Last week I mentioned my blog on a usability practitioner's email list. Though no one criticized my blog directly, I was surprised to receive a number responses hostile to usability blogs in general.
The criticism of blogs on the email list boiled down to three main points:
1. Blogs contribute to information overload. The scenario raised in the email list was Google searches where certain blog results, with little relevant information, crowd out higher quality, research-based information.
In response I'd say this is a potential problem in any domain. Over time, as fields become more popular and specialized, searches have to be more precise to yield the desired results. Google Scholar exists to solve this problem. (Later, one person noted that appending "-blog" to a Google search excludes blog entries from search results.)
I can't imagine an oncologist, for instance, suggesting that blogs about cancer are making it too difficult to find cancer research. It doesn't seem reasonable to hold usability blogs to a higher standard than in other disciplines. Specialized tools, or search terms, are required to find specialized information
2. Usability blogs are an echo chamber: bloggers just repeat the same points. It depends on the blog. Refer to the blogging spectrum diagram on the left. Some believe all blogs are in the top section of "linkdumps."
My blog postings fall in the middle of the spectrum, or closer to the bottom on a good day. I try to add value, and not post solely on current topics without adding my own spin.
3. Also related to the spectrum was a third objection: usability practitioners ought to be disseminating empirical evidence, rather than commentary on topics. When not backed up by research, opinions can be harmful, giving a false impression that user experience is driven by pundits rather than objective research.
As the spectrum shows, original research is only one possible blog role. Blogs are also for discussion, interpretation, commenting and criticizing.
To my mind, this comment points to an insecurity in usability practitioners' minds. If we only allow ourselves to post online content that is original and backed up by research, user experience will be a poverty-stricken field indeed. I'm very interested in the thoughts, opinions, and anecdotes of usability professionals.