Daily blogging routine and the perceived freshness fetish

I look at my blog daily, maybe even several times a day. I don’t visit it to check if it’s still there. I am quite sure it is still where I put it and I have enough confidence in my hosting company that it is there for anyone to see. I do it because it is part of my daily routine.

Daily blogging routine
Writing a blog post is a very conscious act and requires you to enter the backend of your blog, the blog software. Unless you use the Write Post screen as the start page of your browser you need to open your browser, log in and go to the write post screen. I only turn my computer off when I leave the house and take my notebook with me to go to the university. After starting up my computer my Firefox browser and Thunderbird e-mail automatically load because I use these two daily and they are always running when my computer is on. I hardly ever close my browser and e-mail window when I am doing other things with my computer. My current start page is Netvibes, which bundles all the feeds I am subscribed to, and not WordPress. Why is that? I usually start my day with catching up with all the blogs I am subscribed to in Netvibes and then I click my shortcut bookmark to my blog’s stats. I visit my stats quite often to see:

  • how many people visit my blog: about 800 unique visitors per month
  • how people reach my blog: mostly through search engines/Google
  • what keywords people use to reach my blog: top three: anne helmond, bill viola, alamo race track

After viewing the stats, I check my comments in moderation, view my blog, check MyBlogLog readers in the sidebar, visit unknown readers and scroll back to the top of my page. This is my daily (blog) routine which ends with a confrontation with my latest post.

The perceived freshness fetish
When I am confronted with my latest post the postdate catches my eye. It always seems to tell me that it is time to write a new post, that it has been x days since my last post. It implicitly tells me I have not written for an x number of days. Why do I feel that I need to blog daily? There seems to be some kind of consensus or norm in the blogosphere that blogs should be updated daily. Several blogs about blogging recommend blogging daily and Google and Technorati’s blog ranking are correlated to a blog its freshness. There is both an internal and an external “perceived freshness fetish” (Rogers) in the blogosphere. Internal as in a wish, a demand, a wanting to blog daily and external as in a requirement to blog daily to achieve a certain ranking. This freshness fetish is further imposed by using pinging to let services such as Technorati know that you have updated your blog.

The relationship with your blog
One of the reasons that inspired me to write this post is because I noticed that Twan/neW Media Wanderings, a fellow New Media Master student, had not posted for over a month. I always enjoy his posts and insights and I was almost worried because he was not blogging or commenting (he often drops by my blog to comment). Was he too busy writing his thesis? Did he stop enjoying blogging? I almost phoned him to ask him what was going. When we had a general thesis meetup at the university yesterday I asked him about his blog and he told me he was actually writing a post on the subject:

I thought I’d just try it, see what happens to myself when I don’t post for a while. Although it isn’t that interesting for the readers of a blog, you should definitely try it. Because when a blog becomes a McLuhanesque fixed charge in your life, the only way to see what has changed is to disconnect from it. (( Eikelenboom, Twan. “Nurturing and death in Web 2.0 « neWMW.� 8 May 2007 <http://newmw.wordpress.com/2007/05/08/nurturing-and-death-in-web-20/>. ))

In this McLuhanesque way a blog as a medium is an extension of man that has effects. It is not only the relationship you establish with your readers but also with your blog. Apologizing to your blog readers for not writing is very common as the extensive list of apologies in “Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile” shows. Twan however is so connected to his blog in a McLuhanesque way that he apologizes to the blog itself.

This poses questions about blogs as living objects, blogs that have been abandoned, dead blogs and inactive blogs. Where do we find the dead blog cemetery and do we mourn about those that have passed away? What has happened to the owners and do they care? What external influences keep blogs alive or kill them? Do Blogger, WordPress and other blog hosting services close down blogs after a certain period of inactivity time? These questions require further research and a new blog post. Tomorrow? Who knows…

9 thoughts on “Daily blogging routine and the perceived freshness fetish

  1. The comments are kind of scattered, but that’s no problem since there are enough thoughts about this :) Just to add something to the attributing of a sort of agency to a blog.

