Death By Blogging, NYT Style

Or, Failing To Make An Argument 101

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I’m not sure the last time I saw a New York Times piece that failed to convince, well, anybody. It may be because Matt Richtel made the classic mistake of developing a thesis and sticking to it until he found some evidence. (Academic tip: A good thesis comes after research.)


Matt Richtel, New York Times
Matt Richtel
New York Times

Richtel’s thesis that the blogosphere (or the home office) constitutes "the digital-era sweatshop," wherein cardiac arrest seems as eventual as black lung, proved an attention-getting one. The post, entitled In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop, was the number one most blogged NYT story over the weekend.


It trumped—by six places—Thom Shanker’s piece about how the US Army is concerned about the stress soldiers face as a result of multiple Iraqi tours. You can blame Shanker for the poor showing. He failed to mention bloggers at all.

And if you work for the most prominent news source in the world, that’s missing out on a golden linkbait ticket. Really? Not one mention about the stress bloggers are under and how it compares to post traumatic they-were-shooting-at-us stress disorder? Don’t you guys collaborate on these things via—oh, what are they called?—editorial meetings?   

Richtel evidences the deaths of Russell Shaw and Marc Orchant, both recently felled by (quite obviously) blogging-related heart attacks, and Om Malik, a decade or two the junior of both, whose December coronary was directly causal of his need for a change in latitude. Others (the survivors) complain of weight gain and not sleeping well.

Gawker’s pay-per-page-view model has conscripted bloggers into an army of insomniacs, often posting until the great by-and-by of sleep imposes itself upon them and they lurch forward at their desks. Think of the poor souls at Valleywag, forced into the digital sex trade because nobody reads their posts without a little nookie mentioned; How can one possibly subsist in the Valley on a diet of unfounded rumors and no va-va-voom?

Some bloggers are paid as little as $10 per post. (I can do you one better. I’ve seen offers as little as $3 per post, as little as "for the fun of it." Ooh, where do I sign up?) Is that even enough to supply your protein supplement and coffee regimen?

Somebody get Congress on the line.

Or not. The blogosphere can be swifter in these matters. The lines are long at the blog search engines, where bloggers have weighed in with what should have been the obvious. Mainly, to sum up many, they had these objections:


1. Those Indian kids you see on TV cooking silk worms (See: sweatshops).
2. Every man or woman who has ever put on a fireman’s, police, doctor’s, military, coal miner’s, or steel worker’s uniform are not impressed by sore thumbs, slight headaches, carpel tunnel syndrome, or self-imposed lack of sleep.
3. Way before blogs, the Hulkster told all of us about how the prayers, the vitamins and the exercise kept him strong. Oh, and other women. Forget the other women, find your serenity, and take care of yourself.
4. Smoking, pizza, and booze are bad for you. (But yeah, they do kinda rock.) 
5. Sometimes it’s good to use real medical research.
6. Three events don’t make a trend. Six events don’t either. You’ll need eight per one thousand bloggers croaking to even approach the norm.
7. You can’t just not include a guy in your article because he doesn’t fit your sexy thesis/headline.
8. Some people are just obsessive, competitive freaks.
9. Some people are just narcissistic, obsessive, competitive freaks.
10. Some people are just greedy, narcissistic, obsessive, competitive freaks.


For me it was always the very public aspect of writing online that was stressful, not the job itself. I enjoy researching and writing, but I decided a long time ago what I would work myself to death for. Now my wife’s pregnant and I’ll have to add another thing. If that’s why you do it, bloggers, then more power to you. Just remember those checkups, put down the cheeseburger, do what the wife tells you (yeah, that’s a tough one, eh?), and learn when to take it easy.   

Death By Blogging, NYT Style
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  • MJ

     God – I’ve been hearing variations of this rant for a couple of decades – computers make you socially isolated (tell that to MySpace and Facebook) Computer games make you stupid (I once asked a general in the USAF why our pilots are the best in the world, with 13:1 kill ratios, his reply was video games – and he was serious), now blogging and SOLO offices kill you – all this is reaction to fear of what you don’t understand – I simply dismiss those who make claims like that as lacking knowledge of a world they have no idea of.

