Favorite Blog Entry: Follow-up

How your favorite blog posts lead directly to Kurt Vonnegut commenting on blogging!

Last time I asked you to share your most memorable blog post. The answers were great, and you provided some links to very interesting blogs.

In that same post I hinted that I had a hypothesis about what would be memorable. I did not give away my hypothesis last week for fear that it might sully the results (it could also be argued that my most memorable post biased your posts, but I doubt it).

My hypothesis was this: articles about how to do something (tutorials) would be the most memorable type of posts. Interestingly, however, we only had one post mentioned that was clearly a tutorial, the Simplified CSS Tabs Trick brought to us by the person curiously named “Design”.

What we got most of, however, were blog posts that focused mainly on how to think about something. Big, bold, and new ideas that inspired us to see the world in a new way. This, in itself, was inspirational. We love learning new things!

Perhaps I should not have been surprised that tutorials weren’t the biggest draw since even my most memorable post wasn’t a tutorial. Or perhaps it was a “tutorial on ideas”. Maybe I’m using “tutorials” in too confining a sense.

My hypothesis aside, what (if anything) did these posts have in common? Is there anything we can learn from them?

I did a little digging on my RSS aggregator to see if I could find any overall trends similar to what we found here on Bokardo. I subscribe to several “most popular” feeds including blogdex and the New York Times “most emailed articles”. These are not simply new content, but content that has shown to be popular.

Very generally, the posts that were most popular could be easily divided into two groups. One was “latest news” (new ideas), made up of posts like this: Google to scan famous libraries. The other groups was made “old ideas reformed” (combinations or insights of known ideas), made up of posts like this: MT Plus Comment Spam Equals Dead Site.

Interestingly, very few of the popular posts had to do with daily personal issues that people (skeptics) relate to blogging: perhaps that is why people who don’t like blogging always complain by saying something like “I don’t want to read what somebody had for breakfast this morning!”.

So it’s all about ideas. It’s all about spreading ideas, recombining them to form even newer, bigger ideas. And on blogs that comes in the form of words (although podcasts are knocking on the door ready to come inside and tickle your ears).

Combining ideas (words), like this:

  1. power laws, weblogs, and inequality
  2. content, context, and users
  3. addiction, programming, and admittance
  4. Safari and Sherlock
  5. reading, writing, and the Web
  6. Elvis and authenticity
  7. faceted classification and wine
  8. CSS and tabs

Kurt Vonnegut wrote an essay called “How to Write with Style” in which he says, “If a sentence no matter how excellent does not illuminate my subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.”

Applied to blogs, this seems to fit very nicely: “If a blog post no matter how excellent does not illuminate my subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.”

Published: December 15th, 2004