Should We All Stop Blogging?

Wired has a new, somewhat controversial article about blogging:

Thinking about launching your own blog? Here’s some friendly advice: Don’t. And if you’ve already got one, pull the plug.

Author Paul Boutin makes some valid points:

  • The blogosphere is dominated by online magazines, corporations, and paid bloggers.
  • Insult comments and trolls wreck personal blogging.
  • Text-based Web sites are sooo 2004; social networking and video/audio/image-heavy content is the thing.

It can be argued that it’s hard to compete with the likes of the Huffington Post, Engadget, Boing Boing, or the like.  This blog — and most likely your blog — will not be in Technorati’s list of the top 100 blogs.  But if that’s why you’re blogging, then no wonder it’s unsatisfying.  The first person you should be blogging for is you, which is what I intend to argue in my presentation at the Georgia Independent School Association conference the week after next.  If you are simply trying to get a big audience, I have to question why.  Sure, it’s nice to have regular readers and commenters, but if your main concern is being the most popular, most read, then I, for one, wish you wouldn’t blog or wouldn’t start a blog because I think you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

Insult comments suck.  Trolls suck.  They’re part of the Web, and they’re one reason why despite how much I love Web 2.0, I don’t have my students establish their own blogs.  Maybe I will some day, but I know how furious it would make me if my student received a trollish comment I wasn’t able to delete first.  There are always folks who feel it’s OK to be rude jerks, and for some reason, the anonymity possible with the Web brings out the worst behavior in people in that regard.  However, what Boutin doesn’t mention is that all the blogging systems I can think of have comment moderation, and no one is beholden to publish comments at all.  A comments policy should cover anyone interested in allowing comments.

Many changes made to blogging allow for all kinds of media to be incorporated into blogs, and indeed, a lot of the posts I see (and some of my own, at that) incorporate this media effectively.  I don’t know why they should be considered mutually exclusive at all.

I have become a much more reflective person as a result of blogging, and I don’t think it’s an inherently bad idea to blog, provided one is doing so for the right reasons and has given some thought to direction, purpose, and policies with regard to blogging.  I like Twitter, but 140 characters will never be able to replace what I do with my blogs, and I enjoy Facebook, but I don’t use it for the same purposes of self-expression that I do here.  Maybe it’s because I don’t take many pictures, but even though I have a Flickr account, I am just not into it (aside from finding good Creative Commons licensed photos to use on my blog).

I guess my response to Boutin’s claims is that they’re legitimate, but that blogging doesn’t have to be defined in such narrow terms and for such narrow purposes as he proposes.  What are your thoughts?

[via Roger Darlington]

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11 thoughts on “Should We All Stop Blogging?

  1. I blog mostly for myself, but also to maintain a professional network. Twitter is too random and too fast-paced; I don't keep up with it much. Blogging helps me keep track of where I've been and where I am with more thought and more depth.

  2. Dana,

    Well said. I have to confess that when I read this article in Wired the other day, I felt a little depressed, and I thought of a mini-funeral that I'll someday hold for my blogs. Then I snapped out of it for the similar reasons that you mention here.

    I'll admit, there was a time when one of my main professional goals was to be as prolific as I possibly could in terms of posting content on my blog in the hopes of building the audience. What I found was that I was losing touch with the reasons I began blogging in the first place: reflection and feedback. I write now when I can't move forward without feedback–when I need other voices to help shape my thinking.

    Thanks for the post!

  3. I'm really glad you brought this up.

    I've been considering creating my own, permanent, well-designed blog for a while now, and just haven't done it. I think my main problem stems from that "well-designed" bit I mentioned. I guess my thinking is that anything, and I mean ANYTHING put on this beautiful internet of ours has the opportunity to be seen by millions of people, has the chance of becoming incredibly popular. If that's the case, I want to make myself presentable–put on some jeans and a nice top instead of your sweatpants in case you see the entire community at Costco, you know? I want something impressive, that I can be proud of.

    That said, I'm not bashing a simple and clean layout. When content is the main focus of the blog then it is well-served to be front and center. A flashy layout would only detract from that. Not to mention probably half of the blogs I read have a similar, very clean, very simple and well-laid out layout like this one (thesuperest.com, brokershandsontheirfacesblog.tumblr.com, etc.).

