What are you blogging for?

Anil Dash writes:

So when I see disparaging of “unpopular” or low-flow weblogs or the use of someone’s readership as a barometer of their legitimacy, credibility or importance, and I have to strongly object. Popularity is easy. What matters is that you connect.

And inspires Roger Benningfield to say:

But for some folks, the urge to blog is a slightly modified version of the compulsion that has powered forums, Usenet, and BBSs for decades… they want to communicate. And while “the more the merrier” is often the case when it comes to conversations, it’s more important to simply reach the right people.

Blogs do add an extra little spin to the idea, though… with a blog, you don’t have to worry quite so much that your voice will be lost in a sea of discussion. It stands apart, an island of personality. Your template, your blogroll, and all of the other little touches give your words a different context.

Though what struck me most about Roger’s post was the title: “A message board where you’re the star.”

Anil’s right, both that what you say matters more than how many people click your links, and also that not everyone is blogging to be the next, err, Anil Dash. Some people may be writing just for a few friends, and some may, like me, be writing for the few who show, through comments or links, that they actually read what I wrote and thought about it for a few seconds. The last post I wrote that got any “serious” traffic, my referrer script saw 157 people come in from Dave Winer’s link, and 203 from Anil’s link (not looking for a pissing match between them: for all I know ten thousand people came in from the link in Dave’s RSS feed – my script only records referrals it can follow back). Of those, it looks to me like one dismissive and thoughtless comment and one, maybe two links probably came as a result of Anil’s link. Other than that? Could be three hundred or three thousand people who read it. I don’t know, and I don’t care. From the looks of things, I wrote that post for exactly 19 people. You could tell me that it was read by twenty people, or twenty thousand, and I wouldn’t know the difference, or much care. But those 19 people? They are incredibly precious to me.

Despite our different opinions about the relative importance of the message board and the star parts, Roger and I are both looking for the same thing, the same sort of connection, from our blogs. It’s not about having an echo chamber posting twenty “you’re so right!” comments, just those comments and links that even when they make it clear that you were wrong, also make it clear that someone read what you had to say, understood it, and thought enough of it to reply. “Star” is a little strong for me, but I’ve long thought of my blog as just a forum where only I get to start message threads.


Comment by Roger Benningfield #
2004-04-18 21:37:01

Phil: I agree that ”star” overstates things, but I figured it was a more effective title than ”A message board where you’re the primary motivating force”. :)

I also concede that I’m as stubbornly fixated on boards as some folks are on blogging… forums have brought me many friends and one wife over the years, so I tend to view them as the center of my online universe. In fact, upon first sighting of Blogger, my instant thought was: ”Wow, it’s like a tiny, broken forum for the individual. I think I can fix that!”

With that said, yup, it’s all about the back-and-forth to me. I’ve almost never gotten anything useful, life-wise, from a first post… but I’ve gotten plenty from the stuff that crops up deeper into the thread. From my perspective, a blog entry is just a hook from which we hang the really important material.

Comment by Jim Kloss #
2004-04-18 21:38:41

Yeah, sometimes it feels like high school all over again. ”I want to be popular, I want to be popular, I want to be popular!” Even though I was hanging out with some pretty cool cats, I still craved the invite to a football player/ cheerleader party.

Logically then, in 20 years at the Bloggers Reunion Ball, the popular bloggers of today will be selling insurance and reminiscing about the glory days while their minions transcribe, being careful to protect those jello red Lee Press-On Nails.

The rest of us losers will be naked in the hot-tub drinking wine … I can’t wait!

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2004-04-18 22:09:04

I think I like your picture of it better than mine: I imagine something way too close to the reunion in Grosse Point Blank, with at least one killing with a ballpoint pen.

Well, some days I like mine better than yours ;)

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