The Blog-Browsing Worker

Is blogging kept alive by office-bound shirkers?

Some blogs get huge amounts of comments, which always makes me wonder: When do people actually find the time to write these things? I can understand folk adding a comment if it’s something work related, but if it’s a blog about soccer, this can hardly be considered vital to the office’s wellbeing. I was gobsmacked (UK English for ‘knocked back in my seat’ or ‘you could have knocked me over with a feather’), for example, to see nearly 250 comments on one blog posting over at The Guardian’s sportblog on whether or not Liverpool’s manager Rafa Benítez is “making a dog’s dinner” of his team. Vital stuff, as you may imagine, but 250 comments?

The good thing about The Guardian’s blog system is that each comment shows the time when the comment was posted and where the author is located. (This latter bit of information could be faked, of course, but let’s assume for the sake of argument it’s not.) So when do these people post their comments — on their own time, or their bosses’? (Perhaps this question has been better addressed in surveys elsewhere; if so, I’d love to hear about them, and will just regard the following experiment as a midly diverting pastime. I’ve seen less focused surveys by AOL, Advertising Age, CNET, Websense and The Guardian, but nothing that specifically mentions blogging or commenting.)

Allowing for time zones, and based on precisely one blog entry, I’d say the latter. Commenters generally seem to be doing it from work. Assuming a work day from around 8 am to 12 pm, a lunchbreak of around two hours (yeah I know that’s laughable, but we have to assume that someone reading and commenting on a blog between 12 pm and 2 pm may be on their break), then working from 2-6 pm, that’s where most of the action is, whatever timezone you’re in (this blog entry also has comments from as far afield as Canada and New Zealand.) Then for the hell of it I divided the rest of the day between 6 to 10 pm, as a sort of recreational period, and then 10-12 pm as a sort of post-pub haze, when we used to watch crazy kats on Open University but now surf the web. Then there’s the midnight to 8 am period, a twilight zone for commenters.

This is what it looks like, starting at midnight:

0-8       6.6%
8-12    20.3%
12-2    16.2%
2-6      39.0%
6-10      7.5%
10-12   10.4%

Or as a Sparkline:

Based on this very limited example (where comments — as usual — deteriorate into a slanging match between a few individuals) it’s clear that most commenting is done on work time, with the Post-Prandial Surf the most popular period. Despite the generous two-hour lunch window offered in the survey, fewer people made comments during that period than during the pre-lunch morning period, suggesting lunch time is too important to waste on reading blogs. And even if you only take the 8-12 and 2-6 periods as worktime, that still accounts for nearly two thirds of the comments. I’d say, based on this, the workplace seems to be the preferred blog-reading/commenting locale.

4 thoughts on “The Blog-Browsing Worker”

  1. This seems to match what I recall from when I used to work at a fairly major online news site here in .au

    We used to have very defined peaks: around 9am (as people arive in the office), around 1:30pm (as people finish their lunchbreak), and one last gasp around 5pm (as people prepare to leave work)

    I’ve got no hard data to back this up any more unfortunately, just my recollections…

  2. One thing to add about the Guardian location thing. I believe it’s automatically generated, a commenter cannot ‘fake’ their location. However, it is notoriously inaccurate by a factor of several hundred miles on occasion, but I think it generally ‘gets’ the country.

    As for reading habits and time of day, The Daily Telegraph did a study and have rejigged their entire news production system around what they discovered in their stats. They told me there were very definite spikes throughout the day that, they think, correspond quite specifically with the majority of people looking for comment, news, video, audio, interaction on forums etc.

    More on all that here:

  3. Shush, Jeremy! Bosses read blogs during working hours too…

    On a more serious note, does teh Grauniad’s blog posting system make note of time zones? This is obviously not relevant for UK postings which I assume comprise the vast majority there.

    My bloghost seems to be the busiest at Wednesdays, from afternoon till midnight. No idea why.

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