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March 10, 2005

Comments

Scott Baradell

People want to read good writing about things they're interested in. They'll read about your navel if you write well enough. Most people don't write very well, and therefore should keep it to the point.

steven streight aka vaspers the grate

There is a way to include certain types of personal information in a business blog or a business meeting.

But have you never witnessed how the moderator of any business meeting will dispense with the small talk and call the group to order to "get down to business"?

At that point, all personal talking generally comes to an end. Perhaps to be resumed a bit after the meeting is officially over.

Of course one must "schmooze" with clients to some degree. I'm not talking about that, if you read me closely and carefully.

I could point you to lots of business blogs that have way too much personal, family, hobby, shopping, etc. blabbering in them.

The really popular and valuable business blogs have little to no personal info.

Seth Godin, Tom Peters, and other highly respected bloggers sometimes mention a personal experience, but it is always focused on a marketing principle they want to convey.

I believe Jennifer Rice understands my point, which I don't mean to belabor.

I think "fouro" that you misread me, misapply my statements (I never mentioned business luncheons or phone contacts or meetings--I was discussing blogs).

... and for some reason you choose to ignore the real and documented dangers that some highly personal bloggers have experienced, like stalkers, child predators, identity theft, etc. How can anyone dismiss such tragedies?

Someone has to tell bloggers to use caution. I know of one personal blogger, rather famous, who says they've had a mental collapse or nervous breakdown due to posting certain types of intimate details about another person, and the person got really angry, retaliated, bad scene.

Enough. If no one listens to what I've researched, that's okay. I continue to report the truth as I understand it.

fouro

Okay, Steven. I quit. And I'll quit sharing and listening to stories with my coworkers and clients. I'll stop with the 30 seconds to 15 minutes of small talk, depending on the client, that I have to participate in before we get down to business.

I'm going to quit. Quit muddling through and looking for intent as well as content, back-story as well as boilerplate. I'll quit trying to make sense of everything, and only talk with or listen to those who make perfect sense. (Excludes me right there.)

I'll quit suffering through chaff because wheat is, after all, so truly the point isn't it?

And then, I'll buy a boat. And start paddling. For the remotest island I can find. Nobody can stalk me there. Or bug me. Or find me. Or interrupt my marvelousness.

You convinced me. I'll quit reading your blog. Before I even start.

(Pardon the vigor, jen.)

Deb

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for this discussion. I've been reading the personal blogs of friends for years now, as they've used it as a tool to communicate with friends all over the world. As I began reading more business blogs and am hearing how corporate blogging is suddenly a 'must', I decided to start one up myself to test the waters. (Don't bother looking yet, I just started yesterday and realize that these things take time.)

Given the reasons I had for starting a blog, I greatly appreciate the pointers I am finding here.

steven streight aka vaspers the grate

Sorry to follow my post with another, but I'm working on a sequel to "You Are Not A Blog" about the...

Dangers of Personal Blogging.

Few bloggers seem to be aware that putting personal details into a blog can be dangerous in several ways.

Some personal blog authors have closed down their personal blogs and now have Password Protected Journals online, due to the very real dangers of personal details in blogs.

To just mention some dangers: stalking by local weirdos, lurking by child molesters, con artists, rapists, etc., and identity theft.

My new post, hopefully published tonight will explain.

Seth Godin also has just posted a link to an article on 10 Reasons Why Blogging Doesn't Matter, which discusses how personal blogging can be hazardous to your career.

I think these cautions are necessary, no matter how much the winds of hype may blow against them. I'm a blogger and I have written much about the positive aspects, but now I'm getting educated about the Dark Side of Blogging.

steven streight aka vaspers the grate

While I don't mean to advance the notion of a sterile, robotic, inhuman blog...

...I still say there are too many blogs, even business or tech blogs, that are dumping loads of personal details and self-obsessed clutter into their otherwise informative blogs.

I can see that some people may be connecting online to make friends.

While I highly value the friends I have made online, especially other bloggers, when I visit a marketing, business, or tech topic blog, I'm not there to find out what movie, music CD, or restaurant they feel like raving about today.

I don't want to name names, but if you visit lots of blogs, you can probably guess which blogs I'm refering to specifically. They stand out like a sore thumb.

One blog even displayed a photograph of the contents of a purse, and I really wonder who would care about such, what I will call, drivel. I feel the blogger is smart, I want to learn something from the blog, but when I visit the blog: the contents of a purse?

I guess it all depends on what you're looking for. If you visit blogs to learn more about a blogger's personal life, opinions, and tastes, there is a lot of that out there.