    There is such an interesting duality in the relation with a blog. And this relation can perhaps be seen best in the ‘death of the blog’ or the ‘death of the blogger’ (which term would be ‘better’?). Dead blogs just hanging around there in the virtual space, without any visitors. They are like the eery junkyard of robots described by Isaac Asimov in I, Robot. Used, not liked and dumped. Spit out by society? That could perhaps provide an interesting object of study, especially because that image is so interesting: the junkyard of blogs.

  2. Personally I would use “death of the blog” instead of “death of the blogger” where this choice is interesting in itself. Does it imply that I attribute more agency to the blog than the blogger? Are the blog and the blogger two separate things that have a different hierarchy in importance? I consider them two different entities whereby the blog leads its own life in the blogosphere through dispersion, aggregation, RSS, ping, etc. Not all these aspects can be regulated by the blogger. Some are automatically activated by the blog (software) and some are activated by blog readers.

    Which one do you prefer?

    We are living parallel thoughts because after briefly discussing the issues of freshness yesterday I decided to further investigate them and write a paper about it for the “themacollege”

  3. Really interested in the outcome of your paper, if you need some discussing on the thoughts just let me know :)

    Perhaps the ‘death of the blog’ is not about the blogger that stops posting, but about an audience that stops coming. If there is no audience at all, the blog perhaps has died?
    But if there is an audience this could mean that the ‘blogger’ has died, but the blog is still alive. An example of this is the blogs, or social networking sites, of people who died (for example Virginia Tech). The blog then is far from dead, providing a space for condolences. The blog then is very alive, providing a character created by the person/blogger who has physically ‘passed away’.

  4. I see a blog as an autonomous unity that can live without it’s readers but not without it’s blogger. This might seem to contradict my previous point of the blog as a separate entity that leads its own life.

    When I say a blog can live without it’s readers I do not mean to imply that readers don’t matter. They are one of the most important aspects of blogs and the relationship you establish with your readers might vitalize the blog or the blogger. I mean this in the sense of “you can live without friends, but what kind of life is that?” A blog can have no readers and continue to be “fed” by its “master” thus staying alive. Although it is hard to imagine a blog without a single (page)view these days.

    The blog that stays alive after the blogger has died (in the figural or literal sense of the word) captures the vitality of the blog after it has been raised by its master.

    Data that stays alive after the subject has passed away: Etoy – Mission Eternity

  5. Mission Eternity is a good example of data staying alive after the passing of the subject.

    It is true however, like you pointed out, that there is some vitality of information needed to sustain a blog after the blogger has quit. And that a blog can not survive without its blogger. But can we say that Death of the blogger = Death of the blog?
    I still want to emphasize the character that the blogger creates. The blog then becoming another entity that is not directly linked to the blogger, but something that is perhaps in a way self-sustaining. A Frankenstein-ish character, patched together by plug-ins. Once the blog is created it is perhaps out of the hands of the blogger? In this light it would be interesting to see the blog as self-sustaining. In this light our old http://mastersofmedia.wordpress.com blog would be an interesting case :)

    The blogger of course does retain a rigid form of control, having the ability of the killswitch (delete blog) to kill it off in a case of emergency?

    I think we do both perhaps see the blog as an autonomous entity once it is created. It becomes a characteristic mirror to the blogger, and a portrait of the blogger for the audience. But like a mirror and a portrait, both the surface of a mirror and the photograph are autonomous beings. But in what way does a blog form character.

    I believe we’re back to the subject of your thesis now ;)

  6. Is there a certain threshold for a blog to become alive? After a certain number of posts, a certain number of readers or a certain number of commenters?

    I agree with you that a blog is something like a Frankenstein character, that you don’t have complete control over your blog. Your RSS feed goes places you cannot control (including RSS scrapers, content thiefs and sploggers) and posts may be put in a different context outside your blog. The same goes for people referencing your blog or receiving trackbacks (if you have enabled automatic trackback ).

    I like your reference to the mirror and the portrait except that in this case the people who look at the portrait leave their marks. They can add a bit to the portrait in the form of a comment or you can see their shadow when they are passing by in the recent visitor plugins.

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