While I didn’t blogged, I read weblogs. Big share of those are on parenting-related themes. One of the trends that I was surprised to see is how many of those are into “pro-blogging” – blogging not only for the fun of it, but also for some business-related purposes (some links are here).
This seems to the case for “weblogs in general” too – I come across more and more advice on pro-blogging. Reading it I realise how much what I do with my weblog is guided by other choices and principles: I prefer not to define goals and strategies for blogging and while I’m glad to have readers, I do not spend much time putting on paper who is my audience and how exactly my weblog will make it happy.
And, on the top of it, I get annoyed when blogging is conceptualised primarily as a medium for public communication (especially with microphones or megaphones as a visual metaphor ;). So, working on a PhD chapter that describes my own blogging practices, I wanted to show the other side of it – blogging for myself. Below is a slightly edited piece from the current draft.
Blogging is frequently viewed as a medium for public communication: it is reasonable to assume that those who do not want their words to be read by a broad audience would use another medium. However, while the need to communicate is a part of blogging, it is not necessary the primarily reason for it.
In my case blogging grew out of a need for a place to organise my thinking and exploration; the readers, as well as writing for them, appeared later. While the public nature of blogging was the factor I took into account from the beginning of it, the primary force that shaped it was its usefulness for myself.
In the process of balancing my own needs and interests with those of my potential readers when blogging I often make choices to serve my own interests first. Those choices shaped my blogging practices in multiple ways.
Work-in-progress instead of polished pieces. Although a weblog readers are more likely to benefit from well-thought and carefully crafted posts, my need for capturing ideas at their early stages resulted in writing quick work-in-progress memos. Using weblog for a quick documentation, often squeezed between working on other task also resulted in writing many relatively short posts, connected by links. While it provides a trail of connected ideas that works for my own purposes, it is more difficult to follow and to make sense of for a reader, who could probably benefit more from reading a longer entry that would connect several linked posts into a coherent whole.
Fragmented weblog focus. When started, my weblog was focused primarily on the topics related to learning and knowledge management. Over time my writing shifted to other topics, potentially alienating loyal readers. While I was “not sure that reading all methodology ‘thinking aloud’ is that fun” (quoted from this post) it was essential for my learning process, so it became relatively big part of the weblog content. Currently, the content of my weblog is pretty fragmented as it reflects the change of my interests and topics I worked on over time.
“Selfish” tagging. Another dimension where the choices between my own interests and those of an external audience appeared was using tags for organising my own posts. While I had multiple opportunities to use tags that would help users of external systems to find relevant entries in my weblog, I haven’t used them since this would mean losing personally meaningful tag-based navigation in my weblog. The choice of terms to use as tags is also influenced primarily by their relevance for my own thinking practice.
The reasons for choosing to serve my own needs before those of my audience are twofold:
- Serving the needs of others might make blogging meaningless for myself. For example, writing only on a narrow set of topics in the weblog defeats the initial purpose of blogging to collect in one place fragmented bits relevant to my thinking.
- In my case too much dependence on the audience is proved to be paralysing: I would spend too much time trying to figure out for whom exactly to write and what their needs might be (a bit more on writing for non-existing audience). Also, non-intrusive nature of blogging (e.g. compared to the email that is delivered to the mailboxes) means that there is no necessarily an audience for a specific post, so writing to serve others in this case feels similar to giving a presentation in an empty room.
Other bloggers on related issues: