Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | October 6, 2015

Where Have All the Bloggers Gone

I started blogging in 2006. That was six iPhones ago. There was no such thing as Twitter or Instagram, and although Facebook was around, it was mainly used by college kids. None of my kids had graduated from college yet. I was still in the same house I’d bought in 1985, right before graduating from medical school. I had four old cats and a paraplegic peke. It was a long time ago.

Blogging was different then as well. At the very beginning, there weren’t as many of us, though our numbers blossomed. For several years there was a fairly steady group making up what we called the Medical Blogosphere. We were pretty active, usually posting several times a week. It was also before the days of the RSS feed, so you had to go clicking down your blogroll to see what everyone had written. None of this “new posts in your email” back then.

Every Tuesday, we’d take turns hosting what we called Grand Rounds. Named after the time-honored medical tradition of a formal presentation by some bigwig, it was a “Weekly roundup of the best of the Medical Blogosphere.” I hosted it a couple of times. Sometimes there was a theme; other times it was just a collection of links. It was a great way to generate traffic, both by having a post linked there, even more so when hosting although it really was a lot of work.

So what happened?

What often happens when a group of people get together, in person or on the web: we moved on. Most of us likely got busy with other things. It happens. Blogging can be hard work, and very time consuming. Did we run out of things to say? In a way, perhaps. I started finding more and more that when I went to write about something, I realized I already had. I found myself quoting myself a lot (since a lot of my writing was pretty damn good.) Gradually, we kind of drifted apart.

Blogging itself changed as well. Twitter came along, with all the pros and cons of its 140 character limit. Instagram arrived as well, in conjunction with the smart phone explosion. Who had time to sit down at a laptop anymore when you could do almost everything on your phone?

The landscape shifted. Many blogs went dark, even as many others popped up. Today we live more by the RSS (and Twitter, and Facebook) feed than by the blogroll, but I did take a quick stroll down memory lane to create a brief “where are they now?” list:

  • Mike Sevilla, originally Dr. Anonymous, is now the king of social media.
  • Kevin Pho became its CEO as his original “aggregator” blog became bigger and more monetized.
  • Sid Schwab (SurgeonsBlog) retired from surgery, had a grandson (cutest kid ever), and continues to write a wonderful flamingly liberal blog.
  • Kim McAllister (EmergiBlog) shuttered her blog, had a grandson (cutest kid ever), and posts regularly on Facebook about NASCAR, among other things.
  • Peggy Polaneczky (The Blog That Ate Manhattan) still blogs from time to time, with awesome pictures of her upstate weekend home and fabulous recipes while also clarifying the increasingly confusing world of mammograms and paps.
  • Wes Fisher (Dr Wes) is still going strong, most recently engaged in exposing the financial shenanigans around the deeply flawed Maintenance of Certification fiasco. (Atta boy, Wes.)
  • Bob Centor (DB’s Medical Rants) is also still plugging away; teaching, running, losing weight, and steadily writing about it all.
  • Shadowfax is still Movin’ Meat, though he’s down to about one post a month.
  • Ramona Bates (Sutured for a Living) retired from surgery, but still blogs her various knitting and stitching projects.
  • Science Based Medicine and Respectful Insolence are also both still going strong, though I confess I don’t head over there nearly as much as I would like. (Yes, David Gorski, you really do get pretty logorrheic.)

As for me, obviously I’ve cut way back over the years. There are several etiologies: a failed foray into long fiction writing, a bout with thyroid cancer, and the process of downsizing both a home and an office. There’s also my adoption of electronic medical records five years ago, which was huge: after sitting at a keyboard all day, the last thing I feel like doing when I get home is boot up yet another computer. The only keyboard I want to play with after hours is my piano (or my new clavichord.)

What of the future of blogging? Who knows? Certainly not I. But I would hazard a guess that public Internet journaling will continue in one form or another. People will always be interested in medicine, because writing is writing, medicine is medicine, and people are people.

See you around the ‘net.



  1. I found this very interesting. I started a blog a few months ago because a guy I respect and had gotten very friendly with over a year’s time urged me to and I’d been thinking about doing it for months and already had a blog. His reason was that my posts on his Facebook page as I probed him for an increased understanding of the new African American intellectual movement had become mini-essays and he thought I should share them as much as possible. I agreed that the exchanges of perspectives we had were interesting enough to share.

    I have posted four blogs since. None really attracted attention as blogs, but my political writings have attracted an increasing amount of attention when the blog was posted to my Facebook page and even when I’ve bypassed the blog and just posted a small essay directly on my page.

