The great Chris Lott (most recently of Katexic fame) shared a post with me titled “Small b blogging” by Tom Critchlow that had some pretty salient points about why you should blog. I’m gonna share a few below that resonated—but I highly recommend you read the entire post. He starts with the example of a couple of posts he wrote that had over 2000 and 1000 views respectively, which struck me cause I was like, “Really? That’s nothing.” And that was the point, it only seems like nothing because we have become enthralled by sheer numbers and scale and volume has become the only thing truly valued by networks like YouTube (“How many subscribers? How many views?”), Twitter (“How many followers?”), and Facebook/Instagram (“How many likes?”). It’s a race to the bottom. Critchlow defines his idea of small b blogging as a network designed on and for a personal scale:
Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network. Small b blogging is writing content designed for small deliberate audiences and showing it to them. Small b blogging is deliberately chasing interesting ideas over pageviews and scale. An attempt at genuine connection vs the gloss and polish and mass market of most “content marketing”.
It’s interesting, and Critchlow nails my contempt for Medium and other “blog networks” when he explains the allure behind what he frames as big B blogging:
….much of what you read on the web is written for large audiences. Too much content on the web is designed for scale, for sharing, for gloss and finish. It’s mass media, whether it’s made by a media company or an individual acting like one. So when people think of blogging their natural reference point is create something that looks like the mass media they’re consuming. Content designed for pageviews and scale.
This is why it’s appealing to people writing on the web to get it in a prestigious publication, or place it somewhere with an in-built audience. i.e. Medium, Inc, Entrepreneur, Fast Company etc.
And for me that is the kicker, most folks treat their blog as if it were some kind of glossy headshot of their thinking, whereas the beauty and freedom of blogging was that it was by design a networked tool. Blogging provides a space to develop an online voice, connect with a particular network, and build a sense of identity online in conjunction with others working through a similar process. Scale in many ways became a distraction, one which was magnified to such a degree by the hype around MOOCs in edtech that anything less that 10s of thousands of “users,” “learners,” “participants,” followers,” etc. was tacitly considered somehow less than optimal for effective online learning. It was, and remains, a symptom of the capital-driven ethos of Silicon Valley that places all value on scale and numbers which is rooted in monetization—a reality that has infected edtech and helped to undermine the value and importance of forging an independent voice and intimate connections through what should be an independent media of expression. When scale is the endgame the whole process becomes bogged down in page views, followers, and likes rather than the freedom to explore and experiment with your ideas online. It’s a uniquely web-based version of Hell where the dominant form of communication online is a Medium think piece written by your friendly neighborhood thought leader.
In some ways Critchlow’s piece highlights the real value of the “back to the blog” moment that seems to be discussed here and there by folks. It provides an opportunity to re-direct some of the energy invested in the massive scale platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Medium, etc. and re-invest that labor on a personal scale. Because, in the end, small b blogging is as much about launching a full frontal assault on the armies of annoying thought leaders gentrifying the blogosphere as it is about self-expression, experimentation and deep connections. bavatuesdays is a “b” blog, after all 🙂
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This is a useful reflection on blogging and the distraction of scale Jim. To me, this relates to Bill Ferriter’s point about audience. Lately, I have stopped sharing everything everywhere POSSE style and really returned to writing stuff on my blog.
Yeah, it’s funny cause it seems obvious, but what I have found is the shift towards the polish and gloss has been subtler than one would think. I starts with folks using fancy WordPress themes, or featured images, and soon enough their posting a 10 point treatise self-help treatise on workflows and efficiency. It’s a slippery slop, and they only really way to resist this is to stick with the TwentyTwelve theme and bog like its your job.
What am I doing, Aaron? I freaking blogging!!!! 🙂
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention it’s got to be fun, the web is a serious place right now, and that can bore me quickly.
There’s nothing more traditional than blogging about blogging; I try every which way I can conjure to folks just starting out that they really should be writing for themselves first (I assume the thought is “why should I do it?”).
I try referring to Cory Doctorow’s My Blog My Outboard Brain written in the Cambrian blog era of 2002, miraculously still available at the URL it was published. I talk about that through my blog (and also through my flickr pics) I can tell you what I was thinking about, working on, where I was in the world on almost any date back to 2002. I can demonstrate my failed ideas, the arc of my writing.
But mostly, I can say without any doubt that the process if blogging helps my thinking. Again and again. It’s for me, and maybe a small circle of folks like Aaron and Jim who not only read but comment.
Big audiences are for those who need some emptiness of ego filled. I’m in it for the small things. Yet Critchlow has a point, there are secondary positive payback effects (like all projects, speaking gigs, etc I have gotten) that can and do happen, but not as a direct output of blogging, but as unexpected secondary ones.
Long live the small “b”– that’s why I post with glaring errors and typos.
For the last of the Bloghicans there is no “back to blogging” cause we never left.
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Hey thanks so much for sharing my piece! Long live blogging! 🙂
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