Talking about ourselves vs general posts

A comment on our previous poll post sparked an interesting question.

Some blogs are compelling specifically because the bloggers are interesting.  The blogs are about them and the blog is a window into the blogger’s life or the blogger’s way of viewing the world.  Here we would be characters in a narrative and you’re curious to see how the story goes.

Other blogs are compelling because the provide information or different ways of thinking about issues.  It’s not so important who has written the post so much as the information imparted within the post.

(We’re not sure whether to feel complimented or dissed if it’s the reality show of our lives that is interesting rather than the information and arguments that we try to impart.  It has to be a compliment if our stated reason for starting the blog was to become Famous on the Internet.  And yet… there’s something about being associated with the Kardashians that is a bit unsettling.)

For us, it isn’t so much the former or the latter so much as the ensuing discussion that makes our posts interesting to us.

Do you prefer posts that are personality-driven or posts that are more informational?  If it depends, what does it depend on?

48 Responses to “Talking about ourselves vs general posts”

  1. Engineer Cents (@engineercents) Says:

    Personality-driven, all the way. Blogs that are primarily “informational” feel so distant, especially in the PF sphere where there are only so many ways to create a How To Budget post. I like reading about people!

  2. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    Both! I like especially that there’s great discussion in the comments. And if I wanted purely informational, I’d go read an academic article. Or a recipe book.

  3. MSWR Says:

    Some of my favorite posts are the ones about what you’re reading (fiction and non-fiction) and the resulting comments with discussion and recommendations. This is how I discovered my latest favorite romance author, Courtney Milan. I’m not sure how I would categorize these posts in your dichotomy. I find that what I choose to read in my free time is very personal, but posts about books and where to find ones worth my time is also informational.

  4. Susan Says:

    I really like the mix here. It works well. The problem I have with many personal blogs is that the implied element of narcissism — because the writer has focused the lens on themselves and nothing but, it makes me feel like those writers are barely concerned with the world around them. The mix on your blog is attractive to scientists in general, because we’re all asking — how does the world work? Sometimes you ask that through the lens of your own life, sometimes you approach it generally, and that’s a great balance.

    • xykademiqz Says:

      What Susan said — keep the great balance. Some topics warrant the more personal approach, some warrant less of it, but the appeal of any blog post comes from the topic being presented through the personal lense of a thoughtful and interesting narrator (or two!). Keep up the good work.

      FWIW, I am personally least likely to read the book recommendations because in terms of genre I seem not to have a lot of overlap with you (and I also haven’t read the childhood favorites as I didn’t grow up here and my kids are boys, so mostly different childhood faves.) My favorites among your opus are the link posts, parenting posts, most of the finance posts, and of course the shake-fist-at-patriarchy posts. But I like pretty much everything you write.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We prefer to think of ourselves as awesome and confident about it. :)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Something related to the Narcissism (that we call Sandra Tsing Loh syndrome) is the way it seems like some people need to create drama or craziness in order to keep their popular persona– in order to have something to write about. That’s why we have a rule that we can’t have 3 negative posts in a row. If life imitates art, then we want at least some of that art to be positive.

  5. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Thanks for the compliments, y’all, but we really didn’t mean for this to be a praise-us post— we’re actually interested in the bigger question: Do you prefer blogs that are personality-driven or content-driven, and what determines that?

    Related discussion questions that a couple of bloggers have brought up recently: for personality-driven blogs, how much sharing should be done? What kind of sharing shouldn’t? Does “raw” always mean “honest”? I suppose we could do a deliberately controversial post on these subjects in the future…

    • Jenny F. Scientist Says:

      To be more specific, I mean that I like how even the information posts deal with your lives (how you saved at various times rather than ‘give up Starbucks!’) which makes it more personal and relevant. And I like that you write about things that matter in your lives: strategies for working out finances with spouses and partners, children’s college savings, how you choose what to outsource. I don’t personally like people’s blogs that are nothing but staged photos and glossy manifestos on how to (X) perfectly without any acknowledgement that mileage will vary and/or this may be a terrible approach for others; I find that both stupid and condescending. So I was trying to say I prefer content with some personality, so long as (like your charming selves) the personality is not annoying.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        We like being praised too! But we don’t want people who haven’t commented to feel like they should be praising us. (In case that’s why it is quiet today, despite what we thought was a thought-provoking question.)

        And definitely agree that one-size-fits all and bulleted lists with stock pictures and no research backing are huge wastes of time. (Especially since the ipad often feels the need to crash and reload glossy picture posts.)

  6. Linda Says:

    My answer is “it depends based on the type of content.” As someone who doesn’t have children and never will (hooray!) I’m not so interested in the posts about kids. I understand you have a lot of followers who are interested in these posts, though. Sometimes I read them because my hungry mind just wants more information anyway, and other times I just skim them or skip them entirely.

