The Power of Blogging (On why I blog)

March 13
photo credit: the name is Josh

Blogging, which I define as published informal writing, makes me happy. I blog because I enjoy it. Why do I find blogging so fulfilling? Briefly, blogging provides me with a creative outlet to focus my thinking and share my ideas and interests with others. Even as these are sufficient reasons to blog, there are certain particulars of blogging that make it absurdly powerful, and this post attempts to get at these reasons.

What is so powerful about blogging?

Blogging enables me to write about whatever I want. I can write about the particulars of property rights, ideas for workout routines, the consequences of holding a certain belief, or how best to apply an understanding of human evolution to modern life. I can blog about my personal doings or the book I just finished reading. The informality of blogging provides an enormous amount of creative freedom to speak my mind. This freedom caters to my tendency towards boredom with overspecialization. It allows me to jump from subject to subject as often as I choose.

Seth Roberts described this purpose of blogging wonderfully in a recent comment: “[blogging] allows us to talk about whatever we want without fear of boring our listeners.” With blogging there is little fear of rejection and an empowering feeling of control. Label it “narcisistic” if you want, does it really matter? Blogging provides such a fantastic creative outlet that it is a worthwhile pursuit for this reason alone.

Blogging focuses my curiosity and clarifies my thinking. Putting my thoughts into writing requires a “good enough” understanding of a concept for my written explanation to successfully transfer the idea to others (including me at future date). This put-it-in-writing induced constraint helps clarify my thinking and can also aid my memory. Somewhat related to clarified thought, blogging provides an end-product for my curiosity. Whereas a random interest in parkour may mean running any number of Google queries on the subject only to be done with it, the add-on of blogging creates a deliverable: I can jot down my findings for future reference and produce something tangible and useful from what would otherwise be a passing curiosity.

Blogging results in the mass production of ideas. Creating a blog is cheap, which means that anyone can do it (See below for how). Since bloggers have the power to write whatever they want, an enormous amount of writing is generated. Of course, most of these blog posts will be quickly written and forgotten. And many (if not most) of the ideas generated by bloggers will be duds. Regardless, the raw abundance of ideas presented through blogs is one of the prevailing strengths of the medium. This is because the ideas captured in blog posts are public.

Blogs, whether written anonymously or otherwise, are a means for publishing writing. Whatever I blog about is almost instantly assimilated into the vast bounty of information that is the Internet. Once published, blog posts can be searched and linked. Thanks to search, similarly interested individuals can find my writings and I can find theirs. The public nature of blogging thereby prevents both good and bad ideas from obscurity. Bad ideas are subject to correction from reader feedback. Good ideas are made better by the same. Public discourse on blogs occurs via two pathways. The more basic of the two is that readers are allowed to comment on my blog directly. The alternative, and potentially more powerful pathway is by indirect feedback on a fellow blogger’s site that is hyperlinked to my site.

The resultant combination of blogging and linking is volatile: hyperlinks are the oxygen off which the best blogs thrive. Whether it is simply another blogger sending readers to my site via a blogroll link (a sort of blanket “seal of approval”), linking to a specific post, or through submission of blog posts to the virtual watercooler, social bookmarking sites like reddit, twitter, digg, stumbleupon, or facebook, hyperlinks can provide an immense amount of exposure. Of course, the more linked a blog becomes, the more likely it is to be linked: hyperlinks tend to follow a power law distribution. This means that a blog post containing a good idea (or a good blog generally) has the potential to spread virally. It is through being linked that an idea can go from obscurity to widespread consideration in a very brief time.

Perhaps one of the greatest powers of blogging is how all of the above characteristics provide me with a “home” in the Blogosphere. When I write, even as I do it for my own benefits, the writing is done within a community. Random ideas no longer need to stagnate within my mind: I can publish them on my blog and share them with others who are want to hear what I have to say. I contribute to this community in my own peculiar way, blogging on whatever strikes my fancy. I keep tabs on my neighbors by visiting their sites and subscribing to their feeds. Through this community ideas are freed to germinate, mutate, evolve, or cross-fertilize with each other, producing results that can scarcely be predicted but are almost always eye-opening and sometimes even world-changing.

Indeed, that is the benefit of living in any community, in real space or online. Communities provide the potential for fortuitous opportunities — luck, in other words. That’s why we choose to live with and near other human beings. Its why civilization exists. To share, trade, create, and profit from the resulting opportunities. The main difference between communities in real space and those online is that real space communities tend to be set up based on geographical proximity to your neighbors. In a way, proximity still reigns supreme in the blogosphere; however, it’s the proximity of minds, ideas, and intellect. Blogging eliminates physical barriers to intellectual commerce; as a result, more transactions occur and better ideas and communities are created.

