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« April 2008 »

Memo to Matt Richtel: NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

It is, unfortunately, a classic journalism formula. Take a statistical anomaly, add in heaps of rampant speculation, willful ignorance, and just a dash of ass-covering caveats before plowing ahead in service of a conclusion that, upon closer examination, makes no goddamned sense whatsoever. We've seen it before, we'll see it again, and we're seeing it now thanks to Matt Richtel of the New York Times and this amazing headline:

"In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop"

First the statistical anomaly: dead bloggers! Russell Shaw, age 60, heart attack. Marc Orchant, age 50, coronary. Om Malik, age 41,"survived a heart attack". Two deaths of middle-aged men, all suffered from circulatory failure, and all within a span of... um, five months, actually. I would sarcastically implore the news media to stop the presses, but it looks like the New York Times actually did.

Please. There are a shitload of blogs, and a shitload of 40- to 60-year-olds with clogged arteries. To justify an "is blogging deadly" premise, you'd have to engage in some shockingly wild speculation and leaps of logic, especially if you want to fill up a few dozen column-inches. Matt Richtel does not disappoint. Well, he disappoints, but not in that way. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion, and other maladies, born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always on as the Internet."

I can understand why Richtel would be concerned. He gets to produce for a news and information cycle once, maybe twice a week, and has to answer to editors who apparently think "that is as always on as the Internet" is a perfectly dandy way to end a fucking sentence. Compared to that, what I do here must seem as tough as coal mining, and commenting on Dell press releases at 2:00 a.m. on a Saturday? That's backflipping through a ring of fire on your pet unicorn.

Obligatory "My premise is bullshit but..." paragraph? Check. "To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic." It's very odd that sentences like this are not immediately followed by "...so clearly, I have no idea what I'm talking about, and should probably write about something else." But no. Instead, they're immediately followed by lots of circumstantial bullshit and padding. Like the lists of symptoms apparently suffered by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington:

"Mr. Arrington says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. 'At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.'"

I will admit, I'm a spoiled, pampered, first-worlder. But even I would feel embarrassed about bitching over some keyboard pudge, disrupted sleep, and arranging for office space for my business. How about this for a headline? "Bloggers, Mildly Inconvenienced, Still Would Not Work An Eight-Hour Factory Shift If One Could Be Found In America". My lack of sympathy, already so great that light could not escape, went on to swallow several small galaxies when I read about Matt Buchanan, at Gawker, who sleeps five hours a night and pours protein shakes into his coffee to get paid presumably a buck or two per post and gets to take part in "a global conversation about the latest and greatest products. And why does he put himself through that? ACTUAL QUOTE TIME REDUX!

"The fact I have a few thousand people a day reading what I write — that’s kind of cool... [sometimes] I just want to lie down." To steal a page from another well-known Internet product with a rapid information cycle, UR DOIN IT WRONG.

A thousand people a day read what I write too. But I don't lose sleep over it, I'm not pounding protein shakes, and if my heart explodes when I turn 40, it certainly won't be because I write shit on the Internet. And most importantly, I'm not part of any goddamned global conversation. Thank fuck. That shit'll kill you.

*Equally stupid Star-Tribune headline: "Work Fast, Die Young: The Blogger Lifestyle?"