    Most of the time I read blogs because the writer’s personality (or personalities, as the case may be) shines through in one way or another. Even if it is a mostly informational post, the personal experience is what I’m usually looking for. I think you do that with most of your posts. Your area(s) of expertise, however, and really unique and I also like the posts that reflect that and may be less personal.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      You mean not everybody is interested in poo?

      I guess wikipedia is good for impersonal information gathering. Even things like Miss Manners or Walter Updegrave are improved by their personalities (or personas) showing through.

  7. crazy grad mama Says:

    It depends on the quality of writing, what mood I’m in, how relevant the topic is to my life, etc. In general, I don’t get a lot of out posts that are just records of what the blogger did where and when (à la “today I took my kids to the park!”)—I prefer reading personal stories about the thought processes behind life decisions, or how someone approached a particular challenge. (Not that there’s anything wrong with a story about taking your kids to the park per se. But give me a bit of introspection.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Some people really seem to enjoy lists of how other people spend their time. We’re not really engaged by them either. I mean, there’s probably useful information in there, but it’s too much effort for us to get that information out.

  8. Debbie M Says:

    My best guess is that I most like posts that present new and interesting things to me (but not *too* alien) with a strong bias towards good writing. Sometimes the personality is what is fascinating, and it’s interesting to see all kinds of things from another viewpoint. Sometimes I hear new ideas about how to live life that I would like to adopt for myself but have never thought of before. And sometimes the writing is just so fascinating, I almost don’t care what they say because they’re so amusing or fascinating.

    So I tend to gravitate toward posts on specific topics of use to me (personal finance, green living, domestic stuff). And I tend to gravitate to posts by people that attract me (super logical people and, to a lesser extent, caring people–I like both, but if I have to pick one, I really like people who make sense). And posts with writing that I call read-aloud quality–you just want to read them aloud, dramatically–these are often rants or exaggerations of problems or personal weaknesses or just making every day concerns seem amusing.

  9. Allyson Says:

    I think I start blogs for the content and stay for the personalities. Examples out of my RSS feed are Yo Is This Racist, Cake Wrecks (content and comment), and Ed Yong. Here I think it’s also the personalities of the commenters. :) I see this in the few podcasts I listen to too.

  10. Fiona McQuarrie (@all_about_work) Says:

    I like good writing, no matter what it’s about. I see what you’re saying about the narcisstic type of blog, but it’s interesting to me when bloggers have a wide range of interests and share information about those interests. And if it’s framed as “something I’m enthusiastic about and want to tell the world about” rather than “here’s something and here’s what I think about it ME ME ME” then I’m fine with that.

  11. Rosa Says:

    I think what’s important to me is the underlying values – I like the PF content but I can’t stand a lot of PF blogs that aren’t feminist, or blame poor people for being poor, or have parenting values drastically different than mine. Disagreement is one thing but I just can’t deal with misogyny and classism all the time. I think that’s why I like your fiction recommendations so often, as well – the things I like and dislike about genre fiction are mostly about the underlying values that eventually worm their way out of writers work if you read enough of it. I don’t like badly written fiction but I also don’t like well-written fiction that thinks (hey Lisa Kleypas) liberalism is a childish phase real men grow out of. For instance.

    So…I like informational content, an active but not contentious commentariat, and a certain perspective.

    The commenters are important to me, too – there aren’t a lot of people in my day to day life I can talk to about money, so blogs that foster that make me happy.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Ugh, the patriarchy sucks so badly and poisons so many things that could be good. Misogyny and classism are so horrible.

      I like that, “an active but not contentious commentariat”.

      Also <3 $$$$$. :)

  12. First Gen American Says:

    I think storytelling makes personal finance interesting and more memorable. I do like a mix of story/facts/tips though. All story has no substance. All facts is boring and dry. This is a good mix.

  13. bethh Says:

    I like the broad mix of topics – finance and link love are my favorite, then books; parenting (I don’t have kids) and academia (I’m not in that world thank goodness) are interesting in a rubbernecking sort of way.

    I sometimes wish you were LESS opaque about your lives, like I kind of assume [REDACTED] but I want more facts. And the honeymoon! Are we going to get pictures and hear about delicious food things and great places to visit? I love travel stories. I dunno, I’d say keep mixing it up.

    • bethh Says:

      p.s. did you make posting harder at some point? I had to log into wordpress and I hate having to do that. I suppose it has to do with all the spammers out there but passwords. gah!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        No, that’s all wordpress being difficult– you should be able to use name/email. But sometimes wordpress won’t allow that if the email you use is also associated with a wordpress account. They make you login in that case, but if you use a different email you should be able to use that option.

        I still can’t comment on many blogspot blogs because the wordpress option doesn’t work.

