Funny thing. When you write a thought-provoking blog post, you really need to make sure you have time to react! Honestly, I didn’t know that Saturday’s blog post What Happened to Genealogy Blogging? was going to be so comment-heavy, but it certainly was (heck, I didn’t even know if people still read my blog!).
A very big “thank you” to everyone who took the time to comment, both here and on Facebook. This blog post is intended to sum up what people said, and I also reflect personally on some of themes a little more.
I do want to clarify that neither this, nor the previous post, are meant to criticize genealogy bloggers who aren’t blogging regularly or at all anymore. I get it, I mean what of significance have I posted lately?!? Zip, zero, nada! I just saw this big hole and wondered why. I know what my reasons are, but I certainly can’t speak for everyone else.
The comments I received were a clear indication that my “lack of time” reason is only one of many out there. As a researcher, my inquisitive mind wanted to know more, to understand. While I don’t hold all the answers, there was certainly a lively discussion.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I really didn’t expect such a response. But, I’m glad I took the time to post and that others were happy to share their thoughts. One thing I found was that it inspired others who are in the same position I’m in to take a moment and either go out and post something (hey, I’m still here!!) or to seriously think about how they can reincorporate genealogy blogging into their routine. I myself have discovered the true nature of my posting decline, but more on that later.
An Important Aside
Before I get into the nitty gritty of this post, I wanted to comment on a few remarks I received that don’t really answer the question of why people are not blogging, but are important to the conversation nonetheless.
Tony Proctor and Heather Wilkinson Rojo brought up a good point about new blogs I may have missed in the last 18 months. And even though I haven’t done any analysis on these newer blogs, I can only say that, in my opinion based on observations over the last several years, I’m willing to bet many may succumb to the same fate, if they haven’t already. This isn’t the first time I’ve cleaned out my reader—I used to do it regularly for years. While I noticed this same phenomenon in the past, it was only a handful of blogs at a time, so it didn’t really hit me then. It was only when I had so many at once that I began to really wonder and decided to investigate further. All that said, my reader is a little lonely, so if you enjoy a newer blog that I may have missed, I’d love to know about it!
So, what happened to genealogy blogging? In a way, nothing. Genealogists and family history buffs are still using blogs to share their stories and knowledge, whether with family, the genealogy community, or both. New blogs pop up everyday. Sadly, some bloggers slow down or even cease publication. In Saturday’s post, I was very curious to hear about the reasons for the latter.
A few people mentioned alternatives to blogging. For example, some mentioned that things they might have posted on their blogs in the past, they now just share as a quick post on Facebook. I suppose this might be a small part of my problem, one that didn’t even occur to me. In fact, just hours before I started cleaning out my reader, I made a discovery and I almost went to Facebook to talk about it. But then I decided that because of the nature of the find (and a lesson to be reiterated), it would serve better as a blog post. By that point, I had run out of steam (I had been researching for hours) and decided to do a mindless task, like cleaning out my blog reader (and we all know what that turned into!).
Others mentioned other alternatives such as Instagram. I can’t really speak to this because I know absolutely nothing about Instragram, except how to spell it! But, as I thought more about possible alternatives, I can see where video has caught the attention of some bloggers with the advent of Google Hangouts and Facebook Live.
Because I’ve “been away” for awhile, I’m curious to know what alternatives people are using, either in place of or in addition to, blogging, and how they’re being used.
Blogging Is Harder Than It Looks
A few people mentioned that blogging is harder than people think. I can see both sides to this, so my initial response is that blogging can be hard if you make it so. Bloggers who want everything to be perfect (myself included) easily impose the hardship upon themselves. The same goes for bloggers that want to present many thought-provoking posts and heavy-duty, in-depth research stories. Jacqi Stevens puts it eloquently: “I also noticed that some seemed to pour every ounce of effort into polishing that opus one. It’s no wonder the writer soon fizzled after that massive outpouring!” But genealogy blogging doesn’t have to be so overwrought, especially not all the time or for every post. Bloggers that have been around for years, and are still going strong, have a mixture of posts and I have a feeling that’s what keeps them from burning out. So if you’re a genealogy blogger who is feeling overwhelmed by the thought of keeping up with your blog, think about ways to mix it up so you get stuff out there, but it doesn’t take so much out of you that the thought of blogging is dreadful. (Note to self: Follow your own advice!)
