia says:

    Walt- I should have said “..I’m outta there unless the subject is of special interest to me”- which yours was. Thanks.

  14. walt says:

    Sonia: Hard to argue with that–but then, I rarely read beyond the first sentence if a post isn’t of special interest! Thanks for the clarification.

  15. I agree Walt that good ideas don’t always arrive on some schedule. But I also think they arrive more often when you have a schedule. You write more and build your voice. Even though you don’t have a great idea fleshed out, once you start writing things become more clear. It’s a good way to work out things you’ve been thinking about and mulling over.