the art of blogging

Posted:

or Me write good someday!

I don’t understand blogging. That is to say, I don’t understand how some blogs attract a following and others do not. Blogging, or as the old folks used to call it journaling (as in “Yesterday, I was down at Tealicious Teas journaling some rage when the baristas announced that the steamer had crapped out.”), is at best amateur journalism and at worst random words interspersed with hyperlinks. Blogging even gets co-opted into hawking political candidates. So what is attractive about blogs?
Why are so many of them and how many people are really reading them?

This first question is easy enough to answer. Anyone who was watched the smile of unbridled joy creep across the face of a toddler screaming full bore on a crowded airplane should have some insight into the psychic benefits of blogging.
Without restraint, without mediation, and frequently without spell checking, millions of internet users can burp out the smallest of ideas in a forum accessible to the most of the planet at the speed of e-business.
Finally, the information-starved citizens of Samarkand, Transoxiana can get the 4-1-1 on which peaches work best in pies and why Wal-Mart sucks.
Unfortunately every road as a few potholes, even the Information Superhighway. In fact, the very concept of blogging has its critics, even among those those that write blogging software.

So, blogging is perhaps the rawest form of publication possible, barring mechanical telepathy or do-it-yourself TV stations. The barrier is too low to prevent otherwise quiet people from casting their electronic messages in bottles into the World Wide Webby sea. But then why are other people, who may or may not themselves be blogging, reading these missives? Almost by definition, blogs are humble, unedited things. They are compositions that were blitted out to screen with as little bureaucracy as possible. Most journals
appear to be something akin to a Tourettes episode involving a keyboard. How can blogs compete for eyeballs in a world filled with many intelligent, thoughtful, professionally editted articles?

The difference between a crank and a critic is that a critic gets paid.
However, cranks are often a lot more fun to observe. They have a train-wreck quality whose enormous gravitational pull will not be denied. Few media are better suited for cranks than blogs. If it is not for the objective reportage, then it must be for the genuinely human stories that blogs are consumed.
It must be the mispellings; the incomprehensible rants; the utterly obscure trivia; the prosiac reviews of Smokin’ Joe’s BBQ; the date with the new guy that went way south; the bike trips; the road trips; the vacation to Tragikstan; the crappiest days at work; the greatest days at work; the last days of work; the birth of little Peter; the passing of Grandma; the blubbery blancmange of evidence; the “secret” Chocolate Crinkle Cookies; the photos of Tallinn; photos of Japan; the photos of me; the photos of you.

I don’t know what makes for a popular blog and I’m unlikely to invest the time necessary to solve that mystery. Blogs are simply the graffiti our times. In an increasingly isolated world, it is nice to know that that you aren’t the only crank with a computer.

For those angling to hone their bloginating skills, I do have a word of advice comes on the heels of this bit of compositional wisdom from Rabbitblog:

«The critic who says you shouldn’t write in run-on sentences and shouldn’t use clichés? That critic you can kill.»

While I admire the freedom expressed this guideline, I would suggest using some restraint in allowing run-on sentences to proliferate in your blog. So risking absurdity, I end this journal with this blogging rule of thumb:

Run-on sentences, like profanity, should be used strategically, since it is the exuberant overuse of these oft-maligned parts of speech that mightly tax the reader’s attention and damage your ability to drive home the fucking point.

[Original use.perl.org post and comments.]