Why I Think Blog Action Day is (Mostly) Worthless

by Kevin on October 16, 2008

I hope the title got your attention. I also hope it doesn’t offend you too much.

Nonetheless, I think Blog Action Day (BAD — what a terrible acronym) is worthless. Unfamiliar with the concept? Here’s the rundown:

  • a topic is selected and one day per year all of the blogging community/everyone registered on Blog Action Day’s website write a post about the topic that has been selected for that year (the topic this year is poverty)
  • then you link back and forth with your favorite bloggers, in hopes of having an impact on all of the readers that see the posts
  • readers then are inspired to take action

On the BAD website, here is the “Why?” section, emphasis mine:

Every blogger has a unique voice, audience and perspective. By speaking to their readers on topic about an important issue we can discuss global issues like poverty in a new and hugely multi-faceted way. And from discussion springs action.

Call me a cynic, but I don’t buy it.

My Honest Opinion

For most bloggers out there, Blog Action Day is a way to write on a topic that all of the big bloggers are writing about in hopes that they will find your article and link back to you. Plain and simple I see it as little more than self promotion.

BAD is pitched as bloggers making a difference. But I’m curious — how does writing one article on poverty, when you don’t typically write on poverty, help anyone?

Apathy and indifference runs rampant in America.

Evidence: see past elections, the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Jay Leno’s Street Walking segment. Americans are most concerned about themselves. We care more about what is going on in the lives of celebrities than we do about our own neighbors. Fashion over finance. Pop culture over true conversations.

We only react to really big disasters like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina/Rita/Ike, and when we do react it is with monetary donations usually. I would be willing to bet less than 10% of bloggers and less than 5% of their readers do anything to help combat poverty due to Blog Action Day. I would be willing to be that of those that do take action, most of them were already involved in some way with helping the less fortunate out there.

What I’ve done

I’m not saying I’m a saint either. Here’s what I do to combat poverty:

  • regularly give to my church, who then helps a broad range of individuals
  • work on service projects with local ministries (for example, we recently went to a middle school in a poor area of town to paint/clean gum off of desks/overall spruce up the entire school)

I don’t volunteer at a soup kitchen. I don’t donate to urban ministries (although again, our church supports them). I could do more. We could all do more.

Stop writing, start doing

I’m just not convinced that writing about poverty is helping anyone. I’d love to be proven wrong. In fact there are some bloggers that are actually taking some action: JD Roth is going to start loaning out money with Kiva. I’d love to be really surprised to see someone like Darren Rowse (Problogger) or John Chow have their readers donate a dollar, or donate their advertising income from the day, or something like that.

Over 15,000 blogs participated in Blog Action Day. How many donated to poverty aide organizations? If each donated…

  • $1= $15,000 to aide organizations
  • $10 = $150,000 to aide organizations
  • $20 = $300,000 to aide organizations

…unfortunately, I didn’t see anything similar to that on the BAD website when I did a quick glance over.

Again, I’d love to be proven wrong. My prediction is that most readers will see some articles, think “Wow, I should really do something. I feel bad…”, and then a week later they will have forgotten about it. Hey, life is busy, college football is on, I’ll help with that poverty stuff next year.

What do you think? Am I way off base here?

{ 2 trackbacks }

Follow-up post to BAD « Steve’s Media Blog
October 16, 2008 at 10:29 am
Loosely Speaking—A Virtual Assistant’s Blog » Best of … Blog Action Day 2008
October 16, 2008 at 5:50 pm

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

BD October 16, 2008 at 9:54 am

Your comments are right on–even more than you may think.You say,,,
My prediction is that most readers will see some articles, think “Wow, I should really do something. I feel bad…”, and then a week later they will have forgotten about it. (aemphasis mine).

