Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Blogging's Raison d'être

Jarrod Trainque, an internet marketing specialist based in Massachusetts, asked an interesting question today on his personal blog:

In a sea of decentralized online services, what should the long-term purpose of a “personal blog” be?
  • Does it end up being a catch-all for anything that doesn’t already have a home elsewhere?
  • Should it function as a “portal,” aggregating other services?
  • Could it be a place for editorial content and longer “essays” (instead of the sometimes typical 1-2 paragraph blog post)?
  • Most importantly, what’ll happen to the future of blogs as specialized online services are introduced?
His question resonates with me because I also maintain a personal blog here, and have no illusions about turning it into a specialized or topic-centric site (although I must admit that I lately talk about Twitter so much that this sometimes feels like a satellite of the Twitter Fan Wiki. Hah!).

My use of specialized sites has not reduced my blogging

Like Jarrod, I also use specialized sites for different things: there's Twitter for random thoughts, Flickr for my photos, and plus Furl for my bookmarks. Google Reader also acts as my link blog.

But despite my almost daily use of all these specialized sites, I've actually been blogging more in the past few months than I ever have before (I created my first blog in 2003).

On the contrary, Twitter makes me think more, so I blog more

I actually think that Twitter has turned me into a more consistent blogger -- an experience that is certainly not shared by everyone. It's my theory that consistent Twitter usage has put me into a more 'meta' state of mind. By this, I mean that instead of just simply 'doing things', I now spend more time 'thinking about what I'm doing.'

Simply put, I'm in a more reflective state of mind these days because using Twitter forces me to stop and think. And when I'm more inclined to reflect, I find more topics to blog about.

It also helps that I blog for myself

I'm firmly on the "blogging for myself" (vs. blogging for my audience) side of the fence. While I appreciate it when people come and read, I'm a lot less interested in site stats, and definitely driven a lot more by the simple satisfaction of verbalizing my thoughts.

Therefore, I don't feel a need to censor myself when it comes to expressing an idea, and I don't worry about whether or not site visitors will be 'turned off' by a sudden change in topic. I just write whatever comes to mind (as my tagline says), and I feel no pressure about making any of this very insightful, life-altering, or illuminating. As long as it satisfies a need for me to express my thoughts, I write. If it means that the wheat-to-chaff ratio on this blog is lower than most, that is something I'm willing to live with.

Personal blogs are online journals

To close, I think personal blogs will continue to exist for as long as the people who write them continue to benefit from the act of writing.

Personal blogging is just one more modern manifestation of the instinctive and basic human need to record our lives, a need that has existed for centuries -- as evidenced by all the paper-based journals that our ancestors have left behind.


Drew B said...

I used to be a more consistent blogger than I am now. Twitter has made it easier to post elsewhere faster. hmmph.

MD said...

Hi Drew. Great to see you here.

I know a lot of people have felt less inclined to blog after they started Twittering.

My guess -- people find it easier to post Twitter updates because they know their followers don't expect anything wise or brilliant via Twitter. There are no expectations to live up to.

Jarrod said...

I would add that twitter is easier too because your topic is already chosen: "What are you doing?"... You needn't think about the point/purpose/thesis of a tweet... it's almost always focused on answering that simple question.

It also helps that there's a character restriction... it's hard to have any expectations of quality when you are limited to so few letters.

(Which suggests an interesting unrelated idea: "twitter as art," with each tweet striving to be deep, meaningful statements constrained within space limitations... someone should try it...)

MD said...

Hi Jarrod.

Yes, it definitely helps to have a pre-ordained topic (what are you doing?) that doesn't impose many limits on people's responses.

Twitter as art... reminds me of all the folks who try making Twitter haikus.

Actually, there's even a haiku account in Twitter where the person only posts updates in haiku format. I can't begin to imagine how much effort that takes.