Saturday, September 11, 2004

What's in a Blog?

Reading David Alan Black's blog (daveblackonline) I learned about the October 2003 issue of NetGuideWeb, which features interesting tips on how to blog from nine seasoned bloggers. In spite of the fact that many of the recommendations are intended for people who write personal weblogs, there are a number of tips that are suitable for more professional blogs.

Many of the advices offered are plain common sense: thinking before writing, using good English, updating the blog frequently, setting some limits, sticking to the point, and things of that nature. But four or five comments caught particularly my attention as I considered the role of those blogs that fall loosely into the "Biblical Studies" category. Here they are, followed by my own reactions to each one of them.

"Don't worry about who's reading, and just write about what's interesting to you. Don't try to please some external person, just focus on writing about stuff you think is interesting." — Easy to say, and easily done... at the beginning. Later on I've noticed that you tend to take into account the profile of your audience and the feedback you receive. So you end up writing about what you consider interesting and think your readers will appreciate.

"Don't post simply because you feel like you ought to – only post when you have something to say." — Very good point. Blogging is not a full-time job, nor and end in itself. I sometimes get the impression that if we only blogged when we have something to say, we would do it less frequently. On the other hand, there could well be some virtue in following the discipline of blogging, so that when we really have something to say, it is worthwhile indeed, and/or that most of what we say ends up being worth saying it.

"When you have something especially important, email some other bloggers and let them know. They're likely to link to you and you'll pick up readers." — I don't think I've ever done that so far. Besides, the notion of "especially important" is rather subjective. Is peer-review (blogger-review?) and interaction among bloggers a good indication of the really important stuff? How many truly seminal lines of thought have been advanced in our specialized blogosphere? Maybe blogging is still in its infancy, and we need some hindsight to actually perceive that some important scholarly questions are shared, considered, and built-upon by a larger community of bloggers. Could it even be the case that some blog entries will make it into books reviewing the current state of Biblical Studies? or that the posts themselves will be published as books in the future?

"Retain your sense of self and style – don't constantly emulate and copy those around you. Your personality needs to shine through first and foremost. It's what will make your blog unique and 'you'." — I concur. Emulation and plagiarism are widespread in our day and age. It is difficult to find your own place among other blogs that attempt to fill vaguely the same niche. Difficult, but certainly worth the effort.

"The blog should do what you say it's going to do. You want people to come back, to become regular readers, so you need to live up to whatever you promise. If you've set up a tech blog, your readers might be surprised if you start writing long accounts of why your marriage/team/country is going down the drain. Of course, in the process you might pick up some new readers and decide to relaunch the blog." — Now, this I find very relevant! One of the things that turn me off is the fact that otherwise good and useful Biblical Studies weblogs begin to talk about things that have nothing to do, whatsoever, with the stated purpose of the blog. Don't get me wrong. I think it is a perfectly legitimate thing to hold certain political views, sports interests, and what have you. However, I do believe they belong elsewhere, and since it is so easy to set up a personal weblog and vent our opinions there, I think it would be in everybody's interest if we could somehow keep focused. This is not to say, of course, that I don't like personal touches here and there. I, for one, love to know some details about any Tom, Dick and Harry "Blogger", see pictures of them, and so on. We're dealing with people here. And you'll agree with me that Stephen is more important than Hypotyposeis, Mark than NT Gateway, or Jim than Paleojudaica, to name just three of them (forgive me the rest of you!). But the fact remains that I feel I cannot add certain blogs to my blogroll simply because they mix "apples with oranges," and that is kind of frustrating.

Just my thoughts, of course. You're welcome to disagree with me or pat me on the back!