sue watling

Who do we blog for? Is it for ourselves or for other people? I find myself re-reflecting on this after reading an entry on a (recommended) author’s work blog which was of a highly personal nature and seemed out of context. That might say more about me and my own thoughts on the work/life balance; never the twain shall meet etc. but it did set me pondering once again on the nature and purposes of the blogging revolution.

What is blogging all about? Ultimately we must blog for an audience – if we were blogging purely for reflection then we wouldn’t be uploading our musings into a public place and inviting comments – would we? Is the idea that the blog is a mirror for our personal thoughts a false one? Should an effective blog be a crafted one; written with intent? Should blog entries be bite-sized reflections of distilled essence; not stream-of-consciousness ramblings? No-one has the time to search for needles in haystacks – they need to be pricked – so is an effective blog one that is designed to attract attention?

Blogs function on different levels; their value measured by the number of comments, who is on the blogroll, and how many mentions the writer can get in for their latest conference, journal article or book chapter.  We all do it (see http://learninglab.lincoln.ac.uk/blogs/sue/2009/03/13/technology-enhance-learned-a-new-digital-divide/ for example!) and this reinforces their ‘public’ nature; we all like to assume that a blog has a wider audience than one consisting of our immediate work colleagues or even no-one at all. Does ‘0 comments’ indicate 0 readers? 

So I found myself thinking (sad or what!) about how many types of blogs can be identified (or even ‘How do you do yours’? as in the old ‘How do you eat your Cadbury’s Crème Egg’ adage). So far I’ve got:

  • Business Card Blogging (find out more about me…)
  • CV Blogging (this is where I’ve been and what I did there…)
  • Social Network Blogging (how many names can I drop in… ) 
  • Competitive Blogging (I must increase my ratings…)
  • Boring Blogging (once visited never returned…)

Does anyone have any more suggestions?

The harsh truth is that the majority of bloggers write for an audience of one – themselves – so maybe it doesn’t matter what we post after all – or is there anyone out there who disagrees………….  



9 Comments so far

  1.    Andy Hagyard on April 16, 2009 2:30 pm      

    Are you also interested in the views of non-bloggers (of which I am one – at least for now)? I did respond to your previous post on not-blogging – see http://learninglab.lincoln.ac.uk/blogs/sue/2009/01/15/on-not-blogging/#comments

    Basically I have nothing against blogging, I just don’t feel any urge to do it myself. I think it comes down to preferred styles of communication, and for me it is the lack of an identifiable audience that makes it hard for me to engage. There may be many ways to eat a crème egg, but there is also the option not to eat one at all.

  2.    Angela Thody on April 16, 2009 4:59 pm      

    1) I would rather spend the time actually talking to live people than blogging virtual ones
    2) I would rather spend time emailing an individual I know than writing for the ether
    3) I might enjoy blogging if I were housebound
    4) It would be a full time job to keep up with all the many ways of personal communication on the internet
    5) It’s a fad that will pass
    6) I can’t think of anyone who would have the time and interest to want to read solely about my latest research or chocolate easter egg.
    7) I’ve read other people’s blogs to get a feel for what they are like and I still can’t fathom what function they serve.
    8) Other than those points, I guess blogs are wonderful

  3.    Terfot A. Ngwana on April 16, 2009 5:44 pm      

    Hi Sue, another fantastic idea from you, well done. I can see the essence of it.

    The idea of blogging, to me, is as broad as its purpose. It can be pointless just as much as it can lead to a significant development of thoughts and theories around a specific subject.

    The history of thinking or philosophy is filled with speculations as to what constitutes collective consciousness or the sort of thoughts that can be validated within a specific time, space and political context. Varous generations of these thinkers have alway grappled with how this can be captured. I think blogging fills a specific gap in this endeavour and generation. However, my view is that this purpose is achieved only if the thoughts are systematic and are captured within a systematic framework.

    This means somebody has got to define the purpose of a blog and derive an outcome from it rather than making it a series of rambling or endless moaning about diverse subjects. If done well, blogging becomes a means to an end rather than an end to itself.

  4.    Ray on April 16, 2009 9:48 pm      

    What a really good article. I see that blogging allows us to share ideas and thoughts. It gives us a voice.

    No comments definately (IMAO) doesn’t mean no readers. I don’t always add comments, even if the article was really great. Actually the more popular an article is, the less I feel the need to.

  5. Profile photo of karin   Karin on April 16, 2009 10:16 pm      

    Hi Sue, and anyone else reading….what an interesting project, you have certainly made me think! I think I shall try and answer some of your questions from my perspective, but would also want to raise a few more….like, when does a twitter become a blog? How frequently do people blog? Do people blog and twitter..and are they the same people?

    Well I blog and twitter – and seem to do this in several places. Actually I agree with Sue and think that I really do it for myself. Whilst it it time consuming, I always was the sort to keep a diary or make lots of notes, so it sort of comes naturally and in a way, sort of feels therapeutic (yeah, I know…sad old woman eh?). Anyway, sometimes I also think there is a kind of ‘justifying’ what I am doing, too – do you understand what I mean? There’s also something about, once you start, you can’t (or daren’t) stop….so be warned!

