The DC component in the weblog signal

Friday, 14 Oct 2005

One of the things “blogging” pundits will tell you is to make sure you always post something – and if it’s just personal tidbits. (As an aside, I can hardly imagine a purer form of navelgazing than weblogging about how to run a successful weblog. Yes, I’m guilty here.) Silence, they say, is how to lose readers.

This rule has always seemed strange to me. Now mind you, by the time I started reading weblogs, newsfeeds were common practice. My pattern when I find an interesting weblog is to chuck the feed into my reader and more or less forget about it until it has a new article – or possibly until I have an urge to trim the list of feeds because it has grown unmanageably large.

The rule that you should make sure to write constantly seems like an obvious vestige from the days when people were reading weblogs “manually” by making the rounds through their bookmarks. It is clear that readers who keep visiting your site only to find the latest entry was the same as on their last dozen visits will eventually stop. It’s wasted time to keep tabs on someone in this fashion when they never post. But nowadays?

With aggregators, there is no manual checking; readers are made aware of new articles without having to pay you mind at other times. In programmer terms, it’s the difference between busy wait and sleeping. Newsfeeds enable the latter. I would even argue that with a newsfeed-based audience it’s actively harmful to write entries of little of substance solely to maintain a steady stream. Sending interrupts for no reason, so to say, might in fact just get you unsubscribed sooner.

Granted, newsfeeds aren’t something the general population is aware of, so far; so there might be a case for catering to the bookmark-cycling readers. But then, the same is true of weblogs in general: how many people haven’t merely heard about them, but are actively reading any?

Overall, I think it’s better to keep your signal to noise ratio high.