A few days ago, I posted What Happened to Genealogy Blogging? because I wanted to know why so many genealogy bloggers that I follow hadn’t posted in over a year. A flood of comments came in sharing all sorts of wisdom, which you can read about in my post Follow Up & Reflection on ‘What Happened to Genealogy Blogging?’ In addition to answering my initial question, I came across several comments about blog reading; a handful of people like me hadn’t read any genealogy blogs in quite some time (and most didn’t have plans to return for various reasons). This got me thinking about why I stopped, why I’m trying to get back to reading genealogy blogs, and what my preferences are. I thought I’d share my philosophy.
I actually talked a little about blog reading in my post Reevaluating Life: Why ‘Friday Finds’ Series Will Be Discontinued Beginning January 1, which I wrote at the end of 2015. When I wrote that post, my intent wasn’t to stop reading blogs altogether. My plan was to “clean out my blog reader to remove blogs that do not fit my current interests” so I could better manage my reading time and focus on the things I was really interested in reading about. If your math is good, and you read Saturday’s post, then you know that I never did get around to that task of cleaning out my reader back at the end of 2015. I was so overwhelmed that I kept putting it off and basically just stopped reading altogether. Almost 18 months later, and I have finally started to whittle my way through those 600+ blogs. I’m down to just under 250, which of course still seems like a lot.
But here’s the thing. I personally like a wide variety of genealogy blogs, hence the reason I had over 600 in my reader until last week. I like to read about other peoples’ ancestors, even if they have no relevance to me personally, because that’s how I learn about records, methodology, telling my own stories, etc. I like bloggers who write instructional and/or informational posts. I like learning about different locations, even if not relevant to my research. And for the most part, in get a lot of relevant news items from genealogy blogs. All that said, this is why I was incredibly bummed when I saw so many blogs fall off—350 from just the ones I subscribed to. Some of my favorite “must reads” hadn’t posted at all in my 18-month absence from reading; I was truly stunned! Now, some I know personally, and know of things going on with them, so those didn’t surprise me, but that was only a handful of the 350.
Someone asked how I could possibly manage to read 600+ blogs. The number of blogs perhaps isn’t the right perspective, since not everyone posts everyday, and as I recently found out, over half of them hadn’t published in over two years from the present day. It’s probably easier to think in terms of the average number of new posts per day. I wish I had more accurate numbers, but I’ll take a stab at it to illustrate. In my 2015 post I mentioned that my reader had reached over 2,000 unread posts, but that’s not really reflective of reality. First, that figure pertained to all the blogs I follow, which are more than just genealogy blogs. And second, that number was what I usually saw when I went weeks without reading. And since I’m not quite caught up with reading, I can’t come up with an average number at the moment. But, let’s just pretend that of those 2,000 posts, 1,500 were from genealogy blogs, and I was two weeks (or 14 days behind). That would mean that on average, there were a little over 100 new posts each day. That may still seem like a lot, but I don’t READ every single post. I have my reader set so I can see the title and a preview, which I skim and determine if I want to read the post or not. Thinking back, I’d estimate that I maybe READ 10 to 12 posts each day; when time was short, I’d flag the ones I was interested in and save them for another day. If I didn’t have a blog reader to manage all of my blog feeds, I probably wouldn’t read many blogs, if any at all.
I knew that cleaning out my reader wouldn’t necessarily reduce the number of average posts per day, but it will reduce the clutter. First, on my gReader app, I don’t think I can search for a particular blog. So if I wanted to look for a particular blog, I’d have to scroll through a list of 600 blogs to find it. Since many of the blogs had been in decline or abandoned (remember over 50 haven’t been posted to in over four years) and some no longer held my interest, it was silly to keep them in my list. Second, for the blogs that I really don’t find helpful, it was just more titles/previews I had to read through to get to the good stuff. In essence I was looking to be more efficient. Now that I have finally gotten around to cleaning out my reader, I’m hoping that I will be able to save some time and keep up.
For most of the people who mentioned that they no longer read blogs, the primary reason was because of a lack of time (shocker, right?). My only suggestion is to do what I did—get picky and only follow the ones that provide value to you in accordance with your definition of value. That’s what I did. It was hard (there were a few that were hard for me to remove, but it had been years since they’d posted) and it took several hours for me to go through all those blogs. But I feel liberated and no longer overwhelmed.
Another interesting comment related to blog reading was the frustration by some about bloggers who pretty much only post press releases about products, events, etc. It is frustrating to see the same title 20 times when scrolling though your reader, but I suppose you only need to read one of them. When I cleaned out my reader, I removed blogs that only posted these types of posts. In many cases, I actually get the press releases from the organization/company, so it’s usually old news to me. And, for those that I don’t receive, I can read them on blogs that also provide other meaningful content or head over to GeneaPress.
I’m in the process of getting caught up on my reading, and already I know my decision to get back into reading blogs is a good one. While I do see things on Facebook, I have so many friends that I really don’t see much, and honestly, I’m not on Facebook all that much. Reading blogs used to help me keep up with the genealogy community. I literally feel like I’ve been living under a rock for the last 18 months! Occasionally I catch something on Facebook, and think, “whoa, I didn’t get that memo!” I’ve only made a dent in the unread posts, but already I feel like I’m “in the know” again. I’ve also found some great posts that will help me on my genealogy journey. Knowing that I’ve probably missed a ton of stuff in my 18-month absence from blog reading really irks me. But it is what it is, and I’m moving forward and loving it!