Thursday, November 3, 2011

Blog Post Length

Lately I've been writing a lot of posts and really long posts.

Sometimes I start to think that a shorter post format would be more accessible to readers. I don't have a good sense of how people read the posts on this blog, how much of a post they actually read, and how much they think about it.

On the other hand, the post length reflects a certain natural, self-contained progression of an idea that I want the post to encompass, and I don't think it would be easy for me to make my posts much shorter without cutting out essential ideas. And the post frequency reflects the degree to which I feel inspired to write.

What do you think? How much of my posts do you read? Does it vary by the post? Does writing more often make it more or less likely for you to actually read posts?


  1. I think it all honestly depends on several items. While a lot of people might be intimidated for a post that would take 30+ seconds to even scroll across, long doesn't always mean bad. It all depends on if the person likes the content of the post. If you are writing about peanuts someone with nut allergies might not bother to read the post even if it is quite short. But if you are writing about Norse Mythology and the person reading is a huge enthusiast in pagan religions the person might read an incredibly lengthy post with no qualms.

    In direct relation to your blog, lately you have been writing a lot about Herbal teas, and while I did not find the posts all that long, I often did not read the entire posts or just skimmed most of the post. That is not against you or your writing, but rather the fact that I am not that big of a fan of Herbal teas. Although I did enjoy the section of Biodiversity in the last post.

  2. That makes a lot of sense...there are definitely some blogs I subscribe to that post on multiple topics, where I'm only really interested in certain topics.

    I'm glad you liked the section about biodiveristy. One of my main intentions of this blog is to use tea and herbs as a launching-off point for talking about ecological issues. I think a lot of people see ecology either through the political lens (which is unfortunate), or they see the science of it as being a bit inaccessible, perhaps due to the fact that our educational system focuses on microbiology, chemistry, and other reductionistic sciences that don't lend themselves particularly well to deep or intuitive understanding of ecological concepts.

    One of my goals in this blog is to show that ecology is all around us, it's part of the very fabric of life, and we learn about it in such simple ways as asking where your tea comes from, and looking at the plants and animals around us in our daily lives.

  3. Whether I read a blog post or not to the end, depends on content rather than length. Although sometimes, when blog posts are too short, I'm disappointed and feel like the writer hasn't put enough effort into it, and just wanted to churn out yet another post. So, in those cases I don't really feel inspired to comment.
    Some very long but interesting blog posts are cast aside "for the moment" until I have enough time and concentration to read them. Occasionally I then forget, unless I'm reminded. That's the drawback of a very lengthy post.
    However, the bottom line is, if you raise points that really speak to me, I will read every single word, even if it's long!
    I'm not really big on herbals, so I don't read those so much either, but I absolutely love all your posts which discuss the social aspect of tea whether in connection with the people who drink it, or the bloggers who write about it, the pluckers who pick it, or the companies who sell it, or the networks we use to communicate. Customs, habits, ethics, business practices: fascinating. Add to that, any post that asks questions, other writers might not. Always interesting to read articles written with a different or new perspective. You are a thinking man dear Alex, and that's why I really enjoy your posts!

  4. Thanks! I've definitely noticed that there are different subsets of readers of my blog, who tend to comment on different sorts of posts.

    I do like thinking, and asking questions; I think those are two of my favorite things to do in life!

  5. My partner's comments on most of my blogs is, "too long, too much non-image contents!" I am thinking of cutting some future blogs in separate posts so that each section ends before the reader is bored.

    But I could be annoyed by some very short blogs or magazine articles. It seems a trend in Hong Kong (but I am not sure if the trend started there) that some magazine/newspaper columns are extremely short. The rationale is, modern readers don't have time to read, and the author is paid by per character rate. Many of such column essays end up just fillers. I don't like such a calculated way of writing. But of course, the real concise, Hemingway style of shortness is always appreciated!

  6. I love your blog, Gingko, and personally, I'd keep it as-is.

    I actually don't like when bloggers split posts into sections, because then it's hard to reference the whole unit with a single URL.