Most contains an important element of some. Making this in some way, shape or form a global event is partly a numbers game. That some, even if .01% can be seen as a significant figure the more popular this concept becomes. If in year 2 you have 10,000 bloggers, in year 3 this doubles and so on. Once you reach, say, 100,000 bloggers, that .01% figure equals 1000 people doing something. As the numbers rise, this seemingly negligible some grows.

I think BAD is clearly worth the effort!

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Katie October 16, 2008 at 10:03 am

I agree that there is a segment of bloggers who will have participated in order to build traffic. Misguided and silly, in my mind.

In going through some of the posts yesterday, I found few that inspired me. Flipping that, I found some that introduced me to new ideas and really made me think.

That in itself is a goal accomplished.

By the way, I think there are ways to address poverty besides giving $. Teaching a skill to someone, for instance, takes a lot more effort, but goes further.

Thanks for contributing an alternative view to this day’s discussions.

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Stephen October 16, 2008 at 10:17 am

You know what? That’s a side I really didn’t think about too much. I don’t think though that you can argue that a multitude of people writing about a topic ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT help AT ALL. I will concede that it might not do much, but to say that it is completely worthless is probably a little off-base.

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Jay October 16, 2008 at 10:22 am

I’m glad someone spoke up on this. I thought I was the only one.

I have to “mostly agree” The same as you are donating to your church, atleast people are doing “something”. Maybe someday it will turn into something bigger and more meaningful, but for now at least it makes everyone pause for a few minutes and have to think about poverty or something similar even if it is just to get some links ( probably how they pay their bills and not be in poverty)

I am pretty synical about everything that is going on like the trillions of dollars being thrown here and there when people are starving.I agree with you that maybe a donation to join the group would be a good idea. Even a dollar or two would do some good.

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Michelle Riggen-Ransom October 16, 2008 at 10:24 am

Hello there. I have a feeling if you looked around a bit more, you’d see that there are lots of folks taking action in addition to “just” writing about poverty. I’ve included a link to our company blog, where we’ve partnered with a local food band to raise awareness about poverty in our state. We’re donating meals for every comment left (goal is to reach) by end of the day. This is in addition to thing we do year round, like sponsoring entrepreneurs through kiva.org (which I would recommend everyone do, it’s every easy and it’s a loan so you can get the money back if you wish) and helping with various youth groups and tech events around our city.

So…I invite you to leave a comment. You’ll feed three people 😉

As to why write about poverty, I’ve also written a post at Pop!Tech that touches on the answer to that question:
http://www.poptech.org/blog/index.php/2008/10/15/imagination-empathy-and-innovation/

If we don’t write about or talk about poverty and other social issues, they remain invisible. Discourse leads to action, not for everyone as you rightly point out, but for enough that it matters.

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Justin - YGG October 16, 2008 at 10:26 am

I see your point Kevin. But there were a few people giving back, including myself.

I think the point is to raise awareness and get everyone thinking about giving. It gets forgotten about in our busy lives.

But you do make some good points. Cheers!

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Lil' Boozie October 16, 2008 at 11:34 am

I agree with the need to take action rather than simply writing and willing the masses to feel the urge to donate, contribute, or give back. However, I do agree with some of the efforts of Blog Action Day, in that raising awareness is often the key to initiating any sort of successful global effort. Rather than being cynical and pessimistic, hopefully we can all simply uphold our own values, practice our honesty and fulfill our word, and follow through on causes that we openly support.

Best,
Suz (a.k.a. Lil’ Boozie)

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chris October 16, 2008 at 11:46 am

Kevin,

you are exactly right. I tried explaining this very thought process in a very sarcastic cynical tone (because I like that about me) but the very point of your post and the one I was making ring true. People all too often think “well, I need to do something — here have some of my money” and leave it at that.

