why we blog

FalkOne of the charming things about blogging is that most of us are still waiting to find what it is we’re doing. 

The motive is clear, nicely captured by Kevin Kelly.

The electricity of participation nudges ordinary folks to invest huge hunks of energy and time into making free encyclopedias, creating public tutorials for changing a flat tire, or cataloging the votes in the Senate. More and more of the Web runs in this mode. One study found that only 40 percent of the Web is commercial. The rest runs on duty or passion.

But what, exactly, are we accomplishing with all this duty and passion?

I have a couple of suggestions, each of which I intend to dress up as “model” on the grounds that this will make it sound more authoritative and plausible.

1. The bubbler model

Here in Connecticut, in the winter, people put bubblers around their boats to keep them from becoming part of the ice flow in the sound. And I like to think blogging is a kind of bubbling that prevents any topic fixing itself in public discourse. Blogging is for thinking and rethinking and provoking that “on the other hand” reaction.  Indeed, in this red state/blue state era, were it not for the bubbling of the blogs we would all have found ourselves committed to an ice age of ideological extremism long ago.  This is incidentally a true public service and it must be driven by duty or passion because no one is going to get a red cent of compensation otherwise.

2. The infill model

I think bloggers now take up locations two places on the idea continuum.  First, we stand between the newspaper journalist and the magazine journalist.  Second, we stand between the magazine journalist and the academic writer.  In both cases, we are more contemplative than the former and much faster off the mark than the latter.  I think this participation must mean that the intellectual division of labor has become more rich, more various and more speedy, but that remains to be seen.  As to compensation, once more only the lucky few are making a livelihood here.

3. the terraforming model

If I may now quote myself from an early post.

Blogs are experiments. Each of them says, in effect, what happens to this way of thinking if we apply it to a variety of topics for an extended period? Do the ideas flourish or wither? Do they evolve or merely repeat? Do they scale up in their complexity, or, forgive me, bog down.

If things go well, I guess, blogs go off like an alpine ecosystem: tiny flora make a platform for minor flora which make a platform for major flora. Pretty soon, there’s a forest on a slope.

Actually, in the best case, blogs terra form. By steadily converting ambient resources, own and others, they create a sustainable intellectual space where none before was possible. They make their own worlds, and so prove the possibility of these worlds. They “discover” worlds by creating them.

This is where we do get paid, assuming that the experiment actually pays off.  Nothing that will sustain us body and soul, of course, but the life of the mind may flourish. 

4. the Peter DeLorenzo or audition model

All praise to this guy Peter. BusinessWeek tells us that his blog entries at Autoextremist.com   sometimes win him consulting contracts with the Detroit executives he dares to criticize. And this is a splendid model. Driven by passion and duty, and our alpine meadow motives, we blog everyday.  And occasionally, one of our readers says, “that was interesting.  Come in and say more like that.” We make a little money.  We have a chance to see our ideas work in the world.  We come home and reinsert our head in the clouds. 

Naturally, we have a formidable marketing job ahead of us. Peter has the attention of Detroit executives.  I am betting most of us do not get a reading by the senior marketing executives who could engage us in this capacity. Hmmm.   


Kelly, Kevin. 2005. We are the Web.  Wired Magazine. 13 (8 August). here.

 Kiley, David. 2005. Motor City’s Motor Mouth: Peter DeLorenzo blasts the Big Three on his blog–and then they hire him. BusinessWeek. July 25, 2005, pp. 82-83.

McCracken, Grant, 2005. Blogging: what’s for, how it pays, January 05, 2005.here.  

3 thoughts on “why we blog

  1. Matt

    What about those of us for whom making money is not the point of blogging? (I have a _business_ for that…I don’t need a blog for it.)

    I’m not in the blogosphere to make money from blogging, nor to promote myself or my company commercially. (Indeed, one would have to track down my history of comments on other people’s blogs in order to even piece together what profession I’m in…learning what my business does, without departing the blogosphere, would be impossible. Given what I blog about, and the topic areas of most of the blogs I comment on, it’s better that way.) I’m here because the blogosphere seems to be the only environment in the universe where people like me exist in sufficient density to support a decent amount of ongoing conversation.

    It’s an advantage the internet has always had. Blogs just made it easier for casual linkages between communities to form, and thus for any given person to surf his way to more circles of companionship.

  2. Grant

    Matt, indeed, and I think that’s what Kevin Kelly is talking about. There are plenty of intrinsic reasons to blog and there had better be because for most of us this is going to be it in the way of compensation. And I am interested in the theme you raise: the blogger who lives under deep cover, freed to speak because of the anonymity supplied by the blog…the Marrano intellectual, as it were. That should go on the list of our accomplishments, too. Thanks, Grant

  3. dilys

    I think category 4, the audition model, is already expanding further into business and social life. My blog, though most certainly not read ab initio by potential clients, serves adequately as a talking business card for new acquaintances in either realm to encounter “the tenor of my mind.” Sometimes they find it interesting and return the greeting, as opposed to the retreating cloud of dust that would arise if I introduced myself at a party, “Hello, I’m an ageing over-educated Red State lifecoach interested in practical economics who is a catechumen in the Orthodox church and occasionally writes amusing verse and draws dinosaurs.” Yet its kernel is there for all to see at “Good&Happy.”

    Being a “fellow blogger” also allows those so brashly inclined to introduce themselves to any interesting blogger, some of whom would be insulated and unapproachable through the ordinary channels. The object of my question/comment may or may not respond; but if the content is even arguably relevant to their blogging, it’s not a faux pas.

    And yes, it’s effort- and time-consuming, the amount of effort varying with the depth of reflection and research involved. It’s a delicate balance, enough fact and accuracy and new information to interest a reader, but not overtaking the rest of life or reeking of obsession.

    As a comment of this length probably does.

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