Does the way you read other people’s blogs influence the way you write your own?
My fellow blogger and photographer Jim Grey recently wrote about how he reads blogs and compiles posts of interest for his weekly “Recommended Reading” round up, which I recently, er, recommended, along with a few others.
It prompted me to think about how I follow and read blogs, and how this might inform the way I write posts here on 35hunter.
How I Read Blog Posts
First, I don’t follow many blogs. Currently it’s around 30, but some of those haven’t posted in months. I estimate I see perhaps two or three new posts a day on average.
Those I do follow, I generally read every post. I only followed them in the first place because a high enough percentage of their posts were what I felt worth my reading time on a consistent basis.
Now this might all sound a bit pompous, but a major lesson I’ve learned in life with all kinds of things, is that we only have so much energy, focus and time “between the horns of the day“.
What works for me is doing less and doing it better.
I’d rather read three blog posts fully, enjoy them, and find them memorable and inspiring in some way, than skim three dozen and get virtually nothing from any of them.
Hence why I don’t follow many blogs.
This is also one of the main reasons I don’t do social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).
I don’t like all that frantic skimming and swiping, and find it too much surface noise with no feeling.
I don’t want to use my valuable and limited time online constantly curating the best posts to read. I want to find and follow writers that consistently produce worthwhile work, then enjoy them.
This evolved from how I used to read magazines.
When I subscribed to a monthly or weekly publication like the NME, Q or Mountain Biking UK, I would relish devouring the contents cover to cover.
Partly to get my money’s worth, and partly because I liked (and still like) immersing myself in one thing for a sustained period, rather than dipping into a dozen.
I’m the opposite of one of those tiny pond skaters that appear to defy gravity and skitter across the surface of the water. I dive in deep and stay under!
How I Write Blog Posts
How I read blogs then influences how I write.
I rarely go for “click bait” titles like “5 Ways To Transform Your Film Photography Skills Overnight”, with a snappy and simplified intro.
In my day job working in a local authority, when we revamped our website a couple of years back, a major part of the redesign brief was that the average adult reading age is apparently 10 years old in the UK, so we need to write so a 10 year old can understand it.
I don’t want to do this on my blog, because you’re not the average reader.
I want to have lengthy, sometimes obscure titles.
I want to ramble on sometimes, and use sentences that are three times the length of a Twitter post.
I want to have posts that occasionally tumble on towards two, even three thousand words, because that’s how long I feel it takes to explore the subject fully.
I want to use the kind of language I use in my daily conversation, and not simplify it so it sounds, like, you know, like, great, like, dope, like awesome…
So much language around us today is dumbed down, butchered even.
Now I love how language evolves, the richness of local dialects, and the quirks of pronunciation. (I remember an old friend who could never wrap her head (or indeed tongue) around how to pronounce cacophony. Instead of ca-coff-oh-nee, she would also say cacca-foh-nee, which was very endearing.)
And from the majority of comments on here, it seems you speak in a very similar more expansive language, and enjoy the deeper thinking and more interesting conversation around being a photographer that we share.
Again it’s about slowing down, going deeper, investing more time and thought in fewer things, and enriching the experience along the way.
Now I appreciate there are others who love following a hundred different blogs and a thousand people on Twitter, and scanning through to find the glittering gems amongst oceans of sand. If that works for them, that’s fantastic.
But that’s just not for me, as a reader of blogs, or a blogger myself.
Perhaps it is no coincidence this is how I photograph too.
Slowly, intentionally, thoughtfully, rather than auto-everything scattergun, in the hope that one of those 37 shots will be good afterwards.
How about you? How do you follow and read blogs? And if you have your own blog, does the way you write mirror the way you read?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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19 thoughts on “How I Read A Blog Is How I Write A Blog”
This is similar to my approach to social media Dan. I might stumble across a blogpost that I find stimulating, it may have come as a recommendation or as a DDG (don’t do google) search result. I will then add it to my Feedly and watch for a few days.
Like you, I do not do instawhatsfacetwit they seem too frantic, friends I have observed never put their phones down. I do have an account for facebook in a different name, and I have never made a post, but sometimes, rarely, one needs to see something and that is the only way.
Really Simple Syndication was the first and is still the best way to surf the web, it is as easy to forget something to which one links as to be reminded. It is sometimes quite pleasing to see a piece suddenly appear from someone that one syndicated to several months back.
I hope that this is far more akin to what Sir Tim Berners-Lee imagined when he did his thing. People getting together to share information.
