Sunday, November 23, 2008

Guess I'm not a lazy sod

I'm merely a slow blogger. From the NY Times, 11/23/2008:

Haste, Scorned: Blogging at a Snail’s Pace


WHEN Barbara Ganley wants to collect her thoughts, she walks in the Vermont countryside, wanders home and blogs about it. In a recent post, she wrote about the icy impressions left in the snow by sleeping deer. In another, she said she wanted to commute by bicycle and do more composting.

If her blog,, sounds slow and meandering, it is. But that’s the point. Ms. Ganley, 51, is part of a small, quirky movement called slow blogging.
The practice is inspired by the slow food movement, which says that fast food is destroying local traditions and healthy eating habits. Slow food advocates, like the chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., believe that food should be local, organic and seasonal; slow bloggers believe that news-driven blogs like TechCrunch and Gawker are the equivalent of fast food restaurants — great for occasional consumption, but not enough to guarantee human sustenance over the longer haul.

A Slow Blog Manifesto, written in 2006 by Todd Sieling, a technology consultant from Vancouver, British Columbia, laid out the movement’s tenets. “Slow Blogging is a rejection of immediacy,” he wrote. “It is an affirmation that not all things worth reading are written quickly.” (Nor, because of a lack of traffic, is Mr. Sieling writing this blog at all these days.) Ms. Ganley, who recently left her job as a writing instructor at Middlebury College, compares slow blogging to meditation. It’s “being quiet for a moment before you write,” she said, “and not having what you write be the first thing that comes out of your head.”
On her blog, Ms. Ganley juxtaposes images and text as she reflects on the local landscape. She tends to post once or twice a week, but sometimes she can go a month or so without proffering something new.

Some slow bloggers like to push the envelope of their readers’ attention even further. Academics post lengthy pieces about literature and teaching styles, while techies experiment to see how infrequently they can post before readers desert them.

This approach is a deliberate smack at the popular group blogs like Huffington Post, the Daily Beast, Valleywag and boingboing, which can crank out as many as 50 items a day. On those sites, readers flood in and advertisers sign on. Spin and snark abound. Earnest descriptions of the first frost of the season are nowhere to be found.

In between the slow bloggers and the rapid-fire ones, there is a vast middle, hundreds of thousands of writers who are not trying to attract advertising or buzz but do want to reach like-minded colleagues and friends. These people have been the bedrock of the genre since its start, yet recently there has been a sea change in their output: They are increasingly turning to slow blogging, in practice if not in name.

“I’m definitely noticing a drop-off in posting — I’m talking about among the more visible bloggers, the ones with 100 to 200 readers or more,” said Danah Boyd, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies popular culture and technology. “I think that those people who were writing long, thought-out posts are continuing, but those who were writing, ‘Hey, check this out’ posts are going to other forums. It’s a dynamic shift.”

Technology is partly to blame. Two years ago, if a writer wanted to share a link or a video with friends or tell them about an upcoming event, he or she would post the information on a blog. Now it’s much faster to type 140 characters in a Twitter update (also known as a tweet), share pictures on Flickr, or use the news feed on Facebook. By comparison, a traditional blogging program like WordPress can feel downright glacial.

Ms. Ganley, the blogger in Vermont, has a slogan that encapsulates the trend: “Blog to reflect, Tweet to connect.” Blogging, she said, “is that slow place.”

Another reason some bloggers have slowed down is sheer burnout. Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor at the University of Virginia, shuttered his popular blog, Sivacracy, in September, in part because he was exhausted by the demands. “When you run your own blog, there’s a lot of imaginary pressure to publish constantly, to be witty, to be good, and nobody can live with that,” he said in an interview.

These days, he fires off short, pithy comments on Twitter, but has another blog that he says is “more of a specialized project for in-depth thought.” Here, he shares ideas for an upcoming book, which posits that Google has infiltrated our culture to a worrisome extent.

Andrew Sullivan, perhaps the world’s best-read political blogger, talked about the burnout factor in an article in November’s Atlantic magazine called “Why I Blog.” He said in an interview posted on the magazine’s Web site that during the election, his readers became so addicted to his stream of posts that he sometimes set his blog to post automatically so he could go to lunch. When he took two days off to make sense of “the whole Sarah Palin thing,” his audience flipped, thinking he was dead or silenced.

“You can’t stop,” Mr. Sullivan said in the online interview. “The readers act as if you’ve cut off their oxygen supply, and they just flap around like a goldfish out of water until you plop them back in.”

Slow blogging is something of a philosophical rebuttal to this dynamic. While some bloggers may just be naturally slow — think of the daydreaming schoolmate who used to take forever to get the assignment done — others are more emphatic about the purpose of taking their time.
Russell Davies, a new media consultant in London, has started what may be the ultimate experiment in slow-blogging: Dawdlr. He has turned the instantaneousness of Twitter on its head by asking readers to send him snail-mail postcards answering the question posed to Twitter users, “What are you doing now?” He scans the postcards and puts them up, once every six months, on his site, A recent postcard contained whimsical line drawings of cats and the words, “Trying not to look back.”

Mr. Davies said his goal was to see if slowing down promoted a greater thoughtfulness. It did, he said, but then again, because Dawdlr is updated so infrequently, few people have heard of it.
“It is an investigation into the Internet’s attention span,” Mr. Davies said by telephone.
Even Mr. Sieling, the writer of the Slow Blog Manifesto, gave up his personal blog because he felt no one was reading it. “I called it the Robinson Crusoe feeling of blogging,” he said by e-mail, “and I think it’s common.”