No Fancy Name
Friday, August 04, 2006
blogher: on why more than a few attendees now feel ambivalent about blogging
[edited to add: here are links to all my BlogHer posts]

A popular topic in the post-BlogHer conference chatter is a sort of "us versus them" feeling among some people. Some "thems" feel some "us" folks were too exclusive, while the "us" folks for the most part weren't trying to do that nor did they realize boundaries and walls were going up/perceived to be up in front of the "thems" and so on and so forth. Again, this isn't an institutional oppression issue, because despite the BlogHer Ad Network initially including/targeting only parenting-related blogs, BlogHer is a roll-your-own community—fit yourself into one or more subgroups, and if one isn't there you can start one. In the BlogHer community, there are no institutional barriers in the way of making your community large and powerful. For instance, just like the mommybloggers mobilized after their "room of your own" session in BlogHer05 and created such as presence within the BlogHer site, ad network, etc., I will bet cold hard cash that the food bloggers and/or edubloggers will do the same thing next year (I will bet more money on the food bloggers).

Secondary (but not all that secondary) to the "us versus them" feeling is the disconnect between people's expectations and their reality at the conference, combined with insecurities ranging from the purpose and worth of blogging to one's own self-worth. Those are all intensely personal issues and everyone has them to some degree or another, and as such everyone is different. Personally, I believe all types of blogging are incredibly useful on all levels (personal, adding to the greater conversation, etc), and as such I am not someone who worries about my audience or monetization or The One True Way to Blog.

I'm going to quote myself here, because the following summarizes how I feel about the (lack of) The One True Way to Blog:
[When stepping out into the blogosphere,] you'll find blogs written by parents, teachers, geeks, actors, musicians, political pundits, religious leaders, eight-year-olds, and eighty-year-olds. In other words, ordinary people write blogs and ordinary people read blogs. No special skills are required to begin your foray into blogging. You need not have a purpose or a plan. The most important thing to remember about blogging is that it is ultimately your own space, and you may do with it whatever you want.

Hopefully, what you'll want to do is participate in the greater blogging community. Unlike a simple static website, the format of a blog creates a framework upon which a community can be built. With a static website, what you see is what you get; there is no expectation of interactivity between the reader and the author or subject of the content. For instance, if you visit a website and gather corporate information or information about your favorite musician or sports team, you typically can't post a follow-up to the content or ask a question which will then be answered with authority. However, that sequence of events is exactly what the blogging community is built on: communication and conversation. People write posts, other people leave comments, more ideas are generated, and the discussion continues on another blog, and so on and so forth.
YOU have the power to make blogging whatever you want it to be, for you. Similarly, at BlogHer (on the site and at the conference), YOU have the power to ramp up the presence of whatever community/communities with which you identify.

So why do some attendees now feel ambivalent about blogging? Perhaps they felt too much on the "them" side of things. Perhaps they felt as if they had to categorize themselves as a specific type of blogger, and could not, leading them to think they were somehow less of a part of the greater blogging community. Perhaps the split of the conference into the "how to do" day and the "how to be" day didn't fit with their own sense of "I already do and am, what's left?"

If people are ambivalent about blogging because they feel that one must be A Blogger to blog "legitimately," and that means careful categorization with attention paid to issues of audience, primping (and pimping), monetization, optimization, et al, that essentially there IS One True Way to Blog...well, that's just not the case. But I can see where coming to a blogging conference ostensibly about all those things would make one now ambivalent toward blogging if none of those things interest you. What I'd then ask is...why did you come to the conference? What were the things that you, Joan Now-Ambivalent Blogger, wanted to get from the conference that you felt were lacking in the program? Those things should be first on the list of proposed topics, panels, and discussions for next year.

But if you are now ambivalent about blogging because of issues with your own interpretation of the worthiness of your blog, either because of its subject matter, your plan for it (or lack thereof), or your writing skills compared with folks you met/heard at the conference, um...fuck it. It's your blog. Do with it what you want. You're writing and attempting to join the greater conversation. If you want to learn how to do those things "better"—that is, to study the craft of writing, or to pay attention to issues of audience (etc) and community-building—then do it. Join those sessions and find something to take away from them. If you have no take-away, ask a question—even if it's "I have yet to hear something I want to take away from this session. What am I missing?" If you don't care one whit about those things and just want to kick it with People Who Blog (as opposed to People Who Are Bloggers), then welcome to my tribe. We're just as important, worthwhile, and have legitimate things to say.

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