April 13, 2005

Selfish blogging.

Check out this post from Frozen Toothepaste. He has got some good points there about the selfishness of personal blogs. They can get pretty me me me sometimes. Too often. Like the Kitty Bloggers and the Baby Bloggers. Who really cares what Mr. Kittensmootch or Baby does every single day? Publishing a post about something really cute Mr. Kittensmootch did or about a milestone in Baby's life is one thing. Even I can appreciate that. But recording the life of a feline or archiving a public list of every little outfit Baby wears is madness. No one really gives a shit if Baby wore purple pants today or if Mr. Kittensmootch took a shit in your underwear drawer. If you love Baby so much, pay Baby some more attention. Baby might put his little finger in the socket while you're fucking about on the internet. I though raising children was a full-time job, which is why I don't ever want any progeny. Seriously, though, sometimes I prefer the selfishness of personal blogs. Sometimes I think it's almost lazy when people have blogs that are totally politics/reviews/etc. Maybe not lazy, but not all that interesting. None of the author in there, and that's why we read blogs. At least why I do. I'm not saying that no one has a right to blog about Baby, Mr. Kittensmootch, Mrs. Woofcakes or anything else they want to. I am guilty of blogging about some pretty useless and uninteresting shit. I'm sure. Don't tell me, though. I'm deluding myself. Maybe we bloggers should consider whether the events and photos that we publish for the world to see are really interesting to other people. I know, there is someone somewhere who can find anything interesting. But come on. You know what I mean. I don't hate babies, though I'm not fond of cats and how they make my eyes swell shut if I touch them. Maybe we should show some restaint or common sense or something before we bare the boring parts of our lives for people to be burdened with. But then again, such considerations or rules would damage the spirit of blogging, i.e., the freedom to put whatever you want to on your blog. We forget that sometimes, and we want people to post what we feel comfortable with on their blogs, such as this instance of people forgetting that a blog is not a free-speech forum for anyone but the creator (props to A for not deleting the post; he is an awesome guy). What right do I have to tell someone to stop blogging about their baby or kitty or car or god or sexual disfunction? No one forces any of us to read anything that someone writes. I just like be an asshole sometimes. There are some great bloggers out there,* and there are a thousands pages of shit from not-so-good bloggers for each of them. Here's to another page of total shit. [*Including dozens that I link to and that didn't get randomly selected from my blogroll to paste in those there fancy coding acrobatics.]


Neighbor Girl said...

The cartoon character in the second picture, the one who is talking to you, he looks a little like the stereotypical image of Jesus.

I hear where you're coming from. I have serious issues with my blog being entirely too self-centered.

Gary said...

Interesting, Mr. John. Since blogs are such a hot topic in the media at the moment, it's easy to try and lump them all into one pot and rationalize value based on comparison. But ultimately the value of a blog is solely for what it brings the author and nothing more. A political pundit-type blog may have at its soul the purpose of scooping mainstream media, thus exist in a rarified air of being of value to society at a larger scale, while the whinings of a 14-yr-old about as useful as toejam gone bad! Still, to that 14-yr-old, it's pretty important.

Having said that though, I struggle with this issue on inkmusings as well, and am now consciously trying to post things I think would be of value to readers, not simply, "Hey, I got up and put on my shoes this morning and ain't I cool..." sort of dreck. ;-)

Pragmatik said...

Rach, that Jesus is a pre-made dude from Gnomz.com -- you should see their versions of John Kerry, JP II and Einstein. They're seriously funny:)

Lorianne said...

Okay, this whole issue of what does or doesn't belong on a blog is serious stuff...but I spent most of this post giggling over the pet names.

Pragmatik said...

Why, what's so funny about Mr. Kittensmootch?

broomhilda said...

Perhaps selfish blogging is just one more path in the search for self-knowledge.
As Kahlil Gilbran says in 'The Prophet' "For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed. The soul unflods itself, like a lotus of countless petals."

The proper content of a blog is and always will be at the discretion of the blog owner.

A blog is a blog, if one does not care for the content, one does not have to read it.

broomhilda said...

oops, typo - should read "The soul unfolds itself..."

Pragmatik said...

Totally, Broomhilda, totally.

Pragmatik said...

Right, G-Man, I'm all for freedom in blogging!

While I definitely agree that the benefits gained from the author of a blog are important to blogging, I think there's just as much -- if not more -- value to what the reader gets out of a blog, and that's what makes me say some blogs are great, while some are not so great.

I'm probably over-stepping myself, but I think some blogs are better than others -- not so much because of a comparison between blogs themselves, but by comparing them to an external or ideal standard or some kind. I know, I sound like a judgmental Platonist. :^P

Xblog benefits the author because said author gets to share photos of hers or his baby with the world. What about Yblog, wherein the author shares photos and stories and reflections about his or her baby? Said blog can benefit the author and can also benefit the reader. It could swing a person like me into wanting to spawn little Johnnies one day (AH!). Or make me more certain that I don't ever want kiddies to corrupt. Or make one love their own little baby more.

There is a political blog I know of (and don't link to) that is like:
"Here's something that happened. I think it sucks. Read the link. That's all."
That might benefit the author, but it leaves the reader wanting -- at least, this reader. There are some truly great political blogs out there that fill in the gaps our big media leaves:
"This happened today, and this is what X says, what Y says and what Z says. Here's what I think about what they say, and here's what I think about what happened and what it means to us all and to you, my readers."
A reader can get a lot out of that, I would imagine (I still prefer the personal blogs).

But does giving something to the reader necessarily make a blog better?

I could be full of shit. I think that's an "I-need-that-second-cup-of-coffee-standard" and that what makes a blog great is not so easy to pin down.