I’m the same “terrible” Chris on there. My initial comment came out of iinciting a response; it is not to be taken literally and is only there to be humorous. In my follow up post you can see my very point being made.

http://justcreativedesign.com/2008/10/14/blog-action-day-design-for-poverty/

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Ron@TheWisdomJournal October 16, 2008 at 11:51 am

The problem is that we’re “crisis-ed out” around here. Everything in the world is a “crisis” and just one more doesn’t really mean anything.
Credit crisis
Mortgage crisis
Poverty crisis
War in Iraq crisis
Literacy crisis
Environmental crisis
Housing crisis
Healthcare crisis
Tax crisis
Wall Street crisis
Education crisis
Veterans crisis
Crime crisis
Energy crisis
Infrastructure crisis
Crime crisis
Crisis crisis crisis crisis crisis crisis crisis crisis crisis
It’s so overdone until it has lost its meaning.

And the whole thing about awareness is a joke. Awareness without action is useless.

If you really want to make a difference, do something, and don’t just send money. That’s the easy way out and most of the money never gets to the intended recipients anyway. Get out of your chair and go do something.

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laura October 16, 2008 at 12:37 pm

I participated for two reasons.

One, to join in on something that intended to make a difference. General satisfaction, and strength in numbers.

But more important, knowing that I had committed to think about and then write about “poverty” has, over the past few weeks, been a really good process. I researched and observed more than usual.

Many times the process has more impact than the final “output”

I also saw it not as “Here’s what I do to give to the poor…” and more of a way to discuss how to make global changes, even if a blogger is just asking questions about the topic.

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Debi October 16, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Let me get this straight: you are disheartened by people focusing on an important global issue for a day because you *think* they don’t do anything about it.

The Blog Action Day wasn’t a exercise in futility for me. I read other blogs, I researched, I blogged, and in the end I committed to volunteering time to our local food bank. I’m not tooting my own horn by any means. I’m saying that I think you underestimate humanity and have given you a specific example.

Another thought I had while pondering Poverty: what effect do all these people — those posting and those reading — have on the collective subconscious? It’s a rhetorical question.

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Dave Reid October 16, 2008 at 1:56 pm

I disagree. Blog Action Day prompted you to write this article which could get more of us interested in Kiva. Then Blog Action Day would of worked.

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JamieO October 16, 2008 at 2:48 pm

To spin your post title on itself – I thik this post is (mostly) worthless. The conversation is still meaningful whether you agree with the approach or not. Plus, you missed the other critical activity that Blog Action Day encourages authors to do – donate!

Whether they or their visitors are doing the donating, the goal is to make a difference. The Global Fund Blog Action Day Donation Page has generated $3,159 as of this comment. While not yet approaching $1 / post author, it is still a contribution.

Unfortunately, the site doesn’t offer a strong mechanism to track how many donations were raised by the sites that contributed. So that number above doesn’t factor in any of the blogs who donate to another poverty-related charity. A random sampling, 5 of the 8 links I clicked on via blogactionday.org today indicated that they had raised atleast $5 towards a charity.

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Kevin October 16, 2008 at 3:40 pm

@everyone: I’ll respond back to your specific comments later tonight, but as a general statement:

I specifically said I’d love to be proven wrong. Most of the posts I saw were talking about “How you can help” “things to do” rather than “This is what I’ve done, and will continue to do”. More informational than action oriented.

I guess I see it as more a Blog Blogging Day than a Blog Action Day. But I appreciate all of the opinions.

updated:
@BD: But I thought this was about Action? 1,000 people three or four or ten years down the line doing the undefined something shouldn’t be accepted as enough in my eyes.

@Katie: Thanks for being polite! I, too, found a few links that really made me think. But again, I don’t think the goal should be to get me to think. Because as I said, the average reader is going to think, feel bad, and move on with life. I think the goal should be a much higher bar than just having people write.

@Stephen: I didn’t say completely worthless. I also said I’d be more than happy to be proven wrong. I’d love to write tomorrow that I discovered that $1,000,000 for good causes had been generated. I doubt that will happen though.

@Jay: Thanks for being open minded and polite. I mean, seriously, $1? That would be better than nothing.

