Why blog? Musings and open thread

There’s been some chat around here regarding why people blog. I’ll leave out the entire matter of why people write in the first place—that topic is so well covered in undergrad, there’s no reason to try to add to an already voluminous literature.

But why blog?

Well, anyone can do it. I don’t have to apply for a job, submit samples—I don’t even have to be good. I can just type away to my heart’s content.

So lack of ambition and talent could explain a large segment of the blogosphere. But that’s too cynical even for me.

Some bloggers truly enjoy the less formal area of communication, and can float and share ideas that might not fly in standard media (assuming blogs aren’t a standard medium).

Some don’t enjoy it much at all—but they feel duty-bound. Sound a bit grandiose? Sometimes it is, but sometimes it turns out that a blog is actually read by people who influence policy. You can actually see the ripples of some posts through the blogosphere, through institutional emails, and into the mainstream press. More than a few SciBlings have affected public policy and debate here.

But are blogs really “alternative”? Sure, mostly. And not so much. I know of a talented young journalist who is writing for a major paper, but is going back to grad school to study “new media” and increase her chances of remaining a journalist. Traditional print journalism is not doing so well.

Blogging is a bit different than other writing as well. If my reading habits (and my analysis of my stats) are any indication, bloggers are correct when they feel driven to post regularly. I used to read the NYT daily. Sure, I’d love it if Tom Friedman showed up every day, but since I look at the OpEds daily, he’ll show back up.

Some of my favorite blogs, though, drop off my radar if they stop posting for a while. I just get too lazy to cruise over for nothing. (Although my reader will pick it up of course. If you have a Blackberry, I can’t recommend Viigo strongly enough.)

Blogs are often very strongly identified with a particular writer…more so than, say, newspaper articles. But every once in a while, a blog that might be considered “important” suffers a crisis…the primary writer gets a life, or some such catastrophe. However, many blogs have an identity of their own, and new writers can be gently folded in to spell writers who are burning out, or just to add a new set of ideas.

If commenters are any indication, many of the readers of ScienceBlogs are bloggers themselves, so I you folks have anything to add…well, the thread is open.


11 responses to “Why blog? Musings and open thread”

  1. Blogging is a remarkably convenient form of self-expression, especially if you don’t find writing onerous. It’s self-affirming to express opinions and have people react to them (whether positively or negatively).

    Beyond that “self” stuff, it’s possible that a blogger has something to say that’s useful to other people. You can put it out there and see if anyone finds it. I think many bloggers are motivated by a straightforward desire to share things. Some blogs turn into small communities, with regular readers and commenters (or gigantic communities, like ScienceBlogs). My own blog is just a personal hobby, done in my spare time, but I’ve gotten to enjoy seeing the regulars who pop up from different corners of the world and share their reactions to things I’ve written. It’s mostly friendly and pleasant.

    And it’s cheaper than psychotherapy: Blogito, ergo sum.

  2. Sure, I’d love it if Tom Friedman showed up every day, but since I look at the OpEds daily, he’ll show back up.

    Please, for the love of god, tell me you’re kidding!! The man aptly named (I think by Driftglass) Captain Obvious!? Every day!?

  3. Re PhysioProf

    Actually, Tom Friedman does provide comic relief over at the Times. Of course, there is also Maureen Dowd. The only reason I can think of as to why she has a column there is that she is boinking somebody in the executive offices.

  4. For people like me without a real job, it’s a great giant developing topical resume, or a “CV” as we say in England. It sells my knowledge, my experience, my insight, my creativity, my sense of humour, etc.

    Of course, that’s why the anonymous blog wouldn’t work 🙂

    And that’s “why-blog”, here’s how-to-blog

    Just my view of it anyway, I am happy to say that not everyone agrees, which gives the blogosphere its great diversity.

  5. RNB, I agree with many of your “how-to” points. One in particular follows my own reading biases, and that is “brevity”. With blogs posts, I find that unless it is remarkably engrossing, folks tend to move along without finishing. If possible, I try to keep my posts at a length that wont tax that patience of the ADHD crowd. Generally.

  6. I think many bloggers are motivated by a straightforward desire to share things.

    That’s how I started out. For the first couple years of its existence my “blog”–I hesitate to even deem it such at that point in its infancy–was just links to various news articles or other blog posts that I found interesting.

    It hasn’t really changed much from that, but at least now I provide a service you’re not likely to get anywhere else with my Friday Dead Racist-Blogging.

  7. I love the cartoon republished at Language Log a short while ago: The off-stage wife calls to her husband who is shown typing at the computer: “Are you coming to bed soon?” Husband replies, “Not yet! Someone’s wrong on the Internet!”

    My blog is one critic’s voice on one topic — local journalism. I find it works better than screeds, err, letters to the editor about plagiarism and making stuff up. Instead of sending missives down a black hole, I have something to show for it — and eleven readers.

  8. For me, blogging is about enforced discipline – I need an external driver to get me to concentrate on writing regularly. Otherwise, writing becomes another of the many things competing for my time, and getting to it is all the more challenging since I write a lof of technical and policy stuff at work. I have to say, sadly, that I haven’t reached my “two substantive posts per week” goal yet, but at least I’m writing – which is more then I can say for last year.

    Plus, I can blog on the front porch drinking an Abita Amber watching my neighbors play with their kids. Makes it all worthwhile at that point.

  9. I actually blog mostly for one particular reason, my girlfriend got sick of me complaining about bad archaeology and pseudo-science all the time.

  10. Why do I blog? It’s the only way to get my mom to listen to anything that has to do with science or philosophy without interrupting me.

  11. No publisher would touch a book about the natural history of a small English North Sea bay, thousands have come and read a blog about it.

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