Questions before blogging

What were you thinking when you added that to your blog? Where were you coming from when you wrote that post? What did you have in mind when you got the idea to compose that? -- These are questions about the questions we ask ourselves while blogging.

Different questions yield different outcomes. Yet another way to understand the differences between blogs (and between blog postings) is by the questions inherent in whatever approach we take. When we change our questions, our blog changes accordingly.

What can I say today? - When all we're thinking about is what to say, the value of our words will be insignificant. We are showing off to get attention or relief of some kind. We are implicitly self-absorbed and insensitive to others.

How can I help others today? - When we think about caring for others, we will write different words. We will wonder about how to offer a better perspective, lower other's anxiety, offer a different solution or save others the trouble of a long search for answers.

Where can I jump in today? - When we see blogs as intangible conversation threads, we wonder how to contribute. We realize what has not been said, what needs clarification, what others are not seeing yet and what direction the dialogue could be headed.

What can this blog do to help? - When we use our blogs to make changes in the world, we put the blog to constructive use outside the blogosphere. We wonder how the blog can help formulate a consensus, build a constituency, gain support for a change or facilitate a complex decision.

The first three questions are enamored with blogging tools. They have us under their spell online. The fourth question turns things around so we are tooling around. Instead of being beholden to the tool, we put the tool to our uses in the real world. The value of blogging is increased exponentially when its premise is reversed like that.

Technorati tags: , ,


  1. Interesting catagorizations, Tom. Although I'm not sure I'm in agreement with your labels. Archive blogs threw me. I was thinking you'd suggest that they were recording events or perspectives for posterity - which many bloggers do. What about "contribution blogs" for your "how can I help others today?" catagory and add archive or documentation blogs for the true archivists.

    Democratic seems a bit odd as a adjective here. Maybe something like influence or social impact might be a better descriptor.

    A fifth (or sixth if you take my suggestion above) catagory that's missing is one that many bloggers pointed to, especially in the beginning of blogging, as why they blogged in the first place. To voice their thoughts and be able to reflect on them - with others or not. So I'd suggest Introspective blogging. Though I'm not sure where to place it in your reversed taxonomy. It's very powerful, but very personal.

  2. Thanks for jumping in here, Dave! This helps me clarify my underlying purpose and premises to this taxonomy. Where Nancy White has used a "community lens" to see blogs in terms of boundaries, membership and participation, I'm looking at blogs with a "market value lens". Where you're suggesting a better label for "democratic" would be "influence or social impact", I'm seeing the entire taxonomy as a gradient or spectrum of influence/social impact. Democratic is the highest and Distraction is the lowest social/market influence.

    Your category of "Introspective Blogs" is what I have in mind with Distraction Blogs. I'm using a pejorative label to make sense of all the rejection of most blogs -- by journalists, business executives, school teachers and legislators. Those blogs are valuable to the blogger, but of negligible influence/social impact. As you say, they are closest to the original idea of a weblog; an online personal journal. They are also the furthermost from the wide spread impacts, long term potentials and emergent benefits of blogging that have come about since it all began.

    Using a "value lens" highlights what kinds of value are created and how durable those kinds of value are -- beyond the reflective thought processes and benefits of journaling. I came into this outlook via my own experiences with blogging becoming transformational when they are conversational, like we are doing with this exchange here. This is more valuable than my "Clues to the College Blues" blog, that gets 2-300 page views per week with no new postings. Archive blogs provide very valuable information that is searchable in the blog and through Google, Technorati, etc. The content is available 24/7, tagged for easier access and loaded with links to other resources. The word "archive" connotes the unchanging value that endures like books, DVD's and buildings.

    The label "Democratic" emerged from Chris Anderson's phrase "democratizing the tools of production and aggregation" (in The Long Tail) Stephen Downes' passion for political freedom, and my thinking about the long tail, the politics of elearning, the freeing of the chickens and the replacement of the push systems. It's also tied into changing community dynamics in the real world that become possible with networked online communications. This seems more valuable than the transformational effects of conversational blogging - more lives will be touched, more systems will be changed and more power will be distributed to everyone. These changes give rights back to the individual, change processes of decision making and liberate captives of dominating control systems.

    Thanks for your many reflective insights, Dave.