Thursday, May 14, 2009

500!!

Back on Jan. 1, 2008, I started writing daily posts for this blog. Other than my vacation, I've stuck to that, writing at least once each day, amassing a total of somewhere north of 700 posts in those 500 days. I've tried to come up with novel takes on things each day, not always succeeding, but I've never found the time or the interest in doing "pointing posts," those "Sullivan makes a good point here: <quote>" items with no commentary. And for some time, I've been looking forward to this day, this May 14, when I would hit 500...and now I have.

Let me offer a rough, imprecise taxonomy for blogs. One can posit that blogs fall into four categories:

1) Blogs for money
There are people who blog for a living. Not many, perhaps, and many of these people are affiliated with a larger group or media outlet, but their primary job is blogging.

2) Blogs for some money
2-bloggers blog as part of earning their keep, and a large number of the most famous bloggers fall into this group. I have no idea how important Andrew Sullivan's blog is to his continued employment at The Atlantic; he still writes articles for the print magazine. I'd imagine that the blog has become increasingly important, so let's guess that Sullivan is a 1.2- or 1.3-blogger.

Yglesias, on the other hand, seems to be more of a pure blogger. He works for the Center for American Progress, a kind of think tank, and I'm not really sure what he does for them other than blog. I'd guess he's around a 1.1-blogger.

Folks who do corporate blogs fall into this category. I've spoken before of my admiration for Decidedly, a blog from a company called Dwaffler, that stays largely away from advocacy of their products (OK, they slip it in once in a while) in favor of cogent discussion of issues (primarily decision-making, which is the purpose of their product...but, hey, it's not put right in our faces). I've also seen some simply awful corporate blogs, ones that exist solely as marketing adjuncts with little insight or point of view.

But corporate bloggers generally do not blog to eat. Their primary job is CEO or COO or flack, and the blog is something extra they do, perhaps in an attempt to put a human face on a company, to relate to existing and potential customers. These are 2-bloggers.

3) Blogs for influence
We now fall into the categories of the unpaid. If you blog without remuneration, but hope that you have an effect on people's thinking, you're a 3-blogger. The vast majority of blogs fall into this category; most people aren't selling anything, not even indirectly, they're just offering ideas about subjects they know or care about. The audience can be large or small, devoted or casual, but the blogger still needs to feel that the words are being read and thought about.

4) Blogs for personal satisfaction
4-bloggers are the idealists, the people who put their thoughts out without consideration of an audience. They "have to" write, perhaps to exorcise demons or work through issues, but they do so without regard to whether anyone is listening.

However, 4-bloggers are also the most superfluous, because they have the option of writing their thoughts in a diary (sorry, guys, journal) or into a Microsoft Word file. If they truly don't care what people think, if their offerings are just for themselves, there's no reason to put their ideas out on the most public forum ever invented. For that reason, I don't believe there are many pure 4-bloggers - everyone ultimately wants their words to matter, if only a little, so a goodly number of bloggers are 3.8- or 3.7- or 3.3-bloggers.

Having created this hierarchy, I must, unsurprisingly, try to see where I fit into it. There's a purity to the idea that I write because I must, because I've just got to, got to, let my feelings OUT!, that I'm a 4.

But I'd be lying to myself. I may have started this blog with low expectations, but humans are built to dream. At the beginning, I might have said "4," that Androcass was going to be a device to let me work out my feelings, to serve as an outlet for frustrations at times (by the way, that hasn't worked for me at all - I haven't found that I naturally feel better after expressing myself, but maybe that's just me). But, not so deep down, I certainly hoped that some small audience would enjoy my writing and be engaged with it, that it would inform or provoke, and that (in the best Web 2.0 way) feedback loops would emerge and I would be enriched by the involvement of others.

Furthermore, I've had a chance to be embedded in the sphere of commentary in a way I never really was before. Previously, I read newspaper and magazine opinion pieces, got into a few blogs, but I never engaged with them in the way that I've had to over the past 16+ months. In part, it was to find fodder for my own efforts, but, whatever the reason, I've spent a lot of time in the 1 to 2-blog world (and the 1-commentators who don't blog, who just bloviate away in publications or on television).

And I haven't ended up being impressed. There are a lot of people making six figures who recite party talking points, or mislead to make a point, or lag reality by years only to present it as something they discovered (offshoring is happening, really, Tom?). I'm not so arrogant as to believe I rank with these "seasoned professionals," but I'd put my thinking track record up with many of them. It's not so much me, anyway; I read quite a few bloggers who write well and passionately, out of real knowledge, who put the windbags to shame, and none of them will ever achieve a fraction of the fame, the money, or the influence.

So what I was shooting for hasn't really happened. I have a few regular readers, some of whom comment via posting comments or direct e-mails, but (according to my readership stats) many people visit, sample what's here, then move off, never to be seen again. However the marketplace of ideas works, what I'm peddling isn't selling.

I'll grant that I haven't done the things that "drive traffic." I haven't done much of the, wait around for Drum to write something, write a real quick blog post, then puff it up in Drum's comments. There are other tips and tricks to make one's blog a go-to spot, and I haven't found the time to implement those (and I find some of them kind of unseemly).

I might fare better if I homed in on one or two topics of interest. Some specialized blogs become quite successful, rising past the 3 level and on to the more lucrative positions. I have chosen a certain eclecticity, in that I have things to say in more than area; this blog has always been more a reflection of me than of a specific point of view, anyway.

