Feb 2, 2010
Recently, I had a conversation about blogging with my partner, who is a Montessori teacher. Often times as we share a ride home from work, she will discuss some aspect of her work day that leaves me impressed with her knowledge and insight about teaching and child development. More than once, I have suggested to her that she start a blog to share that knowledge and more than once she has shot down the idea, citing a number of reasons, my favorite of which goes something like “the thought of writing about work when I’m not at work literally makes me sick to my stomach! Really sick!” This got me to thinking about why I blog, often about things related to my work, and led me to come up with a typically offhanded formulation about why others do the same.
So what it is that distinguishes myself and others from the non-blogging majority? I propose three basic prerequisites to blogging: time, community, and hubris.
The first is pretty obvious so I will assume that time does not need much explanation. Unless you are a professional blogger, you do it in your free time, and most of us don’t have enough of it to spend addressing a largely imaginary audience.
Assuming one has time, I think you still need to feel like you are addressing or contributing to a community, broadly defined. When I blog, I usually imagine it will be of some use or interest to someone. Sometimes I know exactly who I am speaking to. If I write a tutorial about WordPress or Omeka hacks, for example, I know I am speaking to others who, like me, are hacking their way through a particular project, often piecing together information from forums, Google searches, colleagues and friends. I feel like that is a community (intermediate-level web developers?) of which I am part and whose needs I understand. I cannot emphasize how important that community has been to my ability to work, and in writing a tutorial I am attempting to carry my weight and give something back. In some ways, this is a reflection of my own belief in DIY and the punk rock spirit, two other topics (or is that just one topic?) that I’m likely to write about based largely on the idea that they are communities I value and to which I try to contribute.
Okay, I know hubris is maybe a strange choice of words, but it got you reading this, right? And I think it suggests a broad set of characteristics or personality traits that contribute to the “blogging state of mind.” Twitter and other micro-blogging services typify this impetus in the extreme. Look at any group of seasoned twitter users and you will see links, links, links, along with a smattering of reviews, smarmy comments, mini-editorials, and self-promotional status updates. That’s what makes the form annoying/overwhelming for some people, but it’s also the essence of its greatness. Blogs leave a bit more wiggle room for complexity and nuance, but suggest the same motivation.
Further, it may be no coincidence that librarians and developers love (micro-) blogging. The fact that I am nominally both, I think, has much to do with why I blog (here, on Twitter, and elsewhere). As a librarian, I value information and seek to share it with others. It’s a big part of who I am and if I’m honest with myself I have to admit it’s because I’m kind of a know-it-all. Most librarians are to varying degrees, though it doesn’t always show because we tend to be a mild bunch. I like knowing I can find the answers to a wide array of questions and can synthesize them into something vaguely coherent. It’s very much a desire to be helpful, but it also takes some hubris to assume the position of oracle.
There’s an interesting post over at Full Stop Interactive that describes the Myers-Briggs personality type of hackers and developers in much the same way many have described librarians: an apparently paradoxical mix of utopian ideology and sensible shoes practicality that brings forth the opinionated, the didactic, and the resourceful. Despite what you think of Jungian psychology, it seems safe to assume that, while MBTI cannot fully classify the wholeness of personality, it seems to be onto something when you look at aggregate career-specific data. Again, these two groups that often overlap and interact share personality type indicators and common interests that might contribute to their general blogginess. I would never suggest these are the only two groups that blog, nor the only groupings of personality to succumb to the siren call of the know-it-all culture. What my blog post presupposes is that those of us who blog share something in common with one another and maybe with one of these groups. With my partner, the non-blogging Montessori teacher, I share many things in common but apparently not the traits that lead to blogging, whatever they may be.
There you have it. My cockamamy theory about blogging, complete with bloggerific abruptly non-conclusive ending. What do you think? Am I onto something? Have you read or heard anything similar elsewhere? Or is it total baloney?
Image Credit: made using Big Huge Labs’ Motivator