Has the meaning of “blog post” changed?

Naturally these types of intense periods of blogging attract some discussion about the relevance of the blogging format. As well as the habit forming / repelling nature of writing every day for 28 days.

I enjoyed hearing from Aaron Davis as he shared some ideas about this in his post Sustainable Blogging. It is also good to read through the comments from Kathleen Morris and Bill Ferriter as they contribute some further thoughts.

In his audio post Aaron questions the purpose of blogging everyday and how this might be setting people up for failure.

It depends of what we all count as success I suppose.

I have no expectation that this month will lead to some miraculous daily writing habit. Far from it. I have already been successful as I have been able to share a few blog posts that were half baked ideas or languishing links on my computer.

Davis ponders on whether we should [still] be promoting blogging as a way to connect with an engaged community of thoughtful contributors.

The halcyon days of education blogging has long gone and I think those still running a blog have shifted their expectations. Including me.

I used to enjoy the way ideas I shared on my blog were regularly built upon in the comments and new ideas emerged. It was a great example of asynchronous collaboration. [Take a look at Aaron’s post for a good example that crosses platforms too]

But those types of experiences are just not around anymore and I think my own expectations have shifted accordingly.

I write about my ideas to process them and to help others.

Those two goals have always been there. It is just over the last five years, maybe more, that it has become harder to understand the impact your blog posts have on your audience.

All we are left with is the temporary traces of visits and the fleeting analytics of micro-engagement.

Bill Ferriter raises an interesting aspect about the way that highly polished content and professional writing has narrowed what the community thinks is acceptable, or even what a “blog” is anymore.

 It used to be that quick, transparent reflection that wasn’t perfect was the norm rather than the exception to the rule. Now, the people with the biggest followings — and therefore the biggest influence on our notions of what a blog should look like — are almost universally creating stuff that is beyond even my ability to create.

He continues his train of thought further on his own blog:

Have we gotten to the point where “blogging” no longer means messy reflection in the minds of most people?  Is there now an expectation that blogs have to be filled with content that has been carefully created and “spit-shined?”And if so, does that discourage new bloggers from ever getting started?

I agree with Bill that the sands have shifted beneath us. The definition of the blog post is no longer the same and new contenders for benefiting greatly from running their own education blog, have experienced a very different diet of articles and published content than we did even five years ago. And definitely ten years ago.

I would still say that a blog is primarily a space for a person to process their thinking and do the messy reflection Ferriter suggests.

We might be inundated with the polished self-help style articles that panders to a dependent audience but that doesn’t stop every writer forging their own rationale for creating their own digital space.

It might be harder to define that messy space than before but it is just as important for our education colleagues to have them. I will always advocate for people finding their own path, crafting their own rationale and not to dance to someone else’s tune or writing format.

Photo by Riley McCullough on Unsplash

#28daysofwriting

7 Comments

  1. Hi Stephanie – thanks for sharing that Washington Post article, I agree the parallel is pretty good with the education space. I also think that the education space has become less tolerant of the messiness and the doubt that comes along with it. On reflection I don’t think the root cause is just about how we interact on social media, or dwindling vulnerable publishing in the face of professional content. The perception of online education spaces is they are less tolerant. I think that would put people off.

  2. Hi Bill, Stephanie and Aaron,

    Wow, it’s just like the old days — exploring thoughts in the comments section!

    Funnily enough, I wanted to reply earlier but I was on my phone. And as both Stephanie and Aaron have pointed out, the move to mobile has had some impact on comments. I agree with Stephanie that some platforms aren’t all that mobile friendly but for me the main issue is the keyboard. I don’t like writing anything beyond a few sentences on my phone if I can help it! Anyone else?

    Bill — you’re so right about the marketplace. I definitely agree with your observations there. It reminds me of the NY Times article you no doubt saw last year. It seems like there are a few camps of educators here — the brand ambassadors and the self-promoting edu-bloggers (or those just looking to market their personal brand in some way as you suggest).
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/02/technology/silicon-valley-teachers-tech.html

    Stephanie — I read the Mummy Blogger article with interest. As a mum and a blogger (although not both!) I’ve casually followed quite a few of these ‘identities’. I have always felt uncomfortable about the staged nature of everyday life. Not that I like the overly “real”/negative perspectives either! There can be a “competition” element to who has things the toughest as well. The whole online mummy community is intense. I prefer the education/edtech community. 😉 The comparisons with blogging are interesting though.

    You’re exactly right about closed communities too, Stephanie. Facebook groups seem to be getting bigger than ever. And I can see why. I rarely interact publicly on Facebook but I’m more inclined to in a closed group. This is also the reason why I don’t comment on posts at times. I wonder if I want my thoughts “on the record”!

