Main | Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Death By Blogging

From the NY Times:
They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece — not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop. You may know it by a different name: home. 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.

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. Other bloggers complain of weight loss or gain, sleep disorders, exhaustion and other maladies born of the nonstop strain of producing for a news and information cycle that is as always-on as the Internet.

To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.

The pressure even gets to those who work for themselves — and are being well-compensated for it. “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. It is unclear how many people blog for pay, but there are surely several thousand and maybe even tens of thousands.
I don't know how stressed it's making me, but I'm probably blogging too much as well, usually for 2-3 hours a day. I blog over meals, I blog while watching TV, and I blog during long boring conference calls. (Probably shouldn't do that.) Cranking out 8-10 posts a day (even short ones) is probably too much for somebody with a day job, although I tend to do a lot of my day's blogging over breakfast and sometimes leave the posts in draft form until later in the day when I've had more time to mull the issue at hand.

Still, before I started JMG, the time I now spend blogging was probably spent on the couch vegging out to Law & Order reruns. At least now I'm sitting up! I wonder if I wasn't blogging if I'd be like a couple of my friends who spend five hours a night mired in those multi-player virtual reality sites, slaying elves and buying castles. I could have totally been a millionaire, uh, in Lindens. (Not that playing those games is a bad thing. Ray. Andrew.)

If you haven't caught onto my blogging schedule yet, I usually put up four or five posts before work, then a few more at lunchtime, sometimes saving my longer blathering for the end of the day when the topic calls for a bit more personal contemplation. And of course there's the issue of my growing insomnia, sometimes aided by a middle-of-the-night blog post. Go figure. Sleep by blogging.

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