What we blog, a quick look at two and two half axes of interest (aka from 11nr to 77uw)

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Summary: If we assume the answer to why we blog is a combination of personal interest and a need to bring attention to our doings, then we can ask some questions about what we blog. I attempt to create a simple system using two axes: one based on personal versus subject blogs, and the other based on how new the content is. There are also metrics for useful the blog is to the reader and how narrow the focus is.

Friday, 18 December 2009

(00:37:25 CST)

What we blog, a quick look at two and two half axes of interest (aka from 11nr to 77uw)

Probably/possibly not a lot of you know who Ron Edwards is. He is the creator of the Sorcerer RPG amongst other things (including lots of help towards indie gamers). The reason I bring him is because he once claimed (and probably still does claim) that gamers, by which he meant RPGers, falls into three camps: gamist, narrativist, and simulationist. The first is for the gamer that likes "arcadish" action, contests that they can overcome and such. The second likes telling a story, and may not like rules getting in the way. The third likes for the game rules to reflect something of a stable reality, at possibly the cost of more fantastic game play. How accurate this is has been debated since he posted it, but the reason I bring it up is because I once said something like "Ron, I think I play games just to enjoy them." His response, which I'll have to paraphrase, was a classy response to my retort: "Of course you play games to enjoy them. That's why you play games. What I am talking about is how do you enjoy games?"

When a friend and ex-coworker, Charlie, recently posted a Livejournal entry about maybe wanting to start up a new blog and then later shot down this with a follow-up that argued the different types of blogs and why none of them were something he needed, it got me to thinking. What do we really blog about? I first tried coming up with a way to divide types of blogs between personal interests and monetary interests, which is a false dichotomy. A) Why shouldn't you make money doing something you love? and B) Name a bigger personal interest than making money. Then I tried to working out things like "for attention" versus "for the sake of writing" and that's kind of false. If we did not write blogs for the sake of writing, we would just gab to our friends down at the shop. If we did not write blogs for the sake of attention, then we would keep it at home (or make it so private no one could read it). What I was coming upon was that most blogs involving personal interest (whatever that means), a sense of garnering attention (whatever that means), and an expression of a creative spirit (whatever that means). These are the three ingredients of a blog. Sort of. At any rate, trying to use any of those three as an axis of description would be foolhardy or at least non-informative.

I was asking the wrong question, see? I was asking "Why do we blog?" and the answer to that is "Because it behooves us to blog". It is just like Ron's answer to me. The question is not why do we spend hours a week putting things down in an electronic format but how do we do it? What do we make of this trend?

The first thing that popped in my head is that some blogs are really personal and some are pretty much nothing to do with the creator outside of the fact that it might be something to do with the creator's job or hobby or just something the creator can stand to write about. The second thing that popped in my head was that blogs range from newly generated content to purely collated content (borrowed or stolen have baggage, though both are almost as useful as a term). Finally, the third and fourth aspect seemed to be needed is how much utility the blog is intended for its readers (usefulness) and how many topics it covers (focus). Being a geek, I was thinking of putting this in terms similar to a gaming alignment, but had no idea what to call the center square. Not only does neutral sound boring in this context, but what about blogs that are mostly about newly created personal content but occasionally have local bulletins? I needed a slightly finer tuned system. Then, well, I came up with this chart:

Personal vs.
New Content vs.
Collected Content
10Very Personal>98% New1Useful




20Mostly Personal90% New2
30Primarily Personal75% New3
40Combination of both50% New4
50Primarily Subject-Oriented25% New5
60Mostly SO10% New6
70Very SO<2% New7

To use this fine and dandy table, you find your number on the left, and your number on the right, add them together, and then slap the usefulness and focus codes to the end. Let's say you have the stereotypical Livejournal account where you talk exclusively about yourself, generate about 90% of your own content (the other 10% would be quoting friends talking about you, I guess), and this is not really of practical use to anyone. That would be a code of 12nr. Maybe you run a company blog, only slightly enter into any blog post, and talk a lot about reviews and feedback to a product. That could be either a 76mr or a 76ur depending on what the reader gets out of it. Blogs that mostly repost funny pictures from the 'Net? 77nr. Personal blogs that describe a trip across Europe and lessons learned? 33uf. A blog that posts funny clips of all sorts all of the time, but manages to describe at least a little why the blogger likes such things? Maybe a 37nw or maybe 36nw.

And how about my blog? Well, let's see. Everything I post matters to me, and I often show up in my blog, but the topic is more a combination of both than leaning to either side. As for new content, most of my content is new and my quotes tend to be minor. Usefulness, well, I'll have to go a little modest and some "moderate". I have some nice tips, but it's not exactly the point, you know? I am not telling people how to do things, I am often telling people how I do things, what is awesome about things, and so forth, and hopefully it can help them some. As far as focus, I range pretty far, and just about anything can show up. My final score looks something like 42mw.

Here's an interesting tidbit, based on the way I set it up, up there. It's really hard, unless you are a celebrity, for your newness of content to exceed the personal orientation of the blog. The more personal, the more new information. The opposite is not true. It is perfectly reasonable for someone to post a fictional story to a blog (Very SO and Very New) or, say, to write mostly new stuff about any given subject.

Si Vales, Valeo


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