The Schizophrenia of Blogging

Timing. It's all about timing. I'm rattled that some time-cop ripped off an hour of my time early this morning by declaring that clocks be set ahead. What is this nonsense about? I don't work by the clock anyway. Geez.

Timing pervades the way we blog. In fact, blogging suffers from multiple personality disorder induced by timeframe. Some of us think short-term, others think long-term, and most of us do a crappy job of trying to keep a foot in both camps. Is your blog near-sighted or far-sighted?

Some bloggers record current events. Others collect information for reference. The first is like publishing a daily newspaper or keeping a journal. The second is akin to maintaining an online reference book or content management system. The two personalities are at odds with one another.

The Blog as Journal. If my purpose is maintaining snapshots in time of current events as they seemed when I wrote them, I'd never change an item after the date it was written. I agree this is the way the New York Times, the "newspaper of record," should behave.

  • The Blog as Reference Book. If my objective is to provide my current view on a variety of topics, including those I wrote about last year, I'll be going back in to change items that have become dated, to supplement old entries with new insight, and to correct errors when I find them. Otherwise, readers might confuse obsolete opinions that what my current take on things.

    The Blog as Journal


    Putting new items at the top is a great concept. You start with "What's new." This is especially good when blog-reading is episodic. The reverse-chron order makes it easy to catch up. This is the good news.

    A downside is that most blogs scroll off into nowhere. At the end of the front page of the blog, there's a jarring change of format. Instead of continuing to scroll through entries, just tapping the ol' spacebar to see what's next, most blogs leave the reader with no place to go. There's not even an up-arrow labeled "Back to the top." This is analogous to reading a book and, at the end of the first chapter, instead of leading to the second chapter, you are confronted with the Index and have to figure out what comes next.

    The last line on the first page of Internet Time Blog reads "More! Click for Page Two." Page 1 displays the dozen most recent entires, page 2 the next twenty entries, and page 3 the following thirty entries.

    The Blog as Reference


    Unlike the news of the day up top, fundamentals don't change often. You refine these concepts, restate them, and supplement them with examples. They're worthy of revisiting. In fact, they're my personal encyclopedia and I refer back to them frequently when developing new concepts.

    I pigeon-hole this more lasting stuff into twenty topics. Examples are "Time", "How People Learn", and "First Principles." That last one has been evolving for decades. When something new grabs me, I may post it as a comment to the topic. Recently I added a quotation to the First Principles topic:

      "It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism while the wolf remains of a different opinion." -- W.R. Inge

    Every now and again, depending on the volatility of the topic, I harvest the best individual posts and insert them into the topic pages.

    In addition to the topics, I categorize posts along similar lines, e.g. "Blogging", "Books", "Customer Care", "Collaboration", etc.

    So?

    Blogging is an immature form that has yet to evolve very far from its geeky roots. The structure of most blogs accommodates their writers more than their readers. It's time for bloggers to share their goals with their readers. Those golas should inform the way bloggers structure and maintain their blogs.

    I'll show some examples in the continuation below.

    P.S. These are some of my thoughts about public blogs. I'll take up confidential blogs in a subsequent post.

    Here's the home page of Internet Time Group. I moved the Blog into prime position when timeliness started to become more important on the web than permanence. Readership has grown from 300 visitors a day to several thousand. Fresh content attracts interest.

    My home page has three basic sections. Most of the time, the Blog is the only thing I touch; the other parts generate themselves. I often create new entries in wBloggar or EditPad because they're easier to use -- and less likely to crash and vaporize my input.

    The last line on the first few pages invites the read to continue reading.

    Topic pages summarize a score of more lasting reference subjects.

    Some topics rarely change.

    Others, like Articles, change at least once a month.

    As with any Blog, this is a perpetual work in progress.


    Posted by Jay Cross at April 4, 2004 12:32 PM | TrackBack
  • Comments

    Thanks, this has helped crystallise some thoughts - how I might continue blogging without splitting myself up into several different forms work/play/mad/bad/sad, and how to develop blogging organically rather than having to make a preliminary decision as to what kind of blog to plan. Deciding what type of blog seems to be holding people back from trying it out but maybe its a decision which can be postponed.

    Posted by: Shirley at April 5, 2004 04:04 AM

    Jay, have you ever considered using a wiki for the timeless stuff? I know you wrote you wouldn't use a wiki a couple years ago (http://www.internettime.com/blog/archives/000212.html) , but things and people change...

    Posted by: Seb at April 5, 2004 05:08 PM

    Seb, my major concern about using a Wiki is my audience. Wikipedia is cool, but most Wikis I've visited are confusing and sparsely populated. Reading a blog is a leap for some people. Navigating a Wiki can be a deal-breaker.

    Posted by: Jay Cross at April 6, 2004 11:13 AM

    Yes, but not all wikis are like that. See http://www.corante.com/many/archives/2003/09/04/wikis_are_ugly.php for examples of clean, single-author wikis.

    Posted by: Seb Paquet at April 6, 2004 03:49 PM

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