Are Most Blogs Self-Indulgent Drivel?

November 21st, 2005 by Bob Bly

Yes, says Ken Magill, who in the November 2005 issue of Direct writes: ?Outside politics, 99.9% of blog entries are, well, horseblit linked to more horsesblit.?

The reason he cites is that most blogs are written by people who, in his opinion, don?t write very well.

?The vast majority of people are not professional communicators for a reason,? says Ken. ?They don?t do it very well.?

He concludes that blogs are ?the media phenomenon responsible for the publication of more self-indulgent nonsense than any other in the history of the world.?

I find this difficult to argue with. In fact, I agree with it.

Your thoughts?

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This entry was posted on Monday, November 21st, 2005 at 5:00 pm and is filed under Blogging. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

42 responses about “Are Most Blogs Self-Indulgent Drivel?”

  1. TonyD said:

    OK, I’ll bite. I disagree. This is a bit like walking into a coffee shop and complaining that the conversations there don’t live up to the standards of a university classroom or a television newsroom. Never mind that you stand a good chance of finding at least one conversation that’s better. The bulk of blogs aren’t meant to be polished communications, and we’ shouldn’t be concerned that they aren’t. If this is a problem for anyone, I have a suggestion – learn how to find the good conversations. Find a high quality blog. See how they link to. See who links to them. You’re on your way.

    And I do have to chuckle at the “outside politics” comment. This is like someone driving out of Seattle and deciding that there are no other cities in the US. Political blogging is a relative latecomer. There are equally well developed communities of technical, business, and literary blogs out there, for example. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your community is the only one doing any worthwhile talking.

  2. Derek Scruggs said:

    I love blogging, but I agree. To a large extent, especially with politics, where arguably the most is at stake, blogs are an echo chamber of poorly written, half-baked opinions.

  3. Chris Williams said:

    I agree to a point, as much of the blogging phenomenon is purely self-indulgent, puerile share-my-life-with-friends drivel. But there are blogs in many fields – business, marketing, industrial news, and more – that offer up-to-date information, mostly in article format, for everyone to read. I regularly read the blogs of copywriters, marketing professionals, a CEO, and a professional speaker. All are 90% solid, beneficial information.

    I try to echo the same standard in my own blog (which I’m not going to plug here, but it’s linked to the above website); I don’t post very often, because I take the time to put together an easy-to-read, fact-based article post.

    Yes, I’ve seen many blogs that are the effective online equivalent of a high school hallway. The communication standards in many nations are slipping, and it’s reflected in these blogs. But to outright dismiss the entire phenomenon as “horseblit” is doing the good quality blogs a disservice.

  4. Mike Sansone said:

    Thanks for letting me climb up on this pedastel for a minute to comment. Hold on…I think I’m getting a nose bleed up here. Guess not…just a little cold.

    Blogs are a communication tool. For some, this is their first serious attempt at writing – who knows, maybe the writing improves. Not all are “born” with such great talents. Though some may be trying to position themselves as writers (me included?), many are just humble folks having a say.

    It was once believed that we could learn a little something from everyone. Maybe that’s no longer true.

  5. Eric von Rothkirch said:

    It’s no different than the Opinion Editorial in your newspaper, or an arrogant talk show host. I’ve heard people lament the decline of letter-writing as a pasttime and preserver of historical commentary and perspective.

    Not many people write letters anymore, but that’s OK. I’m perfectly content for them to be replaced by blogging. I think as long as there is a medium that keeps people writing and satisfies their urge to write, then the medium be damned. Is that self-indulgent? Sure. No more so than the aforementioned allowances of our culture.

    The thing that cracks me up is that every time something new comes along, people moan about how things are ‘going downhill’ or ‘not the way they used to be’ or some other silly meaningless sentiment. The only thing that never changes is that things are always changing. I won’t pretend that earlier, more ‘classic’ eras didn’t have their own fair share of drivel. It may not have been as open, widespread, and participatory as blogging, but drivel is drivel is drivel, isn’t it?

    And if it’s drivel, so what? I happen to enjoy pulp novels, which got their name from the low quality paper they were written on but also became synonymous with the quality of the writing as well.

    So I’m not reading Shakespeare or Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, or Ernest Hemmingway. So freakin’ what! Maybe I enjoy pulpy stuff like Philip K. Dick because it doesn’t take itself so serious?

