Why blog?

One of my 23 Things compatriots has recently asked a very good question: What’s the use of blogs? Why, he or she asks, should we not just share our opinions with each other using email?

Satchmo, giving his opinion of my blogging abilitiesThe flippant answer to that is that without blogs people wouldn’t have the opportunity to fancy themselves authors and awe the world with their scintillating writing (which is clearly what Satchmo thinks of me — see left*). The real answer is not so far from the flip answer as you might think: the biggest advantage blogs have over email is that they can reach an audience you don’t know, and who you might not know are interested.

Admittedly a web page can also reach a wide, anonymous audience, but web pages require technical expertise to write, are relatively difficult to update, cannot host a discussion, are relatively formal, and are low visibility until they are indexed by search engines.

So, why blog?

  • You can reach a wide audience, and they can pick up your updates without waiting for search engines to catch up, especially if your blog has an RSS feed — most blogs do by default. (To learn more about RSS, you can watch this video, or skip ahead to week 5 of 23 Things).
  • If you allow comments, you can get a discussion going. Be aware that sometimes it might take a bit of work to get people commenting (Emily Clasper writes about her experiences with comments on library blogs here, and there are some tips on getting more comments here).
  • You can put pictures (and video and sound, if you want) in context in a blog post without too much technical expertise. In email the pictures may not appear where you want them to in someone else’s email program, and in a web page you often have have quite a bit of technical knowledge to get the image in the right place.
  • Blogs are informal, easy to update, and easy to write — you don’t have to worry about when the search engine is going to go looking for you next, or getting rid of old content — new content always sits at the top. You also don’t need to know anything about HTML to publish a blog (though it can help).

Now, none of those four items might be useful to you, and that’s okay. I have a whole host of other reasons for blogging, for example this blog is to create an online web presence, to complete 23 Things, and most importantly to share my knowledge and thoughts on user experience in a way that others will hopefully find useful. Other blogs I am involved in have different purposes, for example keeping in touch, keeping track of my PhD, sharing pictures of my beadwork, sharing links with selected friends, and just for the sheer joy of writing. Some of these blogs are password protected and private, and others are merely obscure — either way the certainly aren’t intended to be widely read. Those blogs are blogs because the technology encourages writing and sharing, and because it is web-based and therefore easy to access.

In the end though, you might have no reason to blog for traditional reasons, and no inclination to blog for personal reasons, and that is fine, if blogs are not useful to you, then there is no reason to move away from email and web pages or whatever communication medium suits the task at hand (Annoyed Librarian writes well, if controversially, about this — not everything need be web 2.0). After all, a huge part of a good user experience (or good usability, for that matter) is that the tool you’re using matches the job you need to do — hammering in a nail with a tube of toothpaste is never going to be enjoyable, after all.

* This is my funny image generator effort. I did not particularly enjoy this task, and I struggled to create an image that I felt comfortable putting on this blog. In the end I made Satchmo, one of my masters, into a lolcat with an image generator that uploaded my image to its own site without my permission — I didn’t like its appropriation of my copyright and I am not linking it.


5 Responses to “Why blog?”

  1. 1 Sara Jervis Monday, October 1, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    I have created a blog because it is a requirement of the program.

    I prefer to start with Why do 23 things? My normal approach would have been quite cynical even if I would have completed my tasks dutifully. But I am really amazed and impressed with my new expertise. I keep experiencing highs which stay with me in my life outside Swinburne. I cannot work out what is happening. Is my professional life better because I have learnt to enter a formerly alien world? Not really. I can liken the feeling I have experienced over the last weeks to the thrill when I mastered quite biggish weights at my gym. No one really knows what I do at gym but when I now lift strong weights (correctly), such as bags of soil or moving heavy furniture, and people comment, I just say GYM. Now when I talk flickr or blog I just say 23 things, a program we have to do at work.

    Inexperienced people do not often learn new tricks. Has my brain shifted gear, just as the body does after weight training? Did I feel the same when I learnt the intricacies of complicated fair isle knitting, smocking and embroidery? Sort of yes. I am thinking that blogging, as a result of the 23 things program, gives me a skill not everyone in my ken has or is ever likely to have. That is what I like. That is why I blog.

    Does the program always leave the inexperienced so pleased with themselves? Are we experiencing a taste of the village/community life we miss in our daily lives and 23 things is the village store. We all have to go there; we can visit fleetingly or stop for a chat.

    What an irony if the success of 23 things can be (partly) attributed to our desire to be connected to and engaged in group activity FROM A DISTANCE, THROUGH THE SOULLESS INTERNET.

  2. 2 danamckay Monday, October 1, 2007 at 9:15 pm

    Sara, thanks for that comment. I have been really pleased to see how well people have gotten into 23 Things, and especially pleased to hear how much you have learned. I also want to say WELL DONE on the weights, I can’t believe it has taken me so long to get out of the pump classes and into the gym proper — and what a difference that has made.

  3. 3 jwadv Wednesday, October 10, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    Find your thoughts on blogging & other Web 2.0 topics very interesting Dana. Like Sara learning these new skills has given me a real buzz, also caused me to reflect on learning styles. Being the Boomer I am, I grew up with the notion that things were right & wrong, even in education there was a right & wrong way to go about things. Obviously this approach has changed during my life, but I do think it is a deeply embedded mindset that can still lurk. The Gen X/Y of learning seems to me to be far more experiential….try this/ doesn’t work -then try
    this…learning by doing with no real sense of a right or wrong way. I’ve found myself taking on this approach over the last years, but I think this 23 things project has really encouraged & quickened this way of doing things for me & that’s a real positive I feel! As for blogs I can personally see a number of applications for them in my life…like you perhaps creating different ones for different reasons. i do also like the fact that you can choose some to be non-public if you wish. I plan in the future to create a blog to create a blog to keep in touch with my very large extended family in both Wales & France & a blog is far more appealing than a dry old email! Vive la blog!!

  4. 4 Lady Roots Sunday, October 14, 2007 at 6:27 am

    Peaceful greetings from the south coast of Jamaica.
    I begin blogging as a way to show my beaded jewelry to family and friends around the world.
    I am stunned by the reactions of total strangers to what I originally thought would be just for F&F. After starting out on MySpace, I am now on Blogger.com. The MySpace signin page was too graphic intense and took too long to load.
    I will probably blog, even if no one reads or comments.
    Bless Up,
    Lady Roots

  1. 1 Engaging with Social Media in Museums « Libodyssey Trackback on Thursday, October 18, 2007 at 12:15 pm

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