Monday, February 23, 2009

Why Even Bother Blogging?

Matt Granfield over at Zakazuhka Zoo wrote the other day that "Daniel Oyston, my favourite Canberra-based writer since the late (great) Matt Price, wrote a lovely little piece yesterday about the rules of social media engagement - the ones that have been made up by social media commentators along the way. He questioned whether we should try and follow them, or just give up and let the marketers do what they want." ... and that "He knew the answer of course"

awww shucks Matt, thanks for the nice comments. Matt's right though. I did know the answer but I thought it was an important enough topic, considering some recent marketing debacles, to start a conversation on it. And that's the thing ... I wanted to start a conversation. Not just tell people what I think they should know. That's because I don't think I know everything and I am keen to get your views and opinions.

But to do that I believed that I needed to write a post that didn't cover everything so that people felt they could add to the conversation. I had to hold back a little.

I took this approach because there are a few blogs that I read which leave me feeling like I have been reading a news bulletin (Mumbrella the nice exception of course). Too many blogs are lecturing me and I get to the end of the blog and think "wow, they have written so much and covered so many points that I don't have anything to contribute". I then move onto the next blog. It seems that some writers need to take the opportunity to impart onto me everything they know.

Lee Hopkins wrote in a comment at a recent Laurel Papworth post that "... in the same way that television news presenters are not allowed to express an opinion but just read the teleprompt, so as social media pundits our duty (if one can be so high-browed as to call it that) is to report what is happening in our space."

If that is true then blogging will become about as social as watching news on television (granted that it will be more targeted and more timely). Just because people have the ability to leave a comment doesn't make it social. People can write a letter to the station but no one considers that social.

I was pretty upfront with Lee and told him that line of thinking is ridiculous.Surely Mumbrella has that covered? Our job in the social media space is to start conversations. If your friends just spoke to(at) you about what was happening and provided no opportunities to have a proper conversation then you would stop hanging out with them.

Lee responded "But Daniel, surely if a “sermon” is offered from the pulpit of a blog that is an invitation to converse? Just like we are doing here?". I don't think it is. In fact the defintion of a sermon includes "a long, tedious speech". Nothing about a conversation. In the true sense of a sermon, inside a church, there is never a conversation with the community that follows it.

To make matters worse, Julian Cole notes in the comments on his current post that "Bloggers love talking about the same topic though, that is how they all get their linklove on."

Combine that with the sermon/lecture approach and you have a problem. If bloggers are all talking "at" me about the same thing, and those things are news, then I really don't see the point of subscribing. This is definitely a trend. Keep and eye out for it next time you log on to your RSS reader and keep a little tally of the number of blog posts that talk at you rather than seriously crafting something that starts a conversation. Also, keep a tally of the number of posts that talk about the same thing. Double points if you catch any that do both.

Read any guide on how to write a blog post and any worth their salt will advise you to finish the post with a question or something else that will invite comments. Darren Rouse at Problogger notes in a post last year that with regards to conversation "often the real action happens once your post is published and being interacted with by readers and other bloggers."

Don't get me wrong, I have fallen into the sermon/lecture trap once or twice in my short blogging career. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but looking back at my posts that received very few comments it is obvious that I was talking at you rather than starting a conversation.

Are the so called rules of blogging changing because bloggers are too lazy to put some real though into writing a post that adds value and instead would rather provide news on something we have read on 4 other blogs or just lecture us on what they think we should know? How many times have you fallen into the trap in your eagerness to show everyone who reads your blog just how much you know?


Zac Martin said...

Months and months ago Laurel has a fantastic post about the future of where some of this was all heading, particularly the idea of Web 3.0.

What was even more interesting, was the realisation I came to after reading that series. Blogging is just a lecture and a broadcast, rarely anything more. It can sometimes rise about that, especially in the comments, but realistically nothing to do with Web 2.0 in any way.

Good post buddy.

Nathan Bush said...

Well said Daniel. I consider the success of a post the amount of conversation it generates not the impressions it results it. I've got a lot to learn but I'm going to learn it from discussing it, not being told it.

Matt Moore said...

So the "Made to Stick" bros make the point that a presenter should not be thinking "What point should I make next?" but rather "What question do I want my audience to wrestle with?" as that is far more compelling.

Is that a useful rule of thumb for a blogger?

Daniel Oyston said...

@Zac - If blogs are a broadcast then why do we even need a comments section? Just stick it on a static web page.

@Nathan - I agree and take the same attitude.

@Matt - mate, that is gold. Well done, you just got the first ever gold star from Oyster (ok I just made that up :) But I will certainly use that rule of thumb from now on. It is excellent.

Tim Burrowes - Mumbrella said...

I'd never thought about it that way before, Daniel, but I think you're right.

I'm, sure that when one posts half as much - and leaves room for more of the debate, it generates twice as much conversation in the comment section.


Tim - Mumbrella

Matt Granfield said...

And in all of this I completely missed your pingback, probably because I was too busy not worrying too much about comments, which is what I tend to do. I dunno' Daniel, maybe it's because I used to be a reporter, but I'm kind of happy to just write whatever comes to me and not worry too much about engaging all the time. Maybe it's a fear of rejection in case I ask a question and no-one answers it. Maybe it's a little of both. Maybe there's enough people asking questions. Either way, love your work.

Fake Tim Burrowes said...

Just happy to be the exception!