The wisdom of the blog crowd

Let's get this straight. Blogging isn't some mystical power, knowledge of which can only be gained through years of immersion in the internet. Anybody can set one up. In the time you've just read this, I could have set up a new blog. But blogging well? That's still a way to go. It's not an area where there's necessarily a right or wrong answer either. Some incredibly - in my view - poor blogs are inexplicably popular, while there's a handful of blogs in my RSS reader that were put in for content but are strangely hypnotic and compulsive reading, despite being dull as ditchwater. And, naturally, there's some really good blogs out there that are only known in very small circles, which is a crying shame.

Like blogs, pieces on how to blog are ten a penny and usually come with one or two experts dishing out advice. So Lauren Fisher's crowdsourced piece on advice to new bloggers at Simply Zesty is refreshingly interesting (despite having my opinion buried in it).

The long line of those queueing up to give advice is a long list of well-known names in blogging circles, all with their own opinions. And what's fascinating is the theme that emerges in the advice. So much so that it would be easy to condense this into a few bullet points that could be distributed to new bloggers.

  • Be yourself
  • Don't rehash the same stuff everybody else does unless you have something to add
  • Engage in the community
  • Enjoy yourself

And there's really nothing more than that. Seriously, that's all that's needed as a basic starting guide.

What's equally as interesting is where the advice differs in places. Content is key is another undercurrent, but how best that content is delivered is another question. Should you blog regularly, daily even? Yes, no, and it depends are all valid answers.

Similarly, audience is an interesting question. If you're doing a blog around a specific area or brand, then that's easy to visualise your audience before you start writing. Something like a general personal blog, or a blog around a somewhat more vague area (how large is media for example) is harder.

I've always thought of start a new blog as somewhat akin to Sartre's artisan creating a knife, and the definition of man, in Existentialism and Humanism. First the blog exists, then it surges forward and defines itself. And then continues to definite itself. Just because the writing has never touched on a certain topic, it does not mean this topic can never be broached.

Certainly this blog has changed drastically since it was first set up, and the early days were also worlds away from the first blog I ever created.

And that's also the joy of blogging. You're always learning, always developing, always reacting and always changing. Sure, there'll be constants over time; the writing style, for one thing, will evolve into something recognisable (but this doesn't mean it won't stop evolving).

As such, there's no such thing as a complete blogger, or anybody who completely knows blogging. It's always changing. As Heraclitus may have said, if he'd been born thousands of years later and involved in the blogging scene, you cannot read the same blog twice.

What we can do is immerse ourselves in blogs and online culture. But the minute anybody lays down their keyboard and proclaims to be an expert on blogging, for whatever reason, they're lying.

Essentially, in everything, you can either move forward or fall backwards. Standing still isn't an option. Which is to say the blogger who knows it all will be tomorrow's Luddite.