Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Tuesday After . . .Thinking about Northern Voice

So much going on in my little life right now that I won't be able to give as much attention as it deserves to the Northern Voice Personal Blogging and Social Media conference I attended this past weekend. In fact, after two intensely engaging and enjoyable days listening to, and participating in, talks, panels, and moderated discussions, I was almost as surprised as my husband when I burst into tears at absolutely nothing on Sunday -- crashed quite dramatically, actually. Lack of sleep, to-do lists deferred, tense muscles causing pain and discomfort. They all caught up.

A (non-professional but much appreciated) massage, a cup of tea, a nap, and some quiet reading time helped make things better, and together we enjoyed having our three daughters and families celebrate Father's Day with us over a feast of sushi. Now we're in Victoria where I'm trying to work in the hotel room while Pater takes a turn at panels and keynotes.

But I need to register a few thoughts raised by Northern Voice, and perhaps I'll have a chance to develop them later. UPDATED TO ADD:  I should begin with a huge Thank You to the organisers of Northern Voice. A volunteer effort (with a magically affordable registration fee) brought together some exciting energy in a very cool venue. I was pleased to have an excuse to check out the SFU/Woodward's complex, to get a sense of how this is contributing to a historically rich but economically/socially challenged neighbourhood. (I'd love to write more about this later.) There were drawbacks with this setting, but for the most part, the tradeoffs were worthwhile. I'd happily come back to the same facility for future events.

 For me, what resonated most were the presentations by Reilly Yeo, Managing Director for Open Media on social media's potential for activism; by Blaine Cook on the need to preserve some "wild"ness in the Internet, keep alive some resistance to commodified efficiency, save room for creative explorations we can't yet imagine; by Georgia Gaden Jones on the emphasis, in the blogging world, on Authenticity and Consistency -- and the way this Authenticity is being harnessed in service of the commercial. Finally, I was entertained and inspired by UBC scientist David Ng speaking on The Fine Art of Crowd-Sourcing.

Together, these presentations reinforced some values and choices for me, elements that I'll be thinking more about over the next few weeks. In contrast with the panel I participated in, on Owning Your Beauty, these talks demonstrated the value of a sustained engagement with a topic in a rigorous manner that can, despite its rigour, entertain, be accessible. Owning Your Beauty broached a worthwhile subject, and for that I thank organiser Tracey Rossignol, but it reaffirmed why I prefer a more expansive space. So much blogging advice cautions against exceeding 500 words -- I can understand this clearly from a marketing perspective, but there are some serious dangers, I'd caution, in trying to contain complex topics within these boundaries.

A parallel concern, for me, is the emphasis on Content Management Software -- a moniker with a distinctly Orwellian tang, no? Much scorn was heaped on Blogger, and while this program's affiliations hardly give it subversive status, I'm a bit leery of the lockstep move to find the right platform (WordPress seems the moment's darling), to owning one's own domain name, to Branding one's Blogging self. What about the individual human brain as Content Management Software? What about attention to the real content about which one blogs?

But I'm in a hotel room, as I said, working, and that was supposed to mean working on the paper I have to deliver next month, not on thinking through my blogging philosophy. So before I get carried away decrying the lack of editing on supposedly professionalised (and decidedly monetised) blogs -- People, apostrophes are for possessives, not plurals, and damnit, the rules around its/it's are not that f**king difficult! -- I'd better get back to work. (meanwhile, though, if you want an example of someone using plain old Blogger for un-monetised, exquisite writing on quotidian, urban, and craft-oriented life, check out my Blogspot Toronto buddy, Kristin).

And while I'm working, you know I want your feedback. Am I making you cranky? boring you? making any sense at all? How much attention do you pay to the format of a blog and how much to the content? and can we separate style from content, or must we remember the wise words of Marshall MacLuhan that the Medium is the Message? (Blaine Cook intriguingly pointed out that we are now at the point at which the Medium is the Medium . . . for creating other media, etc.) Or, to paraphrase-with-a-twist a differently wise woman, Is there a There there?

