Or so the New York Times says. This is a very stupid article. The headline:
In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop
Oh, wow, this must be quite an epidemic for the Times to decide it's newsworthy. Bloggers dying in front of their computers, by the dozen, after days without sleep. Young, otherwise healthy, active people, dropping dead, in this "web world of 24/7 stress," distinguished from the ordinary world where jobs are not stressful at all, and no one demands anything from them, right? Even before we get to the rest of the article, I wonder -- is blogging really that special, as far as stressful 24/7 jobs? In fact, I would venture to say that being a fireman, or an emergency room physician, or even a big firm lawyer tethered to the office via BlackBerry -- those are probably all more stressful than sitting at a desk and blogging. And in terms of the 24/7-ness of the job, most blogs I read don't post all night. I'm trying to picture a "blogging emergency" that might create middle-of-the-night stress for bloggers, but not for other people. Anyway, even if I accept that blogging is stressful... let's see what this epidemic looks like...
Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December.
Oh. Two middle-aged guys had heart attacks. And they were both bloggers. Well, obviously there's a link. Let's stop for a second and do something the Times didn't. Look at actual data. How many bloggers are there? Let's err on the conservative side and say there are a thousand people blogging. That's probably low -- even if we're just counting people who are blogging for a living, writing dozens of posts a day, I can probably name a couple hundred active blogs pretty easily, and there are lots I don't know of. But I really want to be conservative with my estimate here, just to highlight how stupid this article is. So if there were a thousand bloggers, how many would probably die over the course of a few months just by chance? Looks like a little under one percent of people die every year (825 per 100,000). Skewed toward older people, obviously. But these guys who died weren't that young. For a 60 year old man, the death rate is 1.4% per year. For a 50 year old man, it's 0.6% per year. By chance, some bloggers are going to die every year. There's no way these two people dying is statistically significant. So surely there must be something else linking their deaths to blogging, right? Otherwise there's no article here. Right? Anything?
There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths.
So, two middle-aged guys died of heart attacks. And they were both bloggers. Amazing: blogging causes death.
“I haven’t died yet,” said Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch, a popular technology blog. The site has brought in millions in advertising revenue, but there has been a hefty cost. 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."
Or maybe nothing will happen. Or maybe you should get some exercise and hire some more employees so you can sleep. Or try to lose some weight. Just because you are a blogger, doesn't mean you can't be healthy too. This is really silly.
It is unclear how many people blog for pay, but there are surely several thousand and maybe even tens of thousands.
This is really silly too. You write for the New York Times -- can't you do better than this sentence? "I have no idea how many people blog for pay, so instead of trying to figure it out, I'm going to make a random guess, and support it with nothing." How about looking on Technorati to see how many blogs there, about the kinds of things that would require someone "on call" to post all day, and that have enough of a readership to justify paying someone to blog. According to Truth Laid Bear -- and this is taking me eight seconds of research -- if you sort by blog traffic, once you get down to blog #1000, you're looking at about 2500 readers a day. That's not that many, probably not enough to be able to make nearly enough money to pay someone to blog for you. And looking at some of those blogs, it's pretty clear they're not the kind of things causing 24/7 stress on their writers. Even if this ranking is incomplete, I think it's probably a real stretch to say there could be tens of thousands of bloggers blogging for pay. Actually, I think my conservative estimate of a thousand may not actually be that conservative after all. But in any case, at least I'm trying to justify an estimate using some kind of data. The Times just guessed. I have no idea how a sentence like that -- "unclear... surely... maybe..." makes it into print, honestly. There are ways to estimate this.
Speed can be of the essence. If a blogger is beaten by a millisecond, someone else’s post on the subject will bring in the audience, the links and the bigger share of the ad revenue.
This is a stupid sentence too. Millisecond? No. And blogs may have fickle audiences, but bloggers aren't breaking scoops by the millisecond, and even if I'm reading a blog in part for the timeliness of its posts, writing counts for something, and how many people are really cutting a blog off their RSS feed because it doesn't update at 4 in the morning? This is a ridiculous way of thinking about blogs and why people read them.
Matt Buchanan, 22, is the right man for the job. He works for clicks for Gizmodo, a popular Gawker Media site that publishes news about gadgets. Mr. Buchanan lives in a small apartment in Brooklyn, where his bedroom doubles as his office.
He says he sleeps about five hours a night and often does not have time to eat proper meals. But he does stay fueled — by regularly consuming a protein supplement mixed into coffee.
Can we really blame blogging for the fact that he doesn't eat proper meals? Unless he's actually blogging his stream of consciousness, 24 hours a day, non-stop, he has time to make a sandwich. I mean, where does he get the coffee? How does he go to the bathroom? Making food doesn't take hours. If he is choosing not to eat, that's fine, but it's not the fault of his job. People with more stressful jobs than blogging find time to eat. Sorry.
For his part, Mr. Shaw did not die at his desk. He died in a hotel in San Jose, Calif., where he had flown to cover a technology conference.
Oh, no wonder we're blaming blogging. Gosh, what a useful article.