    Kathleen

  3. Hi Tom
    I think that you are right that there’s less of the ‘gritty type stuff.’ A few days ago, Will Richardson shared an article on how the ‘mommy internet’ has changed from confessional type blogging to staged internet photos (I’ll send you the link that he shared on twitter so I don’t get stuck in the spam filter!)

    I do echo what Bill said that my posts are fewer and more polished since about 2016. Those days of writing vulnerable posts (I’ve got a number in draft) are so hard to push publish in sea of so many educational gurus (real or self-declared). What could I possibly add to the conversation? Also as Bill mentioned, if you’re looking to build up consulting/speaking gigs those tales of failure don’t exactly look good.

    I also think that there are very active closed teacher communities. In New Zealand, there’s a closed Facebook group of nearly 30,000 members just for primary school teachers! Likewise, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube are also around. Taking time to blog when a quick image can say so much than hours of writing a blog post.

    A final problem blogging has is that some hosting organizations haven’t supported the move to creating content or commenting on mobile devices (for instance right now I’m typing on my keyboard but I read your post on my phone).

    Stephanie

  4. Hey Kathleen,

    I’ve seen the same shift that both you and Tom are describing here. My take: The shift occurred because social media created for profit opportunities for educators.

    As people started to capitalize on presence and footprint, they recognized that the quality of the content that they shared had to increase in order to compete with other thinkers who were trying to push their way into the same marketplace. Similarly, as people “blew up,” booking tons and tons of events, they began to see blogs as places to broadcast instead of to network.

    Both of those shifts fundamentally changed the norms around what we do in these spaces. Readers aren’t expecting writers to interact in comment sections anymore because few do. Conversation isn’t the primary purpose for blogging to them. Communication of marketable ideas is. Similarly, readers are expecting content to be highly polished now because it is — people trying to make an impact on the market have recognized that they have to up the slick factor on their content in order to be taken credibly by potential customers.

    The result is blogs and Twitterstreams aren’t really social spaces anymore. They are marketplaces. That changes everything. If our interactions are really transactions, we don’t feel an obligation to interact and build on ideas and say hello and push thinking anymore. We don’t owe that to one another because benefit is coming to both readers and writers in more transactional ways.

    Now, I’m not placing judgment on any of this. I’m glad that educators have found new ways to have influence and to make a living — and I don’t begrudge anyone who has followed that path.

    But in my thinking, it has certainly changed the norms and nature of our social spaces — and that explains the differing patterns of interaction that you are seeing in those spaces.

    Does any of this resonate with you?
    Bill

  5. Thank you Tom for taking the time to respond. I am well aware that blogging has changed and enjoyed your story shared on the [Design and Play podcast](https://designandplay.podbean.com/e/ep-11-interview-with-tom-barrett/).

    There is one point in your post I wish to clarify:

    > Davis ponders on whether we should [still] be promoting blogging as a way to connect with an engaged community of thoughtful contributors.

    I am not questioning the act of blogging or [microblogging](https://readwriterespond.com/2015/03/to-comment-or-not-to-comment-is-that-the-question/). My work associated with the [#IndieWeb](https://readwriterespond.com/tag/indieweb/) surely demonstrates that. Rather, I am concerned about the idea of modelling such an intense pattern of writing as means of introduction for those who maybe uninitiated. Just my opinion I guess.

    The irony of it all is that I love your writing and always get so much out of it, so I guess I should be grateful for #28daysofwriting as well as your [newsletter](https://xyz.us10.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=95979e14f6f3d9d4853b70947&id=e725618c32).

    I am left with a thought, maybe the newsletter not micro engagement that has been the ‘death of blogging’? Anyway, enough for now.

  6. Hi Tom,

    Thanks for this thoughtful post! I have been thinking a lot about how blogging has changed lately.

    Interestingly there has been a clear line in the sand for me.

    I used to write on my teacher blog regularly between 2008-2014. Then I didn’t post for a couple of years while on maternity leave. I got back into it last year and noticed the shift. People rarely comment now, even if they’re reading the post. As you say, it is harder to understand the impact your blog has on your audience!

    I look back at my posts pre-kids and am amazed at how many comments they received. What I loved most about this was the building of ideas etc. What an amazing way to learn and grow! I often found a commenting thread would lead me to build my thoughts in a subsequent blog post.

    Bill’s thoughts are also very interesting too about posts being more polished, complete and professional now.

    I’m curious as to your thoughts on why this shift has occurred. People would naturally say social media, I guess?? Would you agree?

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