Your blog: what type of publication or storage does it most resemble?

Deck post wrapped in spider's web, photo by Brian Henderson
Is this a web log post? Photo by Brian Henderson CC BY-NC 2.0

Blog technology is a remarkable tool that is used in hundreds of different ways. It’s old by internet standards but brand new and unprecedented in the history of publishing. With a single, simple process, anybody of any age in any place, with unknown qualifications and few skills can:

  • publish personally and independently
  • publish instantly in colour with great ease
  • publish to a potentially enormous worldwide audience
  • preserve an unlimited number of articles without a filing cabinet
  • categorise and organise their own articles
  • search for and find articles by topics
  • search for and find articles by date
  • instantly and publicly chat with readers
  • instantly and publicly chat with other writer-publishers
  • and more…

None of this was possible on paper (or papyrus or vellum or clay tiles or marble slabs). None of this was possible before computers and the web.

And that’s why the question of how people use their blogs interests me enormously. I gave a choice of eight publishing models.

Question 17. A blog is a publication channel that people use in many different ways. In your opinion, what sort of publication does your blog most closely resemble?

Bar graph: what your blog resembles most. Answers: journal:  28.45%, newsletter: 7.76%, magazine: 20.69%, opinion column: 18.10%, book: 3.45%, letter to friends: 12.93%, portfolio: 5.17%, record: 3.45%. Older Bloggers Survey 2018, writeintolife.com
Most older bloggers regard their blog as a journal, magazine, opinion column or letter to friends.

The shape-shifter blog

In this discussion, percentages are rounded.

Having gathered these results, I wonder even more at the odd nature of the blog as a force in modern culture.  It can be private, it can be public, it can shift between the two. It is simultaneously a publication channel, an interactive community meeting place, and an information management system. How different it is from anything that preceded it, and how swiftly we have adapted to its possibilities and accepted it as a fact of life. I wonder what changes in human sensibilities are occurring as a result.

Two of the answer choices (a journal or diary and a letter to friends) essentially compare a blog with a private document or a communication to a circle of friends — and 41% of respondents selected these. This is indeed a feature of personal blogs: that they are personal and semi-private in their content, yet they are usually published for all the world to read for free.

  • “My blogs do follow on from my longstanding journal writing. They tend to be very much based on my personal experience. It’s my favorite kind of writing.”

Two other answer choices (a magazine or opinion column) fall on the public end of the spectrum, comparing a blog with traditional news media. Some blogs are exactly that, and traditional news media typically include blogs by journalists. By contrast, our older bloggers are mostly independent, not sanctioned by any authority, and around 39% perceive their blog in this way.

A “newsletter” has a mix of private and public connotations. I see a newsletter as a collated or curated bundle of news relevant to a particular group: employees, club members, family-and-friends, or subscribers with an interest in a particular topic or event. But only about 8% of respondents saw their blog in this way.

A few respondents are producing a blog that is a book in serial form. These blogs have a clear goal and a clear role. Much has been written about this phenomenon.

About 9% of our older bloggers perceive their blog primarily as a way to organise and store information, comparing it with “an album or portfolio” or “a record or database.” While information management is ostensibly the goal, these blogs, like any other, can be public from the start, or be made public at any time.

You can’t nail down a personal blog

Participants found this a difficult question to answer. From the multi-choice responses we gain some insights about how older bloggers use their blogs, but many comments show that choosing a model from the print world just won’t work. A blog is a blog is a blog, with many possibilities, frequently running out of control, and never quite like anything else:

  • “Good question.  No one answer for me.”
  • “My blog is adequately described as a blog and doesn’t really resemble any of the above.”
  • “None of these really … educative articles on many subjects.”
  • “I selected magazine as it’s really a mixture of all of the above.”

  • “I was torn between answering ‘newsletter’ and ‘magazine.’ Some posts are more personal than others.”

  • “I intend that my blog is a repository for my experiences and responses to daily life.  It perhaps began as more of a journal but is now more like a letter.”

People find multiple uses for their personal blogs.

  • “I also publish poetry and comments and observations I have made on Facebook..and WRITE a monthly commentary.”
  • “It is turning out to be a combination of memoir and social commentary.
  • “Not quite an opinion column, more of a cultural commentary.”
  • “It covers more than one sort of publication including an album, and a book in serial form, but I also do reviews so it’s opinionative.”

  • “More than a journal though because I am doing gear lists and hope to do reviews in the future.”

