Bob may have no comment on CNN’s article about abandoned sites, but I can think of a couple of things to say about it. First of all, the journalist who wrote the article seems to think that this is a new phenomenon, but it’s not. A blog or other personal Web site is the online equivalent of a newsletter, and a lot of newsletters peter out after the first few issues.
Unless you are receiving a newsletter in the first place, you don’t notice when it stops coming. But defunct Web sites are more conspicuous, thanks to search engines like Google. As long as a dead site remains on the Web, search engines keep dredging it up and showing it to us. So we tend to be more aware of abandoned sites, because they’re in our faces more often than abandoned newsletters.
Why have newsletters always had such a high infant mortality rate? I think it’s because most of them were started for the wrong reason, or no obvious reason at all. It just seemed like a good idea. Well, the existence of a newsletter about your favorite topic is a wonderful thing, but somebody has to create it. And not just once, but over and over, every time an issue is due. It requires an ongoing commitment of time, money, and creative energy — and when the initial enthusiasm fades away, you need a reason to continue doing it. Otherwise you’ll realize that you’re wasting your time and energy on something you don’t really care about, and you’ll quit.
Maintaining a Web site is no different. Because of tools like Blogger, creating and updating a Web site seems easier than publishing a newsletter, but that’s an illusion. Sure, you don’t have to make a stack of photocopies, collate and address them by hand, and then drive to the Post Office to mail them. You just open a browser window and start typing. As a result, some people conclude that maintaining a Web site is effortless. But they’re walking into a trap, because the requirement for creative energy hasn’t changed. You still have to think of something worth saying, and then painstakingly craft sentences and paragraphs to communicate it. Fancy tools like Blogger don’t help you with that. When you have to face the Dreadful Blank Page and fill it with words, the fact that it’s a computer screen instead of a sheet of paper does not make the prospect any less daunting.
Most of those abandoned Web sites were doomed before they ever appeared on the Internet, because the site creators forgot to ask themselves: Why am I doing this? The commitment of time and energy to maintain a Web site is nontrivial. If you don’t get anything out of it, you’ll end up like Ajay Powell, viewing your site as a burden rather than a joy.

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