Attention Span of a Gnat

A fellow Bootman who has his own Yahoo Group lamented recently about sending out photos showing his work in boot photography, but was concerned that he hardly ever received any comments, thank-yous, or “attaboys.”

I have seen the trend of this type of thing occurring on boards like “Boots on Line” and Jared’s “Abootfetish” Yahoo group.

After I took the time to compose, crop, and edit lots of photos and posted them in various places, I was disappointed that I hardly received any replies or comments or email. I once thought, “nobody pays attention, nobody cares.”

Well, that’s not true. Lots of people pay attention–I have proof! I have software that works on every page of my website and blog that shows me what pages are being viewed, and where people come from. When I post a message with a link to my website or blog, I see upwards of over 2,000 visitors within 24 hours after posting the link. That’s pretty amazing, considering how narrow the field of interest there is about boots.

On top of that, about 80% of the daily visitors to my website and blog come from Google and other search engines. Last week, I was reaching new heights (in absolute numbers) of the number of unique visitors to my website. (All due to the Law Ride 2009 photo galleries.)

There are a few people, such as my local Silver Spring, DC, and NoVa Bootman lurkers, who have bookmarked my blog and/or website home page, and visit every day. But few people bookmark web pages any more. Most visitors “surf in” and “surf out.”

My stats indicate that about half of the visitors to my blog and website are on for less than 5 seconds. That indicates to me that they stumbled upon it while surfing the ‘net, and didn’t stay. Ooooh… heaven forbid! Aaak! he’s gay! Run for the … [next website].

The next most common visit length for my website or blog is from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. There are some visitors who stay longer, but most have very short visits.

I have learned a number of things from observing how visitors visit:

  • Most visitors come from search engines.
  • Those who come from links usually drop in and leave quickly. This is an indication of true “surfing” behavior.
  • There remains strong interest in certain things that I blog about: Muir Caps, wearing leather in public, and motor cops, but not some other things. Oh well, it’s my blog; I’ll blog about what I like.
  • There are a lot more people looking at what you post on the Internet than you think. Most don’t say anything because they either don’t know how — or, more likely, they are doing what they do on the ‘net: they are surfing.
  • Most visitors have the attention span of a gnat.

I am not saying that most visitors have the brain capacity of a gnat. I am saying that they surf along at a rapid rate and are scanning, rather than reading.

Us older guys who were taught to read by Mrs. Snaggletooth in first grade have trouble understanding that the kids in their 20s now (born in the late 1980s) did not learn how to read like we were taught back in the early ’60s. They were taught to read using a process of sight scanning for key words and page elements. We were taught to read word-for-word, where they were taught to read “for meaning” (however interpreted through sight scanning.)

Further, much pedagogical research indicates that the vast majority of humans “read” images much more than they read words. Why are the world’s printed newspapers dying? Kids don’t read. They scan, and they scan using the tool that they grew up with (and us older guys didn’t): the world wide web on the Internet.

It’s time for us older guys to have a change of heart about how we view the world as it is engaged by younger people. They have an attention span of a gnat, but they do not lack intelligence. They just apply it differently.

… Something to think about… and it’s only the older guys who have gotten this far on this blog post. The younger dudes surfed away hours ago, and probably have twittered at least 20 tweets since then.

One thought on “Attention Span of a Gnat

  1. Having got to the end of your page I rate myself as belonging to the older generation. I’m 45. My friends laugh because I spell everything out correctly on my infrequant mobile text messages. The world is passing us out.

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