  • “Some posts include opinion, address political/govt issues, are excerpts of bio for family, describe some of my activities, just writing for fun.”

  • “It can be several of these, depending on the post. A newsletter or letter to friends could also be answers to this.”

  • “I also use it to develop and share ideas and thinking.”

“Random thoughts” and “musings” are very common in blog titles and tags and descriptions. Many people see a blog as a place to write about whatever they happen to be thinking at the time:

  • It’s hard to say, given the random nature of my blog.
  • My blog is mostly random thoughts, observations, etc.

Sometimes readers influence the way a blog develops:

  • “I have tried the ‘tips’ or ‘best way’ type of blog posts and found that they do not attract much attention, particularly in dialogue form. What my readers and commenters tell me is that they like the glimpse into my life. Most of my commenters are American and from the UK although I have some others, too. They look at my ‘Canadian’ perspective and we share many similarities and differences through our mutual blogs.”

Feelings and benefits associated with blogging: Older Bloggers Survey

Pulsing heart with feelings: Not alone, 56 per cent, sense of purpose 67 per cent, satisfied 96 per cent, happy 80 per cent, relaxed 45 per cent, confident 58 per cent, "Na!" 3-4 per cent

Our Older Bloggers Survey probed the emotions aroused by the process and the community of blogging, and discovered very high levels of satisfaction and happiness. We also found a majority of participants appreciated certain benefits: contact with the outside world, new topics to think about, and challenges to achieve.

Pulsing heart with feelings: Not alone, 56 per cent, sense of purpose 67 per cent, satisfied 96 per cent, happy 80 per cent, relaxed 45 per cent, confident 58 per cent, "Na!" 3-4 per cent
What feelings do older bloggers get from blogging?

In Question 15, many of the older bloggers in our survey (40%) said that they enjoyed blogging. I wondered what other feelings were evoked by the activity of blogging.

Q. 16 What feelings do you get from the experience of publishing, reading, and commenting on blogs?

The great majority agree or strongly agree that blogging makes them feel satisfied and happy; more than half agree that blogging makes gives them a feeling of confidence, a sense of purpose, and a sense that they are not alone. Nearly half agree or strongly agree that blogging makes them feel relaxed. And a few don’t have any such feelings, often explaining why in their comments.

Let’s look at the results in a little more detail. All percentages are rounded, so they don’t always add up to 100%.

Blogging brings much satisfaction and happiness, and some relaxation

  • Blogging gives me a feeling of satisfaction: agree/strongly agree 96%, neutral 3%, disagree/strongly disagree 1%
  • Blogging makes me feel happy: agree/strongly agree 80%, neutral 17%, disagree or strongly disagree 3%

Satisfaction is an almost universal feeling among our bloggers, and I think that is an appropriate reward for the work we do. Satisfaction in this case is not just the result of a desire fulfilled; it’s a feeling we have earned, and perhaps a modest form of pride.

  • “Yes, a very satisfying occupation, sometimes takes a long time to get the links and photos in there.”
  • “I feel it helps with my writing skills and to satisfyingly communicate with others.”

  • “As a writer, blogging is a valid platform where I can be myself and not feel I am trying to ‘keep up’ with more ambitious, more successful writers. It is a pleasurable way of publishing my writing, without pressure to distribute or promote. Even if there is only one reader, I have achieved my aim of connecting, usually without judgement, review or any other agenda other than having expressed myself in writing, which is my joy.”

Happiness is much studied and pursued in the 21st century, and a hefty 80% of older bloggers agreed or strongly agreed that “blogging makes me feel happy”. That’s quite an extreme statement, compared with a feeling of satisfaction. And while 17% of older bloggers felt neutral about this statement, only a tiny handful of older bloggers actively disagreed.

  • “I love it!”

But does blogging make you feel relaxed? I was surprised to find that 45% of our older bloggers agreed or strongly agreed that for them, “Blogging makes me feel relaxed.” Almost as many (41%) felt neutral about the statement and 14% agreed or disagreed.

  • “I have to beware self-imposed pressure to keep up.”
  • “Aware can get carried away & need to break off.”

  • “Blogging helps to release my pent up emotions and give a relaxed feeling.”
  • “No matter how many times I do it, when I hit publish I feel a little anxious about what I’ve just said and how it’ll be received. I keep publishing despite that feeling.”

