Or do I need to work on my expectations?
(Last-minute edit before scheduled publish: A few minutes ago, someone at Lifehacker just recommended one of my posts and re-followed me for that blog, re-instating me back out of the greys again after many months in exile. Thank you so much! If you see this, please do not take offense at the following. It has been lingering in draft form for quite a while. Maybe you’re way ahead of me on this after all.)
I follow certain blogs because those topics interest me. I like Jalopnik because I like cars. I like Gizmodo because I like gadgets. I like Lifehacker because I like finding ways to improve my life.
Back when Kinja allowed you to “follow” blogs, I added all 3 of these to my list. Sadly, the “follow” feature is now gone from blogs, but luckily they still get delivered to my Kinja Dashboard so that I don’t have to use a RSS feeder. But it’s happening quite a bit now that I’m being sent posts regarding topics that I never signed up for.
Granted, these blogs are multi-faceted. Jalopnik is not just about cars, but about motorcycles and airplanes and transportation in general. Gizmodo is not just about electronic gadgets, but about technology and design too. And Lifehacker is not just about self-improvement, but about DIY, how-to, and creatively hacking things to make life easier and more pleasant. These aren’t even stretches, they’re completely topical, and I accept those broad definitions.
But sometimes an article comes way out of left field. It was particularly heavy last year as Gizmodo became flooded with political posts. It was also right around the time that Gawker was shut down, and it felt like someone had decided to take whichever remaining GMG blog had the most traffic, and spam it with posts that were sure to get even more clicks.
Word on the street is that this was a way for Gawker writers to keep their jobs after the shutdown. Alas, all these off-topic posts feel like someone who lost their job at Taco Bell, and was now cooking burritos at KFC. And that KFC hasn’t changed their menu to let customers know what they’re offering. Who comes to KFC for burritos?
I’ve yet to see any “mission statement” announcing that Gizmodo would be “changing their menu”, but their Wikipedia article now claims:
Gizmodo... is a design, technology, science and science fiction website that also features articles on politics.
Huh. Yeah, the science fiction aspect makes sense, as things like Star Trek have a genuine influence on modern technology. It’s not too much of a stretch. And science in general does have some overlap, too. But admitting that Gizmodo is now legitimately a politics blog is a tough pill to swallow, I have to admit. I can’t find a good way to explain how that is technically relevant. Is everything that happens through Twitter tech news?
But seriously, if Gizmodo is officially a politics blog too, then I have to change my expectations and accept that, won’t I? So, are there any other expectations that I need to work on? Politics isn’t the only non-tech type of thing that they post about. Some posts are only barely relevant. Kind of a “I went on the internet and I found this” share of a viral video that is only tech-related because somebody shared it on Facebook. Please tell me that there’s a way to make sense of it, and that it’s not just for clicks.
I’m trying. I really am. I want to still like Gizmodo, but sometimes I feel like I just need to go find another tech blog. And that makes me sad. Kinja, for all its faults, is still one of the best commenting platforms on the web. I think that Kinja will let me “un-follow” Gizmodo from my Dashboard feed, but that would be permanent, wouldn’t it? I won’t be able to re-follow later if I change my mind, any more than I can add new blogs to my feed.
The obvious answer, as you’ll find in any of these posts’ comment sections, is “then don’t click on it”. But that’s overlooking the whole point. You have to read the article before you can confirm that it’s truly off-topic. For example, an article may start out talking about something like climate change, and end with news about some kind of technology that can help. The fact that the article is posted to a blog of a certain theme implies that it’s somehow relevant. And readers like me what to know about it.
I’m encountering the same issues reading Lifehacker. Again, no mission statement, but according to Wikipedia:
Lifehacker is a weblog about life hacks and software... The blog posts cover a wide range of topics including: Microsoft Windows, Mac, Linux programs, iOS and Android, as well as general life tips and tricks... The Lifehacker motto is “Tips, tricks, and downloads for getting things done.”
But then I see posts on there and I can’t tell if they’re just trying to get clicks, or if authors are abusing the site by posting whatever interests them (like Rick and Morty) instead of posting to their personal blog. I mean, I enjoy R&M, too, but why not at least try to make it relevant? Imagine all the io9 and AVC readers that are missing out because it somehow got published on Lifehacker instead.
I was particularly disappointed to see that this morning’s “It’s No Better to Be Safe Than Sorry” article wasn’t a meditation on safety vs regret. The song reference would have made a clever title, as well as an easy way to come up with a thumbnail for the post. I was expecting to read about a lifehack of some sort, and came away feeling like I fell for clickbait.
Last week, Lifehacker also posted an announcement that Netflix was raising its prices. ONE MINUTE LATER the same news was published by someone on Gizmodo. Guess which one got more clicks and generated more feedback?
It makes me wonder about the relationship between blogs. Are they not all co-workers, under GMG? Can they not simply grant each other authorship to one another’s blogs and publish each post where it fits best?
I tried to ask about this, and on one occasion I got kicked back into to the perma-greys on Lifehacker without warning. On another occasion, I sent an e-mail and received a rude reply. (To be fair, that was probably a response to my own e-mail in which I was trying to make a concise point, and wound up using the phrase “wasn’t much of a lifehack”. Oops.)
I don’t hate the authors at all, or the blogs themselves. Even though I am filing this post to “rants”, I’m really more irritated than angry. I can only hope that in the off-chance that someone at GMG happened to read this, that they would take it as constructive criticism, and not some kind of attack. (Please don’t be so thin-skinned as to delete my account.)
In recent months, we’ve seen the addition of main blogs Splinter and Earther. (Finally, a go-to spot for climate change posts on Kinja!) Exciting stuff, if used appropriately. Because of course climate change interests me. I’m interested in what’s going on in government, too. But does it belong on Gizmodo?
GMG has a pretty good assortment of blogs and sub-blogs now. I feel like a little organization and cooperation would go a long way towards enhancing blog quality and better reaching their target audience.