    • http://www.kyle-am.com Kyle In The Morning

      SOLO: small office, lonely office

      "I’ve been dead before." — Spock

      I had a NDE once, from being trapped in a snowstorm. Too bad it didn’t finish me off, because now I’m stuck behind the computer all the time, instead of doing dangerous things that could get me killed for a better reason than blogging. But let’s not discount the deleterious effects of the web – this is work. It’s a job. It can be fun at times, but let’s get real: there are bills to pay. This is work. It involves sitting at a desk, typing into the computer, instead of kicking back, relaxing on a sunny day with a gentle breeze in a hammock tied between two palm trees with the surf crashing nearby. Those photos of people typing on wifi laptops with a cool drink on a tropical beach are such beautiful lies. There is a word in Japanese for dying at your desk for a reason – because it happens! Blogging is no exception.

      I’m dying a little bit every day. It’s true! And some day, I’ll prove it, because I’ll be dead. And when I am, I expect I’ll be writing an email post like this one. Something like:

      Subject: Death by Blogging

      Body: Well, here I am: dead. The CSI said I’ve been dead for about eight hours now. COD was congestive blog failure. I had built up some mean callouses on my fingers and wore the letters off my keyboard from excess typing. Being unable to rip myself away from one more post, and looking like a bloated whale despite chronic malnutrition, I expired. Apparently the metadata of my life was set for no-cache, and so I am penniless as well. I had made up a cardboard sign that said: "Will blog for food", but there was never any time to stand by the highway with it. There was always one more post to do. Too bad I was unable to compete with those kiddies eating a steady diet of tasty and nutritious silkworms. The high protein content gave them the strength and energy to out-post me, and their lower cost of living and government subsidies gave them an edge I didn’t have. But enough about me. I’m logging off for the last time now. Hey, look at that light! It’s so beautiful! Must go to it … yada yada yada

      The preceding blog post was complete fiction. It doesn’t represent me, anybody I know, or anybody you know, living, dead or zombies. Just another ten minutes of my life wasted, sitting at the computer. Sorry for wasting your time with my nonsense. Can we all just get along?

      P.S. I once saw a New Yorker cartoon where one dog says to the other, "I used to write a blog, but I’ve gone back to pointless, incessant barking."


      • Jason Lee Miller

        Whoever said you had to choose between blogging and incessant barking? I continue to do both, thank you very much. Just ask my wife.

  • http://www.lubedealer.com/hiebert R. Hiebert

    This article puts a new spin on "Blogging vs. One-on-one Conversation". If it where easier to do live conversation, I’d prefer that to just hearing myself talk in a blog. We’ve lost the skill for conversation because we don’t know how to listen, hence blogging, in my opinion.

    • http://benchmarkreviews.com Olin

      It’s not easy to be a controversial blogger.  Ego and temper seem to fuel the best of the arguements that boil over discussions, and I often find myself on the defence trying to talk rationally to the irrational.

      A perfect example is two of our articles: Best CPU Cooler Performance – Q1 2008 and 33-Way Thermal Interface Material Comparison.  In these articles, I spent months of time towards testing and retesting, only to have someone call them worthless without merit simply because they disagree.  My point?

      My point is that while I have actually conducted the tests and physically participated in the benchmarking, my opinion is relagated to the same anonymous level as the misguided reader.  The web makes my authority almost as powerful (or powerless) as the common visitor.  This is where my voice dies, just because it’s not a voice of one vs one, but me against my visitors. 

      • Jason Lee Miller

        That’s a very interesting viewpoint, Olin. Yes, when everybody is published, voices are diluted, and it can be like spitting in the ocean.

        But that won’t stop me from spitting in the ocean.

        And yes, much of the time, the work behind writing a piece goes unrecognized…one of these days they’ll digitize blood, sweat, and tears. Until then, you gotta tell’em.

