When I Stop Reading

I’ve been going through my RSS subscriptions this week, weeding out sites I don’t want to subscribe to anymore and adding a few new ones. I like to do this every six months or so, because otherwise my RSS becomes totally unwieldy, and I find myself not really reading the feed in the morning, but sort of skimming over it blindly without paying much attention.

This is the danger of RSS, I think, that because it’s so easy to subscribe to most sites these days, there’s a temptation to just load up with feeds, and in the end you find yourself not reading them, because there are just so many that it becomes overwhelming.

So I go through my RSS. I take out sites that I do not plan on reading ever again, and I also take out sites that I still like, but don’t need to read on a daily basis. And then my bloated Google Reader trims back down again, allowing me to actually focus when I read, and over the course of a few months, of course, it balloons back up again as I see neat sites and add them.

There are a couple of reasons why I stop reading sites. Sites that haven’t updated in forever usually get removed, just because I assume that they have gone stagnant, although I always wonder about what happens when a site just becomes totally inert, without notice. What happened to the author? Is everything ok? Was he or she forced to stop writing for some reason?

I also take sites off when I become bored with them. I’ve noticed of late that every time I start to get really into a site, it either stops being updated, or sells out, which is extremely annoying. So a site that I once loved either drops off the radar, or starts being filled with sponsored posts and advertisements and crap, and I just don’t have time for that kind of thing. I don’t do it on my site, and it’s kind of a point of pride with me that none of the content on this site is a sponsored post/advertisement/etc. Although I certainly do write posts about things I like to encourage people to try them, I don’t get any special treatment or compensation for writing them. While I understand that some people and organizations do choose to blog for profit, I choose not to read them, because I feel that it inherently compromises them, and perhaps this is a topic for a more extended post in the future.

Even if a site doesn’t sell out, sometimes it becomes twisted from its original values, which either disappoints me or causes me to lose interest, and I think that’s a problem that happens to a lot of sites. People evolve over the years, of course, and so do their websites, so it’s only natural that our interests should diverge at some point. Heck, looking through my own archives, I find a slew of posts that puzzle, embarrass, or confuse me, although I leave them up because I believe in maintaining the integrity of the site as a whole. (For the record, I have deleted two posts from this site: one was a status update which I felt didn’t need to live in posterity forever, and the other, which I regret deleting, was removed at the request of a company I worked for. I was young and naive then, and not really aware of my rights or willing to stand up for them.)

I also stop reading sites when they do things which annoy me, either because they are just generally irritating, or because I find them to be in conflict with my personal values. Sites which do things like making it really hard to comment would fall under the annoying category, while sites which do things like constantly revising their history to make themselves look better would be considered the latter. And, again, that’s a matter of personal choice; sites which are poorly designed or crappy can choose to carry on, and I can decide to stop reading them, so it’s all good.

It seems that the blogging craze is finally starting to slow, with less new blogs being created each year, and more and more going dormant. It’s interesting, to me, to see which sites survive and which ones don’t, and the ways in which sites change. I assume that anthropologists somewhere are making a thorough study of the world of new media and blogging, because it seems like it would be a fruitful thing to explore.

When I think about the reasons I stop reading sites, it makes me wonder about the reasons I continue reading others, and about the sites that seem to have long-term staying power. It makes me wonder why bad sites become incredibly popular, and why others remain in obscurity for years with a limited readership. There’s some sort of magical equation there, but I’m not sure what it is, although I suspect it has something to do with the complex and very incestuous network in the blogging community. While I might envy sites with a huge and very active readership, in a way I’m glad to be outside of that network and all of the attending drama and nepotism, and I note that almost none of the sites I read on a regular basis are inside the super-elite-insiders network of bloggers, which I think says something. About them or me, I’m not sure.

So, what makes you decide to stop reading a site? Have you ever stopped reading a site and then forgiven it and decided to come back? If you blog, what do you think contributes to the staying power of a site? Have you ever fallen in love with a site, only to have it mysteriously disappear?