Jeff Ruane

Gaming the Bear Blog Discovery Feed

I decided to switch to Bear Blog about 7 months ago from a static site setup. It's been a good experience so far. Pre-Bear, I endlessly tweaked and updated the site, probably to avoid actually writing. Even more user friendly platforms like Wordpress and Ghost require a significant amount of operational work. The beauty of Bear Blog is the constraints. Taking away the option of migrating from Jekyll to Hugo to Astro on a whim, for example, has dramatically increased the amount of time I spend writing.

I also really liked the discover feed. It's much more difficult to attract readers and find new, interesting blogs than it was in the blogging heyday.

Recently though, the discover feed looks increasingly similar to the type of engagement farming you'd see on Twitter or Reddit. I find myself wondering how many of those top posts are AI generated. I don't think it's a significant problem yet, but it's going to become one quickly unless some countermeasures are taken.

I decided to do a test. I went to ChatGPT and asked it to write me 500 works on why everyone should blog and plopped the response into a new post: Maintaing a blog is intimidating. Do it anyway. I learned a few things.

At this point, it's been published for roughly 12 hours. The good news is that it didn't make the front page of discover, and generally got less engagement than I expected. The slightly worse news is that it has the most "toasts" of any other post I've written, and got views much more quickly than any other post I've written.

I've written a little bit about AI-powered bots have destroyed social media, and I don't want to see that happen to Bear Blog.

Granted, I'm a shitty writer, so it's no surprise that ChatGPT is more palatable. But the article consists entirely of vague, borderline meaningless platitudes. It's bland, unchallenging, and lacks a distinctive voice.

I'm not going to mention anyone specifically, but there have been quite a few posts on the top of discover that have a similar feeling. Granted, those may not be AI, but even if not, they read like SEO optimized drivel. I'd rather read a bad writer with a genuine and passionate opinion than yet another metablogging listicle.

I don't have a solution, just calling out a potentially looming issue. And sure, some people really enjoy that content. There's nothing wrong with it. But in my humble, curmudgeonly opinion, the more that kind of content dominates the discover feed, the less valuable it becomes. There are still many wonderful, insightful, interesting posts on discover. I'm just worried that won't be the case for much longer unless the discover algorithm is adjusted.

#internet #personal