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What’s a Blogger?

Yesterday, in a fit of bluntness, I let loose on Twitter an idea I’ve been simmering for a long time.

If you’ve disabled commenting on your blog, I’m gonna go ahead and say you’re not a blogger.

I had a conversation with my friend Scott about it. And a bunch of people responded on Twitter. And I talked about it at work with Zak.

@meagangracie asked, “how would you classify @mimismartypants then?” And I replied, “As a writer.”

I mentioned Seth Godin, the master of profoundly stating the obvious*. He has a tremendous impact on conversation in the marketing and publishing worlds, but he’s pretty much inaccessible. How would I classify him? As a writer. (And as a speaker and a consultant and whatever.)

Blogging is about conversation, and not just the conversation a blogger might spark elsewhere. It’s about a conversation on that writer’s blog. Put another way (or perhaps a different way; I’m still working this out in my head): a blogger is a participant in conversation, whether it’s a conversation they start or simply join in on. Just starting it and walking away or watching silently from the sidelines is simply not participating.

What do you think?

* I say that without sarcasm. There’s a true talent in conveying such things to people, and he really, really has it.

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SisterDiane

I agree. If blogs are indeed “social media,” then the idea should be that the audience can talk back, and the author will respond.

The only problem with social media is scalability. There definitely comes a point where you have to inch back from your audience in tiny increments, because the demands on your time and attention become too much. I struggle with this all the time – I want very much to be present and accessible, but… have you seen my email inbox lately?!

crystalynkae

Kim, I'm totally with you. It seems like I get many more comments on facebook or twitter – folks rarely respond as a comment section of my blog. are FB & twitter stealing blogging's thunder?
or maybe it's the sign-in process on blogs that turns folks off?

I came across a blog today that closes comments after 10 days… a craft blog. I'm not sure why that is… too much spam to deal with after a certain amount of time passes?

GinkgoKnits

I think that's a very valid division.

It seems like there is also a difference between someone writing on non-personal topics (ideas about business or politics) and someone just chronicling their daily life. While the former can be the writer/journalist category, a lot of the latter are just public diaries that have attracted an audience. If you are a diarist, you may also be a writer but you may not depending on your devotion to the craft of writing and editing which can be hard to judge from the outside. I'm not sure I'd call someone a writer if all they do is type out a story from their day in the exact way they'd describe it over the phone to her friends and can only maybe bother to run spellcheck before hitting publish. My feeling is that if the diarist blogger publishes things to be seen by a wider audience that would be same as a story I write in an email and email to friends, she's not a writer as much as one who correspond via a computer media. Would a person's twitter musing make him a writer? Yes, if it's done with creative or intellectual intent. No, if it's just him just complaining like the rest of us about the price of milk. It's hard to know where the term writer ends if the world is also living (and writing) online.

Michelle

I don't know, Kim — maybe that's what having a blog means today, but traditionally I think a blog was simply a record of one's thoughts, or events/news on a single topic, and comments were optional, and not something that defined what it was that one's website was. (I can't believe I'm using the word “traditionally” in tandem with “blog,” but what the hell — it's almost a new decade.) As blog tech became more accessible and more people created websites in which to post things that they thought were important or fun or creative or whathaveyou, comments became indispensable, but I also remember a number of blog purists claiming that these particular websites weren't blogs, precisely because they were more personal, or more focused on conversation, and less on sheer information-dump. The distinction seemed rather unfair at the time.

I think the Internet is amazing in its capacity to grow organically and have these sorts of definitions and labels and websites flow and mutate and evolve. They're all blogs, 'sfar as I'm concerned.

Put another way: If a blog has comments but no one leaves any, is it truly a blog? (blog:tree::internet:woods) (OK, I am kinda in love with what I just did there.)

I guess my point is that I'm not totally comfortable with the idea of making conversation the defining mark of a blog. When conversation happens, it's fantastic. When a post generates a reaction, it's great. I think the point of a good blog is to forge connections between writers and readers, and I'm not entirely convinced that one needs comments in order to achieve that. (Though it helps, most definitely.)

And I also think that disabling comments after 10 days is completely reasonable in terms of how fast news gets old on the Internet.

Georgette P.

I disagree.

“Blog”is defined as a web page that is updated, as opposed to a static page, which is not. Period. Blogs are used for many reasons, not all of them as yours is– for commercial purposes. You have to be available to your customers. People who blog for themselves or a small number of people have other reasons and being available may not be one of them. I have three blogs. One has comments, two don't. One is for my students, one is connected to a huge forum (people are encouraged to come in and post), and the last is where I write about my life, post photos. It is a diary. People who want can e-mail me about content. My friends do. I am not interested in random people coming across it and telling me what they think, as they did with a previous blog. Random people translate into possible sales for you, so you need comments, you need to build community and have people keep coming back.

It is the function of the blog that determines the use of comments and nothing else. A blog in itself is a webpage that is upated.

misti

Interesting conversation. I have been thinking a lot about blogs, how comments seem to be lacking. Some very popular blogs have very small comment bases, which I find strange. Are people afraid to comment?

misti

Interesting conversation. I have been thinking a lot about blogs, how comments seem to be lacking. Some very popular blogs have very small comment bases, which I find strange. Are people afraid to comment?

trueepicure

Thanks for tweeting about this and reminding me about your post. I’m thinking a lot lately about what I write on my blog, how I want to use my blog, and whether I want to link my blog with my real name and be OUT about it. The other issue for me is that my blog doesn’t directly relate to my “real job” so I’m not sure how I feel about linking the two. Maybe I need a “work” blog too?

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