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Taking it to the people

Recently I wrote that I agreed with Jay Cross when he made a plea for people to delete their orphan blogs. These are the blogs that have been supposedly abandoned by their owners; no longer useful or serving any functional purpose. Some may consider them a blight on the landscape.

Originally I thought:

No regular updates = Nothing to read = No reason to attract readers = NOTHING = A dead and useless blog!

Now, I am thinking: “Maybe I was bit hasty in jumping to this conclusion.”

You might well be wondering what made me change my mind …

Marcel came for dinner.

“I think I need to get myself a web site. What do I need to do?” he asked.

He explained that he wanted a web site to document his art and to track a journey he is embarking on.

We suggested he consider establishing a blog instead. It would be so much easier for him to update the site as he travelled around the world. A quick explanation of what a blog is, and a few URLs to have a look at, was all that was needed to get him going.

Marcel went away and the next thing we knew he had his first blog up and running.

In no time at all he could see other potential uses for blogs. There was no stopping him.

Before we knew it he had created another two blogs – each had a specific purpose but neither of these was connected to the traditionally held view of the way you would normally use a blog.

There is the House for Sale blog – in essence, a real estate advertisement. This blog will have a limited life because now that the house has sold it no longer has a purpose for its existence. It is now technically an orphan blog. Should it then be removed?

I’d argue that it shouldn’t. The Internet is an environment that will be an invaluable resource for historians of the future. Vast quantities of data are captured in servers all over the world. They provide a snapshot of what life is like for us at this moment. In the future there will be the equivalent of Internet archeaologists who will be digging around trying to unearth data just as we do now in a physical sense.

Marcel’s House for Sale blog has incredible photos of the house, the land and the views. It provides descriptions of the property, and even floor plans. It details a home in Wellington in 2006. It is nestled in amongst the hills, and we have plenty of them here. The blog contents may well inspire others in their own home renovation or house projects.

Traditionally we might turn to a house and garden type magazine, published by someone else, to get the same kind of inspiration. Yet how often would our homes be featured in such a magazine? Now we can share this information so easily without requiring any input from anyone else.

We tend to keep copies of magazines. We circulate them amongst friends. We can borrow them from our local libraries if we don’t want to buy them. We don’t tend to throw them away – well, not the more expensive glossy ones at least. Sometimes we might cut out or rip out pages that speak to us. We keep a record of what interests us to refer to at a later time.

So it should be with blogs.

The other blog Marcel has created is a particularly special one for me.

I have just created a new blog of a publication by Art Compass a charitable trust I established in 2001 to provide support for talented artists with intellectual disabilities. At the moment I am in the process of closing down the trust as we ran out of funding due to lack of government support. To mark the closing of the wonderful studio and galllery we had and to celebrate the achievements of the artists (participants and staff) we published a book called ‘Beyond Reasonable Doubt‘.

This blog is an example of an instance where becoming an orphan blog is an inevitable outcome the moment the blog is created. Marcel has chosen to use blogging software, not to blog, but to self-publish a book. I know this may not seem the ideal tool to use but when you are looking for the simplest way to make material available to others what better way to do it.

Blogs … accommodate the movement of genuine unrestricted texts straight from writer to reader. Individuals and online communities are trying to challenge some of society’s norms: amongst others, disenfranchised and marginal voices are publishing and forming communities. These texts challenge the traditional frameworks of who speaks to whom, and with what consequences.
Cavanagh, K. (2005). Comments in the Margins: Life narrative, Publishing, credibility, and blogs. Presented to Blogtalk Downunder, Sydney, 19-22 May 2005.

There is an added benefit for my son – he now has a blog space ….

He will never add to it but this record of what he has achieved is there for others to look at either now or in the future – this is his small footprint in cyberspace.

The problem with publishing a book on a blog is that is date driven and therefore it is difficult to present the content in a flowing way. This is a gap out there in the market that hopefully someone will one day find a solution to.

People want to create content and they want to share it with others without having to be a technical guru.

There is another reason why a blog may be abandoned – blog depression! Yes, you did read this correctly.

there is a growing epidemic in the cyberworld. a scourge which causes more suffering with each passing day. as blogging has exploded and, under the stewardship of the veterans, the form has matured more and more bloggers are finding themselves disillusioned, dissatisfied, taking long breaks, and in many cases simply closing up shop. this debilitating scourge ebbs and flows but there is hardly a blogger among us who has not felt it’s dark touch. we’re speaking, of course, about blog depression.

The Nonist has produced a six page pamphlet on blog depression which is meant as a public service to help educate bloggers about the growing problem of blog depression. The entire pamphlet can be downloaded as a pdf for free and you are allowed to share it with anyone we know or love.

Cover page: What everyone should know about blog depression

Page 2: What is blog depression?

Page 3: Blog depression can affect anyone

Page 4: Symptoms of severe blog depression

Page 5: Some action you can take

Page 6: So learn about blog depression

To sum up, I believe orphan blogs have a place in the blogosphere. They may clutter it up. They may seem trivial to us; yet there was a reason they were created no matter how trivial that reason may have been. They form part of the story of life today.

Mark Bernstein has some interesting reflections on this concept which he has chosen to discuss in terms of a cheese sandwich. The cheese sanwich being a metaphor for the ordinary, everyday milieu of life. I strongly suggest taking the time to read the full posts to capture the essence of his thoughts on this subject.

Tuesday 5 April 2005 – Of cheese sandwiches
Why are we eating so much? Why do we write about these cheese sandwiches?
Perhaps because we’re paying attention. We’ve outgrown the sensational thrill-a-minute goldrush of the first net boom. We’ve outstayed the depressing gloom of the aftermath. Now, we’re listening and we’re tasting and we’re thinking.

Saturday 18 February 2006 – More cheese sandwiches
People who want to disparage weblogs like to say that they’re full of dull trivia. “I ate a cheese sandwich.”
Let’s take a look at the craft of the weblog, by looking at the craft of that cheese sandwich. How can the cheese sandwich matter? How can it be interesting?

Wednesday 22 February 2006 – Cheese Sandwiches Again
As I was saying, even the proverbially boring blog post
“I ate a cheese sandwich”
is not really boring if you do it well. And there are lots of ways to do it well …

I strongly believe all of it matters.

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