Blogging gives most older bloggers a sense of purpose

“Blogging gives me a sense of purpose” is a dramatic statement that drew 67% of our sample of older bloggers to agree or strongly agree with it. A sense of purpose is a powerful thing, credited by some researchers with improving wellness and even longevity. For some, publishing a blog is like a self-selected full time or part time job: they set high standards for themselves. The purpose for some is to promote a cause or topic (such as new economics or minimalist living or vegetarianism or gun control). For others, the purpose is the blog itself, or maintaining a blog community.

Just because a majority associate a blog with a sense of purpose doesn’t mean this feeling is universal. Many did not feel this way, with 29% feeling neutral about it. and 4% disagreeing.

Blogging gives older bloggers a sense of confidence

“Blogging gives me confidence.” With this statement, 58% of older bloggers agreed or disagreed. A large group (37%) felt neutral about it, and 5% disagreed.

This result is not surprising. There are many reasons why blogging would increase one’s confidence, from technical expertise to finding one’s voice.

  • “I feel competent.”
  • “I like how it gives me a voice–how it makes me feel heard in a wider arena and often validates me and my opinions and experiences.”
  • “I feel it helps with my writing skills and to satisfyingly communicate with others.”

Blogging helps many older bloggers to feel that they are not alone

“Blogging helps me feel that I am not alone”: this is another strong statement. It’s not a mild one like, “Blogging brings me new acquaintances.”

“Blogging helps me feel that I am not alone” implies that without blogging, sometimes the person might feel alone. Their isolation might perhaps be emotional, or physical, or political, or intellectual. To agree with this statement implies that blogging is an antidote to isolation or loneliness—at least occasionally.

In our survey of older bloggers, 56% agreed or strongly agreed with this statement, 38% felt neutral about it and only 5% disagreed or strongly disagreed.

This result strengthens the hypothesis that blogging can be a lifeline to the outer world, bringing support, acceptance, advice or just human company.

  • “Part of a world-wide community.”
  • “I feel connected to others outside my normal experience.”
  • “I love connecting with people in other countries. People are interesting and remote friendships are fun.”
  • “Although I wouldn’t ‘feel alone’ if I didn’t blog, I do greatly value the friends I’ve made blogging.”

Not everyone is in love with blogging: the outliers are honest

A healthy 14% actively disagreed with the idea that blogging made them feel relaxed. For all the other positive statements, 1–5% of respondents recorded their disagreement. No, blogging doesn’t make them feel satisfied, happy, purposeful, not alone, or confident. Their comments may explain why, filling out our view of older bloggers:

  • “None of this question applies.”
  • “It doesn’t do much for me—not enough focus or time spent on it.”
  • “I prefer to say it’s an enjoyable pastime.”

Some respondents explained feelings that were outside the range of the multi-choice questions:

  • “Reading interesting posts makes me feel engaged/interested/curious — and sets me exploring further.”
  • “I sound wishy-washy here, but it’s not about the blogging…and I don’t see my blogging as anything other than chatting to a friend on my phone…or having someone over for a cuppa and showing them my latest photos…”

Side benefits of blogging: social contact, mental stimulation, and a challenge to achieve

Just in case our questions had missed something crucial we asked one more question. The answers reinforced the main points that participants had already made.

side-benefits-of-blogging
Older bloggers appreciate certain bonuses of blogging: contact, achievement, and new thoughts.

In their comments, these older bloggers emphasised the mental benefits of blogging:

  • “Gives me a way to organize research, information and opinions.”
  • “One gets knowledge and opinions from fellow bloggers.”
  • “It does improve my analytical skills and my writing.”
  • “Sure gives the memory a workout.”
  • “Blogging helps me to think about things I wouldn’t normally think about at my job.”
  • “Improves my typing skills and photography, keeps my mind active.”
  • “Blogging improves ‘mindfulness’.”
  • “I learn new things and get ideas for future blogs or craft projects.”
  • “It keeps my mind active and I like to keep current with what’s going on in the world.”

Many comments were about the challenge to achieve:

  • “I find that having a blog challenges me to put my ideas on the line. Especially moving from education to sustainability issues later in life. I thought people might think, ‘who does she think she is, a big expert on sustainability now’, however people have not reacted like that so my fear was unfounded.”
  • “Blogging has led me to taking on challenges in the outside world including international travel and attending workshops and events locally.”
  • “Blogging challenges me to learn new things, e.g. technology, other social platforms, CSS, WP, photography.”
  • “Blogging gives me the chance to write out my opinions and thoughts, which helps me analyze and process events/feelings.”

