Blogs that Lose Direction and Go from Blog to Blah?

suncoast chapterNeil Perlin delivered a cool presentation to our chapter tonight on Web 2.0. After the meeting, we all (that is, Mark Hanigan, Karen Bachman, Clyde Parson, Charles Arnold, Lisa Carpenter, Michael Pleasant, Neil Perlin, and I) went out to eat at Bahama Breeze.

In his presentation, Neil mentioned that he was going to start learning about WordPress. This of course caught my attention. It turns out Neil is going to start not only a blog, but also a podcast and a videoblog. He’s not just dipping his toes into social software; he’s diving in headfirst and swimming into the deep end.

Last year when Neil presented to our chapter, he wasn’t quite sold on blogs yet (at least not on starting his own). So I asked him what changed his mind. He said three reasons. First, he’s been thinking of doing it for a long time now, and he hit a critical point where he decided to stop thinking and just do it.

Second, he said the blog would provide him a way of getting conceptual and technical information to clients and others. Rather than having to e-mail the same information over and over, you can write about it once on your blog and then reference specific posts when future questions address the same topics (for example, “What is XHTML vs. XML?”).

Third, he said that he’s been wary of blogs that begin well, but quickly run out of steam, move into different directions than the original intention, and then become diluted, dull, and fluffy. He cited an example of a friend he knows near Israel who started a blog when missiles were landing near her house daily, and people kept emailing her to ask if she was okay. For a while her blog was popular and the posts interesting, but as the missiles subsided, her blog began to be diluted and she started blogging about all kinds of topics. It turned from blog to blah. Neil was concerned about this same phenomenon happening to him.

So Neil has decided to post once a week or so. It will be interesting to see what he writes about. I recommended that he post daily, and said doing so will change his experience of blogging entirely. He thought that was a little insane.

I’ve found that blogs are really networked conversations. Reading a blog spawns an ideablogs like brain for a post on your blog, which then gives way to someone else’s blog post, which in turn you read and get new ideas to think/write about on your blog.

When you link to other blogs, they become hyperaware of each other because you see incoming links in your dashboard. I might graphically represent the blogosphere as a brain — a set of neural synapses hooked into each other.

Is that a cool pic of a brain or what!

(image source)

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By Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer working for the 41st Parameter in San Jose, California. I'm interested in topics related to technical writing, such as visual communication, API documentation, information architecture, web publishing, JavaScript, front-end design, content strategy, Jekyll, and more. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

6 thoughts on “Blogs that Lose Direction and Go from Blog to Blah?

  1. Karen

    Wow! I know exactly what Neil means!

    1. I needed to update my site. It was 2.5 years out-of-date. I thought I had to do the geek thing and hand-code everything, which takes time, so it never got done. Suddenly, using a service like WordPress was not being lazy. It was a tremendous tool that could push me over the obstacle that was keeping me from writing.

    2. Post once, share forever! Indeed. This is one of the driving forces behind my getting my site up and running in some manageable fashion again.

    3. Yes, I am scare of blah. I did discover that after being impatient to get my site updated, I suddenly didn’t know what to write about. That is, what could I write and still keep to some goal or purpose so topics didn’t wander all over the place and make people (if any came by) wonder what I was trying to say. I’m still a newbie, so I feel it is OK with erratic postings here at the beginning while I am still getting the feel of things. You are right about the value of posting every day. My favorite example of that is Georges Sand, who sat down and wrote 8 pages every day after breakfast just for practicing, or so the story goes. Practice does make perfect!

    The idea of diving in is what is driving “Uncle Lester” over at Isn’t this the old adage about technical communicators (or any field really)? You really need to stay in touch with all the news and keep up with the trends to keep your career fresh and alive? What better way than to try these things out for yourself? I would think it adds credibility.

  2. Tom

    I agree with your comments, particularly the last paragraph, where you said that blogging daily helps you stay current with the news and trends in your field. It certainly does that for me.

    The first thing people usually say when they think about blogging is what they will write about. I actually have dozens of posts that I’m planning to write. When I get an idea I want to write about but don’t have time, I start a post to capture the idea, and then hit Save instead of Publish. I just counted my saved, unpublished posts (“drafts”) and there are 38 sitting in my dashboard. Now ironically I have to decide what not to write about.

    I also have a masters in creative writing, so I also enjoy writing. What’s crazy is that I get more comments on my blog than I did in the last two Intercom articles I published. In many ways blogging can be more rewarding than writing for print. You can actually see how many hits you’re getting, and people often comment, enriching the content and thought of your original post. Posts/articles become conversations, not static material.

    You mentioned focus. There’s one blog that comes to mind: He’s got a great tone and provides worthwhile insights, but his topics are so wide-ranging that I wish I could just subscribe to his technical writing category. There’s something to be said for keeping your blog on track with what you’re passionate about, and limiting that passion to a niche. For me, that includes technical writing, blogging, podcasting, new Web tools, Web 2.0, and WordPress. I guess I’m not as focused as I’d like to be, but in my mind they all somewhat connect.


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