    About me…well I have word press web sites (thanks Joss!), which were of course originally for blogging, but I tend to use them as web sites to provide information, to have a web-presence, and to make it easy to tell people about a project or activity. I have a web site about myself, on which I do actively blog, about once a month. I see this as a way of keeping the web site up to date, even if I don’t change anything else visitors can see the blogs are up to date, so they are more like ‘up dates’ of what I am involved in professionally at the time. The useful side product of this is that they do act as a sort of log for myself of ‘what was I up to last January’, if I ever need to know! I also twitter (these are linked to my webpages), and I follow the yammers….I find these perhaps less useful…and I think that if you have a job where you are by your computer most of the time for most of every day, then twittering, yammering or even blogging is easy. However, I am often teaching, in meetings, or travelling and so it is less straight forward and there is a risk it becomes a chore. Hence the monthly blog is fine….twitters are ok if I am at the computer, otherwise I don’t get anxious about it – I haven’t worked out the usefulness of these twitters yet…other than Stephen Fry can be quite amusing! ;-)

    I am not sure where I would fit on your taxonomy of bloggers, perhaps you can decide, or perhaps there is a more detailed sort of grid that you could plot ‘blogger-types’ to?

    I shall reflect on this further and come back here if I think of more…in the meantime if you want to look at examples of my blogging and twittering visit http://www.karincrawford.info – any comments welcome!

    Karin

  6.    Richard M. Davis on April 16, 2009 10:47 pm      

    Hi Sue

    I don’t think any of the reasons you suggest are unique to blogging, though the ‘Net effect makes the reach potentially far greater than any paper journal, fanzine, article or book. I’d recommend checking out Jill Walker-Rettberg’s thoughts on the matter: http://jilltxt.net/txt/

    An effective blog would be one that fulfils, or even exceeds, its authors intentions. Like any written piece – and we can scarcely just generalise every possible type of writing into a single statement and say “It is that, period.” You’re right to restate the question: I’d hope anyone that takes writing seriously occasionally asks themselves “why? what am i trying to achieve?”

    But I’d be wary of sounding overly dismissive. At a primal level I expect we blog (or write or talk) because we can and because of some fundamental urge to communicate ; at a more practical level, we keep written records, including blogs, to support and enhance our mental capabilities (e.g. Harnad & Dror on Distributed Cognition http://tinyurl.com/dzf4x3), or share information, or rehearse/argue/essai… And, in the case of blogs, we can also get sometimes almost instantaneous feedback, answering our questions, enlightening us, reaching out with or for help. Marvellous.

    So, assuming your question’s not entirely rhetorical, for a quick and practical overview of some valid applications of of blogging in universities and education generally, I’d recommend the FAQ at Warwick, which has been providing blogs for students since 2004: http://tinyurl.com/dcoaga. Equally I’d welcome your comments on some of my thoughts on the subject on our blog http://tinyurl.com/czgz5g http://tinyurl.com/dhcqxh

    And why do we comment? Maybe because a little bird told me to! ;)

  7.    julian on April 17, 2009 8:16 am      

    It’s an interesting question to be sure? I think the main reason I blog about work is because I feel if I go to some event I need to justify the expense of sending me there. So is “Accountability blogging” another category for you? Perhaps it’s a subcategory of CV blogging? Of course there’s another side to that – if the event was rubbish, there’s always the chance that the organisers might read my blog about it and do something to remedy it!

    But I also blog about things I find interesting from time to time, so it’s not just about one thing. I also used my blog for my research diary when I was doing field research for my thesis, but I have kept those entries private in order to meet confidentiality requirements. It’s interesting that now I’m in the writing up stage, I’m using Pebble Pad’s activity logs, and action plans, rather than the blog. Those are confidential by default, although I have shared them with my supervisors, but nobody else. (Not sure that they’ve ever read them though!)

    So I think I’d agree with Richard’s comment above that if it’s what the author wants, then it’s doing its job. I’m not saying we should ignore the audience, but you can’ t please all the people all of the time. If you have a target audience, then write for them by all means, but when you’re blogging remember it’s your time that you’re spending.

  8.    Richard M. Davis on April 22, 2009 11:36 am      

    Interesting to read many of the remarks and substitute something else for the word “blogging”. E.g. “writing”, if we were still in a predominantly oral tradition; or “printing”, if we were still in a world of manuscripts; “carving”, maybe, if we were still hung up on cave paintings. Those who see it as a fad that will pass should ask themselves: what isn’t? Gam zeh yaavor…

  9.    Aileen Morris on April 23, 2009 11:02 am      

    Hi Sue and all
    Bringing up the rear – technologically-speaking – as usual.
    I’m a non-blogger (work or life) and no surprises there, I’m sure. Like Andy, I prefer face-to-face or telephone as a way of interacting with people. Terfot’s comment strikes a chord with me – there would need to be a point to it – an outcome or end, I supppose. I would also only want to use it for shortish, sharpish comments rather than musings. I’m not sure that I like putting stuff out there to all and sundry and, I suppose, feel it’s a bit self-indulgent to subject others to my internal monologue/stream of consciousness. I accept that this is a personal thing though and I expect that should I be housebound and out of touch with many people, I’d find it brilliant. Sorry, colleagues, I’ve no plans to make myself housebound in the near future.

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