Eric and I are having a fascinating discussion (well, I think it's fascinating) about blogs as a form of conversation. It all started when he noticed an unfortunately chosen ad in his local paper and blogged about it. The ad carried a headline which read, "Letters to the Editor. The Original Web Blog." Now "blog" is short for "weblog" and it may be that only bloggers know that. But I felt the newspaper should have done its homework and because it didn't, the ad came across to me as sounding dismissive.
Not long ago I thought blogs were dumb. That was before I created one and found myself in actual and meaningful conversation with people across the country. It's been pretty cool, not to mention fun. And having a blog has forced me to write pretty much every day since day one, which was my principle reason for starting out.
Here's a sampling of our conversation, you can find the whole thing here.
Eric (in the original post):...the idea that printed letters to the editor "provide an ideal forum for citizens to exchange ideas and opinions" is laughable, especially in comparison to comments-enabled blogs. The editorial control over those printed letters and the absence of real-time dialog makes them far from ideal.
Me: I'm a little insulted by the "web blog" ad. The careless nature of the mistake makes it seem as if the ad was created in a spirit of dismissiveness. I believe it's a big, big mistake to dismiss the blogging phenomenon...
Eric: But, this line of discussion brings us perilously close to attributing some sort of cosmic relevance to what I write...
Me: I think there is some sort of cosmic relevance to what you (and the entire b'sphere) write(s). It's not in the content..., it's the simple fact that you are writing and others are commenting, like you mentioned in your post. You just don't get that kind of global conversation in a newspaper. Or rather, you don't get it in "real time" like you do on the web ... I think there's room for traditional and web-based print, so long as they both spend time figuring out their audience and creating for them.
Eric: you raise an interesting point about bloggers "figuring out their audience and creating content for them." Do you make a conscious decision about that each time you post something? Do you know your audience well enough to fashion content you think they want to read?
Me: I don't pretend to know what you all do or don't like. I probably should have said "offer to" instead of "create for." ... In a medium like this...thoughts are organic and can be clarified or amended very quickly. It almost has the feeling of conversation. A print newspaper or magazine (or book) doesn't have that. I would probably write differently for a newspaper than I would for my blog, or for any electronic medium that allowed virtual conversation.
Eric: You can honestly say that when you post something that generates, say, a dozen or so complimentary comments, that doesn't weigh in the back of your mind the next time you consider the blogworthiness of a subject? And the reverse...if you post on a particular subject and it generates absolutely no reaction -- do you stop and think about the desirability of posting again on that subject the next time you encounter it?
Me: I most certainly am gratified by complimentary comments on stuff I write, and I'm not about to say that the total absence of comments never influences my choice of what to write, but I don't think I know enough yet about this particular medium to claim any significant knowledge about what will be appealing to those regular readers before I write a post.
I've posted this because Eric's last question, the one about the effect of comments on what I write gave me pause. I actually had never thought of that before. I spent maybe 45 minutes just thinking through his question, and going through my archives to research how my posts have changed over time. In the end I had to resond with what you read above. In other words, I said, "I dunno." So I wanted to know what you think about this issue of blogs as conversaton and the effect of comments on that conversation. I also wouldn't mind hearing what kind of expectations you have of me as a blog writer (some of you have a long personal history with me and you might want to give some thought to how that would affect your answer before commenting). Okay... you have the microphone.
By the way, Zalm at From the Salmon has also addressed the idea of blogs as conversation in a series of posts called, reasonably enough, conversational peace. which I think is worth the time it takes to persue.
And also by the way, Jimmy Patterson, whose excellent Sticky Doorknobs is on my blogroll, and who writes for the paper that ran the ad in question chimed in with a comment on Eric's post as well. He explained that the ad was part of a national campaign and that it has been pulled, though not soon enough to escape watchful Fire Ant eyes.