Friday, March 25, 2005

Is the information superhighway different on rural route nine?

There are about fifteen or twenty websites that I visit every day. Some of these are the same websites that everyone visits everyday:,, that kind of thing. Others are websites that some less-than-everyone-but-yet-substantial set of people of which I am a member visit every day: sites on the intranet at work, linguistics and cognitive science blogs, online magazines like or, food sites such as But there's also a pretty sizable set of sites that I visit that aren't of general interest in the same way: personal blogs or webpages maintained by friends, mainly. These are both among the most interesting to me and most religiously visited and yet the least useful, strictly speaking. Sites like this I visit just because it's entertaining to do so.

If I extend the circle to include sites that I visit on a weekly rather than on a daily or near-daily basis, then I end up with music sites like or, running sites like or, and occasional book review or personal websites of authors that I like.

At least once I week I google someone other than myself, for work or curiosity. Every day I google language phenomena or paper references for work.

When I put all this together, what I end up with is a web browsing pattern that's about two thirds work and one third not, with the percentage of fluffy personal interest sites slightly higher when browsing patterns are considered on a weekly rather than a daily basis. I'm not counting email at all, which at this point is 90% work for me.

I'm wondering what these patterns look like for other people. If you're reading this, then you're doing at least some amount of fluffy frivolous browsing. But I wonder if your internet use is more work or play. I wonder what the cultural variance is in this, or how other demographic factors come into play: age, sex, location, socioeconomics, native language. I think it's a non-trivial problem.


Blogger heathalouise said...

I am the worst fluff surfer ever. Because I spend so much time online when working on stuff for school, I end up hitting friends' sites over and over again, praying they've updated so that I can be put out of my work misery. I also check my site for comments constantly, even though blogger e-mails me every time there is one. I also hit google, slate, salon, etc. I also am into checking my wedding registry. I am such a freakin' dork...

2:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kieran, thank you for writing such a thoughtful post about an issue that affects most of us, but which isn't discussed much, for fear of admitting we might be slackers (not that you are one). I tend to like posts like this relating to work and linguistics issues, since they can be very enlightening and practical/helpful to your readers, in a way which your posts about general social/life issues, such as the wedding, are not (although they do serve other necessary purposes and are still fun to read :) ).

In answer to your question, yes, I am very much guilty of being a slacker. I don't know the exact percentages, but my work vs. play time must be around 50/50, at least recently (yikes!). When I get in a more serious work mode, it's more around 80-90% work, 20-10% play. But some of my work does actually require me to read web forums, and post on Usenet, for both general educational purposes and to ask for help regarding specific problems I encounter. Even this can get out of control though if not kept in check.

3:50 AM  
Blogger Kieran Snyder said...

See, I read my two thirds/one third split another way. I couldn't really spend any more time working than I do now. What I'm discovering is that a surprising amount (maybe too much!)of my non-work time on the weekend is spent online.

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should get an RSS reader, it would keep you from needing to go to many of those sites to see what is updated. When they update, they tell you!

12:56 PM  
Blogger Kieran Snyder said...

What I meant is that I check them every day, or whenever they're updated. Which is usually daily. :)

7:22 PM  

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