The worst thing that happened to the internet though (so far) has been the political stuff, mainly from the EU, of course it depends where one lives which mob are the worst. What their oh so clever rules usually do, is raise the bar for ordinary folk to use (GDPR anyone?), the large commercial outfits in Europe have whole departments devoted to this apparent protection of the individual which is really just a control mechanism.
Anyway, longwinded way of saying that the one man blog is king, and following a couple of my own abandoned blogs, I wish I could be as fluent as others.
Stephen, many thanks for your thoughts.
A number of people have mentioned Feedly here before. The WordPress Reader works ok for me, and it keeps it all in one place (along with where I write and edit posts) so I like that simplicity. But I would consider Feedly if anything changed with WordPress.
I do occasionally find a blog that isn’t on WordPress and can’t figure out how you follow comments on it. This is a core feature on WP, otherwise when you comment, how do you know when someone has replied?
Some years back, before I had a WordPress blog, I used Google Reader as a way to follow sites. I liked too that with some forums and so on you could follow the RSS feed of just a particular part of it, or a particular group, not necessarily the whole forum. RSS was (I guess till is) a wider, more universal way to follow what you liked, not just blogs. Alas they discontinued it, and I think by then I was using WP and using their Reader to do much the same thing so didn’t really need an alternative.
I think you’re right, the internet at its best is people connecting to share common passions and interests. It should be a way to enhance positive communication, not a platform for conflict and disagreement, or constantly feeding perceived inadequacy and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
It’s getting scary how people are so glued to their devices, even whilst doing other things, like having conversations with a person right in front of them or watching TV.
I read a very interesting post recently about how in the past TV channels were only competing with other TV channels for the consumer’s attention. These days they’re also competing with other screens – phones, tablets, laptops, watches – as all of these have become so much more common. It’s taken the quest for each individual consumer’s attention to whole different levels…
I love that last phrase – the one man (or woman!) blog is king… They’re like a precious calm oasis amongst the chaos of the social web.
Hi Dan. Your post made me curious about my blog intake, so I just checked and I follow 11 blogs. Most are defunct though, or seldom publish so it’s really down to three. And I do often read another blog that I can’t make out how to subscribe to, but he publishes pretty often. I hate to say it, but YouTube has mostly replaced blogs for me. I’m going to check and see how many channels I follow there. I used to use Flickr quite a bit, but that has really become a dead zone now.
What kind of stuff do you follow on YouTube, is this all photography related?
I’ve never explored YouTube much as I just find it too intrusive a medium, both for me and for anyone around me. A blog I can read in silence in a lunch break or waiting for one of the kids to finish a class, it’s a very gentle and discrete format.
Hi Dan, Almost all photography related, and also travel, and bushcraft. I don’t think I follow any very popular channels though as lot of them are corporate shills and click weasels. A few from Finland and England. I agree that it’s kind of annoying though. Maybe I need to try harder to find some more active blogs. I have been really enjoying getting out with my small MFT cameras and have you to thank for that, I had never even heard of such a thing before you introduced me to the concept. I had little exposure to digital before and have grown to really appreciate it.
Jon, I really wish I’d been able to embrace Micro Four Thirds more. On paper they feel like my perfect camera, that balance between size and performance, the offspring from a marriage of digital compact and DLSR that brings the best of both in one package.
I have had fairly limited experience, with the only camera being my Lumix GF1. Lovely camera, that produces gorgeous images, but I just can’t really warm to it. Plus it just didn’t really work with my old M42 lenses like I hoped it would.
In the future perhaps I’ll try again with an Olympus and a small fast prime.
I do use YouTube a fair bit to explore different music, and the occasional camera review perhaps. It can be hard to wade through the dross though to find anything good, and it’s so advert laden these days it drives me crazy. I generally use sites like listenonrepeat to sidestep them.
We are like Sinatra, doing it our way.
And may we never stoop to the level of the popular press.
Granted this freedom of style is in part owed to not giving a tinker’s dam about how large an audience we engage.
Okay I confess to using references that sometimes even Friend Wife doesn’t understand.
But I’m just goofing around – and having fun.
Audience quality is so much more valuable the quantity….
I regularly read one blog.
I do not have a blog or much e-presence at all. Writing on the Internet strikes me as like trying to.pray in a train station. That may be a personal shortcoming.
William, what a magnificent metaphor… Though personally I would say this better describes trying to read online sometimes, and on some sites, rather than write. Which is why I follow few blogs/sites, and try to find a quiet time and place to enjoy them. And can’t bear sites with ads, and sidebars trying to make you do anything else but just read the text right there in front of you.