26 comments:

  1. Fascinating stuff! I can understand how "serious" bloggers don't like the limitations of Blogger, but as a *reader* I really prefer Blogger's straightforward commenting formats which I find less onerous to subscribe to than other platforms. (Which is the primary reason I haven't migrated.) 500 words, really? Those of us who love the writing part of blogging (and the reading what the writers write) would chafe as much as you did at that limitation. Hope you get through all of your projects and commitments without experiencing more stress than is optimal for the creative process!

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  2. Oh, you're so damn smart! Yes! For those of us who really value our community of bloggers, it's hard to beat the easy of commenting I've found on blogger. That's much more important to me than being able to post a number of videos -- not that one use is better than the other, just that it seems it's important to assess what one's Content might be before determining how to Manage it. And there is a slight but very valuable community of those of us who really focus on the written word and on building meaning, collectively, through our exchanges. Thanks for your pertinent insight.

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  3. No you're never boring :). I read blogs for the writing although photos are also nice. Monetising is beyond my scope.

    Sounds like you are terribly busy.

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  4. I prefer to let the Net's stickiness select.

    Did anyone vent about these horrid two-word verifications that I can never get right on the first go?

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    1. No, but those are truly worth venting over, especially with those of us whose vision ages along with the rest of us!

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  5. Very, very interesting. I've decided to do what I want with blogging. It is too easy to get drawn into trying to get products and get noticed by the big dogs and forget why you wanted to blog in the first place.
    The its/it's is probably my biggest pet peeve about writing. That and patton for patent and walla instead of voila. I think I should shut up now!
    I don't want to have to start counting words and deciding what content to leave out just to make it acceptable.
    Have you ever gone to Guru Gossip or Get Off My Internets and seen the horrid things that some people write about bloggers and YouTube Vlogger's? What ever happened to civility and to the concept that if you don't like something don't watch or read it? ARGH!
    Excellent post, mater!

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    1. Sounds as if we're aligned in this, Debbie. Although I find it hard to imagine the "walla" -- to me, that's the first part of an onion's name (Walla Walla!)

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  6. I think with personal blogs one shouldn't have to worry about all that Branding and Format etc. It's only if you aspire to a wider readership, or commercial involvement.

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    1. Even when aspiring to a wider readership, though, I think focusing on the actually writing, the content, would be wiser than on the Medium which organizes and displays the content. Of course, as Duchesse suggests, I don't have to read those and perhaps the Net will select them out.

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  7. About the medium is the message, what worries me is how much more time kids are spending typing instead of developing their signatures through mark-making with crayons or pencils, paint. In Douglas Coupland's book Miss Wyoming people are tracked by their idiosyncratic mistypes. Is that how people will be tracked in the future? Will our Morse code of keyboard taps become our signatures? Will the medium becomes ourselves? Good post. Write away! There are no borders here.

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    1. Have you read Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story? A very-near-future dystopia in which the medium dictates. I do think we should be thinking more about this very rapid change to a different kinetic connection with our media, and about our dependency on a technology that is not as accessible across class as the more basic earlier tools.

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  8. Hi Mater - I read quite a few blogs of the personal style/French style/food persuasion and I must say that for me it's the writing every time (although as Susan said above, photos are nice too). I don't even pay any attention to adverts. I much prefer blogs with a personal voice and am really appreciative of the time and effort that my favourite bloggers put into their creations.
    So, thank you!! P.

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    1. As with Debbie, above, it sounds as if we're on the same page. My favourite bloggers have a strong, interesting voice, and an appealing, if not always polished, style.

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  9. No, you will never be boring; I have given up on countless blogs as they professionalise themselves to the point of the kind of blandness I can find in a magazine. It was the very personal point of view and the quirkiness I enjoyed and yes, the What I Wore-ness of them all that I loved. What I hate is the brand name dropping and the proliferation of flashing ad’s that’s what makes them impossible to read.
    I have to confess that whilst I may have all but stopped posting, I did miss it. I have been somewhat floored by having the paucity of readers flash up as I log on and it made me realise that this just is not a priority. But I really missed our dialogue and a recent revisit to some of my older posts made me realise I get an inordinate amount of pleasure re-reading what has become a diary for me so as I have always maintained I will keep going if not for myself. I will never be a blockbuster blog as I just do not have the time to network via the comments section and yet I do love an exchange of opinion.
    I have been given a reconditioned lap top from Emin for my college project and I have decided to use it to blog from home more often after the whirlwind of college and school finally dissipates this July.
    I must say congratulations on your impending grandchild. Plus I think we photographed the same moorhen’s nest in Amsterdam, how weird is that? And lucky you for another wedding.

