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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Woe Is Us; Or, How Blogging Might Be Harmful to One’s Health

posted by on April 6 at 20:41 PM

Maybe the reason so many people in editorial have been out sick this year is this. According to that piece—on the cover of today’s New York Timesblogging might be bad for you. Like, REALLY bad for you.

A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment.

Of course, the bloggers can work elsewhere, and they profess a love of the nonstop action and perhaps the chance to create a global media outlet without a major up-front investment. At the same time, some are starting to wonder if something has gone very wrong. In the last few months, two among their ranks have died suddenly.

Physical and emotional stress? Totally. But, uh, dying? Wow.

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.

Huh. Not that convincing. Um, NYT? Sixty-year-olds have heart attacks all the time. And two deaths isn’t much of a trend, which is clearly why they threw in that third guy—if it happens three times, it’s a trend!—but still, a 41-year-old having a heart attack is a lot more common now that we live in a nation of obese people than it used to be. Sure, you could say, as the article does, that blogging can easily be done while eating, and eating leads to overeating, and overeating leads to obesity, but that’s a pretty attenuated argument. I sort of wasn’t buying it, this article, this “trend.” But then I got to this:

“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.”

“This is not sustainable,” he said.

Reminds me of certain people I could mention.

RSS icon Comments


Anecdotal evidence is the hallmark of bad journalism when it replaces what ought to be real statistics.

Posted by John | April 6, 2008 8:44 PM


This NYT article is a prime example -- it proves anecdotal reporting is increasingly common.

Posted by unPC | April 6, 2008 9:03 PM

What about the deteriorating health of us poor commenters? What of the ill effects of Slog addiction and the rise in blood pressure produced by reading a dumb post by ECB, or the inevitable even dumber response by He, The Poster Who Shall Not Be Named? You will send us all to an early grave, you uncaring bastards.

Posted by tsm | April 6, 2008 9:08 PM

But remember 67% of statistics are made up on the spot

Posted by vooodooo84 | April 6, 2008 9:09 PM

These bloggers have an over-inflated sense of their importance and they're focusing on the wrong things. Stressing themselves out to get the latest and greatest scoop, competing with regular news organizations that are doing the same thing with dozens/hundreds/thousands of employees.

These bloggers would be better off emphasizing quality over quantity/speed, a few well written entries in a day definitely trumps lots of "OMG Microsoft is releasing a new Zune!!!" type entries.

Posted by kingchiron | April 6, 2008 9:25 PM

I kinda liked the idea of paying bloggers based on the number of page hits they get. Boy, that would sure clear out some of the dead wood around here if you used that system.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | April 6, 2008 9:25 PM

When I saw this story this afternoon the first thing that I noticed is that the author forget to mention that 3 heart attacks per "thousands to tens of thousands of people who write blogs for money" is well below the national incidence rate for men.

The second thing I thought was: do we really need 40-80 posts per blog anyway?

Posted by josh | April 6, 2008 9:44 PM

When I saw this story this afternoon the first thing that I noticed is that the author forget to mention that 3 heart attacks per "thousands to tens of thousands of people who write blogs for money" is well below the national incidence rate for men.

The second thing I thought was: do we really need 40-80 posts per blog anyway?

Posted by josh | April 6, 2008 9:44 PM

Thank god Balzac was not born 30 years ago. That is true on so many levels related to this post that I'll just leave it at that and finish my wine. Salut!

Posted by kinaidos | April 6, 2008 9:46 PM

Probably not, @8.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 6, 2008 9:46 PM

i just get such a thrill seeing my name ANYWHERE on the computer screen!! yeeeahhh.....

Posted by scout | April 6, 2008 9:51 PM

@3 what about the frustration and urge to gag that one experiences every time someone takes a stupid, irrelevant, pointless, RANDOM, jab at ECB?
Wandering off topic sucks.
Look where we are now.

Posted by onion | April 6, 2008 11:32 PM

I'll tell you what's enormous penis!!!

Posted by Christopher Frizzelle's Enormous Penis | April 7, 2008 12:39 AM

@ kingchiron: I'm one of the bloggers the article is about. In fact, I'm the guy who snapped the very first photos of a Zune in the wild and put them on the Internet. Yes, a few well written, thought-out posts are better, but if our competitors write the "OMG Microsoft is releasing a new Zune!!!" entries (which the masses are clicking for) and we don't then we seem irrelevant and out of touch. Yes, it sucks that we have to post about rumor instead of commentary sometimes, but that's what pays my fucking rent.

@ Fifty-Two-Eighty: That's been tried, but the problem is that then you get more tabloid-like writing. Anyone can use hyperbole and rumor to get clicks. If you don't care about your integrity then, yes, that would make money, but it's really not a way to get quality posts. Eventually people quit coming to your site because they realize you're full of shit and just trying to make a buck.

As far as the article itself goes I can say that I work for Michael Arrington, who's quoted in the story above. Also I've blogged in the house he mentions. It's intense. They work their asses off in the house (I'm in Seattle, I was just there for a few days) and it shows. Not only do they whip out good content but there's a work ethic and a kind of fucked-up teamwork that I've never seen before.

It's not just the drive to get the most posts up that could give him or anyone he works with a heart attack but the drive to be the best. Indeed, the relatively new blog is one of the most popular on the Internet -- usually in the top three, according to Technorati -- and keeping it there, as well as trying to make it better, causes stress, and stress causes health problems.

That's the way it's always been. It's not blogging that's stressful, it's trying to be good at a competitive job. Cops, doctors, garbage men, senators, pilots, mechanics, everyone who takes their careers seriously is at risk.

This article, which was the buzz of the Web this last weekend, is just a way of saying "everybody panic" and getting links. On that note, well, good job! But I personally am no more stressed doing what I'm doing now than I have been with any other job I've tried to be awesome at.

Also, Om's going to be OK, and I really don't think blogging had anything to do with his heart attack.

Posted by Matt Fuckin' Hickey | April 7, 2008 7:14 AM

What the HELL is up with the freak that is posting about Christophers penis? It is getting old, old and tired.

Posted by Andrew | April 7, 2008 7:16 AM

A steady diet of Cheetos and Dr. Pepper isn't good for anybody.

Posted by Bob | April 7, 2008 7:28 AM

Bloggers deserve to die.

Posted by Mr. Poe | April 7, 2008 7:58 AM

maybe the NYT writes irrational and unfair articles to kill the news competition.

Posted by mintygreen | April 7, 2008 9:02 AM

Remember, people: only connect. If you get too wrapped up in the blogging world, where your inbox and your Statcounter graphs start to matter more to you than real life, do what I do:

Look at some internet porn.

Life's too short.

Posted by Fnarf | April 7, 2008 10:00 AM

It's my opinion that blogs and the "new media" sites are like sweat shops. People are working for low or no pay and no benefits. Someone, somewhere is making money on this content but in most cases it isn't the person who creates it.

Posted by PopTart | April 7, 2008 10:18 AM

That's why when I blog, I strap myself into one of those indoor lap swimming tanks. You know the ones that are like jacuzzis but they create current for you to swim against?

I have my MaquaticBook Pro velcro'd to a kick board so I can swim laps and blog at the same time. Water Lap Boggersizing is going to be huge.

Posted by trent moorman | April 7, 2008 10:55 AM

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