      • bethh Says:

        pps I also really liked the thought process about paying money to fix up the house to rent it, vs letting a student have it cheap or free, or leaving it empty – that represents a mix of the personal with the practical. I think that was pre-Paradise but I can’t remember the specifics.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Ignoring us, what do you think about personality vs. content posts more generally?

      • bethh Says:

        Ignoring you?! As if I could! In general… I rank content over personality, but as others have pointed out, dry content-only is super boring.

  14. Leigh Says:

    I read blogs that have a personality, a narrative like J.D. Roth used to always say. But I also have to be able to relate to said personality, at least sometimes or on some level.

    I may not be able to relate to your posts about your kids, but I can relate to being a gifted kid and I am thankful that you as parents are working to find the best learning environment for your kids.

    I don’t like blogs that say “Our way or the highway”, like the ones that say how having a joint bank account is the only way to be married. I have also read a few posts recently saying that ALL singles need life insurance. I can understand that life plans change and you may need it later and be unable to get it due to an illness, but insurance is for things for which you can’t self-insure. I’ve filled in multiple calculators telling me that I need a negative quantity of life insurance. I realize though that titles and articles like that are meant mostly as click bait and so I’ve just stopped reading blogs like that and have been unsubscribing a lot lately.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Why on earth would a single need life insurance (assuming they don’t have dependents) ? It is so unlikely that anyone would be in a situation where they were uninsurable before they needed life insurance (and the only solution to that potential “problem” is whole life which is such a bad deal). My guess is those are sponsored posts, especially if they all post on the same day as all the other life insurance posts. Whoops, now you got me ranting.

      • Leigh Says:

        Ugh, yes! No dependents. My estate will pay off my mortgage and then some. I’m even planning on updating my will around when I turn 30 if I haven’t gotten married because my parents and sibling have no need of my entire estate at this point… So no life insurance needed.

  15. Ana Says:

    When I want solely information, I’ll google the topic and read relevant posts, but for blogs I actually read regularly, its about the “voice” or the “story” and the personality of the blogger & the community/commentators. The blogs I read on a daily basis are mostly people I’d love to sit down and have a chat with (and I have, in some cases!). I’m grateful that the information-only blogs are out there for when I want to perfect my pizza crust recipe or plant fall bulbs or figure out how to invest my retirement account, but I won’t necessarily be adding those to my reader & reading each post. Some blogs (like yours) do have a good mix of info and personality, I’ve definitely learned some useful things here about finance, but also enjoy the community in your comments section.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That’s a good point– google is awesome for finding solely informational blogs. I especially like that some of the recipe blogs (not just the big recipe repositories, but actual blogs with recipes) are somehow magically rated on google when I’m trying to decide which version of a recipe to make.

  16. chacha1 Says:

    The blogs I read are all a mixture of information and personality, except (I guess) The Bloggess who is all personality. :-)

    If I am actually seeking information, I search the topic, I don’t go looking to confirm my opinions on blogs. Most blogs don’t cite their sources, and if I need real information I need real sources.

    Blogs are (for me) workday time-fillers; they don’t replace books or movies for free-time entertainment, and so the dominant topics have to be on my list of “things that interest me” – e.g., NOT sports, politics, kids, or religion – AND the writers’ voice + quality of writing has to be worth my time, AND the commenters have to be literate. I read “Casual Kitchen” regularly even though I’m not really interested in cooking or recipes, just because I like Dan’s voice and writing style.

    There are a lot of people out there writing who are entertaining and/or funny, but whose writing is so ungrammatical that I can’t take it.

    I try to be entertaining with what I write, but I’m well aware that my blog is insufficiently personally revealing, topical, utilitarian, or controversial to attract a wide readership. Not many people go looking for meditations on the etiquette of social dancing, or the evolution of a personal decluttering crusade that is not accompanied by “unf**k your habitat” style horror shows.

    Generally I tend less toward the personal blog and more toward the “about something” blog. Even though all blogs are personal, what I like about this one (and others on my list) is that the personal serves as a frame for a substantive discussion. It’s not the typed equivalent of a selfie.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      blog turnoffs: i used as a first person pronoun (in place of I)… no problem with sentence fragments, or the way that some non-native speakers occasionally make grammatical mistakes, but the lack of capital letters is difficult and the lack of capital i is really hard to deal with. Especially since most cell phone texting thingies will auto-cap it, so I no longer see it in texts.

  17. Revanche Says:

    Usually I need a mix. Though I still read My Money Blog, it’s the rare bird / PF blog that is almost purely informational that I continue to follow. I don’t always expect, or even rarely expect, to learn about things in depth but a good story is always appreciated. But a writer who can teach while telling a story or tell a story to teach is prized!

    And obviously I spend some of my rare free moments visiting here because you have a good mix and it feels like sitting down for a cuppa with old friends.

  18. Comradde PhysioProffe Says:

    I like the general mix here, although I find the personal stuff most compelling.


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