Why blog?

Okay, so I’ve posted only twice in the last six months, and both times I was posting my grief over dead rock stars. Posting it late, as well – I did the ‘oh man I’m so sad’ thing first on commercial social media sites, then turned up here long afterwards to make a more public statement that fewer people are likely to read.

On the other hand, I’ve had a big internet hit (as academic internet things go) with an article I published on another site with a couple of people I’m lucky to know.[1]

So the question is, why bother with a blog? A few years ago, when I started this thing, I thought I knew the answer: putting all my writing here, I could show how various parts of it fitted together. Does that work?

Well, kinda. I can show how various things fit together in the sense that I can carefully arrange all that information online, but I can’t show this to anyone in particular because people don’t use the internet like that. They don’t find a site and click around it for a while to see what sort of a place it is, or what sort of a person might have created it. They find a page, maybe read it, then shoot off somewhere else, maybe to yell about it on Twitter. The site as an entity doesn’t have the integrity that a book does, or that an album used to in the days before YouTube and iTunes and Spotify disaggregated everything and then re-aggregated it according to user preferences and their own algorithms. I’ve written posts that got thousands of hits, but only a vanishingly small proportion of the people behind that statistic clicked through to see the rest of the site content. In other words, those posts might just as well have been on another website – and in fact, one of the things I’ve learnt is that, if what you want to do is to get a particular piece of writing ‘out there’ where people can read it, then, even if you have a personal blog like this one, you’re probably better off putting it on another website anyway: a curated site with regularly updated content by many different authors. Perhaps not a blog at all – something more like a magazine or a newspaper, for example. If you’re going to get a lot of readers, you’ll get them quicker that way.[2]

As I’ve suggested above, my little expression of grief for Prince can be read by more people here than it could on my Facebook page, but it is likely to have been read by more people on my Facebook page than it ever will be here because it will have been algorithmically pushed to at least some of my Facebook friends and, while there is a lot of competition for people’s attention on Facebook, most of my Facebook friends are likely to have fewer Facebook friends than there are pages on the web. So why blog? In the sense, at least, of running your own blog – which is what ‘blogging’ used to mean when people started doing it (we’re talking 1990s).

Perhaps the best reason for blogging is not to be read. There are better places to put things that you want people to read, so put those things there and save the blog for the other things (if you can still be bothered to type them, that is). Just as the primary purpose of academic journal articles is not, I think, to communicate research but to testify to it, the primary purpose of a blog may be, not to say something to someone, but to say it somewhere: somewhere, that is, where it will remain said, and be capable of being referred to.

So I think I’ll carry on blogging. At least until I come to terms with the fact that a nice Moleskine notebook might be more cost effective.


1. Yes, I’m talking about the Los Angeles Review of Books article on the political history of Digital Humanities. I’ll be back to blog about that when I have time.

2. Yes, I’m still talking about that article on Digital Humanities.