In online terms, the piece is positively ancient -- already over two weeks old as I begin to compose this item -- but I find that I keep returning to Terry Teachout's Notes on Blogging. There is very little there that someone else hasn’t said before Terry, but he has done a good job of distilling it all into a tall cool palate cleanser of a post. Among other observations, Terry writes:
2. I know very few people over fifty, and scarcely any over sixty, who ‘get’ blogging.* * *
12. Art blogging will never be as popular as war blogging. More people care about politics than the arts.
Arts and culture webloggers, including Terry (whose own 48th birthday was recently observed below and elsewhere), seem to have age on their minds recently. Generalizing shamelessly from my own reading habits, my sense of things is that Terry’s two points are related: those who are headed toward or have passed through age 50 who do “get” and launch weblogs tend to be more interested in reading and writing about arts and culture -- or particular arts, such as poetry -- than about politics. At least, it seems that “older” participants -- I surround that term with scare quotes to remind us that the 50s tend to be much closer to one’s prime than to one’s dotage in contemporary America -- make up a larger percentage of the cultural blogosphere than they do of the political branch. Perhaps we post-45ers should all be flattering ourselves with the hard-won wit, perspicacity and sage demeanor that our weblogs reflect.
And while we are on the subject of self-flattery, can there be any doubt that the activity of weblogging is fundamentally ego-driven -- and not necessarily in a bad way. I have asserted for years, only half joking, the principle that “no one ever went to law school to be humble.” On balance, I suspect there are more humble and self-effacing attorneys than there are humble proprietors of weblogs. However large or small our average readership may be, we all know there is at least one person who loves the sound of our voices: ourselves. Finding that others are interested in hearing from us is an extra treat. The self-devotion that goes with online self-revelation is a subtext of several of Terry’s observations (all emphasis is my own, naturally):
4. The blogosphere is a pure market—but one in which no money changes hands. If you can afford the bandwidth and your ego is strong enough, it doesn’t matter whether anybody wants to read what you have to say. But the more you care about how many people are reading your blog, the more your blogging will be shaped by their approval, whether you get paid or not.* * *
7. The whole point of a blog is that its author controls its content. That’s why no major newspaper will ever be successful at running in-house blogs: the editors won’t allow it. The smart ones will encourage their best writers to blog on their own time—and at their own risk. The dumb ones will refuse to let any of their writers blog, on or off the job.* * *
13. Blogging is inherently undemocratic in one important way: it privileges literacy. Like e-mail, it is dividing the world into two unequal classes: people who feel comfortable expressing themselves through the written word and people who don’t.* * *
15. An impersonal blog is a contradiction in terms.
I recommend Terry’s list in its entirety, if by any chance you haven’t already read it. He goes too far, I think, with the prediction that “blogs will replace op-ed pages” within the decade, but that is my only serious quibble. I particularly like the comparison to “little magazines.” And this reminder:
14. If you want to be noticed, you have to blog every day.
I will try, that I will, if only because it’s what my ego demands.