Friday, 1 July 2011

What is a Blog?

Given that today is the middle day of the year and that the evenings are starting to close in, it seems a good time to review what it is we bloggers do - blog. 

This is hard on the heels of a brief dialogue held elsewhere in the comments box on a previous post where Jonathan and I exchanged ideas very briefly.

We spun over the issue of what a blog is, whether mine or his is such a thing and how they sit in  the current manifestation of the blogosphere. I have been thinking over this issue among the many others that crowd my tiny mind, and wondered if he is right to posit that blogs, in the 'pure' form are journals or diaries. 

Most Christian blogs are strings of pearls, each comprising many distinct and separate posts about many and varied subjects. Yes, some blogs have an axe to grind or a pre-occupation, but that is perhaps to be expected. Some blogs root their posts very clearly in the needs and psyche of the blogger whereas other rarely speak of the writer at all (which is not to say that they don't tell of the writer, for they are different things entirely). This blog, for example, is one such string. Rarely (if at all) will you ever find two posts side to side that are on the same topic. This is partly because my mind doesn't work that way, and partly because I favour the unpredictable 'product' of such a blog myself. Frankly, I tire of blogs that batter on about single topics - but that is just me.

Jonathan is, I think right, in that blogs were truer to their fuller name - 'weblogs' when they were personal journals. They have been around since Jesus was a lad, and started life as early electronic bulletin boards. Since the late '90s they have evolved into and from online diaries into their present manifestation, as described above. It is claimed that there are 158million live blogs - and I am guessing that in style terms, they cover just about everything. I think that this variety is less important than the other motivation that is made manifest in blogs - statistics. 

Some bloggers do not ever speak of statistics. Some bloggers will claim that they are unimportant but will never waste an opportunity to mention their expanded array, and others are conspicuously statistically minded. As with church life, those of the different denominations (in terms of stats) are marginally suspicious of those who are different. The no-stats brigade regard the stats-crew as obsessed by exposure and numbers,   that they play to the popular audience, for example. It appears to be the case that long-term bloggers are less gripped by the numbers, and that is perhaps because in the early days [years] of blogging, bloggers remain marginally unsure of their effect. I am certainly of that disposition. Am I right? Am I wrong? Who knows - except that bloggers who bang on about numbers lots and lots are tedious - another personal view. 

So, what is a blog. Yes, once it was a diary, or a bulletin board. Today, it is just about anything that slaps the name above it. Purists will not be convinced, and the recent additions to the blogosphere will not care. In the end, the difference between the blogs is a great joy. For me, a diary blog would not float my boat unless the person writing it was significant to me in one way or another. 

What is a blog? What is the place of stats counters? Are bloggers too fixated on readers, followers and page-hits? Does it matter? Thoughts please ...


  1. that is perhaps because in the early days [years] of blogging, bloggers remain marginally unsure of their effect

    I'm not so sure. My guess is that, like the originators of most things, they were just more idealistic than they are today.

  2. I didn't put it properly. I was referring to the early days of a blogger's blogging life, not of early blogging. However, in what you say I agree as regards idealism

  3. The question of stats is no part of my blogging life. Followers and in particular, those who comment are for me, invaluable.
    I have no desire to appear in any blog rating but I do greatly appreciate all the comments, favourable or otherwise, since this is one half of my reason for blogging.
    My blog is as I've said before, a way of thinking aloud and to get a response is hugely rewarding. For me it means I've struck a chord with someone somewhere and has resulted in quite a few good cyber friendships.
    We all have different reasons for blogging and being stats-driven is no better and no worse than trying to lecture, inform, set up arenas for debate or simply to socialise with like-minded others.

  4. I think that a blog makes a personal statement about the blogger. In particular who they are, what they stand for and perhaps where they are on their life's journey.

  5. Why blog? Some are "pure" in their motives, and don't care who is reading. But most do it because they want to be heard, and everyone has their measure of whether the message is getting out or not. For MP, he might scorn the wikio rankings but he values the engagement of his core community. The Church Mouse likes wikio because it shows him that he is influential on other bloggers. I like to know how many people are reading. What about the VC? How do you measure success?

  6. I would love to be to blogging what 'Word from Wormingford' is to the Church times!

    I admit the pride that would love to have thousands of followers like the Old Geezer,(I love his blog-he reaches out to his followers , a cyber Barnabas)but that is just the starstruck part of me. The cyber world is a psuedo real.
    I dont like single topic blogs, prefer ones like yours and Rays where I feel part of a wider world than this corner of Yorkshire. Jonathan and Archdruid E. make me laugh and are good barometers for the C of E.
    I have been greatly helped and encouraged by some blog posts.