If you visit blogs to gain practical wisdom, concepts to ponder, warnings about dangers, solutions to problems, analysis of advertising, recommendations on books and URLs, then you need to identify such rich, relevant blogs, bookmark them, and visit them, while avoiding the other less relevant blogs.

Dooce is a blog that is highly personal, and just won 4 Bloggies in the 2005 Webby Awards. Heather Armstrong is an interesting person, a good writer, and I support her blog and her as a person.

There are other warm and fuzzy blogs, some may even be great literature. Some may provide comfort and humor, make the reader feel less alone in this cold world.

So I'm not totally against all personal blogs, just the massive intrusion of personal details in any serious topic blog, like a business blog.

dd

I will read you if you have utility, and can push my counterintuitive buttons.My expertise is as far removed from brand marketing as possible,but I am intrigued by the dynamic nature of the interaction between producers and consumers, and how each interprets the information inputs to best allocate their time and capital.

I would hope you also would avoid the trap of easy jargon,which will stifle the growth of your blog.Reveal what's hidden behind the curtain, and simplicity of expression will enable you to be a magnet for the curious.Once they arrive, well, let serendipity take over.You will also become more interesting to your reader, if you can humanize your expertise.A fine example to follow comes from the joint blog of Gary Becker/Richard Posner.They enable you walk along with them as they are revealing their thinking.The blog takes on a Socratic nature, and is conversational, and helps to relay expertise.

jennifer rice

Steven, I like your statement "the self may be the lens through which truth is perceived"... and I believe that successful blogs are focused on ideas or universal truths with which readers can relate.

But on your other statements, I've got to disagree with you. I try to include about 10 to 20% of non-business stuff in my blog... because yes, people do want to know about me as a person. Blogs are about personality and authenticity; I have no interest in reading a sterile, non-personal blog, even if it's business-related. Might as well read a magazine or a book.

In the offline world, good sales reps understand how to ask personal questions and relate to customers on a non-business level. It's the old adage, "you do business with who you know."

steven streight aka vaspers the grate

Maybe it's because I'm a male. But I don't have the slightest interest in personal blogs, no matter how well they're written.

The only exception would be an exceptional person or an average person who had an extraordinary experience. Even then, I have so much work to do, and I can't waste my time reading the mundane trivia of another person's life.

Now, I'm also uncomfortable watching fiction movies. I keep thinking, "These are events that never occured. These are actors and actresses who are pretending to be these characters. Why am I watching this?"

I only watch comedy films. No other types of movies at all. But I digress.

This is what I mean about personal details. Does anyone care that I dislike fiction movies? That I only watch comedy films? Who cares what I like in regards to films?

Let me state a few points to clarify my "You Are Not A Blog" post:

(1.) Vanity Exhibitionistic Narcissistic Mundane Trivial Personal Drivel Chatter Blogs are polluting the web and decreasing the overall value of the blogosphere as a news and information medium.

(2.) Elements of Vanity Blogging that creep into business, academic, and other serious topic blogs cause tremendous damage to the credibility, usefulness, and professionalism of these blogs.

(3.) Business, academic, and serious topic blogs need to have human warmth and personality, but not by featuring discussions of favorite music bands, personal tastes in films, children's exploits, shopping frustrations, vacation reports or all the other boring, valueless chatter.

(4.) When a business, academic, or serious topic blog degenerates into "more mundane details about me and my personal life" type text, it is usually a warning sign that the blogger is on a celebrity kick, thinking people care about them as a person. The blogger is a person, but it's not the person that is valuable to a reader, it's his or her expertise. I don't care what music Seth Godin, Glenn Reynolds, Jakob Nielsen, Laura Ries, Dave Taylor, or Cory Doctorow likes. They can tell me briefly, in an About Me page, but to insert such personal talk often and at length in a serious topic blog, this is not good.

(5.) Vanity Blogs will all soon vanish, as no one visits them, no one leaves comments, no one gains anything significant from them, and as the authors run out of stamina, being frustrated that no cares about the mundane trivia of their seemingly boring lives.

(6.) I feel compassion for people for being living entities who are born to struggle, seek truth, suffer, and die. Aside from that tragic reality, I have respect only for those who try to transcend their limitations, rebel against illegitimate or abusive authority (cruel parents, bullies, dictatorships, etc.), and practice self-denial to help others.

(7.) Self-expression is the lowest form of art.

