Thursday 13 August 2009

On abandoning my blog

Okay, maybe I took my point a little too far yesterday announcing that I will abandon this blog - which I won't.

But just to clarify the issue: The idea of leaving the blog is not something that was born yesterday, the statement was just triggered by the small but quite important debate on the design of this blog, including the short discussion between Stephen and Nosemonkey that preceded Jon's statement on my design.

So I didn't have a bad day, or week, or whatever, I just felt it was right. Maybe it's not.

In fact, I don't like the idea of becoming more "important" (even in the most minor sense of the word) - more read, more recognised, more anything - by blogging, or better: By being a blogger. And I realise that in some ways this is the case. I don't like the idea that single persons, not elected by anyone, should be able to get too much influence.

The question is when you reach this point of too much. For me the point of "too much" is reached when people want more from me because they consider I either have the interest or the duty to do something else than what I do now.

You will have noticed that there is no photo or specific private information of me on my blog. Despite some privacy concerns and some other reasons, this has also been a possibility to limit the "importance" that this blogger has. The less people know of me, the more difficult it is to raise attention by creating a story that is not based on what I write. I don't blog out of interest for myself, I blog because I am interested in others.

And altogether, I am just a simple citizen, like almost 500 million others in the EU. You somehow get used to be part of a certain elite, but I have never liked this idea.

Thinking about pimping my blog means thinking about raising my importance beyond the mere text that I write as this citizen. Trying to get higher, shining brighter and nicer.

Yet, the text is the only thing I am really interested in. It is my only real contribution as a blogger, as a blogging citizen.

So every time I realise that my presence as a blogger raises demands or unshared expections - about my person, my style - I have doubts whether I should continue becoming something I am not aiming for, and yesterday was another of these moments that brought me until the statement I made.

You may understand this, or not.


Nosemonkey said...

Sounds like pretty much the right attitude to me. Most people blog because they enjoy it - and so there's no right or wrong way to set about blogging, per se, beyond the enjoyment of the individual blogger.

If other people like your stuff, great. If not, then as long as you enjoy the process of researching and writing posts, who cares?

Becoming a popular blogger can have major downsides. It happened to me for a while a few years back after my liveblog of the July 2005 terror attacks (and their aftermath) in London. My readership shot up ridiculously, mostly with people wanting to read about terrorism.

For a couple of months, I felt obliged to keep writing about terrorism to keep these new readers happy. But it was a hugely frustrating experience - lots of heated comments, a smattering of racist ignorance, and various personal attacks (even though at the time I was still pretty much anonymous, hiding behind the Nosemonkey pseudonym).

Fed up, I stopped blogging for a few weeks, and when I came back returned to writing about the things I wanted to write about. I lost c.2-3,000 readers a day, but was instantly far happier.

Any kind of online reputation for being an interesting read (as you've certainly picked up over the last year) will naturally lead to people wanting to know your opinions on all kinds of issues. (If you're insightful on issue x, there's a good chance that you'll have interesting things to say on related issue y, after all.) But unless you're one of those bloggers trying to get advertising revenue, commercial concerns don't matter. As such, giving your readers what they want also doesn't matter - unless you get a warm glow from the fleeting praise.

Like you, I've been finding EU affairs increasingly tedious and frustrating in recent months - hence the decline in my output and the likely switch towards a more historical focus. I'm trying to find something I'm interested in writing about again, something that I can enjoy. Because without enjoyment, blogging is pointless.

After all, even collectively we're unlikely to have any impact on policy debates any time soon (and like you, though for different reasons, I'm not sure that we should - EU-focussed bloggers are by definition not representative of the wider European citizenry, because we're actively interested in and engaged with the EU, where the vast majority of EU citizens simply don't care).

Blogging is not political activism, it's a larger-scale pub discussion where the bloggers are the louder, more opinionated bores leading the conversation. It may change a few minds or spark a few new ideas in the pub, but the man and woman outside on the street couldn't care less.

Blogging can, like pub conversations, still be fun to be a part of - we just need to maintain a sense of perspective. Every Euroblog combined still pulls in considerably less than the readership of just one of the big American political blogs - yet the EU's population is half as big again as that of the USA. We're tiny, tiny fish in a very big pond.

Joe Litobarski said...

Hi, Julien

I understand what you mean. I'm taking the absolute opposite direction, (perhaps foolishly). Maybe I was trying to push you in that direction as well, not really understanding this is not what you want.

I apologise for if I caused any offence. I would much, much rather you keep writing on your current blog than give up blogging altogether.

I will, however, be making a very loud, public and noisy arse of myself. I've been listening to what you and others (including Nosemonkey) have been saying about EU politics, and that's why I'm changing my focus.

I also have the problem of not wanting to write about a tedious subject. So, rather than give up on EU politics, I'm going to take a broader look at the EU. Not just as a political thing, but also as a cultural and historical... thing. A bit like Nosemonkey, then.

Would be interested to hear your thoughts!

Andreas said...

Funnily enough, I have wondered numerous times who you are. Not because I want to invade your privacy, I couldn't care less. But because you are writing not only as just a citizen - you have an approach that I would probably dare to categorise as citizen journalism.

Together with others, your writing has an important role, and fulfils an important function as a public lense on some European and EU developments.

Because that is so, I find it essential - if nothing else then to contextualise what I am reading - to be able to place a person's writing in their institutional and organisational context.

Some key questions connected to this probably are, for me in any case: Where do you get the information from? Why are you writing as you do? What is your interest and how does it affect your writing?

Finally, when you say "the less people know of me, the more difficult it is to raise attention by creating a story that is not based on what I write", I beg to differ. I have written anonymously before, and the amount of stories people invented to discredit some of the criticism put forward was totally amazing. This still happens today, but at least people can actually find out about me, why I am blogging, what my organisational connections are etc.

nj said...

Myself, I've always blogged for an audience, particularly because I appreciate the reactions. Thinking about presentation is part of that. But the main thing in that area is usability and readability, I think. Twitter and google themselves have very simple interfaces.

Anyway, I'm hardly qualified to make a statement here because the European Tribune is probably the second most boringly designed blog...

This is your own blog, though, so you can do whatever you feel like - a wide range of irregularity exists between blogging daily and abandoning your blog. Still, I hope you keep on blogging regularly.