Monday, March 20, 2006

ANOTHER post about blogging

As regular readers of this blog know, I don’t know why I blog. I don’t know why people read my blog, and I don’t know why I keep posting things to my blog. I write about it every once in a while, because I’m not able to figure out why I’m bothering with this.

A friend of mine, who also has a blog, was recently asking the same questions of himself. Now, I’m mainly putting this link here because he said good things about my blog. Jer: You’re an intelligent man, of refined tastes, and you have very good looking friends. Especially the ones that live in Toronto.

But I’m also writing this because I feel Jer’s pain. (I especially feel his pain when he says that putting too much detail into a blog entry leaves people “over-informed and not interested”; anytime I write a blog entry more than a couple of paragraphs, I know that some people skip over and don’t bother reading it. But, since I don’t expect people to come here in the first place, it’s no skin off anybody’s back.)

I think anyone who blogs for any length of time is eventually going to stop and ask themselves the same questions: Why am I bothering? Does the world really need one more personal online diary? Am I really saying anything clever enough that I need to put it online, so that anyone with a web browser can read it? Or, as Jer asks, “Am I missing the point to ‘blogging’?” But the fact is, blogging is very popular because people want to express themselves.

And, since people express themselves in different ways, people blog in different ways. Jer is trying to figure out how to write his blog; how he should approach it. You could say he’s looking for his “blogging voice”. Whereas my blog is all over the map! I mean, if I look back over the 5 previous posts before this one, I see:

  • A post about a roast I’d cooked the night before; classic “journal material”, I think
  • a transcript of a phone conversation I’d had with a cold-caller
  • A correction to a frigging spreadsheet, that I’ve been maintaining of my winning cups from Tim Horton’s
  • The original post that included the erroneous calculation
  • A post about Bayview Village, and the fact that I’m not comfortable around rich people. (And that I prefer hanging around middle-class or poor people, but every time I think about this post, I wish I could have found a better phrase for “poor people” because that sounds a little condescending, which I didn’t mean it to be.) On the plus side, though, this post had a link to a cartoon that I found very funny, so it all evens out, I guess.
So I don’t know if I have figured out how to approach my blog, either. I just started doing it, and I’ll keep doing it, and maybe some day I’ll even out, and it will be more predictable, and maybe not. Probably not, in fact.

By the way, Jer: I also feel your pain when you talk about worrying that people will think you’re whiny, for complaining about work. Any time I complain about things in my blog, I worry about the same thing, that I’ll either come off as being whiny, or just being crotchety. (For anyone who doesn’t know Jer personally, I don’t find him to be whiny in real life.) But that’s the danger of blogging; you only write about certain things, and then that’s all your readers know about you. If I get annoyed at a colleague, and whip off a quick blog entry to say so, and it happens to be the only post I put up that day, then people are going to think I had a bad day, because that’s all they read from me. Sometimes I might even see someone online, on MSN Messenger, and they’ll ask me if my day is getting better, and I’ll think to myself “What the heck is this person talking about? My day has been fine.”

People sometimes forget, I think, that a blog entry is from a particular moment in time, and whatever I write about is just a snapshot of whatever I was feeling at that instant. If you’re reading my blog, don’t read it to find out what I’m thinking; read it to find out what I was thinking, when I wrote it. Whatever I’m thinking now will probably be different. (Or just read it to bask in my brilliance.)

The other danger, of course, is of looking stupid, which I regularly do. I have an HTML editor that I’ve configured very heavily, so that I can tear off a blog post—complete with fancy quotation marks, and pop-up windows, and bulleted lists, and everything else—in just a few clicks of the mouse. (Well, I also have to type the words.) Throughout the day, sometimes I’ll put out 5 or 6 blog entries, on whatever’s on my mind at the time. The flip side to that, though, is that it doesn’t take much thought, and often I’ll go back an hour later and read a blog post, and realize that I made some glaring mistake, because I didn’t put enough thought into it, or because I copied and pasted some text from one part to another and missed a word, or because I got distracted by my pesky job, and didn’t properly finish a thought. Maybe I put the wrong word, or made a very noticeable grammatical mistake, or something more fundamental.

And, if I don’t notice the mistake, there are three people I can think of off the top of my head that are more than willing to point it out for me.

This is a fairly long post, and after spending too long on any one post, your brain stops actually seeing what’s there, and only sees what it thinks should be there; there is probably something in this post that I’ll look back on later, and wish I could change. (But I don’t change my blog entries once they’re up.) If this blog were of any importance, I would never post an entry right away; I would type it up, and then set it aside for a few hours or until the next day, and go back and re-read it with a fresh eye later. But this blog isn’t important, so I don’t bother.

I read a post on Raymi’s blog once, which was from some graduate student’s study of her blog, and an interview with her. (I think; it was a long time ago, and I can’t find the original, so I can’t re-read it.) But I remember one of the interesting things about that was the question of who “owns” a blog: the one who writes it, or the legions of fans who read it? Of course, that only really applies when a blog has legions of fans, like Raymi’s blog does, but even for a less popular blog, people will want to read what they want to read. Raymi’s take on this was that the person who writes it definitely owns the blog. And I’m 100% with her on that one. (I’m surprised people would even ask the question, actually, but I guess it’s the same mentality that makes people think that they have a right to know the intimate details about the lives of celebrities, and that type of thing.)

A blog is a vehicle for personal expression. She writes about what she wants to write about, and I’ll write about what I want to write about. She has hundreds or thousands of people who read her blog regularly; I probably have less than a half dozen, and all of those people know me personally. But I hope that if I ever had that many readers, I would still write for me, and not for them. (I would probably have to turn comments off, if that were to happen.)

But it’s a moot point, because I don’t expect to ever get a larger audience for my blog.