And again, they emphasised the social aspect of blogging:

  • “I have encountered people I will never meet in person but whom I now consider friends — and have also met some bloggers ‘in real life’.”
  • “Keeps me in touch with others, admittedly new folks more than old.”

Summary:

Being old is not like being pregnant

Chocolate bunny with apple
Chocolate bunny with an apple: highly allegorical illustration for a poem about being not pregnant but elderly

Preparing for old age is scary
scarier than getting pregnant
twenty thousand miles from home.
Now my body has to face
the prospect of extreme old age.

What scares me most is the unknown
and so I study hard.
But hey, old age is not like pregnancy
One ends with life, one ends with death
and when I said I’m getting old,
nobody said to me, “How lovely!
Congratulations!
Is this your first old age?
When is it due?”

Oh no, they told me:
“You’re not old.
You’ll never be old.
I’ve never met anyone less old than you.
It’s all in the mind.
Age is just a number.
Try homeopathy.”

MP3 recording of this poem

Poem, photo and recording by Rachel McAlpine CC BY 2.0: free to share as long as you cite my name as author—please go ahead!

Motivation: why do older bloggers blog?

why-blog-web

In our survey of older bloggers we wanted to discover something about their motivation, rewards, and feelings around blogging. First we asked why they blog, and gave them the chance to choose several answers. 117 people answered this question.

Graph showing 16 reasons for blogging. Top choices creativity, social benefits and enjoyment. Older Bloggers Survey 2018 writeintolife.com
Why do older bloggers blog?

Any blogger may have several reasons for blogging. The three most popular reasons chosen by these older bloggers were “to express my creativity” (44%), “to connect with like-minded people” (42%) and “I just enjoy it” (40%). This result is reinforced if we realise that other options may combine both a creative motive and a social motive for blogging: “to entertain others”, “to share my passions”, “to share my knowledge”, and “to get feedback” all involve both creativity and sharing.

While we can see obvious trends here, even the least common reason may be highly significant to the person who checked it. All of these reasons are valid reasons. Let’s take a closer look at various trends.

1. The creative blogger

The expressor: man blogging to express his creativity
They blog to express their creativity

The number one motive older bloggers named for their blogging was “to express my creativity” (44%). Other reasons linked to creativity were ‘to get feedback’ (5%),  “to improve my writing” (25%),  and “to tell my story” (30%).

  • “Mostly I just feel like I need to get my thoughts into words, and if someone likes what I write, that’s a bonus.”
  • “I think I secretly have always wanted to be a writer.”
  • “I guess I represent my point of view and personal experiences to the world. Others may or may not feel some connection with some or all of them.”

  • “It’s all about just writing.”

  • “An outlet for more creative writing from my ongoing business writing as a marketing executive.”

  • “I like to take photographs. It seemed a waste to have them just sitting on my computer.”

2. The social blogger

Cartoon, The Socialiser: woman speaking to a motley audience
They blog to connect with like-minded people

The next most popular reason for blogging was “to connect with like-minded people” (42%). Numerous comments here (and elsewhere in the survey) emphasised the importance of the social benefits, for example:

  • “When blogs were ‘invented’ I instantly connected with the dialogue, the conversation that can occur.”
  • “I am amazed at the community blogging has created for me. This was an unexpected benefit of blogging.”
  • “To see who is out there.”
  • “Sharing my letters to my mother with my family and a few friends.”

  • “A regular letter to an old friend who lives far away. I have made new friends this way.”

Other answers suggest that there are quite a few sociable-creative bloggers in our group, who love to express themselves not alone but with an audience of peers: “to entertain others (20%)”, “to share my passions (30%)”, and “to get feedback”.

  • “I have recently made the decision to blog more often in order for my voice to be heard.”
  • “To express my views; enjoy connecting with others whether or not like-minded”

3. The cheerful blogger

Cartoon: Blogger who blogs because he enjoys it
They blog just because they enjoy it

“I just enjoy it.” This is not your usual answer to a survey question about motivation, but it occurred to me that among bloggers there may be people who can’t, or won’t, or just don’t analyse why they blog. Maybe the reason is too complicated or too simple. Maybe it keeps changing. Or maybe the enjoyment they derive from blogging overrides any other motivation.

People could choose three answers, so perhaps “I just enjoy it” may be just an afterthought for some. But for others, the enjoyment factor was paramount:

  • Blogging is fun. I travel a lot in my own country and want to share my experiences and encourage others to visit this amazing land.

