5 Reasons I’ll Read Your Blog (And Why I Might Not)

It feels so unoriginal starting a blog in 2011. Ten years ago maybe. Or even five. But now? It’s like moving to Tokyo and expecting to be noticed. And it’s made me think a lot about what draws me to blogs and bloggers. What keeps me coming back more than that one time. I mean, of course it’s the subject matter. You’ve got to have a focus and purpose and all that. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? So I've made a list of the top five things my bookmarked blogs have in common. Let me know if I’ve missed something.

1. Tips and advice I can use, like, right now. That means practical, solid and easily implementable. If you haven’t tried it, or talked to people who have, you probably shouldn't be telling me to do it.

2. Brevity. In journalism, one of the most common writing problems is the tendency to take four paragraphs to say what can be said in half a sentence. We writers really do love to hear ourselves write. Unfortunately, we readers are an impatient lot. Write short.

3. Funny Shit. It doesn’t matter what sort of blog you’re writing, I’m just more likely to return if you’ve got a sense of humor and know how to use it. But please don’t force it, either. Nothing makes me want to stab myself in the eye more than watching someone try too hard to make me LOL.

4. Regularity. Dude, I’m not a mind-reader. I can’t magically tell that you’ve updated your blog. If you stop writing for a few weeks, I might assume you’re dead. (And if you've failed at No. 3, I might not care.)

5. A limited amount of what I like to call The Me-Me-Me-MeMeMeMeMeMeMe! Phenomenon. Just because you figured out how to blog doesn’t mean you’re all that fascinating. On the other hand, if you’re too impersonal, I won’t care about you. And I get it: Sometimes it’s hard to see the line between the right amount of Me-Me-Me-MeMeMeMeMeMeMe and too much. I definitely don't expect perfection on this one. But do aim in the right direction, yeah? If you use the bathroom before me and piss everywhere but inside the toilet, I’m going to know you're not trying and make a quick exit. But if you’re the 8-year-old boy at the birthday party who does his best to hit the mark – then OK. I’ll wipe down the lid and go about my business. Heck, I might even spare you the stink eye when I see you in the bounce house later.

[Only time will tell whether I'm able to take my own advice. But I do hope you'll hold me to it — or at least try. It's the only way I stand a chance of making friends here in Tokyo.]

Relax, It's Just a Blog

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When I entered journalism school 20 years ago, the Internet was still the new kid on the block. Getting around “online” was confusing at best. I still remember looking at Lexus/Nexus on a classroom computer and entering the name “Steven Speilberg.” In an instant, all of Speilberg’s films popped up on the screen, along with a whole bunch of other information I was sure the public ought not  be seeing — like his home address and phone number. “Holy Shit!” I thought. “I can’t believe this exists.”

But though the Internet loomed large on campus as the future of information gathering, it was making only a small dent in my own education. All my professors were crusty, loveable old men who had spent their careers with rotary-dial telephones pinned to their ears. In their day, history was recorded in archive rooms, where newspaper clippings were meticulously labeled and retrieved by hand. Theirs was the Woodward-and-Bernstein era of journalism. Pull the clip; make the call; hit the pavement: those were your options. The Internet just didn’t figure into things.

Over the next 10 years, that all changed. We got computers, e-mail addresses. We began exploring the Web, finding out what it could do and where it could take us. The Holy Shit factor subsided. Today, like everybody else, I get irritated when I can’t find some piece of information on my first Google search. I get impatient when a video takes more than a second to load. I read books on my iPad. I use Twitter.

But while I’ve evolved in how I want to retrieve my information, I’ve had a hard time evolving when it comes to how I want to dispense it. I still struggle with the idea of blogging. I have that old-school instinct to hold back information from readers, show it to editors, revise and revise and revise before finally — FINALLY — sending it to the printing press. The idea of putting stuff out there instantly and then finding out I over-simplified it, or made an assumption, or got something flat-out wrong because a crusty old editor wasn't there to put me straight — well, it's enough to upset my nervous system something fierce.

And yet, despite all that, here I am. And there you are.

I do hope  I'm able to keep up. I hope that I can synthesize my thoughts briefly, quickly, and accurately — and make do without the oversight to which I've become so comfortably accustomed. It will be a challenge, but maybe you will turn out to be a forgiving sort.

Maybe I will, too.