Tuesday, October 21, 2008

About blogging

For those of you who find yourself fascinated with the whole concept of blogging, I highly recommend this essay by Andrew Sullivan, "Why I Blog." (Thanks to Iggy for pointing me there.)

Some choice bits from it:

A reporter can wait—must wait—until every source has confirmed. A novelist
can spend months or years before committing words to the world. For bloggers,
the deadline is always now. Blogging is therefore to writing what extreme sports
are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive.
It is, in many ways, writing out loud....

In one of my early Kinsley-­guided experiments, he urged me not to
think too hard before writing. So I wrote as I’d write an e-mail—with only a
mite more circumspection. This is hazardous, of course, as anyone who has ever
clicked Send in a fit of anger or hurt will testify. But blogging requires an
embrace of such hazards, a willingness to fall off the trapeze rather than fail
to make the leap....

It was obvious from the start that it was revolutionary. Every writer since
the printing press has longed for a means to publish himself and
reach—instantly—any reader on Earth. Every professional writer has paid some
dues waiting for an editor’s nod, or enduring a publisher’s incompetence, or
being ground to literary dust by a legion of fact-checkers and copy editors. If
you added up the time a writer once had to spend finding an outlet, impressing
editors, sucking up to proprietors, and proofreading edits, you’d find another
lifetime buried in the interstices. But with one click of the Publish Now
button, all these troubles evaporated.

Alas, as I soon discovered, this sudden freedom from above was immediately
replaced by insurrection from below. Within minutes of my posting something,
even in the earliest days, readers responded. E-mail seemed to unleash their
inner beast. They were more brutal than any editor, more persnickety than any
copy editor, and more emotionally unstable than any colleague....

To blog is therefore to let go of your writing in a way, to hold it at
arm’s length, open it to scrutiny, allow it to float in the ether for a while,
and to let others, as Montaigne did, pivot you toward relative truth. A blogger
will notice this almost immediately upon starting. Some e-mailers,
unsurprisingly, know more about a subject than the blogger does. They will send
links, stories, and facts, challenging the blogger’s view of the world,
sometimes outright refuting it, but more frequently adding context and nuance
and complexity to an idea. The role of a blogger is not to defend against this
but to embrace it. He is similar in this way to the host of a dinner party. He
can provoke discussion or take a position, even passionately, but he also must
create an atmosphere in which others want to participate.

That atmosphere will inevitably be formed by the blogger’s personality. The
blogosphere may, in fact, be the least veiled of any forum in which a writer
dares to express himself. Even the most careful and self-aware blogger will
reveal more about himself than he wants to in a few unguarded sentences and
publish them before he has the sense to hit Delete. The wise panic that can
paralyze a writer—the fear that he will be exposed, undone, humiliated—is not
available to a blogger. You can’t have blogger’s block. You have to express
yourself now, while your emotions roil, while your temper flares, while your
humor lasts. You can try to hide yourself from real scrutiny, and the exposure
it demands, but it’s hard. And that’s what makes blogging as a form stand out:
it is rich in personality. The faux intimacy of the Web experience, the
closeness of the e-mail and the instant message, seeps through. You feel as if
you know bloggers as they go through their lives, experience the same things you
are experiencing, and share the moment....

It stems, I think, from the conversational style that blogging rewards.
What you want in a conversationalist is as much character as authority. And if
you think of blogging as more like talk radio or cable news than opinion
magazines or daily newspapers, then this personalized emphasis is less
surprising. People have a voice for radio and a face for television. For
blogging, they have a sensibility....

Rudeness, in any case, isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a blogger.
Being ignored is. Perhaps the nastiest thing one can do to a fellow blogger is
to rip him apart and fail to provide a link.

1 comment:

genomeboy said...

Hi Grump,

Not really a comment on blogging per se, more on your blog's format. Have you thought about using a tags format which lists the tags not in alphabetical order, but more of a cloud format, with the more common tags represented in larger font? This would reduce the scrolling, and likely result in more hits on your tags..

Just a thought, I'm helpful that way...lol