Friday, July 11, 2008

The problem with blogging

Of course, there are a lot of problems with blogging, especially if you aspire to some sort of regularity. You have to stay involved enough to keep up with events (I was able to spike my post, "The first 100 days of President H. Clinton," by watching the news carefully; I saw that this fellow Obama actually won the nomination - go figure). You have to find the discipline to actually sit down and write stuff, and, I assure you, the pain of doing so is not borne out by the results you see here. You have to, if you care about Web 2.0 interactivity, get drawn into lengthy discussions that are, quite frequently, at a skew from what your original point was (see here).

But the biggest problem is that so many other smart people are out there, writing with intelligence and passion on topics that you care about, co-opting your own comments. That leaves the responsible blogger: ignoring other blogs and writing what you feel like, running the risk that the better writers will attract a bigger audience for the same items; making the blog a sequence of posts like, "good post here by whomever"; or linking to other posts but trying to inject your own amplification, elaboration, or even humorous asides. Whichever way you choose, it takes you away from the quest of having at least one good, original observation per post.

I had this happen just this week, as I talked about Tuesday. A perfectly good post I wrote on the Republican Party's new failed CEO, Carly Fiorina, was pre-empted by a superior post from Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast - I was left to give a bit more information about the pre-HP Carly, but it did take a little wind out of my sails.

At other times, the phenomenon is not quite so direct. You may have a germ of an idea, one you want to develop into a typically brilliant post, then come across one that expresses it at least as well as you could have. And, as has become all too common these days, Hank Williams at Why does everything suck? has done that to me again.

His most recent post, What I shouldn't Be Writing About, is a response to some comments on a post Hank wrote about racism. Hank is an African-American, so he comes from an experience that I can say very little about as a white American. But I don't want to write about racism today (his post was excellent on the topic, and well worth reading).

I want to write about Hank's main point in the current post. At least one commenter said, and this is something you'll see as a comment on any blog which takes on more than one type of subject, "I don't visit your blog (now a daily routine) to read this stuff." Hank's response:
The point is that I write about what interests me and what I am passionate about. Now its true, I don't write much about biking here, or vegetable juice and fitness, or politics, all of which are subjects that interest me. But the reason is that I don't think I have anything interesting more than just the superficial to share on those subjects. I know something about development, and design, and business, and media and economics. And so I write about them. All of them. And yes that may make this an eclectic site for some. And my best readers that are into, for example, the business stuff take it in stride when I write about database sharding and it is totally beyond them. I think the fact that I have a deep but broad interest area and subject expertise should be a *reason* to read this blog, not a reason to be anoyed when something is outside your interest. But then my perspective is admittedly biased.
[Here's where I amplify on something that has already been perfectly well-expressed by someone else, mainly so I can justify my claim of original content.]

I think Hank is spot on here. This blog, this Androcass, is fairly eclectic, and I have wondered if I am not doing it a disservice by writing it in that way. The rare reader stumbles across it, perhaps enjoying a discussion of, say, CEO mendacity, comes back the next day and finds something about software development. Off the reader disappears into the ether, never to be seen again.

But I write this for me, though I am perfectly open to anyone coming along for the ride. I'd actually like to hear some of what Hank has to say about biking, even if it wouldn't represent his most insightful post. But it's his choice, just as this blog features what I want to write about.

If I were to single-topic this blog, it wouldn't be me; furthermore, I'd have to guess what people most want to read if I were to tailor it. This isn't a marketing project, it's a blog. I do the work, I own it, and I'll write about things that interest me.

(Personally, I like eclecticism. If I only read blogs about topics I understand, and generally agree with my point of view, how in the world am I going to learn anything? I want to read Hank's take on racism; I'm from roughly his generation, I've seen how far we've come, and that can lead to complacency. It becomes easy to excuse acts of racism by considering them thoughtless, or as power ploys, and they may be that sometimes. But I'm not the one affected, am I? There's analysis, and there's feeling, and both need to be taken into account when evaluating actions and words that offend.)

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