It is for all of these reasons that blogging is one of the most dynamic aspects of the Internet. It is changing the way we learn and the speed at which we create and record knowledge. Despite this immense power, most don’t realize the huge upside potential to maintaining little more than a public journal. The reality is that they don’t have to — like me, most bloggers start blogging because they think they’ll enjoy it, and of course, most do. That the practice results in countless other benefits? Bonus.

Do you have a blog? If not, consider setting one up.

Blogging is nothing more than writing down your thoughts and publishing them. Yet doing so can change your life for the better in ways that you can’t currently predict. Anyone can set up a blog for free using services like blogger, livejournal, or wordpress dot com. If you’re feeling more industrious, you can secure your own webhosting, buy a domain name, and work through setting up a wordpress dot org or b2evolution installation. It’s really not all that hard and probably worth the effort if you want to make the most off your productive efforts. However, if you’re a bit intimidated to go this route, just pursue the free versions — you’ve got very little to lose by starting up a blog, and as I’ve illustrated above, a great deal to gain.

linked down

Boy Wonder: Ben Croshaw vs. Yahtzee


Interesting write-up on Ben Croshaw a.k.a. Yahtzee of video game reviewing fame and hilarity (See Zero Punctuation). I rarely even own or care about the games Croshaw reviews as its just fun to listen/watch his dry, humorous video reviews.

I liked the angle of nobody-turned-somebody that the author of this article took. That Croshaw is an outsider is also a refreshing and increasingly common meme we’re seeing as the internet-world competes with the established “authorities.”

H/T to David Byars for first telling me about Yahtzee.

Croshaw is beloved by many, and envied by most. He is the Peter-Pan-gone-right that misleads many of us to think that a little luck and a general lack of focus might lead to our discovery. Aspiring models and actors tell themselves the same myth, although it’s admittedly a larger leap for someone to genuinely identify with Kate Moss or Christian Bale. Croshaw, on the other hand, is just unkempt and self-deprecating enough for us to emotionally access him. At the end of the day, odds are we find ourselves to be prettier, richer, hipper, or nicer than little Ben C, which makes it all the more easier to think we could do what he does.

Yahtzee is living the collective dream of plenty of people I know online. In fact, he’s living the dream of some of the most ambitious, charismatic folks I know in the real world as well. Nobody is asking him to define himself by trade, title, or career path. He has dabbled in most aspects of the industry he enjoys, enough to give him the ethos and vocabulary that substantiate his reviews. Simultaneously, this lack of specialization gives him the refreshingly removed perspective of an outsider, and at least at one time, the enthusiasm of a fan boy.

It is indeed the sensation of Yahtzee that causes us to forget the hard labor of Ben Croshaw. Almost by the book, he got his lucky break being discovered by The Escapist (and a number of other outlets who wanted him) after MS Painting just two installments of Zero Punctuation and uploading them to YouTube.

After feeling a 400% increase in traffic, it was clear to The Escapist that Croshaw had been a lucrative acquisition. It may be tempting to say Zero Punctuation was a bit of a lottery ticket on both ends, but to undermine the work that went into production is hazardous. An avid writer, Croshaw understands narrative. A student of humor, he understands timing. His breadth of knowledge of game mechanics comes not only from playing, but developing, constructing, and imagining. The difference between Yahtzee and every mook who thinks he or she can, is that Yahtzee does and frequently, Yahtzee fails. His own site is stacked with work that never really got off the ground ranging from novels to games to storytelling in GMod. He hit it big by synthesizing many of his talents in a way that rang culturally relevant, but that took the kind of insight that grows out of patient observation. For most of us, patience is the missing link.

Ultimately, the internet is drawn to Yahtzee because he is one of the faceless masses, yet he has a face (and a hat). He is still, in part, a boy with loaded questions and an affinity for sex jokes. He is a forum troll with his very own forum. His opinions are manifold and he enjoys the audience. In 2003 he was blogging the sentiments of bloggers past and bloggers yet to come:

“I am a consumer, part of the system of capitalism. To the corporations that control our lives, I am nothing but a huge mouth wearing designer jeans, just one of billions, to be cajoled or threatened with advertising into giving my money to people who already have too much. Although I vocally consider this a despicable state of affairs, I buy their loveless food and wear their manufactured garments. I am simultaneously antagonist and component.”