E: All of the Above

Blogs are odd critters.

They’re not journals, though sometimes they act like journals.  They’re not conversations, even if they sometimes act like conversations. They’re not forums, but sometimes they act like forums.  They’re not performing art, though sometimes they act like that too.  They’re not printed publications like magazines… but sometimes they even masquerade as those.

When it comes to defining “Blog”, almost always the answer is (e) All Of The Above.

The one essential thing about blogging is that there is one (or few) bloggers, and there are many readers.  Even when I sit at my computer and I read The Pioneer Woman, I know that she’s not just talking to ME when she cracks jokes about her cooking, and I laugh along with her, having done something similar in the past.  Literally THOUSANDS (tens of thousands probably) of other people will also read that very same post.

The beauty of the internet is the beauty of being in the audience.

As a blogger, I get to see things from both sides of that fence.  I get to write things and people respond to them!  Which is awesome, usually (sometimes people are turdwaffles.  Those people usually don’t get the opportunity to comment again).  I’m not /just/ a blogger though – I’m a member of the audience too.

Like being in an audience in real life, there are some perks.

If you don’t like it, you can leave.  This means getting up quietly and escorting yourself out.  Making a scene (just like making a scene at a movie or a play you don’t like) just makes YOU look like a moron.  Besides, the louder you /flounce out, the less likely people are to put any stock in what you’re saying – especially the person putting on the performance.

Ironically, this is not dissimilar to a MMORPG, like World of Warcraft.  (If you notice, Blizzard doesn’t respond to or care about people posting on the forums “I HATE YOUR GAME I’M QUITTING NYAH”)

When it comes to comments, though, things get interesting.  Comments are, for lack of a better analogy, like getting a backstage pass after a concert.  You get a chance to go and talk to the performer.  But even then, you are part of the audience.  You might strike up a conversation with another audience member – or perhaps even have a heated argument.  The performer might join in, stopping by to chat with you, or he or she might not, choosing to avoid the hubbub.

Would you, after a performance, walk up to the performer and say “Wow that’s great but you really should have…”?  Or “I saw when you performed you were doing something this way, maybe you should do it that way.”  Or even “Did you know that Someone Else was doing it another way? I really liked their way better.”

No, probably not.  And if you did, you’d probably get a very odd, blank look.  Which is probably why, when someone leaves a comment of that nature, they get about the same response.

The difference between the two, of course, is in real life, you meet the person face to face.  With blogs, you interact through the internet.

On the internet, there is great anonymity.  And with great anonymity comes a great sense of false importance.

Sometimes that false importance turns people into turdwaffles. Sometimes, however, it manifests differently.  It manifests as the “I know better than the person writing whatever this is, and therefore they are wrong and I should tell them, because heaven forbid someone be wrong on the internet” problem.

Since that’s WAY too long to type, I’m going to refer to it from here out as the Llama Problem.

Llama-itis presents itself when you read a blog post and you think “Oh!  I can fix this for the author!” and you fire off a comment.

But Anna, you say, isn’t that what comments are for?  I have something to SAY!  And it is important to me, and to the author because they wrote this post about it and my comment makes sense and will help them!

Well, kind of and sometimes.  Remember that all of the above answer?  Sometimes a blog is an advice column, or a place to go to get advice.  A writer might ask “How did you (the reader) deal with this problem?” or “Do you have any suggestions?”  In which case the answer is yes, that’s exactly what the comments are for.

Lets say, however, for the sense of argument, that the author was writing a post about a newly dinged level 80 character, and the things he or she was working on with it.  Or maybe about a recipe they were working on.  Perhaps even a crafting project, or some history research.  In that post, there is no solicitation for advice or input.

BUT YOU HAVE AN IDEA.  What if the author hasn’t considered that idea!  What if, in fact, they’ve never even HEARD of your amazing solution?

Ask them.

Instead of immediately firing off your well-intentioned (but not always well received) Llama Problem, use the comments to ASK the person if they’ve heard of something.  “Hey, I was reading your post on this new Character/Recipe/Project, and was wondering what Addons/Spices/Materials you were using to help with it?”

By taking the time to ask (and then checking back to see if you got a reply) you get a good idea of whether or not the person in question has any desire for outside input. If they respond with “I don’t know, what did you have in mind” – then you’re clear!  Post away, and enlighten the world with your great wisdom on this subject.

Congratulations, you have just turned a blog into a conversation (see: All of the above).  You and the other commenters might now have a separate conversation – or not.

However, if the writer doesn’t respond?  Probably means they don’t really want to discuss it.  Or if they say “I’m doing This That and The other because of such and such”, then you know that they’ve considered their options and chosen what works for them.  Because while a blog might SOMETIMES be about advice, very rarely is a blog ONLY or ALWAYS about advice.

No matter how long you’ve been reading a blog, or how many times you’ve stopped in, or whether you’ve emailed the author or not, they are still On The Internet, and as such, there are things you won’t know about them.  If you take the time to ask, you avoid making yourself look like a Llama Problem.

And nobody wants to be a Llama, right?

On Blogging

While the writing of an angry email or post is often incredibly cathartic, posting it is usually about as effective as writing a really angry letter and sending it. You might feel better or vindicated now, but you’ll probably feel a little silly later – and you’ve the potential to do a ton of harm to the person(s) addressed.

Sometimes it’s just better to rant at a friend. Or, to write it and appreciate the catharsis, and then sit on it for a day or two and decide what you really want to say.  And then try say it in a way that is clear and expressive without being combative/vindictive.  While it doesn’t have the self-satisfied, smug sensation of really firing off a zinger, it’s more likely to produce positive change instead of getting you blown off (or worse).

Creativity

I’ve always been fascinated with art – for as long as I can remember really, even back as a tiny little thing, I’ve had a great deal of envy for people with visual creativity.  The closest I’ve ever come is tactile type things – and not creative as much as re-creative (following someone else’s pattern/design). I suppose you could argue that words are a form of creativity, but word-skill is not the same as word-art.

I think that’s why I’m currently both fascinated and petrified by Art Journaling (that and I know I’d start and then quit doing it after a couple of days when it dawns on me that 1) I suck and 2) I have a blog to journal in already).

Doesn’t keep me from looking up stuff about it on the internet though, and pondering whether any of the multitudes of old spiral notebooks and journals that people have given me would work, or if I have any colored pencils (I don’t, though I do have a pack of crayola markers and a couple of prismacolor markers I picked up secondhand).  And then convincing myself that I really do have enough projects (I do), and I don’t need another one right now (I don’t), and that I’m not really starved for creative outlets (I’m not).

I suppose it’s good that I can see my own patterns:

  1. hey that’s cool
  2. I should try it
  3. this is fun
  4. then I get distracted like a magpie in a mirror factory and find something else that looks cool… repeat ad nauseum

At the same time, forcing myself to work on one thing while I am interested in doing another isn’t all that great either.  It’s hard to explain the random impulses – and I wonder if I shouldn’t just purge all the craft stuff entirely and force myself to pick and stick with one (which would probably be sewing/needlework) – and then I look at the yarn and my spinning fleeces and think how lovely they are, or the various books teaching various things, or my giant and ever expanding recipe bookmarks folder… and it just doesn’t happen.

And then I wonder if I should just stick with writing – since I seem to do that every day, both for fun, for semi-work, and for work – and try to cultivate an appreciation for various forms of creativity that I don’t have, rather than immediately wanting to TRY all of them.