Five Reasons Why Blogs End Up Sucking

I should point out that this post is directed to a pretty niche corner of the world: blogs about business, or marketing, or any other field that aims to generate value through analysis. If you want someone to read your blog and be able to apply the lessons contained therein, you should probably wonder whether or not you’ve added any value to the topic by writing your blog, and that’s what I’m addressing here.

1. They’re poorly researched.

After a week of pretty serious disillusionment with blogs I frequent, I came across a beautiful, effervescent post on the Harvard Business Review site. The difference was that this guy had used something other than intuition and whimsy to craft his point: he used numbers and research and seriously hard work. He sought out data sets from hard-to-access locations, he analyzed the crap out of his numbers, and got results that made illuminating points. That’s why he’s writing for the Harvard Business Review, and why I’m on WordPress.

2. They only cite other blogs.

It’s understandable that citation doesn’t easily cross into other media. Scientific journals cite scientific journals, movies reference other movies, books quote books. Why should blogs be any different? For a few reasons – they mostly stem from the fact that if all you do is blog, then you’re not really accomplishing anything. A blog is not an end in itself. It must have a subject matter, and unless that is a carefully defined topic that offers up frequent developments, you’re going to end up in a circular and empty bubble of words. Eventually, it will come crashing down around you – and relying on other blogs for information and insight is the most surefire way to lose any sight of reality, any hint of originality, any hope of keeping a person’s continued attention. A reading-list filled with blogs is more like a diet of processed foods than a three-course meal. It’s very low in nutritional content, and it very likely contains a shocking amount of poop.

3. They’re highly unoriginal.

This post is a very tongue-in-cheek testament to that.

4. They may cite another blog, but they do not initiate a conversation.

I invite you to remember the days of your undergraduate degree when you would search the library desperately for an article that would reinforce a tenuous thesis. You’d find that article and crib a quote from it, and be done with the topic entirely. I would like to suggest that we have a better way of doing things these days – and that if I had been seriously invested in my time in academia, I probably would have realized this far sooner.

What academics really aimed at with the archaic system of citation that we’ve ported into the internet is something like a conversation. Scholars could engage with what others around them are doing, and offer suggestions or criticism. To use an (uncited, unfortunately) example I heard recently, you fill in a little space of illumination against the vast backdrop of darkness that is the site of other illuminating projects, and you do your best to combine your efforts with the similarly-minded to see if any real light can be found.

5. Blogs that begin with “x reasons why…” rarely actually give a full set of non-arbitrary “reasons why.”

After re-reading my list, this would obviously have been better presented as an essay. I would begin with a thesis: blogs are meant to be anything but scholarly. They’re personal commentaries, they’re secondary sources. They do not do originality well, and their purpose isn’t usually to be where new content breaks. If it were, then it wouldn’t be a blog. It may be new to you, but, well, not if all you do is read blogs – in which case the unoriginality and lack of depth will surely turn your brain to mush. What’s necessary isn’t finding good blogs, but, rather, finding good primary sources. Go find those blog posts where the author speaks about what work motivated their post, and then hunt those pieces down. Chances are, you’ll get a lot more out of the originals. The only problem is that you’ll have to confront your longstanding internet addiction to sit down and read a book in its entirety.

And that is the gist of the narrative that could never come out in a list of reasons why blogs leave me wanting more. Much, much more.

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