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    1. I've missed having the posting-comments-exchanges as well, but we both know that when lives are as busy as yours is right now, something has to give. I'll be curious to see what difference the home laptop makes -- take care it doesn't intrude too much, as mine sometimes does.

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  10. You ask about format and content - and I respond that it depends on the blog. Some need pictures; some don't - most benefit by a couple. I have sometimes been disappointed when I believed that a topic had been insufficiently explored in the interest of keeping the blog entry to a certain length. I love pretty pictures, but one will do me - and your blog doesn't have to have pictures at all for me to read it, since it is your writing and what you have to say that interest me, e.g., "People, apostrophes are for possessives, not plurals, and damnit, the rules around its/it's are not that f**king difficult!" Music to my heart.

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    1. It's true, Marsha, context makes all the difference. There are some bloggers whose content is so sharp that grammar problems are the last thing I think about, negligible. In others, the content is so bland that all I can notice are the egregious spelling, the apostrophes flung about recklessly. And I suppose I resent when topics deserving of serious consideration are exploited as a marketing gimmick, with no intention of giving them the space they need but simply a calculated move to garner clicks by including keywords.

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  11. Boring? Never. Thoughtful and provocative? Yes.
    I'd much rather read a well-written post of more than 500 words than scroll through endless photos with no story behind them.

    Oh, the apostrophes on plurals, and its/it's - I wish sometimes for a red pen on my screen.

    Lots to think about here, again. I subscribe to the philosophy of blogging without obligation. I didn't set out to make money or develop a huge platform via my blog - for me it's been a way to find friends with similar tastes but different lives. For connecting with people beyond my own circle.

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    1. See above re apostrophes! I often ignore grammar/punctuation errors, depending how strong the content is -- but I can't help thinking about the modelling, about my students seeing these errors over and over in the world, validating their own sloppiness.
      And I'm with you on the blogging without obligation!

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  12. I remain solidly in the Blogger camp and do my best to ignore all kinds of blogging advice. I do notice though that readership goes down on posts over 500 words, but actually I like to read ideas that take many words to develop. I tend to print out those posts and read them the old-fashioned way.

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    1. Interesting! I've seen summaries of studies that suggest that reading "the old-fashioned way" results in better comprehension -- we tend to skim online, but we engage more deeply in the presence of the material and the kinetic.

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  13. I read quite a few blogs and I look at quite a few more. The blogs that I enjoy the most tend to have very little monetizing (or none at all), don't shy away from posts that some readers would probably think "wordy" or aren't afraid to post without photos, and whose writers strike me as people that I might want to have a conversation or twelve with in real life. I do look at some professional blogs, but I rarely read the content of those closely. It's rare that I find a blog that provides both nourishing brain candy and eye candy in terms of photos and formating in anywhere close to equal amounts.

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    1. Your criteria are so similar to my own. I wonder if it would take a bigger bloggers' conference to meet others like us, or if they tend to attract those more interested in professionalizing . . . not that there aren't professional blogs with interesting writing, etc. but I don't always get the sense I could be friends with that person IRL. Thanks for weighing in -- I really appreciate your perspective.

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  14. No - never boring.
    I've been doing a lot of thinking about blogging. I'm still not sure where to go with it, but I know that when it no longer amuses me I'll stop writing - cold.
    I don't think I'll ever stop reading, though, as there's too much good stuff out there.

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    1. I hope I'll know to do that when it's time -- I do tend to get locked into pursuits a bit, feel obliged . . . For now, at least, there's so much that's rewarding. And I agree with you on the reading, absolutely, so much good stuff.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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