Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Meaning of Blogging

I have been blogging for about seven years now. Like so many others, I started by blogging at my own site, lost interest for a while and spent some time posting comments at larger blogs. I am happy to say that some of my comments produced a great many responses and some support, so that I was invited to be a regular poster at a major blog,, an enterprise of group blogging which lasted several years with great success. Along the way, I found myself quoted in the Wall Street Journal and interviewed by a Japanese news agency, and received attention, both support and attacks, from a number of prominent bloggers. Unfortunately, the site owner had a regrettable change in opinion regarding freedom of expression and he ejected all of his writers and got himself a new cast. That incident led to some additional publicity and attention in the blogosphere, but in the end it was an unfortunate turn of events.

I received a number of offers to blog on other sites, and soon thereafter joined the team at Wizbang, an eclectic and upbeat right-of-center site. One thing I particularly liked, was that I could post when I liked, on a great variety of subjects, including my faith, my fight with cancer, and my return to school. Wizbang readers know they can see not only political commentary, but a community of conservative thought, including topics that appeal to common life issues.

You may have noticed that it’s been nearly a month since my last post. Sorry for that, it comes down to my Mom’s hospitalization and rehab therapy, my new job, and the fact that I don’t want to repeat old things long said or just parrot popular themes. But as I tried to write posts earlier this month, I also became aware of the flood of blogs and bloggers, and it occurs to me that we might discuss the issue of what blogging has become and where it is going.

One thing which drives me to distraction is the amount of unwanted mail I get in my email. Not the junk mail from people trying to sell me things, that’s just a dismal fact of life, but the constant deluge of links to posts and entire columns reprinted for my “convenience” that I never asked to receive. If you are one of those people, let me say for your own good that SPAM is not good writing. If you are sending your stuff out by email to people who never asked to be on a mailing list, please just STOP. You are not making anyone happy or improving your reputation. Spamming folks through email blog updates is just plain creepy.

Now as to blogging itself. Bloggers frequently criticize the print and broadcast media, and with good reason – there’s a lot of bias and inaccuracy in what is commonly called journalism, and some of it is just plain fraud (Rathergate, anyone?). But criticizing media requires the blogger to demonstrate a standard of conduct himself, and a lot of bloggers are deficient in that regard. Some post opinion while pretending it to be fact. Some bloggers cannot tolerate any difference of opinion, even from allies. Some bloggers are egocentric fools, speaking bluntly, who imagine that they alone have perfect wisdom and are the next Reynolds or Limbaugh – such bloggers are usually deficient in humility, insight, and humor, but I will leave it at that. As a result, bloggers are commonly read mostly by other bloggers and by a select audience; we must accept that even today, most people are unfamiliar with blogs at all (not to mention twitter), and unless/until blogs demonstrate a social value great enough to attract the attention and respect of the public, they will remain of marginal interest only. That, by the way, is just one reason there are no “blogger millionaires”.

Blogs are sometimes trivial and have the staying power of say, a snowball in Houston. But some are well-written and are potent accounts of seminal issues and represent serious thought on a range of subjects. To a large degree, bloggers respond to readers and they thrive on reader support. This is one reason most blogs allow comments. It not only provides a forum for people, it also allows the blogger to receive direct feedback, something so lacking in print and broadcast media that it’s killing off a number of the media businesses. It also provides the energy that many bloggers need to keep posting – there’s a real incentive to produce when you know someone’s paying attention.

But it comes down to a symbiotic relationship between the blogger and the readers. What matters to you and why? Any good blogger wants to build on that basis, and any blog worth reading will pay attention not to superficial bilge that can be supplied by TMZ or the like, but the things that keep you up at night or provoke the ageless question, “What if?”