  • I live alone, but I’m not lonely — but I have loved the Net since I was introduced to it in the late 1990s when I was required to email my column for a group I belonged to…been through many systems, but now it’s much easier and I just love to have this option at home…

Personal reflection: I was secretly delighted that 40% of respondents selected this answer. Surely at any age, the fact that you just enjoy a harmless activity such as blogging is reason enough to spend your time and energy on it. With advancing age, many people feel free to abandon an old hierarchy of hobbies, and to ignore a little voice that says <such and such an activity> is not worthwhile. As it turns out, our Older Bloggers Survey shows that most of the people blogging find it very worthwhile indeed.  

4. The teacher

Teacher teaching about her thing; cartoon by Rachel McAlpine
They blog to share their knowledge and passions

“To share my knowledge” and “to share my passions” were each chosen by approximately 30% of respondents, and comments gave more detail about those for whom teaching was part of their motivation.

  •  “I wanted to create a “safe” place to share my love of mobile devices.”
  • “To share passions and knowledge and attract recruits to the ideas.”
  • “I originally started writing from a more traditional view of ‘living sustainably’ and noticed how tricky I found it to change my habits and thought it might be helpful to share this so that others can see that it is not easy but we should try anyway, and that every change makes a difference.”
  • “I have taught and practised art. I obtained University degrees later in life. I write fiction and non-fiction. I love travel, and have visited many countries, and lived in a few with different cultures to my own. I believe I have something to share with others.”

 

5. The helper

Cartoon: the helper and the seeker of help
Sometimes the one who has struggled is the one who offers help

“To inspire or help others” drew 30% of responses.

Some comments showed that this motive may overlap with the 9% who said they blogged “to find support, therapy, or catharsis.” Perhaps this is because many bloggers have had their own struggles in the past, either with a disease such as depression or alcoholism, or a new venture or life situation. They decide tell their story in a blog in order to help others: thus the person who needed help at some point becomes the helper.

  • “I started to share my experience of depression, in the hope that it would help others, and mental health is still a core topic for me. But I share music too, plus other ramblings that come to mind.”
  • “Good therapy to write about my life.”
  • “For support. I’m an ‘elder orphan’.”
  • “I do it to help, but not inspire. Yuk!”

6. The entrepreneur

entrepreneurs-web

Among the older bloggers in our sample, 7% stated that one of their reasons for blogging was “to promote my business.” However, for this group of bloggers, not one cited “to make money” as a reason. For writers, “to self-publish” is a reason to blog, and this was chosen by 12%.

  • The main blog is my pottery business
  • I’d like subscribers to buy my book
  • Because I submit my writing to traditional publishers, I want to show through my blog that I have a platform of readers in place.

COMPARE WITH RECENT SURVEYS OF MARKETING BLOGS

 

7. The learner

learning_web

One motive that I hadn’t anticipated cropped up frequently in comments (and also in the next survey question): unprompted, six people cited learning or cognition as a reason for blogging.

  • “It allows me a reason to dig deep with research on something I’m interested in.”
  • “Blogging keeps one’s mind active in old age, hopefully delaying age-related dementia.”
  • “To learn … general, about the internet, people, places in the world …”
  • “Also to keep my brain active in retirement.”
  • “To learn from others is a big part of why I blog.”
  • Blogging is about keeping ME inspired. It provides the impetus to stay engaged, keep setting goals, keep feeding my curiosity. I didn’t want my days to drift aimlessly.  A blog about continuing to constantly challenge myself forces me to actually do exactly that!

The reason for blogging changes over time

Frequently in this survey, participants explained that the purpose or topic of their blog was something that evolved. Commenting on this particular question, they said:

  • “Started out as a diary for myself, friends and family. Became far more enjoyable when I started to treat it as a social network.”
  • “I used to blog to keep my writing sharp and to practice what I preached to my writing students. Then it became a way to document things in my life as well.”
  • “Historically I began to keep in touch with friends and family. Blogging has brought far more friends and taken me down byways I would never otherwise have travelled.”

  • “I started out writing a journal of our travels because I didn’t want to forget a special part of our retirement. When it was suggested that I should publish it I chose instead to blog as I wanted to see if anyone would read my musings.”
  • “I started blogging to practice writing, to promote a group I ran with my wife and to see about making money, but over the years it has changed.”

Summary: older bloggers blog for creative, social, pleasure-seeking, changeable and individual reasons

This small group of older bloggers tend to say they blog to express themselves, to connect with others, and just because they enjoy it. But their reasons change over time as their own lives change or perhaps they discover other aspects of blogging.

