Friday, September 17, 2004

Thoughts on Blogging

Hugh called my attention to a new blog called Stones Cry Out today. And scrolling down I discovered this article. Just before the end, this line caught my attention:


"Authors of low-traffic blogs blog like they are a high-traffic blog, which is not what they should be doing. This is not their role. More about this in my next post (Post #2); stay tuned."


Now I know Rick is developing a whole four article thingy about this, and this is the cliffhanger leading into article 2. It's entirely possible that I will agree with his eventual thesis when I can put that statement into proper context. But I immediately felt a visceral disagreement to that statement.

I think the reason may come down to the use of the word "role."

role

n 1: the actions and activities assigned to or required or expected
of a person or group; "the function of a teacher"; "the government must
do its part"; "play its role" [syn: function, office, part]

2: an actor's portrayal of someone in a play; "she played the part of Desdemona" [syn: character, theatrical role, part, persona]

3: what something is used for; "the function of an auger is to bore holes"; "ballet is beautiful but what use is it?" [syn: function, purpose, use]

4: normal or customary activity of a person in a particular social setting; "what is your role on the team?"



Source: WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University
That's the most thorough definition of the word I found in a quick search. And there's nothing in there that seems suitable to capture what blogging is about to me. So when I read a statement saying, "Authors of low-traffic blogs blog like they are a high-traffic blog, which is not what they should be doing. This is not their role." I get a little peeved (no offense to Rick).

Apparently Rick has a very specific kind of blogging in mind. And he has some ideas about blogging that way which he wants to share. I think that's great. But I don't think I'd care to blog Rick's way (again, with a caveat that I'm witholding final judgement until I read his entire series). Here's a general clue where he's heading with the idea from a previous post of his:

"Post #2 will outline our role as small- and medium-sized blog authors. I will argue that our primary role is to maximize the information flow to our circle of influence (family, friends and co-workers)."


Makes sense if you're blogging for politics or evangelization. But other kinds of blogging I do just wouldn't fit that. Maximize, schmaximize. In some areas I am downright stingy about the information I want to share.

By coincidence, very shortly afterward, I also came across this article this morning in A Small Victory - a blog that has just returned from an extended hiatus (and which I only discovered this week and already like a lot). In it, Michele writes about a recent discussion on blogging conducted within a panel of other fairly prestigious bloggers.

Important elements:

"There was one person who said - and I'll just loosely paraphrase so as not to break any rules - that blogging about personal things instead of news of the day means is lazy blogging.

...

"Well, here's the thing. I don't care. Some days I'll just sit here and emote and some days I'll storm the castle and bring you the head of the Big News Story victim, all wrapped up in hyperlinks and cross-references and pdfs of documents. And when I don't do that, someone else will. That's the beauty of the blogosphere. No story goes unnoticed, no stone goes unthrown, no turn of the phrase gets left out. If one hundred bloggers are busy whining about how much they hate summer and how their baseball team sucks, there will be one hundred bloggers bringing you the latest news from Iraq or covering a hurricane or unearthing a story that's about to become big.
...

"Of course, it's possible to mix both news and opinion without getting into an navel gazing soliloquy that makes the reader feel like a voyeur. I go back sometimes and read older posts and I'll cringe at the guest-on-Dr. Phil feel to it. But it's part of what I do and part of what thousands of bloggers do. To call all of them lazy is to not recognize the importance of anyone else besides yourself and I think that's an inherent problem with a good portion of bloggers who are stars within their part of the system; they put too much value on their own import, to the extent that they don't realize just how small a piece they are of the whole picture.

It's just blogging. On the whole, we're no less and no more important than the Podunk Daily News, which prints local birth announcements and stories about cats stuck in trees. The Podunk Daily News may not be important to you or I, but the people of Podunk swear by it.

So when people ask why blogging is important to me, I tell them: because it's important to me. Understand?"