        Tooting your own horn is sometimes necessary.

  • Jason Lee Miller

    I’d say you’re right, Joe. It’s the increasingly sedintary (sp?) lifestyle, bad diets, and poor sleeping habits that are affecting millions of Americans’ health, and that is contributed to by a number of activities/jobs, not just blogging.

    I’m in grad school, which has done a lot more for my mental development than physical. I put in about 40 hours over the weekend just to finish up my semester…40 hours in 2 days, in front of a computer, gnawing on pizza while my wife says something unintelligible from the background (I think it had something do with drinking water, wallking around every couple of hours, and finding a healthier snack).

    But I can’t say grad school is killing me. I’m the one prioritizing, right? Even then, I’m not going to compare my intellectual labor to the real sweatshop workers out there, or even to my own stepfather’s, who’s spent a considerable amount of time hanging by his knees like a monkey over large vats of molten steel with a welding torch a few inches from his face…talk about stress!

  • Midnight Righter

    Your article has inspired me to make some changes to my home office.  It is easy to get carried away with work every day and not pay attention to the important things in life.    My health is very important to me as I’m sure that it is to other bloggers.

    Henceforth the coffee machine will be removed from my office and placed back in the kitchen.  This little change should help reduce my coffee usage and also double my daily excercise (as well as remind the kiddies that their father is still around).  Secondly, No More Doughnuts!  As soon as this batch is gone those scrumptious cream filled kill-me-slowly delights will be replaced with much more nourishing fare.  After some research I have determined that bagels and cream cheese have many more grams of protein than those tasty morsels previously mentioned.

    Consider this post my New Year’s Resolution – better late than never!


    P.S.  Who do I talk to so that I can get paid for this?

    • Jason Lee Miller

      Well, nobody can say I’ve never done any good in this world. Good luck with your resolutions. As for getting paid: What? A long life ain’t good enough?


      • Midnight Righter

        A long life is good enough for me.  Thank you for the payment ;)

  • http://www.level343.com Gabriella Sannino

    Well the article got the hits they were looking for… They sold copies and it even got everyone to pay attention to their eating habits, working habits and their wives… :) As a "paid" bloger I have used those sweat shops and I think I overpay them at $5 per post, the work they do is not worth the $5 but I feel guilty offering them the $3 they ask for. Bottom line everyone wants to make money we have to reinvent ourselves because this economy sucks. I have several degrees, I read and write 5 languages I ran successful business and cannot get a freaking job even as a kitchen manager.

    I don’t blame them either. Would you hire a 40 something or a 20 something to work in a hot sweaty kitchen? I am not sure where this whole Internet bloging mania is going but it has kept me with cigarette, coffee and a movie every so often. At this rate I will be lucky to make it past 50 if what they are saying is true. As the song says “I just can’t seem to get it right today,  just can’t seem to get it right today, I guess I’m gonna give up”.

    Peace great piece by the way. And I love the math question at the bottom of this comment post, :-)  Good thing I didn’t have to use my calculator I seem to have misplaced it.

  • http://marketsecrets.biz Guest

    Sounds like a classic case of "scapegoating" to me. If blogging kills then I should’ve died at least a thousand times by now!

  • http://www.efabe.co.uk eFABE

    This is quite shocking, to think people are being sucked into spending their very valuable time sat in front of a PC writing blogs that most people will not even read.

    I believe it will all come full circle and some bright spark will latch onto the brilliant idea of taking exercise it is GOOD for you, even if it is just a walk to the local shop, little and often.

    Unless there is something physically stopping you, GET UP OFF YOUR BUM, TAKE A BREAK and congratulate yourself for doing it and maybe make the break a bit longer next time….


    Take a break, YOUR WORTH IT.


    • http://www.outbackjack.info Outbackjack

      I remember the first six months of creating my first ever website. The bags under my eyes are still lingering. Then there was the excuse to start a blog on top of it to get traffic to my little baby webstie and my blog got more traffic than my website. I did this all as an effort to challenge myself being an IT/Web ignoramous. It was a good challenge for a 40 something stay at home mum but I’ve never been offered money for blogging. It may be good to get money for something I am doing anyway.