    And perhaps, just maybe, that’s exactly what I enjoy about reading blogs?

    They don’t take themselves seriously. They are also a pure 100% direct line to buzz. Want to know what’s making the rounds? What are people talking about? Read a blog. It’s a direct feed into our culture moment by moment as it happens.

    I never used to like it, but I’m starting to understand why they have play-by-play commentary in sports. Why?

    Because the game would be awfully quiet and boring without a narrator. What do blogs provide me? Any kind of narrator I want for just about any kind of game.

    Blogs are self-indulgent drivel and to that I say, blog on!

  6. TonyD said:

    This popped up on my radar today: the top must-read blogs in various industries according to the Wall Street Journal

    http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB113210326581498377-3YI8P_4Wdpz3ao2xO58cS3dTezE_20061116.html?mod=blogs

  7. Dave J. said:

    Like Tony said, the measure of worth is only relevant to the readers…

    You can’t measure a blog’s value or quality all against the same ruler. The reader rules!

  8. David Burn said:

    I guess Magill does not read this valuable piece of work.

  9. Tim said:

    *Yawn* Pardon me for waking up. Please take this in the context I am saying it (no meanness intended). If most blogs are truly self-indulgent drivel, why bother write or blog about them? And though it may have been stated in another comment, do you not find most political blogs (and news reports, for that matter), mere drivel because they are personal commentary and fiction instead of factual?

    Sincerely, Supporter and Author of Drivel and a Self-Indulgent Blog

  10. Hannah Martine said:

    Gulp. I’m about to disagree with a person I truly admire — that’d be YOU, Bob Bly. Double gulp. I’m in the presence of great writers and thinkers on this blog … and I’m about to post a message … and English is not my native language. Or even my second language.

    However … My point of view is that blogs are similar to emails. I get about 200 emails per day. It’s true, about 75% of them are spam and advertisements to enlarge body parts I do not own now or have ever owned in the past and will never own in the future, or offers to help me get rich quick, or offers to supply me with drugs I wouldn’t prescribe for my worst enemy, being the natural kind of girl I am. Howevever, the other 25% are important, desirable and delightful communications from clients, fiends and family.

    So, do I judge all email as useless just because 75% of it is spam? To me, the picture (received with this morning’s email and now also posted on the family blog) of my new-born niece hanging on to her Dad’s finger is about the most precious thing that could have happened to me today. I am, after all, 7,000 thousand miles away from home and email and blogs is one easy, quick and fun way to stay in touch.

    The same is true for television, don’t you think? About 99% of it I wouldn’t watch. But there is that 1% that is very useful. Like all the bad commercials. Watching those is a instant confidence builder for anyone who writes advertisment.

    And isn’t the same true for newspapers and other print materials as well? How much of your daily US mail gets tossed into the recycle bin without even minor attention?

    I’m willing to sort through the useless stuff to get to the good stuff. In emails, blogs, print, visual media, or whatever. Because the good stuff is really really good.

    Hannah Martine

  11. Matt said:

    Just my humble opinion, but the whole purpose of the blogosphere is for the average everyman to have an outlet for his or her ideas, feelings, musings or commentary. I believe strongly that there are far more people out there with original ideas worth hearing, than there are good writers. Should some bloggers re-read their work, and perhaps make more liberal use of the spell-check? Yes. Would most bloggers be able to make a living as professional writers or journalists? Probably not. But that’s not what this medium is all about.

    For every mundane blog about someone’s pet ferret, there a seldom-read blog out there with breakthrough ideas, waiting to be heard. Five years ago those ideas might have gone unnoticed, or worse – unspoken. Now they’re out there.

  12. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Yes. Most blogs are drivel.

    So are most newspapers.

    So are most magazines.

    So are most books.

    The point is, as your blog and the dozen comments before mine prove, a blog can be a convenient, entertaining way to have an ongoing conversation with your community.

    Nice talking with you.

  13. Bob Bly said:

    Morty: You must be familiar with science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon. “Sturgeon’s Law” says 95% of everything — books, movies, furniture — is shit.

    I am also reminded of an article I read in Maximum PC where the writer said: “The best thing about the Internet is that anyone can publish on it. The worst thing about the Internet is that anyone can publish on it.”

  14. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Hi Bob! No, I haven’t read Sturgeon. (The only “Sturgeon’s Law I know is that I don’t eat sturgeon because it’s not kosher!) But I definitely agree.

