When I first started blogging, my main practice was to write posts that were responses to other bloggers’ posts. This wasn’t to attack them, although a few did deserve that. I spent a lot of time trying to show how to best appreciate their best points. I was doing this to show that someone was actually reading what was published and taking the time to respond. Over time, I hoped that I would be responded to or linked to or something.
Since that time, I’ve become progressively less generous, because the truth is that much of the blogosphere is extraordinarily ungrateful and petty. There’s lots of people who talk about giving and sharing, but few actually doing it consistently, and you’d be surprised at those few. Quite a number have mastered the game of seeming way more generous than they actually are. Twitter demonstrates this problem aptly: nearly everyone there calls themselves a “social media guru” because they add you back if you add them or some other stupid thing. Twitter is the web in micro; the “social media guru” types have been running blogs most of this time and trying this stunt, but they’re spread out on the Internet enough that one need not ever encounter them. On Twitter, though, one will encounter them by the thousands, all at once.
The ungratefulness and pettiness are stemming from a larger problem: if there are blogs I don’t read, there isn’t much I miss. Granted, there are some brilliant insights and really remarkable articles out there; some people really know how to make every second they’re online count for that much more. But the ungratefulness/pettiness is coming from the fact that bloggers in general don’t have that much to say, but want a soapbox anyway. How long can right-wing bloggers tell me about the politics of the late 70’s? How long can progressive bloggers keep yelling about Civil Rights and Vietnam? How many times can economics bloggers offer far more clarity on obscure issues than on the state of the current economy? And regarding that last issue, how long are we going to treat that as more important than terrorism, the state of our schools, the state of our morals?
Btw, don’t get me started on long rambling personal entries that sound like someone really wants to write comments beside the portraits of everyone in the high school yearbook. I’ve seen blogs with 2,500 word entries dedicated to such nonsense.
If you really want the Web to be something unique, you have to know a lot beforehand, search hard, and have a low tolerance for repetition. I typically repeat myself or offer a link which says the same thing over again when it makes a case more exactly, in greater detail. Thoroughness is important: only with a grip on detail can I myself go create something unique. But there are many other criteria for good blogging that belong to a craft called “writing” which we seem to want to do away with for “interactivity,” which I assume is a synonym for seeing and being in a world that agrees exactly with oneself on everything.