Andrew Sullivan is retiring from blogging, and so the net is having the very expected round of “blogging is dead” posts, as well as the rebuttal “don’t want to go on the cart!” posts.
Blogging is just as dead as email it: it’s something that occasionally makes for a pageview-generating article but has little substance or fact behind it. Ben Thompson nicely tears apart the idea and shows why all of these “.. is dead” pieces are generally wrong. As are “Apple killer”, “Killer app” and “I buried Paul” articles.
My view on this is that not only is blogging not dead, but Andrew Sullivan proved a financial model and made it work quite nicely. If he failed at anything — and that’s a big if — it was a lack of understanding of the grind of doing a writing endeavour on a daily basis as his setup required.
That’s a tough deal. While blogs work great as single-author publications when they’re small and informal, when you try to build them out and set formal deliverables, you need to be aware of just how much work you’re setting yourself up for, and organize the publication structure to make that manageable.
I never would have considered doing what Sullivan did solo. That he did it for so long says a lot and I don’t think he’s getting much credit for that. Publications — and authors — also go stale over time, and need to take a break, or reinvent themselves and take on new challenges. Sullivan could have done either, but I think at the core he felt he’d said what he wanted to say (for now), and it was a good time to find a reason to gracefully wind it down.
If I were to try to build something like Sullivan did (god help me), I wouldn’t have done it solo; two, maybe three similarly-viewed but not identical people sharing the load makes it a lot easier on everyone and makes it possible to cover for vacations, illnesses, childbirths, and that occasional day where everything that comes out of the keyboard is unmitigated drivel and crap.
Sullivan’s did something that many of us look up to as a goal and an model, and for that, I had to say “thanks”. Here’s hoping his retirement is invigorating, and shorter than he currently expects it to be…
Marco is not a platform — I listened to Marco talk about not answering support emails on ATP 102, and he gave a great explanation why answering those emails individually is a lousy use of his time. He’s absolutely right, and if you’ve ever wondered about the realities of being a small operation where lots of people want small amounts of your time, this is a good podcast to try.
That said, as I listened to it, as someone who’s designed support systems in the past, I think there are some things he can do to better set expectations for his users — without falling down the rabbit hole of infinite email syndrome.
He noted that he tries to set expectations in the app about contacting him in the first place, and he does, but the problem is that most of the users contacting him are already motivated to send him an email and my expectation is they gloss right over all of that and get right to the email. They aren’t really reading that stuff, or they wouldn’t email him. So my suggestion would be to put an auto-responder on the email that reinforces what the app is saying. That does two things: (1) it reinforces that expectation that the email will be read but not responded, but also (2) it sends confirmation that the email was actually received. Black holes create stress because you aren’t sure, and email itself is just unreliable enough that you can’t assume it was received but not responded to. An auto-responder closes that loop, and they might not LIKE the expectation being set, but it will help set it and get closure. Leaving the email unresponded in any way leaves the sender with the nagging “did he get it? will I ever get an answer?” and that’s a little bit of stress neither side needs. An auto-responder gives that closure.
(Looking for the photography content? It’s now over on my Photography site.)