    I suppose my point is (sorry for that aside), you should always write or paint or even dance for yourself first, but I feel like you need to be prepared for you to hit it big. That means trolls and insult comments. I don't see how this "ruins personal blogging." Why not just delete those comments? Ban that commenter? Moderate comments by having them emailed to you first? I don't see why that's a reason to stop blogging. The fact that trolls even want to post on my blog at least makes me feel like it's being read.

    My second qualm was with Boutin's comment about text-based sites being outdated. I thought about this and came up with many examples of how this wasn't true…until I realized all of my examples fell into the category of "magazines, corporations, and paid bloggers." I find this interesting, though, because most of these blogs that fall under "paid bloggers" started off as blogs with unpaid bloggers. I think Boutin's completely off-base here. Why would a small-business owner not open up his small shop because it may not do well? One of the only ways to make a chain of stores is to start with one, just as one of the only ways to make a "paid blogger" successful blog is to start with an unpaid one.

    And I suppose I don't even really have to address it, but your point on incorporating media is the point I would have made (see the brokers blog I posted a link to before).

    Anyway, I think I ought to go ahead and read this article before saying anything assessing it as a whole. Again, though, I'm glad you brought this up. Being told not to start a blog makes me want to start one even more :)

  4. Jamie, you would be an excellent blogger. The Weber Israel blog you did when you were a senior was awesome, and everyone loved it. I am so glad you stopped by here and commented. I love visiting with students!

  5. Thank you for that :)

    I just read the article (I hadn't seen that it was online when I wrote my comment) and I have a few more responses. The biggest hole in Boutin's article is his assumption of the mutual exclusivity of text-based blogging vs. media based blogging. My favorite blogs not only incorporate video and images, but link about every important phrase to a former post or an article or the wikipedia entry about the topic or person. Most YouTube videos I watch I find through blogs.

    The most upsetting and striking point to me is about the search engine results–but I think this goes back to the reason why you're blogging in the first place. I'm gonna go out on a limb here, however, and call BS on this "purity of the blog" statement. Maybe it's my age, maybe it's my bad memory, but I can't recall a time when a major media site wasn't the first hit when Googling a certain subject. I feel that nostalgia may be getting the better of Boutin. Most blog readers I know read the big name blogs, but they also read small, quirky blogs that they love.

    I feel that "quitting before you start" is not the solution here. More individuals need to make more blogs, and if it's good, it will be read. I think networking is the biggest problem that is simply ignored in the article. Google hits aren't the only way to get your blog read. You just need to find your niche.

  6. I heard it said that in this day and age, rather than being famous for 15 minutes, we can all be famous for 15 people. I like that. I have actually been surprised to run into folks at conventions who read my blog. I am always surprised to realize I'm not just gabbing in a corner by myself.

  7. Well said! Thanks for presenting this discussion and all of your guests' comments.

    I think all of us who blog sometimes think of "pulling the plug" and running for the hills . . . but. . . we don't. Looking back over the months of blogging I've done, those random comments and handshakes from folks telling me my words had some influence keeps me going.

    And anytime you wish to enumerate the fifteen who think you are great, count me in!

    Terry Thornton

    Fulton, Mississippi

    HILL COUNTRY OF MONROE COUNTY MISSISSIPPI (blog)

    THE GRAVEYARD RABBIT OF THE HILL COUNTRY (blog)

    THE GRAVEYARD RABBIT (association blog)

    NEW HOPE CEMETERY (blog)

    LANN CEMETERY BLOG

    INSIDE THE MAGNOLIA CURTAIN (blog)

  8. When I first started blogging, I did not know what to expect. I was surprised and pleased to find a few people read selected entries, but was certainly not going to start tailoring my posting style to get more readers. There are plenty of stylized blogs. However, I would agree with you that the points Boutin makes discount the main reason why we may blog in the first place: for ourselves.

    Thanks for bringing the article to the rest of us!

  9. I started my blog when I lived out west and my family was back east. I wanted to share my life as a graduate student with them. I discovered a huge on-line fiber arts community, and so my blog became an outlet for me to share my knitted, then spun, then woven work as well. I also found that there are many thoughtful readers of really good literature who write reviews, so I joined in doing that. Am I after thousands of readers? No. Am I interested in meaningful, often fun, sometimes serious conversation with like-minded people whom I never otherwise would have met? Yes. Therefore, I blog. Perhaps text-based blogs are outdated, but the user may certainly add so much more media to a blog. I can't imagine what Boutin would say about my letter writing and pen and ink journaling–so passe!

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