Joe Barlow Writes

Quirky Books for Quirky People–New Thoughts on Writing and Publishing in the Digital Frontier

The Top 5 Reasons I Quit Reading Your Blog

no-blogLike many of you, I expect, I’m thoroughly addicted to reading blogs. It’s one of my favorite pastimes, and my poor RSS Reader finds itself bursting at the seams with dozens of quality sites each and every day. The sheer amount of blog post links that get flung in my face on Twitter alone is enough to fill a hard drive, and yet somehow I always seem to crave more blogs, more blogs, dear God, just a few more blogs.

I’m willing to give almost any blog a chance, provided the subject matter interests me. However, because I have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to reading material, I have become increasingly less tolerant of a few blogging traits which hinder, or outright prevent, my ability to enjoy certain sites. As such, here are the top five ways to ensure that I’ll never read your blog again:

1. I can’t find your RSS feed. I do about 95% of my blog reading through an RSS Reader. When I hear about a new blog that I’d like to check out, I type the URL into my browser and spend about 30 seconds poking around the page. Do the posts appear to be engagingly written and properly punctuated? Do the headlines make the content sound interesting? If so, I immediately sign up for the mailing list and subscribe to the RSS feed. Then, in all likelihood, I never visit the main page again. From that point on, my relationship with that blog exists entirely within the confines of an RSS reader.

If I can’t find your RSS feed, or (gasp) if you don’t have one, you’ve lost me as a potential reader, no matter how great your content might be.

2. Your RSS feed only shows me a few sentences of each post. This goes hand-in-hand with #1. You see, I read a lot of blogs on my iPod Touch, which is a wifi-only device. Every morning I launch my favorite mobile reading software, MobileRSS, which syncs up to my RSS Reader and downloads all the latest posts straight to my iPod, in much the same way that iTunes downloads new podcasts for me. This way, I have the posts with me throughout the day, and can read them at my leisure, even if I end up in a place that doesn’t have wifi access.

However, if your RSS feed only gives me a few sentences of your post, and then invites me to “click here to read the rest of the article,” then you’ve effectively ensured that I can only read your content if I’m in a wifi hot spot, which isn’t always convenient for me. That’s just not how media should work in the 21st century. Include the entire post in your RSS feed, and I’ll be your reader for life.

3. You don’t understand third-grade grammar. I don’t have a problem with the occasional typo or grammatical oddity; we all make mistakes. What I cannot abide is a willing and repeated disregard for the basic rules of grammar, which were drilled into my head when I was nine years old and which I’ve never forgotten. I’m referring to the people who continuously write “your” when they mean “you’re,” ten times in the same post.

Nobody’s perfect, but really, if you can’t even get that right, I’m unlikely to have confidence in your blogging skills.

4. You force me to jump through hoops to read your content. I just came across this peculiar situation for the first time: I found a blog that has great writing, and useful information. However, in order to encourage people to join his mailing list, this particular blogger password protects roughly 50% of his posts. The password changes weekly. Every seven days, he e-mails the new password to his subscribers. If they click on a protected post, they must enter that week’s password in order to read it.

Seriously? In order to consume his content, I’m expected to dig through the hundreds of e-mails I receive in a typical week and look for his latest password, hoping all the while that I didn’t accidentally delete it, or that it didn’t get blocked by my spam filter? Sorry, life’s too short. Bye bye to that particular blog.

5. You assume that my knowledge of the subject matter is equal to your own. While there is something gratifying in reading a site that doesn’t patronize me, or treat me like I’m unintelligent, it’s possible for a blogger to go too far in the opposite direction. If I’m reading your blog, it’s very likely that I’m not an expert on your subject matter, and am hoping to learn more about your topic of expertise from you. But if you rely too heavily on elite industry jargon, without including a definition of an unusual term or acronym, don’t be surprised if I have no idea what you’re talking about.

I don’t mind doing a little research to clarify a confusing concept or word, but if I have to perform a Google search to understand every third sentence of your post, your blog probably isn’t for me.

How about the rest of you? What are your own blogging pet peeves? And more importantly, am I violating any of them? Let me know in the comments below!

[NOTE: This post was originally published on my old writing blog, The Coffee House Wordsmith, on April 6, 2011.]


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