Weblogs and Why I Read Them

I really like Jakob Nielsen’s article on “Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes”. Mainly because it has reminded me that blogs are actually web-sites. That sounds silly but I don’t read blogs on a web browser but through an aggregator. The only time I’ve looked on the web at some of the blogs I read has been to find the RSS feed.

I’m not going to redesign my blog based on his guidelines because I don’t write this blog for a wide audience. I don’t really expect it to be read by anyone other than people who know me. One of the issues he talks about is trust and the problems that new readers face in trusting what has been written on the blog. He suggests having biographical information on the blog about the author and also having a picture of the author. Neither of these things would make me trust an author. I’m not even sure that it would make me think that the site was more credible.

I’ve taken a look at the blogs I read to try to work out why I read them. I have them divided into three main categories. The first of these are “work” blogs. I have to read these or I wouldn’t be able to work from home effectively. Then I have a category for “people I know”. I read lots of blogs just to help me feel connected to people who don’t live close to me anymore or to keep up to date with what’s happening to a variety of people in the Perl community who I only get to see at various conferences and events during the year. It doesn’t matter to me if their writing isn’t well structured or if they like to give their blog posts strange non-descriptive titles like “Skadi, a muse by my side, a bride at my feet, a skate through obsession”.

The third category is “people I don’t know”. Why do I read these blogs?

I read these blogs because they have been recommended to me by people I trust. It’s not that I trust the authors of the new blogs but that I trust the opinions of the people who recommended them. One of the blogs in this category belongs to Simon Willison. I only started to read this blog because Tony linked to it at some point in the past. I knew nothing about Simon other than the posts he made. I didn’t recognise him when I met him at EuroOSCON and it was only when he posted “Things I learned at EuroOSCON” to his blog that I made the connection. Once I’ve had a blog in my aggregator for a while I make the decision to keep it or not based on whether or not I want to read it – at that point other bloggers opinions don’t matter.

So trust, when I first read a blog, isn’t about how well a site is designed or how much information I can find out about the author. It’s all about the other bloggers who recommend the site and the other people who take note of the opinions found in it.

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