@Michelle: Awesome. Thanks for the link — I just commented. Do you think you are the exception or the rule from the other bloggers on BAD?

@Justin: As I said, I think people will think about it and forget it after this weekend’s football games. Little action. Lots of reading.

@Lil’ Boozie: Thanks for the comment. I’m not saying I don’t want it to make a difference. That would be great.

@Chris: I think your comment was over the top, but the discussion afterwards was spot on.

@Ron: Agreed!

@Laura: My fear is that “general satisfaction” is what people are going for, and little good will come from it. I am of the opinion that most people will write their posts, read some others, and move on with life.

@Debi: How does writing about this issue solve the problem? My point is this isn’t action. Period. It’s all talk. Do you think you are the exception or the rule in donating your time to the local food bank?

@Dave: I agree to disagree. I’d love for those who go out and lend money via Kiva would report back to me that they did it because of my post.

@Jamieo: Cute, but I disagree. As of the writing of this comment there were 12,386 bloggers registered with BAD. The number still stood at $3,159 as of writing this comment. So not only is that not a measly, pathetic $1 per author… it’s only about 25 cents per author. Boy, sure sounds like we’re going to make a huge difference. Oh, and the goal on that same page? $50,000. So 6.3% of the goal so far. Very, very sad.

As to not tracking what others had donated, why not get everyone to rally around a set of organizations? Or why not develop the ability to track it?

Additionally, in your second comment: You point out things I pointed out already, then call me narrow minded and self-righteous. Awesome. It’s going to take a lot of drops at 25 cents per author to make a gallon of positive effect, not to mention an ocean.

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Jamie O October 16, 2008 at 4:33 pm

You simply don’t get it do you, even after all those comments up there trying to shed some light on your cynicism.
You say blogging about poverty is not enough to make a difference, of course it isn’t, but it is a step towards the right direction. In developed societies that are saturated with consumerism and moral apathy, where people are more concerned with entertainment than enlightment, we can as well say that 80% of the population are socially irresponsible, only the remaining 20%, who have been able to think for themselves and rise above the status quo, to really see the society they live in and acknowledge the problems that are paramount, only these few try to make a difference. They don’t need to be told anymore, they also do not need to blog about it. But what about the remaining 80% of those who don’t even know that there are millions who go without food everyday? You don’t give the job of a commando to a rookie, it is that simple. They need to be aware, and BAD is one of the many ways that can very well create the much needed platform for that.
They don’t see the things that you do, nor feel the pain in the society that you do feel. They must first be made aware.

Thus to write off BAD as worthless, is not really being cynical, even the gloom of cynicism is limited by the boundaries of intelligence. I’d say you are simply being narrow minded and self-righteous. Do try to have an open mind. Years from now, you’d be amazed at the changes that would rise from the platform of a blogging action day you wrote off. Little drops of water my friend makes a mighty ocean.

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Paige October 16, 2008 at 8:30 pm

I dont see any harm in it though, so i guess it is okay.

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Lil' Boozie October 16, 2008 at 8:58 pm

JAMIEO, I agree with essentially all of what you’re saying. To add to what you’ve mentioned, I firmly believe that the post that Kevin has written has sparked an engaging & informed discussion which will hopefully put the wheels in motion for those that might have been skeptical about the power of blogging.

-Suz (a.k.a. Lil’ Boozie)

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Kevin October 16, 2008 at 9:54 pm

@Everyone: I also have a post going up tomorrow morning, 7AM Central time in the US, as a follow up to this post.

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Josh October 16, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Well, everyone here has been fooled by No Debt Plan.

He talks about the blatant self-promotion, etc., in his post — but that’s exactly what he tricked all of you into doing — reading his blog and firing many of you up to leave comments.

In fact, most of the Blog Action Day posts I’ve read have been very good, inspiring, and even mentioned things that the bloggers have done in their own lives to combat poverty.