But there’s no such thing as a typical blogger, because each may have a distinct and idiosyncratic combination of reasons for what they do. For example:

  • “I like writing when I have summering to say. I also just like playing around with apps and gadgets. Creating a new blog on a new platform is fun, until you realise you have nothing to say.”
  • “I love to write. I never used to write into journals or [diaries] much and always wondered why. When blogs were ‘invented’ I instantly connected with the dialogue, the conversation that can occur. It inspires me to write more, both for myself and for others to read me.”

Please do share these reports in any way that suits you. And please tell me, and each other, what you think.

Text and cartoons by Rachel McAlpine CC BY 2.0.

How do older bloggers cope with the technical and physical problems of blogging? Very well, thank you!

Cartoon of two older people; one speech bubble says "Being human?", other says "That's WhY I'm blogging!"
Do older bloggers have problems blogging?

The older bloggers in our survey answered two questions about technological and management challenges of blogging, and physical problems that might hinder the ability to blog. Besides answering multichoice questions many participants commented thoughtfully on these two questions. Every comment helps to create a comprehensive picture, and is of value in itself.

Technical issues and finding readers were commonly seen as challenges, and in their comments, older bloggers raised a number of significant technical issues. I have found that whenever one person states a problem, chances are that it’s also a problem for others—and that’s surely true of these survey results.

Q. 13. Blogging can be challenging for some people. Please rate each statement below from 1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree.

In the list of results below, “agree” includes those who strongly agree, “disagree” includes those who strongly disagree.

  1. Technical issues with a blog can be a challenge: agree 47%, disagree 28%
  2. Deciding what to write about can be a challenge: agree 31%, disagree 51%
  3. Attracting readers can be a challenge: 60%, disagree 16%
  4. Choosing categories and tags can be a challenge: agree 26%, disagree 50%
  5. Commenting can be a challenge: agree 18%,  disagree 62%,
  6. Handling images can be a challenge: agree 22%, disagree 56%,
  7. Following correct blogging etiquette can be a challenge: agree 9%, disagree 47%
  8. Blogging does not hold any particular challenges: agree 29%, disagree 43%

The two challenges that stand out in these results are technical issues (which covers a very wide range of problems) and attracting readers.

Participants were asked to mention any other challenges associated with blogging. One group was very specific about technical challenges:

  • Accessibility of blogging platforms. “I am visually impaired, getting progressively worse. I have had to stop reading some blogs because of the interface.” (2)
  • Dealing with trolls or nasty responses (2)
  • “Maintaining confidentiality of third parties.”
  • “I really dislike blogs (and platforms) that make the reader jump through hoops just to leave a comment. I often decide not to leave a comment on those.”
  • “Blogger not sending comments thru to email since GDPR.”
  • “Phone app sometimes crashes.”
  • “I do not often use images for my writing but find it very challenging to upload internet pictures for my posts.”

Another group commented on management issues:

  • Getting help with technical questions. (2)
  • “WP.org and WP.com are confusing to me. I wish there was one place to go that would explain the differences.”
  • “Blogging from a device such as laptop and smart phone can be problematic. WordPress pages format is confusing (do you blog on the front page? Or on a page? Front page is quicker and more intuitive, but it means using the introduction page for website. Using a page for the blog appears to me to make that page too content heavy.”

Two comments refer to time management or life-work balance as challenges of blogging:

  • Lack of time, keeping up with the community  you become part of, finding the time to be regular, or “time and a sense of purpose” (7)
  • “The challenges I see with blogging is the momentum can build and you get into this vortex. For some it is hard to pull back. Another challenge is the social dynamics can creep in – because humans have moods and opinions and sometimes snarky and crabby moods stream in — part of life — but it can drain. So finding balance is a challenge.”

A few wry observations about the blogger’s own technical expertise:

  • “In fairness, I work in technology and I manage our company’s social media and website.”
  • “We may have different meanings for the word challenge.”
  • “I’ve been blogging for nearly 20 years so the other things are no longer challenges.”

And 4 bloggers said that the challenges were part of the enjoyment.

  • “I believe there will always be a challenge but that is good at times..makes me think.”
  • “I found it a steep learning curve when I began my blog but that is part of the enjoyment. I don’t (for the most part) see the challenges as negative.”
  • “I don’t feel there are any daunting challenges. It’s a learning process like most things that are worthwhile.”
  • “It is OK if you do it when you have something to say. Doesn’t take long to learn wordpress especially if you have someone helping that is an IT person.”