Writing itself I don’t find difficult – again I find quiet time/space – but I guess trying to publish and make your voice heard on certain platforms can be incredible daunting, like a hiccup in a tornado. Which is why I avoid those too, and just plod along steadily with my old fashioned long winded blog.
(Would it be e-presence, or i-presence, like the original internet enabled (hence the “i” in their name, iMacs?)
Hmm. Beats me, but I ain’t an Appleer
I’m a dedicated follower of just a handful of journals, perhaps a half dozen. The artificial (but not entirely arbitrary) cap I put on my WP Reader long ago is exactly 25. To me, the time I spend on WordPress is utterly meaningless without honest, thoughtful engagement. But meeting people and getting to know and trust them as good actors is a fluid process that takes time and that time is precious. And plenty, plenty of serendipity comes into play. Suffice to say, I’m grateful to have found you, Dan! It’s wonderful little miracles of friendship like this that have sparked me to keep going on WordPress over the years. Do I sound naïve? I’m not a user of any other social media so maybe that’s part of it. Sorry I didn’t answer all the parts of your question. Seems like I never do but it’s not on purpose!
J, love that you used the word “journal”. This phrase has far more romantic and endearing connotations for me than “blog”. I’m going to try to use it more, an online journal, not a blog.
My WordPress cap is very similar, around 25-30. But as I said above, many of these either haven’t posted in months, or they have officially ended/retired. I just like having them for the occasional post, and the archives.
What do you mean by “trust them as good actors”?
Absolutely agree that the point of having an online journal – and commenting on others – is to find and converse with people with similar interests.
I can’t recall how I came across your T Fir journal but I would guess via Jim Grey.
There does seem to now be almost a generation gap with blogs and social media. Those who started out with blogs before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were around, still seem to value them as a deeper, more involving, and slower platform.
I do suspect many who use social media see blogs as “dead” and no longer a viable format – precisely for the reasons we enjoy them, longer posts, slower pace, deeper interaction, and easy to access archives that remain a rich source of reading and learning…
Oh my posts are always meant as a starting point for anyone else’s (and my own!) thoughts to dive off from, so feel free to go off at any tangents you wish, it’s all good.
All excellent comments.
My wordpress reader is filled with photography blogs. Maybe 15 or twenty? Some are just one shot a day and not much text.
I try to write my blog posts in a manner that gets to the point: photos. I usually limit the number to 5. I’ll sometimes go as many as six but rarely go fewer than four. I figure that people who check out my blog are doing so for photography so I want to let them see some photos. Enough that it is worth their time for clicking but not so few that they just breeze past them.
I also edit my photos. I mean I cull them down. It is easy without an editor to just put up EVERYTHING. That’s not helphing the reader/viewer. Given them something worthwhile to look at.
Yes. less is more. Or, more from less.
Yes, I think photography blogs work better with few photos per post, and more frequent posts. Two posts a week with three photos each is likely to gain more interest than one post of six photos.
However amazing the photos are, once anyone gets past the limit of their attention span (which might be 2, 22 or 122!) the viewer sees diminishing returns.
I agree that probably the worst way to run a photo blog and build your credibility/talent/readership is to publish those posts that say “I went for a walk today, here are the 57 photographs I made”, the good , the bad and the ugly. Instead, edit down to the best handful!
Or, another variation is “I tested this old camera today, and you can see all 72 shots from the two rolls of film I used below”. Again, no-one will have made 72 fantastic shots, instead show us the best five or seven, to show what you and the camera can do. Please!
Enjoyed the post and all the comments. I don’t know the # of blogs I follow, but I read all regularly, most don’t post weekly though. All blogs I’ve subscribed to are from current blog recommendations. I read blogs that offer a markedly different perspective then I encounter in real life. My town of 20,000 is conservative & we are remote, so I try to keep my thinking fresh.
I do have subscriptions that aren’t reflections but professional-I’m not including those, in the line of my “professional” blog. I have a personal blog simply b/c its a journal & public but I’ve yet to meet anyone in person that has a blog.I like to write, I miss the days when people really read past 2 sentences.
Agree with you about the two sentences. This is one reason I love blogs, you can sit down and get absorbed with them, like a book, or a good meal. Not like the high speed fast food chuck it down your throat then go nature of social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al.
I scan through blogs and pick them at random based on a title that may be of interest to me at the moment. I prefer short posts, don’t you?
Do you mean you scan through different posts within one blog, or across many blogs? How do you find them initially?
I like a mixture of post lengths, but overall I lean towards longer, more juicy posts. They’re more like sitting down and having a lengthy, meaningful conversation with someone, especially compared with the all too brief and superficial communication that pervades most of social media today!
Thanks for reading, and commenting.