RamenSage: You called? What’s going on?
Jin: Hey. I unsubscribed four blogs from my RSS reader this morning… It’s been bothering me.
RamenSage: I know. I was there.
Jin: It wasn’t an easy decision. I’ve been reading those blogs for a while.
RamenSage: Why did you unsubscribe them then?
Jin: I have 70 blogs on web design subscribed in my Google Reader. Every morning my inbox is filled with new posts starting with a number. “10 Most Inspiring Sites,” “20 Cool Tools You Must See!” “50 Great Templates,” etc etc. It is increasingly harder for me to scan for original articles with well thought out content.
RamenSage: Are you saying list posts don’t have original content? Why judge an article by its title? You should to read its content first.
Jin: Well, to me there are two types of list posts. The first type being the articles with original content, the authors simply give them a list title so it’s easier for the readers to identify the subject matter and structure. Each key item is then further elaborated with author’s own thoughts and research. I find these articles useful and I have an appreciation for the authors who write them. Then there are list posts simply are made up by copy+paste+screenshot job. These posts serve no purpose except for as regurgitated meta content to draw traffic. It used to be easy to skip these posts, but there are just tons of them these days. Since they’re submitted to the same design community news sites I subscribe to, sometimes I see these same lists appearing 4 to 5 times in my reader everyday.
RamenSage: I think you’re being a bit harsh. “Serve no purpose?” I could’ve sworn that you have downloaded tons of Photoshop brushes and textures from links provided in those posts. Denouncing something you benefited from is rather ungrateful and hypocritical don’t you think? In fact, your own writings appeared on some of those list blogs. I didn’t hear you complaining back then…
Jin: Well, some showcase lists have valuable content, but most don’t.
RamenSage: The word “valuable” is relative. What’s junk to you may be valuable for other people, especially if they’re new to design. Your statement simply implies that all authors should write content catering to your own interest and standard. You may as well just walk in a book store, and complain that 99% of the books in there should have never been published, because you don’t find them interesting.
Jin: I see that. There are well designed works definitely deserve to be showcased. But in moderation, in my opinion. My point is, if a design blog site’s primary content is made up by posts that link to other sites, it may as well be a RSS2Web aggregator spam. Nowadays, whenever I see this type of posts, I have knee-jerk reaction to quickly skip them, even though at the risk of missing out on some truly good stuff. The four blogs I unsubscribed today used to have good original articles, occasionally mixed with showcase list posts. Now they’re pretty much all about links and self promotion. Everyone wants to be the next Smashing Magazine. I’m not alone on thinking this way, my friend Jeff mentioned this in his blog last year:
Lists are a great convention. They make sense, people understand them, and they’re a logical way to structure your writing. But don’t let lists become a crutch. I’m always taken aback when I see the “most popular” posts on a blog dominated by Top (n) Lists. Shortcuts are only meaningful if you know what it is, exactly, you’re cutting. If all you read is whatever Top (n) Lists have managed to float to the top of today’s Reddit or Digg homepage, then you’ve cheated yourself out of the deeper experience of reading a complete book.
If you find that the Top (n) List convention is a go-to tool in your writing toolkit, consider rebalancing your writing portfolio with longer, more in-depth pieces as well. Not everything should be a sprint; throw a few small marathons in there somewhere to complement your short distance skills.
Others have voiced their opinions more bluntly.
RamenSage: And why shouldn’t they try to be the next Smashing Magazine? You have to understand, blogging these days is different from years ago. It used to be a simple method for people to publish their own personal and professional thoughts. Now it’s becoming a business platform. People can make a good living off it, even if they write nothing but blogging about blogging. Marketing is the key to their success. If someone else has a successful business model, then others will copy. Web is the easiest place to get successful by conformity, especially within the blogsphere. It’s a proven fact that list post titles draw more attention and get promoted by page ranking sites a lot faster. Digg = Traffic = clicks = money, it’s simple capitalism. A site with original articles can still get high traffic, eventually. But they won’t get it overnight like list blog sites do. List titles long precedes blog. As early as The Ten Commandments to Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
Jin: I suppose. I just don’t like gimmicks. By the way can you imagine if Moses sensationalized the Ten Commandments?
RamenSage: Yes I can.
RamenSage: Let’s eat some ramen.
Jin: Good idea.