The other day I had an email from my friend, Stan Herman, in which he asked me to give him my current take on blogging’s “uses and shortcomings.” He is thinking about starting to blog. Although I wrote him a response, his question has caused me to think about why I blog and what possible value there is in it. So I thought I’d use his question as a reason to think aloud about what I think about blogging after having done it now for over 3 years.
Blogging is first and foremost an egotistical activity. Anyone who posts his thoughts on the Internet for the whole world to read, if they should choose, has to be a bit audacious. One of the quotes in my tagline files says, “An author is a fool who, not content with boring those he lives with, insists on boring future generations.” — Charles de Montesquieu. I suppose the same could be said of a blogger. But as with books, blogs are just on the menu, one of billions of websites, that a surfer can choose to read or not read as he or she sees fit.
So I write, not for the reader so much, as for myself. And I like the discipline of attempting to say what I say in an intelligible manner. For almost as long as I can remember I have written for my own benefit as a way of sorting out what I think or how I feel. Someone once referred to it as bibliotherapy, I think. It’s like lying on a couch and pouring out your soul to a therapist, except that there is no therapist there to hear you. But I have kept journals that were handwritten and then once I acquired a computer, I have kept individual text files in which I merely wrote down my thoughts, a diary of sorts, of the paths down which I strolled mentally. Occasionally I go back and read what I have written, but I don’t spend much time doing that. Mostly I write to get things out, not to have them for posterity.
One of the uses of blogging, for Stan’s benefit and for anyone else who may have an interest, is that it gives you a way of publishing what you have written instantly. No waiting for an editor’s approval. No soliciting the input of collaborators. No waiting for the publication of the finished product. As such, of course, blogs suffer from one person’s idea of what is acceptable and lose the benefits that most books have where there is an editorial board or team that keeps the author on the straight and narrow. So immediacy is one of the primary benefits of blogging.
And when they are done well, blogs provide one’s immediate reaction to things that are happening in his life or in the world as he sees it. Usually for me that is about technological things that I notice or find interesting. Others, of course, comment on the political landscape, and though I have my own private thoughts about those things I choose not to participate in that discussion. Most of the blogs that have high visibility though are those that become a part of the “news” of the day by making such comments. That’s just not a part of what I want to do, even if I could.
By way of example, one of the things that I have been playing with this morning is a set of tools on Flickr called Flickr Toys that permit one to create some interesting things like magazine covers, calendars, mosaics and slideshows of images that he has posted to Flickr. Here’s an example of one I created this morning. And this example illustrates that I’m more into proving that I can do it than because I have a use for it. Like the digital photography I post on Flickr, I don’t think of myself as a great writer here at my blog any more than I think of myself as a really good photographer. I do these things because I enjoy doing them, and for no other reason really.
So I use blogging and posting my digital photographs as a way of sharing what I do with my time with those who might choose to pay attention. When I learn that someone has chosen to pay attention, I am usually surprised … and pleased, I must add, but I don’t do it to see how many people I can draw to my site.
I also use this site to alert people to things I think they may need to know, such as in this post recently. And for those who rely on my “support” I will occasionally alert them to such posts, as I did recently about that post for my friend Paul Moor. So instead of sending a widely-broadcast email and imposing my messages on my friends, as I used to do when I first discovered that I could send an email to everyone on my contact list, I post instead to my blog and if they want to read it, they can. If they don’t, then I haven’t loaded down their inbox with things in which they have no interest.
As to blogging’s shortcomings, I suppose there are many. One is, as I have said, that they are the product of one individual’s point of view and aren’t edited. However, perhaps the biggest shortcoming is that they are not a source of revenue, as many who come to them hope they will be. Oh, I know there are ad revenue schemes that one could employ, but I don’t choose to participate in those either. I don’t expect to become rich by blogging, so I am not disappointed when there is no compensation. My blog is a labor of love for me.
Another shortcoming of blogging is that, if you choose to allow comments, you occasionally have to deal with people posting comments that may be hurtful or offensive to some other readers. I’ve had to deal with that occasionally, and for a time I turned off comments because of it. Then I decided it would be easier to simply delete those comments that I find unacceptable for whatever reason I see them as such. Fortunately, I haven’t been beset as some have by what is called “comment spam.” However, now that I mention it, I suppose I may have to deal with it at some point in the future. Others have, so why should I be spared? But that’s a bridge I’ll cross when I come to it.
Fortunately for me blogging has been primarily a joyous experience. It gives me a way to post information on the Internet easily and for those few friends who choose to read my blog, it provides them a way of keeping up with what is going on in my life. I don’t expect a lot from blogging and therefore I am seldom disappointed by it. I like having a place where people can go and find out what old Perry is saying these days. So that’s why I blog and why I am likely to continue to do so as long as I have the ability.