Why do you blog?

Another cheat title, I’m afraid–and again, the primary purpose is to point to a post elsewhere, commend it to you as worth reading, and maybe argue with a little of it.

This time, the post is at a blog that seems to have more than one name: The pagetitle, which is also what Bloglines tells me it’s called, and the banner title, too long to reproduce here, a shorter version of which is what Google Reader tells me it’s called. I do know the blog is by Rochelle Mazar–and, for those of you who remember a certain contretemps a couple of years ago, this is clearly not a blogger who always agrees with me (not by a long shot!).

I’m not using the post title itself because that would indirectly feed more publicity to the post Mazar is discussionng. I’d encountered the post previously (a sure-fire list of questions to make you a better blogger), skimmed it, said “geez, another list posited on the basis that all blogs are essentially marketing blogs,” and let it be. (I’ve said elsewhere that I get touchy if people call me a “para” or “sub” anything. I’ll get more than touchy if you talk about my need to “promote the Walt Crawford brand.”)

I probably dismissed the other post so quickly that I didn’t even notice the recommendation that bloggers poll readers to find out how they should be blogging/what they should be blogging about. Excuse me? Let me think about the libloggers who I believe have the broadest reach. Let me think about the libloggers whose work I value most (it’s a classic Venn diagram–two overlapping circles). Let me think about the circle of libloggers who really would revise their blogging style or coverage based on reader polls.

Hmm. If such a circle exists, I don’t believe there’s any overlap with the other two circles–or at least I hope there isn’t.

Yes, I asked for reader feedback on coverage within Cites & Insights once or twice, a few years back. I even paid attention to the results–for a little while, until I realized that it made no sense for this particular ejournal. Even if it did, an ejournal is a very different animal than a blog.

I have three blogs (oddly enough). Only one is a personal blog–this one. Blogs aren’t one medium; they’re a particular style of lightweight epublishing tool that can be used for quite a few media, whose only commonality is that written items normally appear in reverse-chronological order. The other two blogs are, in a sense, marketing blogs–one to let people (who don’t want to read W.a.r.) know when new issues of C&I are out, the other to keep PLN users informed about new items and remind them periodically to check on PLN.

This isn’t a marketing blog, at least not most of the time. When it is (to get me a new job, to get people to buy C&I books), it seems to be fairly defective. But that’s not the primary goal. Nor is it, I think, for most libloggers.

Where do I disagree with Mazar (in this case)? Primarily this point:

4. Do I need to blog under an assumed name? This is especially important for anyone under the age of 25. You never know when you’re going to change careers and have something you wrote online when you were 15 come back to haunt you. Unless you really trust that you know what you’re doing, the answer to this question is probably yes.

I agree that it’s important to know that what you write may come back to haunt you. I wonder whether blogging under a pseudonym is a reasonable response–unless you’re determined to make sure there’s never any link between the pseudonym and you.

That’s not easy. I’ve seen any number of cases where someone starts out under a pseudonym and then wants to brag about something, or writes something that’s so local and so specific that colleagues and coworkers can readily identify them, or just lets slip something clearly identifiable. (Worst case: the blog is identifiable through domain ownership or other means…)
If you want to blog under a pseudonym, I think you have to assume you’ll drop the blog after a while. You’ll find that the limits of pseodnymity hamper your thinking and your writing, or you really will want to say something from your heart. Not that there’s anything wrong with dropping a blog, of course… until you start another one, signing it, and somewhere down the road make a reference to the old blog that lets the blogger out of the bag.

Doesn’t always happen, to be sure. I don’t believe anyone will ever know with certainty who the team or person responsible (or irresponsible?) for the Annoyed Librarian actually is. But that’s a fairly rare case.

Anyway, niggles aside, Mazar’s response is a good one.

3 Responses to “Why do you blog?”

  1. Mark Says:

    Thanks for discussing this, Walt. Rochelle’s blog has been out of my feeds for too long.

    Well said, by the way and also the only nit I could pick with her words.

    Also, thank you ever so much for this:

    “… Let me think about the circle of libloggers who really would revise their blogging style or coverage based on reader polls.

    Hmm. If such a circle exists, I don’t believe there’s any overlap with the other two circles–or at least I hope there isn’t.”

    That so made my day!

  2. Rochelle Says:

    That comment wasn’t really directed at the library world, where named blogging is more normal. I was thinking instead of folks like Bitch PhD, who use their blogs to talk about professional, political, and personal matters, and don’t feel that the blog would really enhance their professional profile.

    It’s not really a matter of someone working out who you might be, though. If someone is a big fan of a pseudononymous blog, they can often work out at least roughly who and where the author is. It’s more about protecting your googleability, and controlling what your parents, friends, exes, and future (possible) employers find out about you (and when). The moment your real name is on a blog, it will come up (close to) first on Google when someone searches for your name. That’s got to be a very deliberate decision on your part.

    There are some interests and hobbies you might not want your patrons and colleagues to know about, but you might want to put on the internet anyway. A dear friend of mine, a faculty member in Vancouver specializing in medieval literature, also happens to write bawdy fanfiction about television show characters, and is extremely popular in that subculture. She does not attach her real name to that blog, and while those of us who know her well know about it and can see her real self through that persona’s blog, her students and parents and colleagues can’t google her and read about her television musings. She was profiled in a national newspaper a couple of years ago, a full page spread about her hobby and issues around copyright/intellectual property. But still, no real name. She thought about what it might mean, and hedged her bets. Lots of people have been fired for the contents of their blogs, rightly or wrongly.

    But as noted by the age thing, I mostly recommend pseudonyms for teenagers and undergrads. I’m sure you’ve heard about the issues around facebook, where young folks think that no one will ever find their drunken party pictures or their jealous break-up musings. The librarian blogosphere doesn’t really contain these things, but the blogosphere in general is stuffed of those kinds of mostly-personal blogs. Stopping to think about these issues is pretty key to information literacy in 2008; not the literacy skills needed to necessary find information (though it surely relates to understanding how information is found), but the ones needed when creating information.

  3. walt Says:

    Rochelle,

    Thanks for the expansion–and, as expanded, I don’t disagree. Now, if I knew why your post was flagged as Spam! (Fortunately, I check the Spam list before deleting anything.)

    Probably the two links and fact that you haven’t commented here in quite a while…

    Liblogs do include some overpersonal instances, or have at times. I remember one blog in particular, no longer around; details aren’t important. Fortunately, such blogs are relatively rare in this field.


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