Some new books from authors I love have come out recently, but they’ve yet to be picked up as I continue reading with great fascination, interest and, at moments, concern about what life with screens means. (If Emily Posted this Friday will be about some of the tools I’m using to make for mindful screen(s) time in 2013.)

Once upon a time, in our lifetimes, computers were where we wrote papers and letters and printed up dot matrix birthday banners. But, I digress and date myself.

I love what the web has opened up for us, and particularly in the blogosphere, I appreciate and enjoy the unique community it creates. A whole wide world made closer via a web that narrows it all.

My friend Morgan, of The 818, wrote a really great post on her blog yesterday that touched on one of the very things I am becoming increasingly aware of in my pursuit of mindful screen time: the way we think about what we receive online.

She writes about the truncated RSS feed and the various reasons she uses it. I do, too. There are so many reasons someone can choose to do this and some who do it without knowing why. They just click the button in their dashboard.

Here’s my take on it. The blogosphere is extraordinarily unique. Different from any form of writing I have ever done in my 16 years as a working writer. No matter how surface or deeply personal the subject, bloggers are writing for themselves. And the reaction they receive, be it via traffic numbers or comments, is validation. And validation is something we all need in some form.

As users, we take so much for granted online. We get so much information/inspiration/education/sustenance for free from the 1%.

The 1% known as the 1% percent before what we now consider the 1% – creators.

“It’s an emerging rule of thumb that suggests that if you get a group of 100 people online then one will create content, 10 will “interact” with it (commenting or offering improvements) and the other 89 will just view it.” – The Guardian, July 2006

(I need to do some research for more data, but I don’t believe the ratio has changed much. In fact, the surge in blogs and the degree with which people share via other SM platforms, makes me believe that the lurker numbers are higher and contributor/commentors are lower than 7 years ago. I’ll have to see what I can find beyond the anecdotal.)

I don’t think it’s bad if people don’t want to read blogs that they can’t view in full in an RSS feed, but I do think it’s important that they understand the many reasons why doing so isn’t really supporting creators. Sometimes that support can be financial. All times that support is emotional.

We skim rather than deep read online. That’s the nature of the beast. But the impatience, the skimming life, I watch how it bleeds over into the real world. Impatience grows. People complain when there isn’t a twitter handle to complain to. When a restaurant doesn’t have a website. When they can’t get what they want as soon as they want it.

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but I don’t like the direction this is heading. I don’t like that blog reading via Reader breaks a certain connection I believe it creates between blogger and reader. Reader with a lowercase r. But I do love that a Reader or RSS feed allows people to keep up with when someone has posted new content. It’s like hearing the mail truck drive away. You know the post has arrived. Now you have to go and get it.

Again, check out Morgan’s post. It’s good food for thought.


10 thoughts on “Free With Validation: The Blogger-Reader Connection

  1. Ryann

    I hate only reading blogs through RSS Feeds, even though thats the way I do it most of the time. In the RSS feed you lose a bit of the blog itself. I feel like a lot of blogs have layouts and overall design that are part of the aesthetic of the blog or the individual post. The RSS feeds take away a lot of layout decisions that author intended. I’m always amazed at how a blog post will look on my actual site vs. RSS. RSS lets me gobble up a lot of blogs, but never really connect or comprehend, everything fades into the next. I might have to re-think my relationship with RSS and how many blogs I’m attempting to follow.

    1. alexandra Post author

      I am a visual person and agree that reading a post outside the actual site changes the experience very much. Mobile sites aren’t always perfect, but they do bring us in closer proximity. What you say about the way “things fade into the next” is a real issue I’ve struggled with (and know I’m not alone).

      If we aren’t giving our brains the chance to fully absorb information, how are we changing our ability to focus when we’re no longer staring at screens? It seeps into all areas of life.

      On a side note, I love your site! I can’t imagine viewing it in any other format.

      1. Ryann

        After reading this I took some time and went through my RSS feeds and removed a few blogs. I was following way too many, there was no way I was going to engage with all of them. Now that I’ve cleaned it out, it’s a managable number that I can stay on top of. It’s only been a day, but I find myself having time to read and click through, unlike before when I was just power scanning.

  2. annabelvita

    I click through to blogs every time if I already “know” them and really like them, but I find it harder to get to know a new blog that way. (I read through byline on my iphone, and I’m more likely to just “mark as read” a truncated post unless it really jumps out at me.

    For my own blog, I wish there was an option that gives RSS subscribers full feed for, say, a month and then truncates it.

  3. Morgan (The818)

    I’m so torn after starting this conversation on my blog. The responses I’ve gotten on twitter and in comments have made me consider new reasons to un-truncate the RSS — before it felt black and white to me; I write, you click, but now I’m starting to wonder if restricting access is dialing down interaction with readers who can only consume content via reader (at work, on mobile, etc.)… Not using a reader myself it’s a hard one for me to wrap my head around.

    1. alexandra Post author

      I think the conversation is a good one, and I think we each have different reasons for the truncated feed, which doesn’t mean we have to have it or not. But I personally think that the blogger/reader connection needs a home on a blog. Or at least, feels most connected in that space.

      I don’t use a reader either, but do often read from my phone or tablet. Good food for thought.

  4. Heidi O.

    Timely subject… I admit, I didn’t know what Truncate was until I read Morgan’s post. I am very ignorant about this subject for a blogger, but this is something I’ve thought about a lot lately.

    I completely hear you on the impatience factor. I currently don’t have my iphone, it’s in the shop, and I really good without it. Not a slave to checking my email, Instagramming, etc… I am actually thinking about canceling my contract and getting a pay-as-you-go for emergencies. I want to ENGAGE with real people when I’m out. But I love my online peeps.

    Anyway, 2 different things here.

    1. alexandra Post author

      Heidi, it is such a complicated thing. I think that there are so many reasons for and against truncated a feed, and I think that there is no wrong answer. But I do find it a troubling reality that there is less engagement.

      I have a post up tomorrow with my new favorite tools for productivity. Tech that I believe improves tech for me. Some of it is via my phone. Go figure. 🙂

      1. Heidi O.

        Look forward to it! By the way. I am totally a clicker. I set up Google Reader but never use it because I just like to actually visit the blogs. It may not be every time a new posts goes up, but I will catch up.

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