  7. A good analysis Charlie (as always).

    For me, I like to see numbers go in the right direction as a result of a former life in a result-driven world. I confess that I get blog envy at times, especially with those who started at the same time as me and have far more 'success'. It's hard though, because I don't want to care about results - and trends in the wrong direction make me despondent, and that is not good.

    I guess it is nice to receive approval, and the various forms that it takes (comments, stats, retweets) affirm that. I just try not to let it take over.

  8. I know exactly how many people read my blog. However, in five and a half years, I have only mentioned my figures on three occasions on my blog and they were significant milestones.

    My original point was that the Wikio rankings, being based on links, do not reflect the popularity of pure blogs and low brow efforts like mine. This annoys me but it might actually disillusion other bloggers.

    You say Church Mouse used the Wikio rankings to prove his influence on other bloggers. But he never said this. Every month he declared himself the most popular UK religious blogger. You probably couldn't imagine how far from the truth that actually was.

  9. I must agree that this pre-occupation with Wikio that Mouse and Lesley have is skewed and but one measure - and also concur that as a measure it among others. Sadly, it is the one in the middle often so I too have been lured in, always frustrated by the bloody result every month. My stats are terrible lol

    Id sooner a ranking on readers and page hits any time.

  10. If I had official recognition of my popularity, especially in respect of the St. Laika podcasts, then I would probably get a job. At the least, it would scare the living daylights out of some people who think I am worthless.

  11. So, my puritan friend, tell the world. You have a following who care, so rejoice in your gift - I mean that!

  12. You cannot possibly imagine what Grandmère Mimi would do to me if I did.

  13. It wouldn't be too difficult to rank blogs by traffic each month. I think Lesley did it recently using Alexa. The tricky bit would be to build a definitive list of blogs.

  14. Most blogs out there (including mine) could never feature on Wikio as they neither link nor are linked to. Gosh - that sounds quite biblical :-)

    Stats are a bit of fun, especially the ones that show how people all over the world are finding (and hopefully reading) my blog, but for me, as for Ray, the comments are what make blogging come alive. Like you, David, I don't use my blog as a diary or journal, though it comes out of my life and my experience. I just write about what occurs to me and interests me and hope that it will interest and even involve others.

  15. a person is usually the author of a blog

    - so it the person is doing it for money - then their blog is naturally (eventually) constrained to what will make money

    - and if the person is not doing it for money - then their blog is constrained to what they know

    - in either situation people may approach how they write the blog with ( i think) one of two attitudes

    1) look @ me

    2) this is useful

    or am i missing something?

  16. Blogging to me: part journal, part devotional, part archives for my children & grandchildren, part biography, part soapbox, part humor, part random ramblings. It began as place to record the depths of a heart redeemed. It remains that still, but it's sure found a variety of ways to express itself.

    I have found delight in a wide array of blogger sites. Like my diet, I enjoy the variety.

    P.S. I'm not kean on contests & games & give-aways; nor do I enjoy "mind dumps" (I don't even like THAT name). Mostly I look for life experience and authenticity.

  17. My stats really interest me, but not in terms of getting more and more hits and moving up through rankings. I think sites like Wikio are difficult for me anyway because I don't think my blog fits into a particular category. I tell people that I generally blog about four subject areas - feminism, Christianity, politics and the media. I'm more interested in the stats from the point of view of how people are finding me, what they want to look at, what other posts they go on to read, who links me (in case their blog interests me) and who's commenting.

    I have a few friends who maintain fashion/lifestyle blogs and the obsessions with hits and followers among that blogging community is extreme. I would never tweet asking for more followers, or promise giveaways if I got a certain number of followers, for example. The self-promotion is obsessive. I think that's one of the really obvious ways that blogging has changed a lot since people started doing it.

  18. I can't say I care how many people are reading my infrequent posts - it's lovely that any do. I suppose it depends on your motives for doing it in the first place. I do it just to join in the 'conversation' but I know that some of you in this area are genuinely engaged in Christian outreach and its good to know that you have an audience. If you're doing it to make money, just check your bank balance at the end of the month - I won't be reading you.

  19. I'm very new to blogging so I'm a long way from registering on any stats. I don't really mind how many are reading, it's nice to know that some are - I hope my posts don't mess with their heads as much as they do with mine!

    Useful in Parts finished above with:

    'or am i missing something?'

    I think that would be the option 3 I'd give as my reason for blogging! I often write down what I'm thinking about - I find it easier to process when I can read it later.



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