Pragmatik said...

Yeah, I'm full of shit.

Because what about link blogs and photo blogs? Is a link blog "good" because it links to thoughful, inspiring or funny things? Is a photo blog "good" because the photos are well-done? I don't know.

You know what? I'm probably an asshole for talking about which blogs are better than others and why. Comparing them is probably against the great OPENNESS that is blogging. We should be able to blog what we want and to read what we want. I think I said that and then went against it myself. Damn it.

I'm tempted to delete my tirade about better blogs. But I like some better than most, and I want to believe it's for some reason other than my own opinion.

rob said...

John's absolutely right to make evaluative claims about blogs. He's done what any good arguer does in such a situation; he stipulates a definition of blogging. Broomhilda (and I feel a bit funny writing that) makes a fair response, but she also offers a different definition of blogging. So, unless these two can come to at least a limited agreement on a definition, their differences are more of a psuedo-argument -- which is an argument in which no resolution is possible because the participants can't or won't agree on fundamental principles (like on a common definition). I like John's response because he seems to be trying to reach for that mutual foundation; John, I get that you are saying that good blogs should combine personal truth-seeking with writerly strategies that assume the existence of -- and the necessity of appealing to -- an audience. Evidently, balancing these two competing goals is a difficult thing; Gary attests to this as well.

Traditional publishing perhaps tips the balance too far to the side of the audience -- witness the rise of the blockbuster, mega-bestselling author/celebrity and the death of the authorial livelyhoods of thousands of would-be truth-seekers. Does blogging tip the balance too far in the other direction? Is the current state of blogging analogous to the "A hundred monkeys at a hundred typewriters for a hundred years" joke? Personally, I don't think so. True, in the blogosphere the inmates run the asylum. The products of this rule are some of the most narcissistic, mind-numbing, pointless, and chaotic, but also fascinating, absorbing, gut-wrenching and, finally, humanizing records of private existence we have.

Personally, I avoid blogs written by people who haven't learned the different between editing and censorship. These people think that to exclude any detail is to censor, and that the goal of free-expression should be to plumb the moral depths of a fart as much as it is to survey the wasted landscape that marks the end of an affair. Editing, on the other hand, is an art that uses the skills and lessons of hundreds of years of past writers' experience to find a road from your soul to the soul of another. I guess my own belief can be boiled down to this: If you truly believe you are writing only for yourself, then you aren't writing for anyone at all.

Pragmatik said...

I actually agree with Broomhilda to an extent. Blogging can certainly be self-discovery, as any pursuit can be.

I don't think I gave a definition of blogging, just some criteria I presented for explaining why some blogs are better than other blogs (which were really bullshit criteria, probably). I think what blogs are and what blogging is are definitions pretty ready at hand:

Up for dispute is what makes blogs good or bad blogs. What makes a blog valuable, and who gets the benefit of that value? That's a hell of complicated question. Or does who gets the benefit determine the value of a blog? Or are they all worthless?

If we take blogs to be art, then it seems unlikely that the value of blogs will lie in what they give their creators. Or maybe it is. I am not well-versed enough in aesthetics to really go into theories of art. Depends what one means by art and what one means by benefit, etc. I don't have the energy or background to get into that.

If blogs are journals, surely their value would lie with what they give their creators. We get something out of blogging, or we would not bother to do it, no?

But blogs are not just journals. That's the rub. The difference between my Moleskine and my blog is bigger than the fact that one exists on a Google-owned server, and the other is paper and on my desk. The difference is that blogs are written for other people to read and react to and respond to. It would seem that the value of a blog would have to go beyond what the creator gets or does not get out of the experience.

If what makes a blog a great blog is soley the benefit gained by the author, why can readers find some blogs to be great and others horrible and inane?

Doesn't the value have to reside outside of the author in such a hugely public medium? Maybe. Maybe not. Most likely, there's not much point in arguing about what makes a blog valuable. As Broomhilda and I both agree, no one forces us to read any of them or any at all.

Why did I post about it then? Maybe I was cranky and mad at Mr. Kittensmootch :)

Stasyna said...

Sounds like criticism on someone's work.

You blog, you blog, why is justification needed?

Some people write about their daily troubles as a teenager (like me), others just random stuff on their mind.

Writing should be answerable to noone.

Pragmatik said...

True, Peter. But blogs are necessarily public, so the question is to what extent are we responsible for what we blog?

What we blog can hurt people or offend people or get us fired because of their public nature.

But on the other hand, they belong to the author, and no one forces us to read them.

While I think I side with the latter point (freedom), I am not sure it's as straight-forward as writing. There is a difference between a journal and an online journal. Do we get the same freedom in each? Should we?

I think so. I find many many blogs to be repulsive in content, but I browse them freely, so I have only myself to blame. (Or do I?)

This brings up fundamental questions of freedom of speech, of course. Hate speech is free speech until it offends someone who is in a position where he or she has to listen to it. Is the same true of weblogs? It would seem so for the same reasons that people get into trouble for racist remarks in public. But it seems not, because we are always free to remove ourselves from the situation of a particular blog, i.e., we are free not to not read a certain blog in the way that someone who is forced to listen to hate speech is not.

I don't want to suggest that we are not free to blog about what we want to. That's way makes blogs so great and possibly even revolutionary. But I don't know if blogging comes down to journaling or simply free speech, either.

Maybe I can go into a blogging ethics think-tank if the whole academic career doesn't work out:)

Stasyna said...

How the hell are you so damn insightful?

I envy you. :)

Still, do laws or rights that have been made (before computers) apply to the online 'world'? It's like applying democracy in China.

How can the un-internet interweave into the 'net? I suppose if they're one and the same. But they aren't.