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What good is a blog anyway?

The other night a friend of mine texted me about a new project of his. A straightedge Jersey boy with a weak spot for hardcore music and video equipment, he recently stumbled into painting. Enlisting friends to disrobe, coat themselves in colored latex Behr paint, and squish themselves against his wall. It looks something like this. Ideally he’d like to take the show on the road, creating some sort of colored corpus collection. His text asked me about blogging to get people involved, namely, was blogging worth it?

I’m often presented with the question Why do you do it? or What good does it do? when it comes time to talk about writing a weblog. (See, sounds more professional as “weblog,” doesn’t it?) And usually I’m able to pull some interesting “reason” out of my rear-end. Because it allows me to put my writing in a public forum. Because it forces me to edit. Because I like attention. Because I am no good at knitting.

The truth is that there are many reasons why people blog, and, to answer my friend, no, they’re not always worth it. Or, rather, they’re not always worth it to read them. There are blogs by assholes, blogs about assholes, and blogs that kinda sorta are assholes…in the good way. [Editor’s Note: I am in love with Fuck You, Penguin.] There are blogs about makeup, blogs about generic snacks, blogs about how idiot hipsters are ruining fixed gears for everyone, and all of this has lead me to one staggering conclusion: There are far too many fucking blogs out there.

And it’s that sort of saturation that makes blogging an increasingly difficult way to do anything other than talk about yourself. Or whatever it is you want to talk about. Which, for a lot of people, is celebrity, sex, or celebrities having sex.

That said, if you have a decent intellectual property slant, or a decent enough service to offer (ahem), you stand a chance to generate some buzz. Not all endeavors have to include the promise of regular updates, either. Most of us, myself included, read blogs to be entertained. We sift through the enormous pool of the internet to find the gold that we treasure, none of it universal. For example, Simon reads The Lone Gunman every day, while I’m more of a Gawker girl. These are just blogs that we’ve each found on our own, to suit our tastes. For example, I don’t read Fleshbot to find out where to go for BDSM instructional seminars, or to find out what online adult superstore is having a sale. I go ’cause I enjoy the writing, and I find it fun and funny and totally not safe for a conventional office. (Take note.) If I want to find out cool goings on or how to spend the money I will one day have, I would look at blogs like …and the strangest things seem, suddenly routine, but that’s only because it’s the blog associated with a business I admire. So take it from where it comes. If there’s any sort of curiosity about what you enjoy sharing with the world, people will read. If the manner with which you present yourself is fresh and articulate — or, in my case, crass, rude, and sort of hokey — then people will subscribe. But as for electronically pressing the flesh, blogs can be pretty hit or miss. I think about corporate blogs and I’m a little perplexed; how are they any different from news updates? Why use the word blog? I’m sorry, but the last thing I’d want is for a potential client to click on my page and see a button for something associated with a Paris Hilton nip-slip. Of course, some corporate blogs are awesome, I’m just saying that in such a massively glutted blogosphere (hate that word) we’re all victims of guilt by association. Except for Jason Kottke. Because he is the Moses of bloggers.

When it comes to self-promotion, blogs can be a great tool, at least theoretically. But there are really only two approaches that can garner adequate attention for content-driven blogs. The first is those that are discovered by people looking for what you’re doing/selling/giving information about. For my New Jersey pal, that would mean people Google searching for “naked people painted” or “nudie mural” or something. If he used a forum such as WordPress, he’d be able to tag his posts and then attract people that way. (In my case I think that people only find this blog when they search for Maynard James Keenan of Tool or how to eat a can of beans as a meal.) The other approach to self-promoting blogs are those where a person is already established in some way. In Malcom Gladwell’s world I think this is called being “sticky,” but maybe I’m mixing up my Tipping Point with my porn. My friend is a fairly well-known slam poet, which means that if he linked his blog to his poetry-related site, he’d have higher traffic. If people were fans of his poetry already, or just friends of his, they’re already interested. If the blog about giving a few coats to his friends without coats was good enough, well then sure, he’d have promoted himself successfully.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Twitter is perhaps the most effective means of getting word out about what you’re doing and where. Blogs allow for a little too much space. Oddly enough, the freedom that the medium affords can often lead to glut. So while I might not have any concrete “yes” or “no” to whether or not blogging is worth it for getting word out about an upstart punk rock art project, I can say that it’s worth a shot, may it be in under 140 characters, onTumblr, or on his very own WordPress platform. But I leave him — and y’all — with some advice:

Ainsley Drew’s Rules Of Blogging

  • Don’t blog to sell anything other than ideas, and be willing to give them away. QWERTY conquistadors of cloying sales pitches, self-aggrandizing product pushers, and Twitter spammers this means you. We can smell it from a mile away. Remember that this is the Internet, not everyone here is looking to capitalize on a free market. Some of us just want to watch performance pieces about bad relationships.

  • Don’t do it if you hate doing it because it shows.

  • Don’t do it strictly “for yourself” because one day somebody will find it, read it, and judge you for it. I had a blog once that categorized the fights I was having with my significant other. It was a very, very bad idea. Which leads me to number three…

  • Do not overshare. You will know what it is when you’re doing it. If you think, “Oh, man, will someone ask me about that tomorrow?” or “Oh, man, I hope someone asks me about that tomorrow!” you probably shouldn’t put it in. This also goes for posting anything that anyone you enjoy seeing naked might find offensive.

  • Learn from it.

  • Shorter is better. (Okay, okay, do as I say, not as I do, all right?)

  • Post often. The one thing that can make me go back a page faster than a single click is an outdated blog. If you can’t keep it up, delete it. If you don’t want to delete it, just put a post saying the blog is dead, but read it for whatever reason.

Of course, take this from where it comes. I started this blog nearly a year ago when I lost my job. It was a means for me to publicly whine about getting canned from a company I didn’t even really enjoy working for. It became a way to document going professional, stumbling through networking, getting involved in projects that astound me, and being deeply in love. (Also, it’s become a way for me to give Oklahoma some much-needed good press.) But I never got a new desk job out of it. Only donations, gigs, and incredible email from strangers. So start a blog, see what you can do, but be ready for the return to be far different than you imagine. You might just find that you’re promoting something bigger than yourself.

I am really incapable of knitting

If you’d like to become a part of the painted people masterpiece, aka Get Naked For Art, or if you just have questions about it, contact Chad Anderson.

I love mail. AinsleyDrew at gmail dot calm. Thank you to those of you who donate. Right now I can’t tell you how much it means to me, but one day I hope to hug you hard and show you.

Hire us to write your website, wedding vows, press release, brochure, business cards, the writing on the wall, etc.

If you’re a blogaholic, or just like the way your face feels when you smile, read Shows I Missed. In the interest of full disclosure, the author has sex with me, so I’m a little biased.


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