Q. 14. Any physical problems that prevent older people from blogging?

Well, sure older bloggers have problems! But I asked the wrong question, because these bloggers don’t let physical problems prevent them from blogging: they carry on blogging regardless. I should have asked whether physical problems impede or limit their blogging: my bad. As one respondent put it, “You mean, beyond being human?” Touche!

q14-physical-older-bloggers-web.jpg

These are some of the physical conditions that older bloggers cope with.

  • impaired vision (8%)
  • impaired hearing (5%)
  • low energy (7%)
  • problems with mobility (6%)
  • chronic pain (7%)

For this question, 48 older bloggers commented to complete the picture. Most of them simply confirmed that none of those problems prevented them from blogging.

On vision problems, for example:

  • “Larger and bolder print choices would be soooo useful.”
  • “I am color blind, which makes it difficult to read some blogs. If there is low contrast between the background color and the font. Also, blogs that use GIFs that are in motion are very difficult to read.”
  • “I’ve always had trouble with eye strain, but it is manageable.”

On problems with hearing:

  • “Disabilities of all kinds are probably all the more reason to get your voice out! I have two active blogs, one about my hearing loss which I don’t post to actively (that’s my secondary blog). Not enough time to do both actively although I could probably schedule myself to adhere to a better use of my time.”

It’s often lack of energy that actually limits the blogging of older people:

  • “The conditions do not prevent me from blogging, but have slowed down the number of posts I write.”
  • “These factors do not prevent me blogging, but do present challenges as to how often I can!”
  • “I do find it frustrating when energy levels prevent me from blogging when I would like to but I’m learning not to set expectations on how often I post.”

Various bloggers wrote about their lack of mobility or illness, especially the fact that they were obliged to spend too much time sitting, for example:

  • “Major hand/arm disabilities that cause me grief, but I know where the back space key is 🙂 If I’m out of sorts, then I may only make a short post like ‘am out of action’.”
  • “Currently I am recovering from knee replacement surgery. Obviously this hampers me, but, since I write about my day, whatever it is like, it is not insurmountable.”

  • “I sit more than I should since I work at a desk and now with blogging I’m sitting while at home more.”
  • “If I’m not feeling well I might skip blogging.”

Many respondents said their health issues were manageable. And yet again there are comments about the benefits of blogging — it’s not uncommon for older bloggers to see health problems as an opportunity or a indeed a reason to blog:

  • “If anything, blogging is a past-time that can bring creativity into your life while dealing with these conditions.”
  • “Having some health issues has seen me less physically active and has led me to blogging.”

Summary: coping, adapting, and longing for better accessibility

Respondents to the Older Bloggers Survey are in the main, older people who blog—not those who have given up blogging. They meet technical obstacles while blogging and on the whole they wish for more followers—and which is not necessarily because of their age. A minority checked questions about physical conditions that prevented them from blogging, but even so, showed that they could work around the problems.

Help please: older bloggers need accessibility now!

Cartoon of a crowd of older bloggers calling for accessibility, clarity, privacy, and help
Some older bloggers say they want accessibility, clarity, help.

WordPress is built with compliance to the fore and recommends various themes as accessible. However, legibility and visibility are frequently mentioned to me, and not just in this survey. I long to be able to recommend a WordPress theme for use in retirement homes and by isolated older people, a theme that is:

  1. fully accessible in every way for people with any sort of disability
  2. extremely simple and easy to use
  3. very limited in the choices that the blogger must make, to prevent confusion
  4. safe to recommend to isolated older people and their caregivers
  5. of course, clean and modern and mobile friendly.

If you know such a theme or are building one, please contact me. And please share this article if that will help.


Cartoon and text Rachel McAlpine CC BY 2.0

My boot camp for the bonus years

Pink felt slippers like jester's boots
Boots for the elderly boot camp

I gave myself one task per month to prepare
for the terrifying job of being old until I die.
I was confused, but I was committed.

  1. Adapt my housing for old age
  2. Get my finances in order
  3. Establish an exercise regime
  4. Audit my eating habits
  5. Commit to hobbies
  6. Make two new friends this year and every year
  7. Banish ye oldie voice
  8. Learn a new skill this year and every year
  9. Cultivate meditation
  10. is a terrible phrase: Align happiness factors
  11. Be who you are
  12. Come to terms with old age and death

That was the plan, you can call it obsessive
call it silly or selfish neurotic excessive
misguided or negative
but hey it was systematic
and a plan gives you power, a sense of control.
You can’t control death and it’s coming regardless
but you can get to grips in advance with small things
so you know
you can still be yourself and the boss of yourself
you’re getting the gist, keeping up with the play
making decisions and having a go—
all precious and familiar things
that slither away as you grow old.

