I say that only because it is true … last night after reading about the horrific behavior aimed at Kathy Sierra my wife and I had a long conversation about this whole transparent life thing.
Let me set this up just a bit … I have been blogging since sometime in early 2003 in one form or another. I didn’t really get into it until 2004 with the launch of Learning and Innovation, but I had been writing here and there for a year until I really got committed to it a few years ago. My wife has also been a blogger for several years … she spent about a year on a blog that focused on how women (Mother’s particularly) are often caught in the middle of their careers, families, political beliefs, and just about everything else. She got big traffic for the year or so she kept it alive. After the Bush/Kerry election she lost her energy to fight that fight — that was coupled and compounded with some particularly nasty comments from one person. A few months later she launched another blog that has grown in popularity and has made a significant impact to many people. She is a great writer who is funny and passionate … it is a good voice in the blogosphere. Both of us enjoy doing what we do, but things are changing … having a voice that is heard is a good thing even if it is not as loud or as popular as Kathy Sierra — it can still provide impact.
You’ll remember that a couple of months ago we decided to pull our pictures from the public eye at Flickr. What I thought was a small decision spurred a lot of email and comments from people asking me deeper questions. Some of the more interesting comments focused on me never thinking about giving my children a say in how I was shaping their public identity through my open use of Flickr. Really got me thinking. I very rarely write here about my children in any real way — I mention them, but rarely do I air thoughts and observations about their development or actions. I know there are sites like the wildly popular Dooce where it is all chronicled with minuet detail. I don’t point at Heather Armstrong and say anything negative at all. Hell I read Dooce and find it very entertaining. But, I made the choice early on that this space was for the things I think about in my work space. The identity I am working to create for myself online is based on that environment — not home. The thinking hasn’t stopped with regard to creating online identity and what it means … if nothing else, the Kathy Sierra story pulled the thoughts back into focus a bit.
Back to the conversation with my wife … we talked about a lot of things. One of them was how both of our use of RSS has dipped way down on the charts. It is funny how all of a sudden I am back at reading a couple of sites for “real.” I visit the NY Times, ESPN, and a few other sites everyday … I have only ten or so that I am spending time at in my RSS reader … a far cry from the 150 subscriptions I have. Just strange. Both of us have noticed it and expressed feeling overwhelmed or even bored by the whole thing. Problem is that there is great stuff out there that neither of us are taking part in for some reason. No idea why (Twitter maybe).
Also, we both sort of came around to the idea that this whole writing thing in the open is largely for us. Don’t get me wrong, the comments, emails, and all the other stuff we both get from readers is amazing. In many ways the few comments I get drive me forward — but they drive me to really to think more clearly about the things I write, not to write more. We both sort of looked at each other and said that we didn’t care about the rules of blogging — you know, post everyday as many times as you can, comment at a ton of blogs, and link to all sorts of people and stories … it just doesn’t matter to me. I love writing, sharing my thoughts, and getting the occasional feedback from those who do read. But at the end of the day my thoughts towards why and how I blog are changing. This is all sort of new stuff in my head, but I thought I would throw it out there and see what others are thinking. Are we all just sort of changing our perspective on this stuff or is there really something changing in the space that makes us refocus? I’m not sure. Would I be a hypocrite to ask for feedback?
4 thoughts on “Something is Changing”
You know, we caution our kids to be careful online, not to give out last names, locations, personal information — anything that can be used to harm them in their “real” life — and yet here we are, blogging our experiences and our own lives without the same considerations. While I am horrified at the actions against Kathy Sierra, I have to wonder why we never saw this coming; did we feel, as adults, that this might not eventually turn on us as well? Anyone who gains a high profile must inevitably deal with being visible enough for someone to take a potshot. When I blog, I still stay anonymous; my husband and kids may show up in anecdotal stories, but the names have been removed to protect the innocent. I liken my blogging to journaling, but there are only a handful of people out there who check my blog with any regularity. Those who stumble over it still have to be signed in to respond; anonymous posts aren’t allowed. Do I do it to protect my sensibilities, in case someone has vitriol to spew? Perhaps. I’ll still blog, but this ugly episode certainly cements my position on blogging in comfortable anonymity.
i’ve actually personally received death threats from an internet stalker of one of my sites a few years ago. it was posted on a forum and i contacted the owners who then made me feel as if i were completely overreacting. in my experience it hasn’t been escalating or changing, it has always been there, in nearly every public forum i’ve witnessed. after that incident, i felt forced to reign in my web persona and for several years tracked IPs and comments to an obsessive degree. only recently did i begin to accept a certain amount of exposure as it applies to my career.
still, i feel for kathy. she’s scheduled to give a keynote at the web 2.0 expo i’ll be attending in a few weeks. i wondered if that’s cancelled too.
Cole, you bring up some excellent points. I used to just try to pop out blog entries every day, thinking it was my duty since I had webspace and a page…but the entry quality began to suck.
Quality over quantity is the key to bringing in at least some audience. Otherwise, like you said, you’ll overwhelm yourself and your potential audience.
I know that garnering an audience isn’t the issue; it’s about solidifying a thought in e-form and if anyone happens to read, great.
Cole, you have a great blog, one of my top 20, but I still only have time to check in a few times a month. And I have many things I would love to blog about, but just don’t have the time.
There are only so many hours in the day, and there are too many projects and priorities! I go with quality over quantity in both writing and reading. I don’t want to be chained to my blog or anyone else’s. It’s supposed to be fun, not a chore.
Just my humble $.02