    I know other people who have self-consciously developed a major following on their Facebook pages on serious subjects by what are essentially blog posts but put directly on Facebook. I’m talking about statements with or without links that get over 50 Likes, several or more Shares, and conversations that go towards 200 comments over a period of a day or more.

    The community of poets and writers I’m part of is very active on Facebook. I’m wondering what your feelings are about this. In my community there is some controversy about whether a poem you post yourself on your own page is “published” and therefore ineligible for publication in a magazine that only accepts previously unpublished work – generally considered the “best” magazines. Yet on what seems like the opposite side is the general feeling, it seems, that an essay or review entered into world view on a Facebook post is somehow not “real” work as perhaps a blog post might be considered to be.

    What do you think?

  2. I hosted Grand Rounds once! Probably also in about 2006. Haven’t posted to my blog, The Antidote, health-counter, since 2010 at the latest.

  3. You didn’t mention two of the very best medical bloggers I know: Drs. Judy Stone and Elaine Shatner. Both are blogging at Forbes, although I don’t know if it is a per article arrangement or they are on a bloggers for the site.

    I can tell you what happened to ruin the science blogging community: when Bora was falsely accused of disgusting behavior, all integrity was lost and at least one science blogging network became primarily about identity politics. Bora and the Science Online conference were the glue that held that community together and when lies became more important and powerful than truth, when “journalists” failed to question false allegations, every blogger lost credibility. When it became more page-view worthy to talk about some off-color remarks made in jest by Sir Tim Hunt, bloggers’ commitments to science, doubt, and truth-telling got flushed down the toilet. The sad truth is that most people care more about scandal than science.

    What is more disturbing to me is the question of what has happened to curiosity and reading? The decline in the quality of thought and writing on most internet sites indicates to me that more people seem to (erroneously) believe that they already have the answers and have simply stopped asking questions.

    (PS- I despise EMRs and think they are particularly dangerous in the critical care setting. Physicians no longer feel the imperative to actually talk to nurses and/or lay hands/eyes/ears on the patients. Why bother when you can prescribe medications and treatments based on information in the computer? (And we all hope that those data, patients, and prescriptions line up for the correct patient.)

  4. @Cal: I’m not sorry that I quit Facebook, but I sure do miss running into you there. Glad to know you have started blogging. You have very interesting ideas and express yourself beautifully. Good to see you hear. And you are quite right about people blogging on Facebook.

  5. Ugh. *here.*

  6. I’ve tended to use the different platforms [Blogging/FB/Twitter/email lists] for different purposes — sometimes there’s an audience, sometimes there isn’t, and sometimes I’m surprised by who’s listening!

  7. DR. H, I hope you are not thinking about quitting your blog. I have read every entry. It is articulate and generously written. As a sometimes-patient, I find it very comforting to get a doctor’s perspective on the art of medicine. Just thought you should know.

  8. There are many new medical blogs around new… a new generation of docs, so to speak, and eager to join your ranks. If you ever wanted to start Grand Rounds up again, I’m sure many would be eager to join and learn 🙂

  9. It seems very hard to find those new medical blogs, though, since I’m not seeing lively blogrolls.

  10. I have noticed not only a decline in the number of bloggers but also in the willingness to challenge the establishment. I have to conclude that pressure has been put on those not following the “company” line to conform…

  11. I got into blogging very late and recently and have never participated in a blog discussion until this one, which I’ve been following. The only blog posts that have ever come to my attention are those which appear on Facebook.

    I’ve seen many serious Facebook posts in the fields of writing and education and many more about politics, though the latter are ubiquitous and the average one is less serious and are more argumentative and partisan.

    I haven’t spent much time on Twitter, which seems to be more oriented towards announcements and statements by famous people in various fields, but I do spend a lot of time on Facebook and it seems to be very well set up to allow what I’ve heard used to occur in the “blogosphere,” where I see little other than evidence of corporate blogs by hired writers.

    Is it possible that Facebook has taken the place of blogging as a means of serious publishing of information and professional discussion?

  12. @Cal: I do agree that to a certain extent, Facebook has coopted some of the functions of a blog. Nevertheless, there are still lots of very good reasons IMHO for a separate platform (privacy issues, for example). Twitter is a good way to disseminate blog links to help with blog traffic, because of its short form.

    Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be sure to check out your stuff.

    @Megz: I don’t doubt that there’s a new generation out there. Not sure how attractive Grand Rounds would be, though, at least in its original format. Thanks for reminding me that time indeed marches on.

    @Anon: no worries: No intentions of quitting the blog, regardless of how slow I’ve gotten on it. Stay well.

  13. Twitter has killed the blogs.
    So has the EMR – we’re all too busy finishing our charts at night to blog anymore.
    Glad to see you’re still here.

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