Saturday, September 03, 2016

The demise of the personal technical blog

No, it's not about mine, although this blog has had its ups and down. What I want to talk about is the list of blogs I am following and how it (d)evolved.

When I was an enthusiastic beginner in software development I was hunting for interesting blogs that would give me valuable insights into the minds of good developers, the quirks of frameworks, the hidden tools and processes that would make my life better. I was adding blog after blog to my RSS list. Later on, I kind of stopped. I had things to do, work to be done and unfortunately went through some jobs that were not conducive to learning. Perhaps seeing myself as an expert also hindered enthusiasm in learning (note to self: don't do that!). The obsolescence of the tool I was using to read RSS with and the death of Google Reader also did not help. So recently I just went back to that list of blogs and started organizing it with a new tool. I use Feedly now, in case you were wondering.

Today I had an epiphany. I have over 150 blogs that I am "following", 100 of which are software related, yet only very few of them are actually spewing content anymore. In my three year hiatus from blog reading most of the technical blogs just ... stopped. Some of them just plain vanished, complete with content that I had linked to in my own articles. At that time I was considering blogs as permanent as you can get. I mean people just write stuff for the heck of it, so others can read and learn. There would be no reason for any of this to disappear - there are still pages from 1990 active on the Internet, for crying out loud! So what happened?

One theory is that blogs were created as representations of a person's evolution. For example you are a good WPF programmer and you create something like Dr. WPF's blog. When you stop doing WPF (because Microsoft dropped the ball with it!) you stop writing. Perhaps the author still blogs in other places, other blogs that are thematic, I don't know. Another theory is that people just blog at a certain stage in their life; it's like a quarter-life crisis. When they mature, people stop blogging (which says something...). Maybe the social media explosion pushed people away from personalized platforms and they do all their publishing on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Medium and so on. As the IT industry moves at an ever increasing pace, the blogs may turn into antiquated relics that are obsolete by the time several posts have been published.

I feel sad either way. When I started blogging, people would come to me for help. After all I started the site years before StackOverflow arrived on the scene. I would write about programming, books, anime, life, personal ideas, jokes, space, science, rants, whatever. It happened several times that I was looking for a solution to a problem and found myself explaining it in an older post. People still praise some posts because they refer technology that is maybe a decade old. Others for getting the full picture on how I got to the end result. So for all these vanishing blogs, I feel a sense of loss for all the knowledge that was lost, for all the voices that turned silent.

I know that as a blog dies ten others appear, but there is no sense of origin anymore, no chronological timeline of the evolution of the person writing. I can even go down the "they are not making them like they used to" road. For me a blog would have functioned as a sort of resumé of someones's work. If I liked an article, I would look at others, maybe subscribe. This way I would be connected not with a concept, but with a person: as they grew, I grew. And SEO be damned, I don't care people don't discover my blog anymore because Google can't make up its mind on what I am actually writing about. When people do come, they see me, not just disparate out of context solutions to their 5 minute problems.

So I wrote this article to express my sorrow. I guess that I miss my friends, even if they never knew me.