Thursday, February 16, 2006

My Blog is Random and Different--Just Like Everybody Else's

If you're new to blogging, you may still be fresh and innocent and think how wonderful it must be to have a venue for your random musings for all to read. If you've read any blogs other than those of yourself, your friends, and your neighbor's sweater-wearing chihuahua, you have likely found that approximately 70% of blogs maintained by actual people are self-described as 'random' or some essentially synonymous expression (see "stuff" in The Bitter Scroll's own subtitle). It's cute, in a wacky, slightly modern-rebellious kinda way. (Because, you know, not following the crowd is what everybody's doing these days.)

Unfortunately, what lacks in content will never be fully made up by form or medium of expression. The more readers who experience the wearing-off of the novelty of blogs, the more they will want some indication of content, some way to fit what you're likely to say into the vast hierarchy of knowledge and opinions. The more you leave it open, the more readers will fear pictures of pets or detailed descriptions of how you felt when you stubbed your toe yesterday.

The solution? Well, it depends if you think there's a problem, of course. If you really don't want to be heard--you just want to talk--blogging probably really is for you. (And easier on the rest of us. You can't click away from a RL conversation.) But if you want people to read your stuff, you need to give them a reason to read before they read. In the approximately 0.4 seconds in which they judge your blog worth it or not when they stumble across it, you need to convince people that your blog is worth reading. Then, of course, actually make worth reading.

I think we've got more than enough blue pills in the blogosphere. We could probably use a few more attempts to escape from the matrix of randomness and, ironically, uniformity.


Derek the Ænglican said...

One of the forums at the last Society of Biblical Literature meeting was on the biblioblog--the term that's evolved to refer to blogging by professional biblical scholars. One of the panelists suggested that what was really needed was not just personal blogs by scholars but scholarly blogs on very particular topics. His is a great example...the Philo of Alexandria Blog. I've created a blog specifically for study of, research on, and interpretation of the Early Medieval Gospels but have never gotten around to posting anything on it...

So--that's one thought about how blogs and blogging can actually contribute to academic culture instead of just being a pure ego vehicle.

King Alfred said...

Good point. I should mention that I do know there are good specific blogs like the Philo blog out there. I just laughed last night to find a whole bunch of blogs in a row that all really seemed to think they were unique and random. But there really are some awesome topical blogs out there. I think ultimately format will give way to content, in that the ego blogs simply won't do as well and keep any kind of readership. (Again, that's probably not even the goal of many blogs.)

I look forward to seeing interesting posts on your medieval Gospel blog... :-)

Johan said...

At one point, I tried to keep three different blogs (one for literature and languages, one for politics and one that was more "oh, the humanity!" than anything else) active to avoid posts on too many and too different subjects. I didn't have the energy to keep all three alive, but that's one way of keeping things separated.

You can write about whatever you like and still get readers as long as you do it really good -- but most people don't.


King Alfred said...

Funny you mention that. I've toyed with the idea of having this blog for linguistic/Germanic stuff, and another for more creative / personality related stuff. Like poems I've written and stuff. I guess I still haven't fully decided, but I definitely want the overall function of this blog to be rather professional, informative, and academic, even if casual.

gaetanus said...

I don't know too many people who have multiple successful blogs. I know many more people who have successful blogs with a wide range of interests and hence posts. I believe one of the most trafficked blogs on the internet is the InstaPundit. He'll post on a mix of things: mostly politics, some science stuff, sometimes cars or digital photography. The only real connecting thread to what he posts, though, is it's all stuff he's interested in. That's not exactly random, but it's certainly not a categorical arrangement either---and yet he's very successful.

On the internet, I think "stuff I'm interested in" is a valid organizational principle. The great thing about the internet is that whatever I might happen to somewhat interested in, I can find someone out there who is very interested in that same thing. I can then go to that person's blog and reap the benefits of his research and effort by a passive act of reading. So, for example, I'm not typically interested in Canadian politics, by I know a blogger who is, and so I visited his blog during the recent instability in the Canadian government. Did I mind that he had a lot of other posts on his blog that were not really relevant to my interest? No, I just skimmed over those posts---that's how you read a blog.

As for the academic use of blogs: I think scholarly blogs are a good idea, but they should always be group blogs. They basically serve the same purpose as scholarly journals, but more rapid-paced, less formal and more conversational. I think they're a great way to bring scholars from diverse fields together, to broaden every participant's outlook and to stimulate conversation.

So, I guess I'm saying that I think it would be fine if you brought anything you're interested in into this blog, because that's what a blog is. It would also be cool if you could get other people interested in Germanics and Linguistics to participate in the blog in a sort of scholarly fashion (oh, wait, that's supposed to be me, isn't it? Heh. I am still working on my next post---I've had some more thoughts on ωφθην recently)---but that still doesn't preclude you from posting anything you're interested in.