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Who are bloggers?

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December 17th, 2006
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Blogging Essays, General

This is the tenth entrant in The Blogging Essay Contest from WeblogToolsCollection.com If you would like to participate, please email me your entry at mark at wltc dot net. Please rate this article using the star system below. The competition will be judged primarily on the input from readers like you. Thank you.

This is written by Infocrat

Who are bloggers? Why do they blog? What do they blog about? Find out.

Why do people keep blogs? What drives millions of people to spew billions of weightless words out into the void?

Some, perhaps most, are personal bloggers. They create a blog as a public diary, so that their friends, family, and fan clubs can keep tabs on what they’re up to from day to day. It’s a way of record-keeping as well; it’s comforting to look back through one’s archives and find that the all-consuming troubles of November 2005 are not just gone, but forgotten.

I’m not one of those.

Some are news-bloggers. They want to comment on the news of the day, to highlight issues that are important to them, to expound on their view of the world and their own way of making sense of it.

Before the Internet came along, these folks would have been writing letters for publication in the local paper; back then, that was about the only option we regular Joes had for getting our voices heard.

I’m not one of those either.

Some are niche-community bloggers. They want to create and/or inform a community of like-minded folk who share their interest in NFL football, or astrophysics, or the care and feeding of Chihuahuas, or knitting, or, in a meta-idea perfectly suited to the Internet, blogging itself.

I’m not one of those.

After three and a half years, three URL changes, and something like a million words, I’m only beginning to puzzle out why I keep writing a blog.

When I began blogging, I promised myself I would never write a post along the lines of “Today I went to the store.” I had only the vaguest idea of what blogs were, but I knew I wanted mine to be something I’d be interested in reading years from now, and not merely as a historic record.

So I tried to limit my entries to deeper rumination on whatever topics were occupying my attention. I’m fascinated by the way ideas of which we’re only half-conscious shape our lives, and this seemed like the kind of thing I wanted to explore, in depth and at length.

Of course, after 850 posts I’ve broken all of my original rules countless times, but in general this is the kind of idea-driven economy I wanted to foster between me and my readers. (I envisioned at the time that I would have way more readers than I actually do.)

My posts have covered the mundane topics: photos I’ve taken, football games I’ve watched, trips I’ve taken. These are easy to write, but they’re not what I consider the meat of the blog; they’re the placeholders in between the posts that I’m proud of. The condiments, I suppose.

It took me a while to puzzle out why I keep at it. I realized that the writing, and what I learn while doing it, are the important part; it doesn’t matter if anyone reads it.

Suppose I sit down to write with an idea in mind; maybe I want to write about why I think writing is deceptively hard, but editing is deceptively easy. So far, so good; I’ve got these generalized concepts in my mind, but when I sit down to write them, I find that I haven’t thought them through as carefully as I thought I had.

In writing the thing out, I find contradictions in my own logic; I resolve them, but only after puzzling through them until I figure out what misapplication of the underlying issue has created the superficial appearance of inconsistency.

Or maybe what I find isn’t a hiccup in top-down translation that, once corrected, can resolve the issue. Maybe I find that I’ve got two competing ideas, and I need to reconcile them somehow before I can continue.

Or maybe, even rarer, they can’t be reconciled and I have to do some real digging, to find out what’s at the root of these contradictory ideas that I hold. I usually find that one of them is based on the impressions and/or assumptions I’ve received from outside sources, and one is based on my own observations and experiences. In these situations, the received notion is summarily chucked.

So I tried to limit my entries to deeper rumination on whatever topics were occupying my attention. I’m fascinated by the way ideas of which we’re only half-conscious shape our lives, and this seemed like the kind of thing I wanted to explore, in depth and at length.

Of course, after 850 posts I’ve broken all of my original rules countless times, but in general this is the kind of idea-driven economy I wanted to foster between me and my readers. (I envisioned at the time that I would have way more readers than I actually do.)

My posts have covered the mundane topics: photos I’ve taken, football games I’ve watched, trips I’ve taken. These are easy to write, but they’re not what I consider the meat of the blog; they’re the placeholders in between the posts that I’m proud of. The condiments, I suppose.

It took me a while to puzzle out why I keep at it. I realized that the writing, and what I learn while doing it, are the important part; it doesn’t matter if anyone reads it.

Suppose I sit down to write with an idea in mind; maybe I want to write about why I think writing is deceptively hard, but editing is deceptively easy. So far, so good; I’ve got these generalized concepts in my mind, but when I sit down to write them, I find that I haven’t thought them through as carefully as I thought I had.

In writing the thing out, I find contradictions in my own logic; I resolve them, but only after puzzling through them until I figure out what misapplication of the underlying issue has created the superficial appearance of inconsistency.

Or maybe what I find isn’t a hiccup in top-down translation that, once corrected, can resolve the issue. Maybe I find that I’ve got two competing ideas, and I need to reconcile them somehow before I can continue.

Or maybe, even rarer, they can’t be reconciled and I have to do some real digging, to find out what’s at the root of these contradictory ideas that I hold. I usually find that one of them is based on the impressions and/or assumptions I’ve received from outside sources, and one is based on my own observations and experiences. In these situations, the received notion is summarily chucked.

And then, rarest of all, there are the times when I find that I sincerely believe two contradictory ideas: both based on my own observations, both empirically verifiable, and both in direct opposition to each other. In these cases I realize, with a shiver, that I’ve bumped up against one of life’s Great Mysteries; sometimes truths are contradictory, and all we can do is marvel at them and try to rearrange our worldview to accommodate both of them.

Sometimes it can’t be done. Sometimes we can’t envision a consistent framework in which both truths can be valid, and yet we know, from our own direct experience, that we live in just such a world. These are the times when our intellectual digging pays off in a great, humbling revelation that the world is far more complicated than we can ever conceive, and that we should be careful before we go making great big statements about what is and is not so.

And this is the point of all the blogging: I’ve achieved some kind of knowledge that I would not have achieved if not for the blog. It’s only in the attempt to write out my thoughts, completely and specifically, that I am forced to get down to the root and core and grit of the ideas that generally inform everything I do and say.

I know that, like everyone, I’m mostly unaware of the powerful concepts that I act on all the time; the attempt to write them out, to fully explore this or that little region of my mental landscape, is a gradual process of broadening my understanding of this vast, complex world full of marvels and curiosities.

These are the posts that I feel proud of. Even though they typically get the same number of views (about 15) and comments (about zero) as my other posts, these are the ones I’m glad I’ve written, and the ones I enjoy revisiting later.

And why do they have to be on-line, for others to read?

It’s not to persuade others. I believe firmly that persuading other people of pretty much anything is near-impossible, and depends more on the random confluence of the reader’s mood and reactions to phrasing and diction than on the writer’s powers of persuasion. But the few readers are nonetheless the reason I do it.

The possibility that someone might read my words, might understand them, might—just now and then—be led by some chance phrase of mine into a tangential contemplation they hadn’t previously explored:

That, at heart, is why I write.

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