Want to listen to this poem? Play the MP3

Poem and recording by Rachel McAlpine, CC BY 2.0

Historic data about bloggers: their age and choice of blogging platforms

Time Magazine cover: person of the year 2006 is "You. You control the Information Age."
Time Magazine cover: person of the year 2006 is “You. Yes, you. You control the Information Age.”

I’m continuously searching for data about older bloggers, and yesterday I discovered a 2006 study from the Pew Internet & American Life project titled Bloggers: A portrait of the internet’s new storytellers. Now, 2006 is 12 years ago. To an older person, that’s like yesterday, but in internet terms it’s a lifetime. Their findings are fascinating. (By the way, the Pew sample was 233 people, roughly comparable with our 220. and biased in some ways, as was ours.) Let me share a few surprises from this report.

1. Personal blogs were by far the most common in 2006

The Pew Internet Project blogger survey finds that the American blogosphere is dominated by those who use their blogs as personal journals. Most bloggers do not think of what they do as journalism. (Pew/Internet 2006)

So in 2006, the personal blog ruled. The topics analysed were as follows — and hey, no mention of travel or makeup or ageing:

  1. “my life and experiences” (37%)
  2. politics and government (11%)
  3. entertainment-related topics (7%)
  4. sports (6%)
  5. general news and current events (5%)
  6. business (5%)
  7. technology (4%)
  8. religion, spirituality or faith (2%)
  9. a specific hobby or a health problem or illness (each 1%).
  10. other topics: opinions, volunteering, education, photography, causes and passions, and organizations.

(Pew/Internet 2006)

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to know the distribution of blog topics in 2018? I can’t imagine how one would get this information, given that there are millions of blog posts every day, and a blog is not necessarily attached to any one platform such as wordpress.com or Facebook.

2. The blogging population in 2005–06 was young

The following demographic data comes from two surveys of internet users conducted in November-December 2005 and February-April 2006, and the sample (n=7,012) was much larger.

The most distinguishing characteristic of bloggers is their youth. More than half (54%) of bloggers are under the age of 30. (Pew/Internet 2006)

According to Sysomos, by 2010 the average age of bloggers may have been even younger; they found that 73.5% were under the age of 35. Does that mean that older bloggers are a small minority even now? If you can find any later statistics, please tell!

3. In 2006, 55% bloggers used a pseudonym

In our Older Bloggers Survey, roughly 12% included their full name or first name in the blog title. I’m not sure how many include their full name as part of the information they provide on their About Me page. So I can’t state how many of the older bloggers in our sample use a pseudonym without further research. I wonder what the facts are?

55% of bloggers blog under a pseudonym, and 46% blog under their own name. (Pew/Internet 2006)

4. In 2006, most bloggers spent less time blogging than they do today

This result from the Pew Internet study is confirmed by subsequent research into the general population of bloggers. As for the older bloggers in our 2018 sample,  only 28% spend 2 hours or less per week writing and publishing their blogs, 32% spend 3–4 hours per week — but exactly the same percentage (10%) spend ten hours or more on their blog.

59% of bloggers spend just one or two hours per week tending their blog. One in ten bloggers spend ten or more hours per week on their blog. (Pew/Internet 2006)

5. In 2006, bloggers cited very different blogging platforms

Pew/Internet asked bloggers what tools they used to build and display their blogs. Gaze on this snapshot of times past and wonder! Blogger: Blogspot are a bit like wordpress:org: wordpress.com (or vice versa—set me straight, somebody!). I guess “something else” included wordpress. So Squarespace existed in 2006? These platforms are still in use except for Microsoft FrontPage.

  1. LiveJournal (13%)
  2. MySpace (9%)
  3. Blogger (6%)
  4. Xanga (2%)
  5. FrontPage (2%)
  6. Typepad (2%)
  7. Blogspot (2%)
  8. Moveable Type (1%)
  9. Squarespace (1%)
  10. Something else (17%)
  11. Built own blogging software (2%)

Thanks to Pew/Internet for these insights into the world of early bloggers.

Image (c) Time Magazine copied under Fair Use provisions.