Over on Eileen Flanagan’s Imperfect Serenity, there’s an interesting post on blog publicity, “Blogging dilemmas,” inspired in part by Robin M”‘s recent “How did you get here?” post. Both bring up interesting questions about the role of blogs in community building and the location of that line that separates good blogging from mere self-promotion and pandering.
Readers will probably be unsurprised to learn that I use Technorati, Google Blog Search, etc., every day to keep track of the Quaker blogosphere. I act as a kind of community organizer and my searches are for interesting posts talking about Quakers (until reading Eileen’s post I hadn’t check my Technorati “rank” in months). Many people’s first introduction to QuakerQuaker.org is getting linked from it, and I suspect I’ve accidentally outed a few beginning bloggers who hadn’t told anyone of their new blog!
I have a professional blog on web design and analytics (with a somewhat off-topic but satisfying post on top at the moment) and separating that out has allowed me to use this personal blog, QuakerRanter, for whatever I like. Most regularly readers would say it focuses on Quakerism and cute kid pictures and while those are the most common posts, the most read posts are the minor fascinations I indulge myself with occasionally. Quaker plain dress is something I practice but don’t think about most of the time (806 readers in past month). My wife and I love to bust on bad baby names and unfairly unpopular baby names (627 visits). I’ve also detailed some outings to semi-legendary South Jersey haunts (317) and score high on searches to them.
The conventional wisdom of the blog-as-publicity tool crowd would probably say these off-topic posts are distracting my core audience. Perhaps, but they’re infrequent on the blog and long-lived on Google. Besides, I think it helps people to know I’m not just obsessed with one topic. Being a part of a real community means knowing each other in all of our quirks. I’m more tender and forgiving of other Quaker bloggers when I know more of their story: it puts what they say into a context that makes it sound more lived, less ideological. There’s certainly good reasons for tightly-focused professional blogs (I’d drop Techcrunch from my blogroll if they started posting kids pictures!), but as more people read posts through feeds and aggregators I wonder if there’s going to be as much pressure for personal, community-oriented blogs to be as single-minded in their focus.
We all have diverse, quirky interests so why not indulge them? I have seen blogs that try too hard to pander to particular audiences and boy, are they boring! A certain degree of idiosyncrasy and subjective orneriness is probably essential. Personality is at least as important as focus.
PS: I’m also interested in making sure I don’t loose the core audience with all my side trips, hence the “latest Quaker posts” at the top of the page. I have at least one request for a Quaker-only RSS feed and will eventually get that going.
PPS: As if on queue, the next post in Google Reader after Eileen’s is Avinish Kaushik’s Blog Metrics: Six recommendations for measuring your success. Parts of it are probably a bit technical for most QR readers but it’s useful for thinking about blogs as outreach.