I've had comments about my tone, but I haven't altered anything in response. Here's why: I've been told that I'm overly negative, too cynical, unduly harsh, that this attitude turns people away. That may be true, but I read plenty of blogs that seem far more down that road than mine, so I don't really see it.

What I have tried to do is ask questions, present alternatives. I think it's important to understand the difference between "positive-sum" and "win-win," and I am, possibly, withering in my opinion of people who understand the difference but fail to point it out because it might undercut their (political) point. I think it's important not to align one's self with either Bill Gates or Lou Dobbs on visa issues, but to ask the questions which would allow us to make decisions and formulate policy; if that's deemed by others as being "harsh" toward anyone at the poles, then I guess I'm harsh.

But the clincher is, I've also read other comments that suggest I
should inject more passion, put more of my outrage into what I write.
I can't square that circle; maybe there's some kind of skill that
allows a writer to be passionate and advocating, but not critical - I don't have that skill, I guess.


The upshot of this is that, as of today, Androcass is sliding into semi-retirement. I've grown tired of working pretty hard at something that actually seems to be moving down the hierarchy, that is of its own weight approaching 4-hood. I have no doubts I've had some good ideas, and some that I've found novel ways of presenting - I'm happy with a higher percentage of my posts than I would ever have anticipated when I began this.

For some time, though, it's been clear to me that the cost-benefit is going the wrong way. I'm not accountable to a little mini-community; heck, my most ardent reader and contributor has disappeared off the face of the earth (something which served to support my already-made decision). There are other things I want and need to do, hours that are better spent in other pursuits. Over the past 500 days, this blog has become far too central to my life, and I need it to stop.

Don't take that to mean that I'm going to pull a vanishing act. I like this Androcass persona, and the very act of thinking and writing has allowed me to polish and refine my thinking on all sorts of topics. If I'm in your feed reader, please leave me there, because I'll be back from time to time, as passion demands (it's possible I'll feel compelled to post something tomorrow, though it would ruin the nice symmetry of "500"). I have a bunch of topics I can't quite get myself to part with (any day now, I expect to finish my classic post titled, "Korea - Should Truman really be getting involved?).

But I may not post tomorrow, or over the weekend, or the rest of the month, I just don't know. Maybe I'll pour my energy into bike riding, or music, or doing things around the house (do I hear the wife cheering?). It makes little sense to do so to a blog that is moving down the hierarchy, that will never bring anything other than a mix of satisfaction and frustration.

To those of you, whether commenters or not, who have been regular readers, I thank you. Whether active or passive contributors, you have enriched my life, and I am most appreciative. Catch y'all down the road somewhere.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

i am motivated by for personal satisfaction, but that doesn't mean my readers don't matter! i publish to them all! but is that influence? i'll call it impact. or even just entertainment/amusement/wonder. your blog is so concrete. mine is much more abstract.

you got feedback loops with carrie, who is as concrete as you are, with similar political views. really red oak also backed your pure-writing model, attacking me on your behalf, telling me that pictures are for stupid people (and you have no pictures so... complimenting you). it was all exactly what you hoped: a feedback loop.

i'll note how i arrived here: i got politically involved in the nursing immigration debate, i googgled, i found carrie's post talking our her ass on the issue, and then i found who carrie cites as her 'intellectual underpinning' (my words). carrie's too stupid for me to hang around, and her petty censorship is particularly pathetic, but you aren't stupid. most of what you've done is in the realm of news and public policy rhetoric, so realize you did indeed attract someone in the marketplace of ideas! someone who thrived on identifying the frustrating and occasionally ill-informed rhetoric found here. that should be as welcome as kudos and citations, even if i filled you with the rage virus now and then.

since we met it does seem you've sharpened up. you had to state your position on issues i track more concisely, less bitterly and sarcasticly. you were drawn deeper into the rhetorical process that attracted you.

i've been publishing in this format for maybe 7 years now. to me it remains as personal as i wanna be, though in my journal system i can have "hidden" stuff that only my e-friends see, so what's public is generally stuff i could show my mom. my platform happens to be #1 in Russia, which is random, but my blog also attracts a lot of Russian readers, perhaps because it's quite visual?

perhaps what i'm saying is that you can try any format you want. are you locked into this rhetorical style? even if you're right sometimes, you're still competing with some outrageously talented chronic writers. for example, i follow Greg Mankiw, Mish Shedlock, some currency blogs, and many other giants in economics, investing, and trading discussion (Red Oak claims I have 4 basic economics ideas, so maybe they have the same ideas). you can try to compete with them (or those like them in more strictly political discourse), but it sounds like a steep challenge. if you became "intellectual leader" to carrie of Carrie's Nation... that seems like precisely the sort of partnership you might expect.

if you're passionate about something, you'll do it. if you want to be passionate, advocating, and critical, go for it. you clearly do have an ideological crowd that wants you to keep it up. compare your work to my own (mcfnord.livejournal.com) and you may find i'm more personal and less conclusive. i think over time the bar gets higher, but the internet and world remain choc full of fascinations worth mentioning.

- mcfnord

Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog for over a year now so I have been checking now and then to see if you have new postings.

I am a liberal so a lot of times I don't necessarily see eye-to-eye with your opinions, but I respect that you try to lay out your arguments as concrete as possible.

Hope one day you will update this blog again.

Androcass said...

Thank you both for your comments.

2nd Anon: I'm sure I will do some writing again, but I'm enjoying the away time, getting some stuff done. I was amused by your sense that I am not liberal, as I have had comments that chide me for being too liberal. That tells me that I hit exactly the tone I was looking for.

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