Monday, January 04, 2016

Creating, announcing, and cheating

All bloggers do something or other that other bloggers probably don’t approve of. Whether readers care or not is another matter (often, they don’t). But the line between simple content and filler—a cheat?—is pretty fine and, I think, largely imaginary.

Personal blogs, like this one, are very different from blogs that exist to sell something—a product, service, an author, etc. Blogs selling things need to have a constant flow of relevant content pointing toward their objective: Sales. Personal bloggers, on the other hand, merely need to have something to say.

Last year, I wrote about my podcast’s eighth anniversary and said that I planned to I resume posting announcements of new podcast episodes. It came about as part of a sort of evolutionary process: I realised that this blog, my podcast and my YouTube videos are basically different ways to do same thing: Tell the stories I wanted to tell.

It had been five years since I’d last posted a podcast announcement, and I’m still not certain why I stopped (or why it took me that long to notice!), but I think I may have an inkling of why I did that: I think that back then I thought it was “cheating” to post those announcements, that I should only publish blog posts that were new content unrelated to anything else I did, including any non-blog content I created.

To be honest, I think that’s really silly. Most blog readers may not care about a podcast episode, but some might. Similarly, not all podcast listeners would care about one of my blog posts, but I put links to relevant posts in podcast shownotes all the same, and for the same reason: Someone might be interested. It’s too early to be sure, but I bet it’s the same for my YouTube videos: Some viewers may be interested in my other content, but most probably won’t be. That’s fine—but why should I make that decision for them?

I came to realise that I spend a lot of time and effort on all this various content I produce, and I’ve never been paid for any of it (and have never sought to be). So, since “consumption” of what I create is the main reward I get, it's silly not to make that content as widely known and available as I can.

That’s why I resumed posting announcements of my podcasts. So far, I’ve shared my YouTube videos the same way I would anyone else’s: In a post with further commentary. As long as I have something to say about a video, I’ll share them here in that way, and if not, they’ll also get an announcement.

What all this means is that while I once saw announcing new podcast episodes as a “cheat”, and not “real” content, I now see it VERY differently: It’s sharing everything I produce, all the content, and letting people decide for themselves whether they’re interested or not.

Related to that and this very post, there was a time that I also thought that talking about the process of blogging—what I personally do, why I do what I do, etc.—was another kind of cheat, and way too “meta” for most readers to care about. I was wrong about that, too.

Most bloggers read other blogs, and we learn from others in various ways. Sometimes that means, um, borrowing things from other bloggers, but a lot of the time it means learning to do what we do better. I’ve learned so much from other bloggers that it seems rude, to say the least, not to share what I do and why; I can never know who might find something of value in my experience, just as I have in the experiences of others.

I’m no longer even sure there’s really such a thing as “cheating” for personal bloggers. If a blogger publishes or shares things that are relevant to the overall theme of the blog, then can anything really be a “cheat”?

Of course, I have a good reason to take this stance: I have a goal of an annual average of one blog post per day, so I have an incentive to defend filler as content. Maybe that’s all it is—defensiveness. But if the posts I mentioned—announcements and ones like this—don’t count as “real”, what does? If “real” posts are only those where I sat down and composed every word without ever using a video, meme/graphic, Tweet, Facebook update, or whatever, as a starting point, then most of this blog is made up of cheats. Obviously I reject that.

Personal blogs are a reflection of the bloggers who create them—what interests them, what they’re passionate about, what they find entertaining. Readers decide for themselves whether there’s value in any of that.

Who am I to argue with readers?

This post was inspired by a comment that Roger Green left on my most recent announcement post, that for the latest 2Political Podcast episode;(link goes to the comment).

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