The best way to avoid burnout is to have a plan. Know your objective—why you want to blog—and your audience. And this isn’t just for new bloggers; it applies to all of us because as our interests change so might our blog (my blog has gone through many changes over the years). A tool I find helpful is an editorial calendar. My method for this calendar has morphed over the years, but it always helped me stay on track. (I did post about this back in 2008; it’s a little outdated, but you’ll get the idea.)
One final thought on this topic—the writing. Some people just hate the thought of writing, and while they want to share their stories and blogging is a way to do that, they get stymied by the writing process. For those who fall in this category, maybe an alternative such as video or digital scrapbooking are better options. Others may not mind the writing, but fear they’re not good at it. For genealogy blogs, especially those that exist to tell the stories of the blogger’s ancestors, who cares? Isn’t it more important to get your story out there for your family and future generations? So what if a comma is out of place or you accidentally used “their” instead of “there.” If you blog’s mission is to share family stories, don’t let a comma stop you!
No Time for Blogging
Of course the most frequently mention answer was a lack of time and competing priorities. No surprise there, however, some dug a little deeper into this reason. Those comments were extremely enlightening and I am thankful to the people who wrote them, as they made me really think about my own “lack of time” excuse and got me thinking of ways to get back to blogging.
Brenda Leyndyke helped me see a deeper reason for my “lack of time” excuse. As she puts it: “I don’t want to post anything that is not good quality and good quality takes me time.” I think I knew this in the back of my mind, but this made it blatantly obvious—this is my specific problem. Is it one that I can overcome? Do I have to be such a perfectionist (it’s a blessing and a curse) with every single post? Can I find ways to be more efficient with my time and still post quality articles? This is something I really reflected on, and I will talk a little bit about it throughout the rest of this post.
Elizabeth Handler shares a similar sentiment. She says: “I think that the novelty of blogging and sharing the ‘low hanging fruit’ in my first couple of years made it easier for me back then.” She goes on to say that her research interests have taken her into the world of DNA and that it can be difficult to write about the topic. I couldn’t agree more, and her thoughts helped me reflect on some of the questions that I formed when reading Brenda’s comments.
Elizabeth, like many others, does simple weekly posts based on a theme. I myself have done these from time to time and it really helped me to keep blogging regularly. Shauna Hicks mentioned something similar: “I haven’t done as much genealogy blogging mainly because of other commitments but I also find that if I am not participating in a regular blog challenge there is not the same pressure to write something.” I’m willing to bet that many others would agree with Shauna, and it’s probably the reason many bloggers write around weekly themes and/or special challenges (e.g., 52 Ancestors)—it “forces” them to write and fulfill their commitment.
Sadly, I quit doing Wordless Wednesday years ago because I didn’t keep track of what I had already done and it became a nightmare. I quit doing my Saturday in the Attic posts around the same time for the same reason. In 2013 I started doing Surname Saturday (and tracked each week, lesson learned!) and participated in two challenges: Family History Through the Alphabet and Genealogy By the States. I completed the two challenges, but quit the Surname Saturday posts because the way I was doing them was a lot of work (and because I had to be careful about what I published because I planned to submit a portfolio for BCG certification). For me (and I suspect for others), I need to have that weekly thing to encourage me to post, so I’ve been playing around with a new column idea, Tips from an Editor, which in many cases can be short, anecdotal posts. The Tuesday’s Tip theme is another one that I can do fairly quickly too. So maybe I have found some solutions!
What’s sadder, I have several post drafted, some nearly final, as well as plenty of ideas. Apparently, I am not alone, as others mentioned the same thing. For me, it all ties back to the quality=time thing. I really need to find a way to overcome this when it comes to my blog or else it will continue to hold me back.
My intention for Saturday’s post was to understand why so many genealogy blogs have declined over the years. I figured the biggest reason was simply “life happens” and there are just not enough hours in the day. That was the reason heard most often, and of course, no surprise to me because that’s my reason too. But there are other reasons, and some interesting discussion came out of this. Because of this, it not only helped answer my initial question, but it also helped me see more clearly my own problem and I am now encouraged and inspired to get back to blogging. Perhaps others will be inspired too.