      • http://www.asiaeast.org Daniel White

        Blogging is appealing because it cuts out the editor in the writing process.  It speeds stuff up.  On the other hand, an editor can be someone who gives you a second opinion about your writing, before it’s unleashed on the masses.  Of course, without editing, the best writers will rise to the top, just as with editing.  But for the rest of the blogosphere, there’s as much flop floating around on the Internet as there was before blogging became the status quo. 

        One thing that stats don’t show is the age of viewers who find your web page.  After six months, I get about 40 dedicated readers a day, who stay on my site for several minutes at time, actually reading it.  My bounce rate is at 60%, according to Google Analytics.  And I’m happy with my little corner of the Interverse.  I tend to think that visitors who didn’t stay long were probably all under the age of 12 or were older people who had something specific in mind and went in search of it.  Well done.  But if the real stats were shown, the information super-highway looks more like an ecyclopedia to most people.  How often do you really need to look stuff up?

        Visit my site!  :-)      www.asiaeast.org

  • http://www.phillipsbusinesssolutions.com Dee Robertson-Phillips

    Let’s face it, anyone reading this article is guilty of staying up too late, eating too much crap, and drinking too much coffee.  I think anyone that sits for the majority of their day is prone to heart disease and obesity.  Like ANYTHING else in life, moderation is the key.  Personally, I do my best to limit my coffee intake to 2-3 cups a day and my beer/wine intake to several a week.  I attempt to get off my bumm to walk around and get fresh air every few hours.  But, at the end of the day, I love what I do for a living, and I love being home to do it. 

    • Midnight Righter

      The key is Everything in Moderation, even Moderation.

  • http://www.koolkatzsurf.com Kool Katz Learn to Surf

    I have a dog whose name is Bloggsey …. arff … arff!

    Now to the real issue … if we think we can sit at a computer blogging 24/7, overwhelming empirical evidence pointing to loss of fitness should be enough to send alarm bells ringing through the blogosphere. The long term health impacts are and will be horrendous which is why action not discussion is what’s required. Turn off your computer now and spend 1hr doing what you love – walking, jogging, tennis, pilates, whatever. But I still reckon surfing is the best way to achieve inner and outer balance, fitness and longevity . The act of catching a wave combines, the physical, mental and spiritual in a way only a surfer can understand. <A HREF="http://www.koolkatzsurf.com/">Learn to surf in Australia</A>

  • Dick

    I am also in the sleep deprived category and its catching up!

  • RonP

    Today was a great day!  I had to visit a supplier in Rhode Island.  Ah,… 2 hours in the car each way.  Just the radio with tunes or talk.

    My bluetooth earpiece for my phone crapped out so I threw out the list of "important" phone calls I was going to make while driving.  Instead, I enjoyed the passing early spring NE scenery.

    No email until I returned I got home.  Don’t have a blackberry (still can’t be convinced that I "need" one).

    God is on His throne & in control. Life is good.

  • Candes

    20 years ago it was TV that was killing us.

    10 years ago it was video games.

    Today it is blogging.

    10 years from now some other sedimentary ‘activity’ will be doing it.

    **shrug** Where’s my coffee?

  • http://www.hipnotik.co.uk Jai

    Why is it that only blogs are getting the bad press from this moronic guy who thinks blogging is a killer (quite laughable in my opinion) I spend a high percentage of time on my computer either doing work or reading and researching interests (however random) on the internet. However i rarely read blogs and don’t see what the big deal is with having so much focus on them.


    The comments section here is basically people for and against spending most of their time on the pc. I can see both sides…

    For: If your like me then you realise that an extremely high percentage of people in society are rude, obnoxious, wouldn’t give you the time of day people who only care about themselves, plod through life thinking abut nothing but the next paycheck and not giving a second thought…at least not a proper thought to the actual problems of the world and the state of it in general, so you, like me, choose to go where a lot of people DO care, they are not afraid to share their opinions and everyone is faceless.

