Blogging!

Quick quiz: what year is it?

If you said 2010, you're wrong. It's actually 2000 (I predict a Bush/Gore showdown in November). I mean, it has to be 2000, otherwise why would we still be having this "should I blog or shouldn't I" debate? The most recent example: James Parker's piece in the Boston Globe's Ideas section.

I'm not sure why anyone would want to get into a debate like this (says the guy who is about to get into the debate), but as someone in the comments section says to Parker, hey, blog or don't blog. It's not really worth talking about, is it?

I still think that one of the reasons that blogging is still not taken seriously – even though many serious writers are blogging – is because "blog" is such a silly, silly name. It's like a lot of things on the web worth doing, they all have goofy names: Yahoo, Google, Twitter, blogging. Sounds childish, doesn't it? But here's a little experiment you can do: forget the word "blog." Replace that word with "column" or "article" or "journal" or "piece." That's basically what a blog is, isn't it? The word "blog" really refers to the technology used to create the sites as much as the format.

Parker's main arguments against blogging are the comments sections on blogs and the fact that you have to update your blog several times a day. Let's take that second part first:

Also, once I hit “send” on a piece, I’m done. Finis. The
thought of discussing it further — let alone arguing about it — turns me
into a character from the lesser works of Noel Coward: “My dear, having
written the thing, I hardly feel that I should be called upon to defend
it!” (Peals of high unsteady laughter.) Again, hopeless for the
blogosphere, whose lifeblood is disputation. If your blog doesn’t get
’em going, if by 3 o’clock there aren’t already several micro-debates
eddying around your big polemical mid-morning post, what’s the point?

James, you do know that you can shut off the comments, right? You don't have to have a comments section on your blog. Sure, it's a great thing to have if you want to interact with your readers, or even if you don't want to interact yourself but have readers interact with each other. There are many blogs out there without a comments section and they're great reads.

But what about having to update the damn thing all the time?

Let’s start with the most obvious point against blogging: the labor. A
blog must be fed several times a day, like a weight lifter or a Great
Dane. Are you ready for that kind of commitment? Update, update, keep
the posts coming: Your audience, sitting on its rear end in offices and
coffee shops and departure lounges across the world, is waiting. We all
know the tiny electronic swat of dismay that one experiences upon
checking a favorite blog and finding it unchanged or unrefreshed. Do
that too often to your readers and they’ll ditch you, and your blog will
die. Who needs this perpetual deadline?

Again, this displays a true misunderstanding of what blogs are and what they're for. I read dozens of blogs a day and a lot of them are, indeed, updated throughout the day: Boing Boing, the blogs at Amazon, Romenesko, Kottke, the blogs at The Atlantic, and the blog I write for, TV Squad. But they're industry or pro blogs, the ones that have to be updated all day long, to get the consistent traffic and get hits for the advertisers. But you don't have to update a blog all day long. Update it when you want: daily, weekly, monthly, whatever. Your readers will probably love it if you update your blog more than that, but it's not necessary. Do what you want.

We could get into the whole "print is dying" debate. That's a good enough reason to blog (or just have a web presence in general) right there. But that's a whole other debate (and print will never completely go away). I blog because I'm a writer and I like to have sort of a web "headquarters" for the things I write. I post what I want, when I want. A lot of stuff I want to say I don't have an outlet for, so why not post it for my readers? But you don't even have to be a writer in your day job to have a blog. Some of the best blogs on the web are written by people who have real jobs.

The funny thing? Parker is a terrific writer. He's one of those writers that, no matter what issue of what magazine or paper he's in, his piece is going to be the most interesting thing in that issue. If there's a blog I would read, it would be his. At the end of the piece, Parker says that maybe he will start a blog after all, something that he'll update every three weeks that won't get a lot of hits. I hope that wasn't just a cute way to end your piece James, because I think you should do it. Some of the best blogs are in "some mossy cranny of the web." Come on in to the blogstream, the water's fine.

Just makes sure you turn off those comments. And try not to use the word "blogstream." Whatever the hell that is.

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