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Thursday, November 13, 2003  

Blogospherics: Deadwood blogs mar blogosphere

Kellea at Her Blog brought my renewed attention to the problem of abandoned weblogs. CNN reports.

One study of 3,634 blogs found that two-thirds had not been updated for at least two months and a quarter not since Day One.

"Some would say, 'I'm going to be too busy but I'll get back to it,' but never did," said Jeffrey Henning, chief technology officer with Perseus Development Corp., the research company that did the study. "Most just kind of stopped."

According to Perseus, there are about 4.12 million blogs. Most either don't attract readers or are quickly abandoned.

The most dramatic finding from the survey was that 66.0% of surveyed blogs had not been updated in two months, representing 2.72 million blogs that have been either permanently or temporarily abandoned.

"Apparently the blog-hosting services have made it so easy to create a blog that many tire-kickers feel no commitment to continuing the blog they initiate," said Jeffrey Henning, CTO of Perseus Development Corp. and author of the survey. "In fact, 1.09 million blogs were one-day wonders, with no postings on subsequent days."

The average duration of the remaining 1.63 million abandoned blogs was 126 days (almost four months). A surprising 132,000 blogs were abandoned after being maintained a year or more (the oldest abandoned blog surveyed had been maintained for 923 days).

The study suggests failure to attract readers is a reason why blogs are often abandoned. Another factor is length of blog entries. Bloggers who write short blog entries, like the ones at this site, tend to quit, probably because they lack writing skills and/or are not really interested in writing. The fact that most people who begin blogs are under 30 may also explain why so many cease as promptly as they start. Perhaps other activities become more interesting to them.

Some folks might say abandoned weblogs are victimless infractions. Not so. Surfing to sites that are deadwood, are updated only sporadically or contain woefully inaccurate information wastes the time of readers. And, often, time is money.

Cliff Kurtzman kept his Year2000.com site up for two years past the turnover, with a note acknowledging that the information could be old. But even abandoned sites deserve a burial at some point.

"There was so much on it that was out of date, and links that didn't work and everything," he said. "It looked bad to have things up there with so many things not working or making sense anymore."

Kurtzman, who uses the site now to promote a newsletter on business and innovation, knows the troubles abandoned sites like his can pose. He'll find a site he likes, only to learn later the information is old.

"Having extra junk out there just makes the process of searching for good stuff even harder," Kurtzman said.

I had one of those frustrating experiences Tuesday night. I was writing a blog item about the success of Apple's stores. I decided to cite a blogger who had heard the rumor Portland would be getting one back in January. He has not updated his blog since July, so I assume it is abandoned.

In the blogosphere, I believe abandoned sites harm us because they create the impression that blogging is a flaky avocation practiced by uninformed and unreliable people. That impression makes it less likely people unfamiliar with blogs will read those worthy of their attention. At the very least, a responsible blogger should inform readers and other bloggers when he intends to take a break from blogging or cease publication.

The overinvolvement of teenage girls in blogging has doubtlessly skewed the statistics in some ways. I hope adults are less inconstant. However, based on personal observation, many adult bloggers abandon their blogs at the drop of a mouse, too.

How does this blogger fit into it all? I am an exception to the rule in most ways -- over 30, a linker to a variety sources and a professional writer. Mac-a-ro-nies is nearly nine months old, having lasted twice as long as the majority of blogs. (As some of you know, I was a contributor to other blogs for months before I began my own, so my blogging experience began earlier.) I credit having been around awhile as a blogger to having things to write about. I've worked in interesting fields, read widely and have always been aware of the world around me. I had won national awards as a feature writer and an essayist, so I had reason to be confident about my skills as a writer before beginning blogging.

If I decide to take a hiatus my readers will be the first to know.

3:49 PM