    Against: I can see this side too, social people, earn decent money, can afford to go out all the time do cool things etc etc ( i earn enough to do that to but choose not to) they think sitting in front of a computer is wasting life and in their opinion are right, because they feel it is wasting "their" life, that doesn’t mean its wasting mine though.


    The main difference between the for and against people here is that the "for" people enjoy what they do and don’t sit here telling the against people they should be sitting at their computer more and not going out as much. people, no matter who they are should be telling people what they should do, maybe the problem is that EVERYONE needs to wake up and stop arguing about such trivial things as excerciseand put their opinions to better use, such as the actually very real energy crisis throughout the world, the blatant invasion of countries by more powerful ones, the increasing violent nature of young people, the blatant extortion from governments, the fact that voting does absolutely nothing in any country and all of them are run as crap as the next, and the most important fact of all that humanity is a figment of peoples imagination and the only thing anyone cares about is money and power, which infects others to strive for the same even if their original goal was world peace or curing cancer!

    Who controls all the money and power, the information, the news, basically everything…we do…consumers! Whether you are in a store or on a site you are a consumer whether you like it or not. You are contributing to the crap pile of the world and theres nothing anyone can do until everyone realises it, literally everyone. A person is an intelligent entity, people are stupid, mindless drones.

    • http://joe.bloggingexpertise.com Joe Cheray

      Jai while I agree with you that the issues you mentioned that we are facing are equally as important the disturbing reality is that our children may not survive us if we don’t turn the obesity epidemic around in this country. Then there won’t be any future for us to worry about because we have developed such a sense of complacency in regards to physical activity and diet. I am on food stamps, cash assistance, my son is on SSI and I get a check every three months from the orgainzation in which he gets his case management services through and I am still trying to eat healthy, find ways to incorporate a message to him that if you eat healthy and move you will feel better and just function better in life.

      In my state from a recent study from Natioanl Center for Health we had people only feeling physically healthy 14 days out of a 30 day period. That is half of the month each month feeling like crap. The same was true for feeling unhealthy mentally. That is a total of 168 days a year of feeling like crap. So why should we care about exercise and eating healthy in light of the more devastating events you mention because if we feel like crap how can we get off the couch to get involved in these causes to help others when we can’t even help ourselves.

      Think about this what good would the head decision makers for say the American Red Cross be to anyone if they were always sick and couldn’t make clear headed decisions to help save lives? I know this is an extreme example but seriously it certainly wouldn’t be too far gone of a reality if we don’t find a way to balance our professional lives with our health.

      I could write a book on this subject , but I won’t overstay my welcome on Jasons space I just want people to know what is the reality we are facing at this moment.

  • http://www.ukhost4u.com/basic.html Paul Cheap

    Jason. I particulary agree with -

    "do what the wife tells you"


  • Sam

    your article says "Richtel evidences the deaths of Russell Shaw and Marc Orchant, both recently felled by (quite obviously) blogging-related heart attacks"

    Ok I have to ask;

    what is a blogging related heart attack?(much less an obvious blogging related heart attack )

    i.e, what were the circumstances, details that led to their death by blogging and what points to it being blogging related?

    I’m not trying to be sarcastic , I honestly want to know.



  • Liz

    “For me it was always the very public aspect of writing online that was stressful, not the job itself.”

    I share your performance anxiety. I still haven’t told anyone in my “real” life about my blog. I really express a lot of feelings and thoughts that I would never share with those closest to me (not ABOUT them, just wouldn’t like them to see this dark side of me). I’ve only recently even started to promote my blog because I was curious to see people’s comments. But I’m competing with millions of other blogs so it is an uphill battle (since I don’t blog about celebrities, politics, or games).

    But I know what you mean about sharing your writing with the world. Blog writing is so much more intimate and spontaneous than the typical writing I do…you do reveal a lot more of yourself.

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