Tobold's Blog
Thursday, April 16, 2015
 
Personal blogging

Yesterday mbp asked "Would you care to share your thoughts on the ongoing relevance of personal blogging in this age of facebook / twitter / reddit etc.?". I think the keyword in this is "personal", because that is where I see blogging moving towards to. A lot of the things that we thought a decade or more ago have turned out to be not true. Blogging isn't a platform to become rich and famous on the internet, blog posts do not make or move opinions except on a very small scale. The people who started blogging because they wanted to influence others, or to make money, have seen that this simply doesn't work and have stopped doing so. Those who only ever wanted to shout a strong opinion from the rooftops have moved to Twitter, fortunately taking a good part of the hate culture of the internet with them. Gamergate happened mostly on Twitter, not blogs.

Blogging has become quieter and more personal. Some hate blogs still exist, but they have turned into echo chambers of small groups of people already sharing the same opinion and repeating the same stuff over and over again. Sustainable blogging is personal, because intrinsic motivations last longer than hoping for extrinsic rewards. If you don't write for yourself, you don't write 5,000 blog posts over 12 years. Blogs are a perfect medium for public diaries, a need that platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit don't address. Blogs are semi-public, the author still retains far more control than he has on social networks or forums, for example through comment moderation. That makes blogs a good place for moderate discussion, as you have the tools to kick out the troublemakers. Blogs work better for considerate, thoughtful discussion, while the other platforms work better for rash, strong expressions of strong emotions. It is actually a feature of Twitter that old tweets are hard to find, while for blogs it is a feature that they have searchable archives.

If somebody would ask me for advice whether he should blog, I'd ask him what for. Much of our daily lives is ephemeral. When you are playing a game, you leave nary a trace. If you want to preserve some memories and thoughts, personal blogging is a great way to do so. I am sad that I don't have blog entries from the role-playing sessions I did during my university days, because there was a lot of creativity in interactive storytelling that has been lost forever. For trying to make money or influence people, I would recommend different platforms (YouTube?), although I have a strong suspicion that for every famous person on the internet there are a million unknown people that tried the same thing. Blog if you want to write for an audience of one, yourself, first and foremost.

Comments:
I mostly agree with that. I started blogging about three and a half years ago and if there had ever been a time when people started blogs about MMOs expecting to become rich and/or famous it must already have ended.

It never even occurred to me that such a thing could happen. I decided to blog because I'd already been writing tens of thousands of words a year on forums and comment threads since the start of the 21st century and it began to bug me that I couldn't find most of it to re-read.

So, yes, a personal record of your actions, thoughts, feelings and opinions, which you then share with anyone interested, that seems to be the function of blogging for me. I would add, however, that it is definitely not true that you can't become famous, influential or even rich by blogging - you could and you still can. You just need to blog about something the mainstream media and/or traditional publishers are a lot ore interested in.

In the UK at least national broadcasters and publishing houses still strip-mine blogs for content. Almost weekly I put a new book on the shelves that contains material originally published in a blog and most days I hear some blogger invited onto a discussion or feature to offer his or her supposed insights.

No-one outside gaming wants to hear about video games, though, unless something bad has happened.
 
I am not sure what my intentions were when I started my blog but it has certainly become a kind of personal diary who's main audience is myself. If an occasional visitor drops by and leaves a (not spam) comment it is an unexpected pleasure but if they don't that is OK too.

This does raise the question as to why I blog in public at all. Why not just use a private diary?

There are limitations to bogging in public. I generally don't write about my private life because it is such a public forum. I also feel constrained not to express views on politically sensitive subjects because I don't want to call down the wrath of the internet on myself.

These disadvantages are offset by several factors. From a purely mechanical standpoint a blog is like a magical notebook that is available anywhere and that keeps a permanent record of my musings. I also think that the public nature of the blog helps me to write better. The very fact that anyone could read my posts encourages me to think things through and to craft my posts. I get great satisfaction from creating a good post and this is probably the thing which has kept me at it over the years. That and the occasional unexpected visitor of course.
 
This resonates with me. I've been trying to come up with a reason to start yet another MMORPG related blog for years now, but never did so because, well... let's face it. There are a million other MMORPG blogs. You have to do it ultimately for yourself. As I've been playing these games / been a developer since 1993, I think I have a unique insight. If others want to read about that, great. If not, that's ok too.

And, as a perk, now that I have a "Blogger" name, I can post on your blog. I'm thinking this could be "win win!" For me, anyway.
 
I've been using my blog as a disciplinary writing exercise since I started it: a way to insure I stay engaged or creative in ways that are designed to keep me creative and involved in my hobbies on a more interactive level. The idea that its also got an audience is cool, but the point was to discipline myself into writing consistently, and it's worked pretty well so far (although there are weeks when I really have to think about what the hell I'm going to write about).
 
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