He asked me why
Some months ago, Rob at Chesterly was kind enough to ask why I blog. I responded by taking about a month's hiatus from blogging. Sorry 'bout that.
In part, it's because I thought the question was asked and answered back at the beginning. One reason I blog because the concept came up on some library listservs I'm on, and I felt I had to experiment with the technology to say anything about it.
So what have I learned? The first is an old library school lesson: first separate medium from content, then explore how they relate. On the software level, a blogging platform is nothing but a simple content management system - a very low barrier to entry way of publishing content to the Web. On the content level, like any other medium, there's good stuff and bad stuff, neither invalidates the other, there's no arguing taste, and Sturgeon's Law applies.
This makes the question, for librarians, whether that tool does what you want it to. If you have information to publish in a reverse-chronological format, then yes, your library could use a blog for that. If you think you need a blog because everybody's got one, or that you don't because they're only for crazy theories about the Men In Black, go back and reread that last paragraph. We fought this battle back in the mid '90s about whether libraries needed web pages at all; we don't have to re-fight it.
I've also learned that I outgrew Blogger pretty quickly. I've considered working on another platform, but I lack the energy to run two blogs, or move all the content from this one. Blogger needs two things to be competitive, IMO.
To encourage discussion, Blogger needs threaded comments and better identity management. LiveJournal seems to be eating everybody else's lunch in this space, and I can't for the life of me understand why. This not new; we learned it with Usenet newsreaders. You can't have strong discussions (i.e. strong communities) with a purely chronological discussion thread.
My interests are also wide-ranging enough that I really want more categorization options, a la Typepad. I should be able to separate out the multiple different areas I write about, and you should be able to easily see only the ones which interest you. If Blogger wants to shed its "cute pictures of my minivan" reputation, this would be a good way to do it.
Oh - and I need some kind of way to format my tangents differently. But that's probably a CSS trick as much as a system feature, so I could learn it mydamnself.
The other reason I started this blog was because my friend Reg asked why I wasn't writing a novel. I repeated this story to my friend CJ, thinking he'd join me in laughing off the idea. He said it was a good question.
All my life I've thought about writing. I've talked about writing. I've told stories very well, and I've had interesting discussions. But what I haven't done is written, actually put words on the page and open them up to other people. Hip Deep finally gives me a place to do that. I don't work as much with technical elements like voice and tone as I want to, to really hone the craft. But at least writing in TextEdit and posting to Blogger gives me a little time to work, and the knowledge that there are people out there, reading and responding, gives me a reason to work on the next one.
And is it working? I don't know. I'm not convinced that my writing is much better than it was when I started. The blogosphere is pretty kind about critiquing your thought instead of your technique. On the other hand, I have a pretty large portfolio of my own writing to review, and I can identify some of my aggravating habits and work on them.
The novel is definitely not coming. Characters don't seem to come to me. I suppose I could work on plots and descriptions and see if the characters appear. These editorials, however, practically write themselves. This is what I can see myself writing... a slice of life, commentary and criticism, reviews, an occasional joke.
At the end of the day, I write in order to write. We are the story-telling animal. We're the only ones who talk about who was here before us and what happens when we're gone. That is why I blog: to tell these stories. To make sure someone does. Because they're mine.