    When bloggers write long, detailed posts, like yours, I am much more likely to revisit them later. For example, I was writing an article about Taiping hou kui the other day, and I recalled you had written about it so I used google to locate that post and re-read it...this time more thoroughly.

    I also am more likely to refer other people to a blog post if it's long, and I think, to reference it or link to it from my blog. Very rarely I will link to blog posts from the articles on (I usually avoid using blogs and other self-published pages as sources but I think they're useful for sourcing more subjective things like how a blog tastes).

    I agree with you too that there's a big difference between shortness and true conciseness. The problem I have, making my writing concise is extremely time-consuming, and I wouldn't have time to write as many posts or cover as many topics if I made the writing more concise.

    And on some level, I also don't think the most concise styles of writing are best for the blog format...blogs are a little less like scholarly articles and a little more like a personal journal or a conversation. I often find that a casual tone gives them a more personal touch, which makes them easier to read and also helps me to really get to know the writer.

  7. Alex, thank you for your kind comments on my blog! I also think blog is a very unique way of writing. On one hand, it's very public - if nobody reads it, I probably would lose interest in writing. On the other hand, it's more personal than other formal writings such as magazine columns. To a large degree, blogging is a way of free writing for me. Just like you said, it's somewhat like personal journal and casual conversation!

  8. I think, as you mentioned, a blog is a very personal thing. You have a readership for a reason, and that reason is your writing style and content. The fact you have a readership is a testament to your blog, so I think just keep doing what you're doing, as you're doing a great job.

    I personally think what I choose to read on blogs will vary wildly, depending on how much time I have. Although if there is a certain blog that I know already fits my interest groups, but I'm not really 'feeling' reading a long post at the moment, I'll come back later to read the longer posts, and maybe just have a look at the shorter posts for the time being.

    In short - keep doing what you're doing!! ^-^

  9. This is a really interesting discussion! I like what Adam and Jackie have to say about personal interests and new perspectives, and I want to dovetail on something Gingko and you've mentioned, vis-a-vis style and storytelling. I'd also like to bring ADD into the mix.

    I've learned A LOT about storytelling from my partner, an avid book blogger, for whom literature is kind of a spiritual path. I'm pretty sure I can imagine what she would bring up in a conversation like this, and I'll try to do the idea justice on her behalf:

    Even if the subject of an entry isn't of personal interest to me, I find that the style, tone, and other storytelling techniques employed by the author can make the post totally compelling. Many episodes of This American Life — to me, anyway — really embody the strength of good storytelling. I sometimes find myself actively surprised at how completely involved I've become, even with a theme I had supposed myself more or less indifferent to. It's fascinating to observe, and wonderful to experience.

    My other point is about Attention Deficit Disorder. A bit of background: People with ADD are often thought of as having a lack of attention; the condition's name even suggests that. However, in many cases (mine included), it's more that we have trouble regulating our attention — focussing on what we want, when we want.

    Because of that, I find it useful to check in with my ability to focus, as well as my ability to stop focussing and leave off tasks when necessary (like, if it's 3:00 p.m. and I haven't had lunch yet). I find there are some activities (you could call them practices) which increase, and some which decrease, my capacity for focus.

    Sadly, many of the Internet habits I've developed over the years fall solidly into the "decrease" category. And I suspect I'm not unique, either in the fact that I slide into patterns of multilinked-, multitasking-, multiple browser tab-fueled distraction in the first place, or in the fact that working that way for any amount of time has a negative impact my attentional capacity.

    On the other hand, getting well and truly engrossed in something which requires, and rewards, attentional regulation — a prolonged period of reading, say — tends to help me extend and, well, *focus* my focus.

    So, this little unscientific, ongoing experiment of mine has tinged my passion for all kinds of well-written, in-depth explorations with an almost moralistic fervor. I've developed a notion that the well-explored thought — whether expressed in writing, chased down through dialogue, sculpted in clay, or otherwise — could have real, positive, large-scale social ramifications. (I guess this kind of ties in with the Long Now Foundation's ideas, and probably a lot the ideas behind certain meditative practices.) So I say, if the idea merits the words, use them! Tell the story! (But this could be the advice of a fanatical crackpot. :)