Wednesday, November 03, 2004
As a user centered design consultant, I am in the business of questioning the purpose of designs and content. I've pondered blogs for a while now, but hesitated to create my own. The question in my mind has always been: is it necessarily? Would it be useful to anyone? To me?
Far too many blogs are exercises in self congratulation: look what I know! Look what I found! I'm part of the insider group! The temptation is enormous. One can blog things with little concern for the negative feedback that might inhibit us from saying these same things face to face. Social inhibition gives way to narcissism. Face it: hardly anyone comments on blog entries. Blogs are broadcasts, not dialogues. Broadcasts without an editorial staff.
That said, there are many interesting blogs, even if they represent a minority of all blogs "published." Blogs enable some interesting minds to reveal their necessarily messy thought processes. To show what random raw material is reaching their eyes and percolating in their minds. Apart from the social dimension of "sharing", blogs succeed in allowing people to externalize, and refine, their thinking. Blogs are certainly a less interactive means of externalizing and sharing ideas than the mythic conversational salons of the past. But blogs provide a means of linking people and ideas that's compatible with the global dispersion and specialization of knowledge and interests.
I hope this blog will allow me to:
-- develop and share ideas;
-- keep friends in the US and UK abreast of what I'm up to now that I've moved to New Zealand;
-- make contact with a few kindred people who might have interest similar to me.
I hope you can gain value as well. Let me know about your blog if you sense it covers similar themes.
Sometimes writing a blog strikes me as similar to standing on a soapbox at Speakers' Corner. You broadcast all this stuff into the ether, and everyone stands around, with the very occasional audience member provoked into responding. But blogs don't have the ease or immediacy of speech; more effort is required than in face-to-face dialogue.
On the other hand, I find that responses are often by email, occasionally in person (or even by mobile phone!), not posted to the blog. Often people want to comment privately. This is a mirror of the blogger's behaviour: a blogger inevitably self edits, as all kinds of things cannot - for all kinds of reasons - be said publicly.
Yes, sometimes it feels like you're talking to yourself. And then sometimes, occasionally, somebody tells you that an item on the blog was really interesting or useful to them, or made them laugh, and you don't feel quite such a waste of space ;-)
For a lot of bloggers I think there's another useful function for blogs: an online repository for all those things you want to hang on to, but would probably lose track of if you didn't blog and link to them.