Sorry for such a long excerpt (and, it should go without saying, read the whole thing). But as strongly as I disagreed with the previous statement, I had a hard time narrowing down to a concise excerpt from this one because I so strongly agree with pretty much everything she says. And to be fair, this isn't a radical departure from Rick's point. But there is an important difference.

I think the big difference revolves around Hayek's cooperative, self organizing principal, which was mentioned just this week in a TCS article Instapundit linked to. From the TCS Article:

"Hayek's work focused on how it is that complicated and reliable systems of cooperation come about without any centralized direction. When they do, they outperform systems of "command", systems that rely on central direction."


In blog terms, this implies that each blogger blogs just the way he wants to. At times (as in the Rather story this week), without any intentional planning, an organization emerges among these various independent blogs that tracks down all the information needed, and disseminates it appropriately. In other words - the traffic flows to where it needs to go, without pre-planning. In the Rather case it worked so well, there are leftists who still think evil genius Karl Rove must have master-minded it.

But he not only didn't. He couldn't even if he tried.

This all seems very natural and obvious to me. But I suppose I'm a bit tainted in that my introduction to bloggers and blogging came via the Bleat at first, and the Northern Alliance in general afterward. To me that was a microcosm of the diversity available in the blogosphere. No two of those blogs are quite alike, and some are staggeringly different. Purpose? Roles? Those sort of just emerged organically, without any of them trying to organize the thing in any way more complicated than with regular hyperlinks to each other. And because each of them blogs the way they personally want to - without regard for someone else's text book - their blogs remain dynamic and interesting and alive.

Perhaps this is hitting me so strongly today because I had the topic of blogging on my mind already. I spent yesterday evening down at Keegan's, chatting with some other bloggers (Scott from Pinkmonkeybird mostly, but others as well). Part of the conversation regarded how we got into blogging, and site traffic, and what it means to us. We didn't get into it exhaustively by any means (difficult to do that in any topic when the Sweet Colleens - not too bad incidentally - are blasting away in their opening set about eight feet from where you're conversing). But enough that it got some thoughts churning around in my mind.

One thing I know I've already struggled with has been - not so much how - but whether I would even want to promote my blog. There's something intensely satisfying about writing for just yourself and maybe a few friends. And honestly when I get a link and a big traffic spike, part of my reaction is "Oh, shit. I better re-read that piece and make sure I didn't accidentally make an ass of myself." That reaction can lead to a tendency not to post out of insecurity. And that leads to both less frequent, and less pleasant blogging.

So rather than trying to fit into the "proper role" of a small to medium blog, I think I'll go with Hayek instead, and assume that the traffic will find its appropriate level without me worrying about it. It's already made me some new friends, and started me writing again. Can't say heavy traffic would make me feel better than those things already have.

3 Comments:

Blogger pinkmonkeybird said...

Thanks for linking to pinkmonkeybird again, Doug. For, as we know, one can never link too often to pinkmonkeybird, as I have an insatiable need for more links to pinkmonkeybird and measurable increases to pinkmonkeybird's metered traffic.
When one person does it, we call it masterbation. When two people do it, we call it love making. When piles of people do it, we call it the blogosphere.

4:45 PM  
Blogger TFB said...

Doug,
Right on with your comments regarding "Stones". I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and wait until I read his part II, but the line about "low traffic" blogs trying to act like "big traffic" blogs just made me cringe. I love to read the "big" blogs and I get quite a bit of good news there, but I write about and post about issues that are important to me. For instance, I do not get involved with Star Tribune issues. I have and never will subscribe to that trash, but I get good news from Fraters and Powerline on the "goings on" at that rag of a paper.I myself have some issues that are of strong interest to me (Israel, muslim extremists, drilling in AK etc ) that is what I choose to write about. Am I supposed to write about baking cookies and the new lipstick I bought simply because I am not a high traffic blogger?

8:21 PM  
Blogger shara said...

You know, I got the cutest tube of lipstick today. I think I'll go put some on and bake some cookies. Yeah, that sounds like fun.

2:44 PM  

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