Kevin’s post is actually an example of the few that bring discredit to Blog Action Day’s goal because he did nothing more than generate traffic and stir up anger and division instead of passion and unity. He had a chance to write an inspirational post, and he instead tried to make himself look good, smart, etc.

Must be a McCain supporter or something.

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Debi October 16, 2008 at 10:52 pm

Actually, Kevin, my *writing* did make a difference. Another blogger who reads my blog has promised to donate to her own local food bank because of my post.

You accomplished a lot today by calling Blog Action Day “worthless.” For yourself, that is. You garnered more comments for your ad-blog than normal.

I’m outta here.

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Kevin October 17, 2008 at 7:15 am

@Josh: I love how people get really riled up when someone offers constructive criticism toward their favorite idea of the week. In all honesty, I figured I would have had to signup for BAD to get my post to appear on their site. I didn’t know that it would automatically link to me. Was traffic the end goal? No. Discussion was the end goal. And if you’ll notice, several people have agreed with me. I’m apparently not alone.

The only anger and division I see are from those that disagree with my view. And instead of politely offering up a differing view — and furthering the discussion — they come in throwing around names and being hateful.

The McCain comment is a perfect example. Is this the middle school lunch room? Is your Mom fat? Oooo…. wait a second. I’m an adult. I don’t need to throw around names to make myself feel better when someone disagrees with my views.

For the record, I am not a McCain supporter. Ron Paul all the way.

@Debi: You didn’t answer the question. Do you think you are the exception or the rule? That is, what percentage of the posts out of all 12,000 were about what someone does on a regular basis for poverty versus what others could do (action vs. informational).

As I pointed out to Josh, the people who disagree can’t seem to keep a cool head. There’s no need to try and insult me by calling my blog an “ad-blog”. If you think this is an ad-blog, that’s your opinion. I would be glad to point you in the direction of some true ad-blogs.

And you are always welcome back if you decide to come back. That’s the key — I’m open to discussion, and I can keep my head on straight. Feel free to disagree on anything I write on my blog.

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Shannon Swenson, Interactive Producer October 17, 2008 at 7:54 am

This discussion is academic. There isn’t any hard data supporting one side or the other, so these are merely opinions. I find Kevin’s POV to be mildly cynical, but he raises a reasonable question. I also note his opponents jump to name calling rather than respond to his question/challenge.

I work in advertising on large brands and see a similar type of struggle. Executives want to know the impact of a campaign (ROI) and that they’re investment is worthy. This can be difficult for campaigns with expressed goals in awareness, PR and social media.

Same with Blog Action Day – we don’t know the impact, participants just trust it will generate awareness, introspection and subsequent goodwill. So while “worthless” is admittedly an emotionally-charged word, the questions merit reflection. What is the impact?

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Peter October 17, 2008 at 10:11 am

I appreciate the point that you’re trying to get across – that maybe we should be more action oriented all year round, not just on blog action day?

In any event, I don’t think it’s worthless at all. I used the day to start using Kiva to help small business owners, and after I posted about it I heard from several readers that they were going to do the same. So – I know it had at least SOME effect. Better to do something with good intentions and have a small effect, than none at all, right?

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artie October 17, 2008 at 12:27 pm

I agree. Blog Action Day is stoopid and self promotional. I wrote about it just so that people would know that I exist and don’t give a hoot.

Read my very short opinion on my self centered blog.

http://artimustard.blogspot.com/2008/10/blog-action-day.html

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Miss Thrifty October 19, 2008 at 9:40 am

I agree, Kevin. It’s a great idea in principle – but I’m not sure what it achieves in terms of concrete action.

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San Diego Churches September 14, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Hahahah. Boring Action Day. Hilarious.

hahaha.

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Prozac birth defect lawsuits January 3, 2012 at 5:38 pm

I never even heard about blog action day until i read this article so I guess that speaks for itself.

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