I bought pMachine and Radio Userland blogging tools more than a decade ago, signed up for some other free tools, and I dove in. There was lots to see and do in the blogosphere among people who were interested in the things I cared about. After a while--not right away, certainly--I was trading posts and comments with people from all over North America and sometimes even the world, on my particular topics. The herself-quite-distinguished spouse of a male presidential candidate commented on my site once. A few of the most notable bloggers on my topic area did too. It was exciting and interesting to tune in every day. I learned a lot, and maybe I gave back some value to others sometimes too--hope so.#

It was time-consuming some days, and occasionally life intruded, but I wrote many hundreds of posts. I also did a huge amount of work writing on an experimental blog site about politics run out of our university. Eventually I ran out of steam there, but the site went on for a few years. We even got some of our posts broadcast on the regional NPR station.#

I still write fairly often, but usually in streaks. I have enough experience as a blogger to be ready with an opinion. One person's opinion. What interests me today is the question of boredom. From time to time writers have asked whether blogging simply became boring. Interesting conversations follow in the comments when they do. Oddly, even though people say thoughtful things in those responses, it's the question itself that I stay with. Was I bored?#

My gut reaction is: No. #

Continuing to ignore other people's thoughts for a bit, I monitor my own reaction to the question. I have sometimes stopped blogging--why? If it's not boredom, what is it?#

Part of it has to do with something everybody noticed about blogging way back when. If you cared about what you were doing, then part of the time you wrote good stuff, and it might stir up a conversation for a few days, but then it disappeared down the timeline. It fell off the screen into the archive, perhaps never to be read or linked to again.#

That's not good enough, sometimes. If some of the writing is worthwhile, it needs to remain visible in one form or another. Maybe a bit of code can hook the most talked about pieces and keep them in view. Maybe the writer needs to pulls things out by hand and revise posts into pieces or pieces into chapters or something. But most software doesn't and most writers don't manage it, and the good thinking and writing essentially vanishes. Neither the machine nor the individual has got the chops for keeping the good stuff visible on the site or anywhere or for shaping it into something else. That's not good enough.#

Another part of it (still just paying attention to my gut reactions) is that when good ideas bubble up in posts and stir up a conversation, and a little freewill community emerges, well, the talk about the idea can't be sustained. When people join in, they usually manage it only for a few days, and then they disperse, and so ideas don't have staying power, usually. They seem to propagate out into the world, but they evaporate almost immediately in most cases, and we don't know what to do about it. We webby lovers of temporary affiliation don't have the skills to work on ideas together over the long haul. That's not good enough.#

Another part of it (still according to my narrow experience and my personal concerns) is that a lot of what makes a difference in the world is shaped or held close by institutions that bloggers only gaze at from afar. These institutions--like city government, like school boards, like the state legislature--have their routines down and they don't need to pay much attention to streams of electrons slipping down the wire from my house. They respond to other kinds of webs--groups of people, stacks of dollars, sustained series of public events. We electron-pushers don't usually have these sustaining social-web world-event skills in place either. That's not good enough.#

So we write good stuff sometimes and it evaporates even from our personal publishing page. We spark a conversation sometimes about an idea but it still evaporates after a few days across the electron field. We might even get people to sign a petition or show up for a protest or call the mayor but the idea that sparked a little action doesn't spark the building of a social group with skills and attitude and staying power. That's not good enough.#

So these blogging tools are one of the most beautiful breakthroughs in publishing we could hope for, and some of them keep getting better. Is blogging boring now? No, not at all, not as I see it. The problem with blogging is that it's not good enough yet. We're not good enough yet either. The tools, the practices, the social expressions that should follow. What we have is astonishing. What we need must be more astonishing. We really need it. Joyful creativity and sharing needs it. Democracy needs it. Starving people without resources need it. Old half-caved-in rust-belt towns like South Bend need it.#

Well, that's one blogger's reaction to the question, anyway. (@KenSmith)#

© 2015 Ken Smith.
Last update: Mon, Jan 12, 2015 at 9:21 PM.
When in doubt, blog.