(this was going to be a (series of) toot(s) but it got too waaay too long)

I enjoyed reading a blog post this morning, linked there from some other site. As I always do, I checked their other recent posts to see if I want to add them to my RSS feed service, and found one explaining why they’re moving to a hosted service:

  • their least favourite part of having a blog is dealing with email delivery
  • they might get more readers over there

This perplexed me for a moment, but is probably more common than I assumed. I have zero interest in email delivery of my blog posts - if you want to see posts from my main site as they’re available, it has RSS (filtered by tag if you want to be specific). This secondary site does appear to have a feed, but even I had to dig into the source to find it. To that other author, though, it was a significant aspect of their blogging experience.

That desire for “distribution”, along with the second point about “gaining readers” is, I think, the reason I’m disillusioned with so many people I previously enjoyed following - they’re making content solely “for the views” or “to go viral” as if that translates to anything useful. Bad content goes viral, too, and any viral content is viral for mere days anyway. I appreciate that freelance developers rely on networking to find work - I do, too - but I don’t believe there’s a dose-effect relationship between “number of views” and “job opportunities”, especially if the “views” are for a post that only exists for the sake of “the views”.

I’ve stopped following people who spend 3/4 of their posts complaining about their view count or how to “get more followers”. I write my posts mainly for an audience of 1 (future me) and because I hope things in there could be useful to other people if they pop up in search results later. I’d love if something I’ve written sparked a conversation with a reader, but I don’t think pushing my content on to more random screens will necessarily help with that.

I’ve seen developers I regularly followed (because they had interesting opinions or insights about things I am interested in) “go all in on content creation” which invariably meant silly faces in YouTube previews, making ‘reaction videos’ with 0 novel insights, and focussing on the controversial, because “views”. The content they previously made “because it was interesting to them” is way more interesting to viewers, and typically useful, too - it’s why I was following them. Maybe that’s me being naive, though - maybe that $20 from YouTube for their 20,000 views was an important part of their “brand”.

I’ve also seen a big rise in the “three paragraph blog post submitted to a post aggregator” style of blog. I help aggregate RWeekly because I believe it’s a useful contribution to people discovering interesting content, and that the human curation of it makes it a more valuable resource than an alternative (ad-supported) dump of all the posts. I’m seeing more and more posts with very little insight or information titled ‘exploring’ or ‘guide to’ which have one call to the function and an explanation of the arguments. Not more help than the help docs themselves, but hey, another post to share… views!

This mindset is probably part of why the web is filling up with AI-generated rubbish - it’s “easy” to make and potentially leads to “views”. But it’s still rubbish in the same way that the human-made “for the views” stuff is rubbish. It’s quantity over quality and I’m hardly the first to complain about it.

A very fair question would then be, “Jono, why are you writing and publishing and linking to this if not for ‘the views’?" and to that I would say that I’m actually interested in the discussion and am trying to initiate it. I have no interest in the readership counts of my posts. This would have been a handful of toots if it wasn’t so long. One feature of Mastodon I’m really enjoying is the lack of focus on the ‘like count’ of any posts - you can get to some of that data if you want, but otherwise it’s just a ‘star’ that you’ve either clicked or not clicked. I use it as a nod to the author to say “hey, I enjoyed this - thanks!” but not having an algorithm watching that and relying on it to promote a post is freeing. I’ve checked back in on Twitter occasionally and it’s almost all “for the views” content now, while over on Mastodon I’ve been enjoying regular updates of someone’s train journey across the USA, simply because I follow them.

Do other people find the ‘web’ going the same way? Am I just being naive? Would I get more responses to this if it had a cute cat picture? Or a vaguely relevant AI-generated header image? Or wrote something controversial? Have I gone about it all wrong and should I be providing email distribution of my new posts?