    The Kotzker Rebbe http://tinyurl.com/8xfmo used to say:
    “Not everything that you think should be said. And not everything that you say should be written. And not everything that is written should be printed.”

    Others added, “And not everything that is printed should be read!”

    And my son added “And not everything that is read should be believed!”

  15. Demian Farnworth said:

    Bob, I love blogs…because it’s easy to publish. I hate blogs…because it’s easy to publish.

    The American poet Ezra Pound used to be criticized of dumping his empty diaries on the public. I think 95% of bloggers can be accused of the same thing.

    And the thing that makes Editorials and Opinions in newspapers different than blogging…they are screened. Not every dick, tom or harry can write an editorial worth printing.

    Believe me…I’ve tried.

    A lot of the comments posted seem to believe that blogging is subjective and shouldn’t be measured.

    That’s BS.

    Blogging can be objective. There are definitely and clearly better blogs out there than others…

    And the test of time will be the tribunal.

  16. Travis K. Kircher said:

    I agree with the statement that most blogs are worthless, but I don’t necessarily think their worth is determined solely by the communication skills of the blogger.

    In my view, the purpose of a blog is to provide information. A blogger might be the best communicator in the world, but if they have nothing important or worthwhile to say, why read them? Like a political speech, a blog SHOULD be about WHAT is said, NOT HOW WELL it is said.

    When the Iraq war first began, Web surfers flocked to the blogs of Iraqi citizens — the Internet’s version of on-the-ground correspondents — to get the real scoop on what was going on. They didn’t come to read the expositions of great communicators…they came to get a first-hand account of the war. Certainly it pays to have good communication skills — no doubt the blogs that provided the best descriptions got the most hits — but that is not the only (and probably not even the first) consideration.

    I can be the best communicator in the world, but if my blog is devoted to the role that orange slices play in modern society, I probably won’t get many hits.

    Travis K. Kircher
    tkircher@writenowcs.com
    http://www.writenowcs.com

  17. Mark Nenadic said:

    Hi Bob

    For the most part I agree :) In fact I only just wrote a post about this very thing on my blog..

    http://www.15dn.com/15dnBlog/archives/blogging_how_much_time_do_you_waste_reading.php

    Mark.

  18. Lisa Calhoun said:

    Bob–
    Liked your recent pithy comments on the fatal flaw in ad agencies (they worship art above sales). The recent business blog phenom is also linked way too losely to sales IMHO.

    As a professional writer, I’m often approached about writing content for blogs. My company, Write2Market, is intimately involved in writing content that drives lead-to-sales conversions, so I want a deeper understanding of the business case for blogging before attempting it for clients. I created a survey as to put numbers to the stories we hear about business blogging.

    I invite you and your community to check it out. The survey results are shared instantly after the multiple-choice questions are answered.

    http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=781411641550

    Sincerely,
    Lisa

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  26. Sabrina said:

    Are most blogs drivel? Probably. Yet, no one is forced to read them, are they? All this sort of talk remind me of Andrew Keen’s book “The Cult Of The Amateur.” If that writer had his way, everyone but the people he deems as worthy would be silenced. The way I see it blogging is the last bastion of free speech, and that’s the reason why so many people feel threatened by it.

  27. Taylor said:

    Though I’m aware of the irony of discussing the worthlessness of blogging, on a blog, I can’t help but want to respond. As a writer, I agree that poor writing skills can make blogging, a written form of communication, difficult to respect and ineffective as an advertising vehicle. However, I would emphasize that on a percentage basis, a good TV commercial comes along about as often as a well-written blog, yet no one is discarding television as a legitimate medium. If a blog is subtle on the rhetoric, informative and enjoyable to read, then what better way to reach people on a personal level? At http://www.officezone.com/ozblog/, we attempt to offer a blog that is exactly that.
    Taylor

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    Are most blogs self-indulgent drivel? Mine sure is.

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  41. Bon said:

    I absolutely agree. The parting differences lies in our society’s enjoyment of reading about people. That makes the drivel exception. Otherwise, they’re not writing at all. They’re like a cooking show – all talk while demonstrating. it’s not unlike a “mommy blog”. They’re still fun, entertaining and engaging. It’s not unusual for a real writer to consider it self-centered drivel. And they’re right. It doesn’t mean they’re not good for their purpose.

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