How many autobiographies of average people exist in print, in books? How many sell well? Just about zero. Unless the average person is actually above average in writing skill, lived experiences, genius, humor, etc. Name one successful autobiography of an average person in book form. None.

(8.) Truth-expression is the highest form of art.

Books, photographs, films, paintings, poems, blogs that reveal truth about specific aspects of life or the world are of great value.

The self may be the lens through which truth is perceived, but when the self is the focus and goal of art, it is of little or no value to anyone.

Shakespeare didn't write plays about his personal life.

Bob Dylan often sings "I" but means not himself but a persona, an "other" on behalf of whom he speaks.

Junk mail is mail that is irrelevant, unimportant. Junk telephone is telemarketing or people "talking just to talk." Junk television is soap operas, infomercials, home shopping progams hawking merchandise you don't want, and other irrelevant, unimportant presentations of worthless information. Junk blogs are ... well, you know.

Mel

I was aware of the audience you write your blog for (perhaps I wasn't clear). However in your post you write "this is true for both personal and business blogs". I realise you say "especially" business blogs - I agree. But part of your argument applied to blogs in general. You're correct in identifying the emotional quality of my comment as a form of "animosity" for the corporate world. I couldn't agree with you more! My problem is largely with the kinds of attitudes that go along with the corporate mentality. I am "the consumer"... the public. I have wandered into your business blog only to be confronted with the kinds of ideas I have come to associate with the corporate world. I didn't come here intentionally to insult you or your readers. What I chose to do was comment on what I perceived as agreements about what participatory media should be. And I felt these agreements are more complimentary to the world of business than the world of ideas.

The wonderful thing about blogs, however targeted, is that *anyone* can join in your discussion. It is just as true for my blog that I attract people with similar politics and world views as you attract with your focus. Yes, I've made assumptions and inferances. I'm also prepared to be wrong about them. But I have read some incredibly troubling discussions in corporate/marketing/PR blogs (namely the Global PR blog...). I've read some really incredibly arrogant things coming from PR people about their frustrations over "controlling" consumer perception. Take for example this, from an interview between blogger Dan Gillmor and Steve Rubell:

"RUBEL: Weblogs and personal/amateur journalism mean greater transparency. Does this mean PR pros will lose complete control of their company's reputation? What opportunity is there here for PR pros to shape reputations?

GILLMOR: Not at all. The PR mission evolves. But it's important for people to understand that a) they never had complete control in the first place; and b) "control" is a mistaken notion. Think in terms of managing, not controlling, what clients say and what is said about them."

There it is. That idea of "control". It's hubris! And don't think the "consumer" doesn't perceive it as such. Another comment from the same blog inspired some of the perceptions I shared in my first comment:

"OCHMAN: A woman who works for a Fortune 500 company said at one of my seminars on blogging for business that she was mortified to learn that bloggers with no editors could say whatever they want about her company. Since most blogs are unedited, what are the checks and balances now with blogging?"

This comes back to the idea of the personal public weblogs as a potential threat to marketing strategy and PR messaging. It's a territory that cannot be "controlled" or manipulated as easily as the corporately owned media. I'm alive to the kind of language that is used to characterise blogs and bloggers. And, as a writer, I'm also ready to recontextualise any of this language in our own terms.

jennifer rice

So after I got past Mel's clear animosity, I see that I need to clarify something: We generally write our blogs for certain audiences; I write mine for business people. The purpose of this blog is business-related. As such, the guideline here holds true... if you talk about yourself (your features, benefits, services, etc.) your blog is not likely to be read (and neither will your advertisements, brochures, web site, etc.)

If you are NOT a business blogger and you have a personal blog, feel free to do whatever you want with it. I'm not here to talk about personal blogs; that is not part of my mission. If you want information on creating a personal blog, go elsewhere.

And Mel is quite mistaken that I wouldn't enjoy a personal blog like the one she mentions. This kind of comment inspires me to write my own rant; how people can make character judgments and assumptions about blog writers based on the limited, focused content of their public blogs.

Mel

I have a real problem with this post and with the post that inspired it. So much so that I've responded with a post of my own. The reason I decided to respond (and to your earlier post) is that it's clear that you're blogging from some place of authority and that with that authority comes influence. I believe that with influence and authority comes checks and balances and that this isn't possible if the only people reading your blog are looking for favour ... that's where the odd stranger just passing through brings the forum back into something more democractic (and less sicophantic).

To address your post: the personal is political. Especially when it comes to self expression and the means to self expression. Blogs have enable the unauthorised public to push button publish their each and every thought. And while I agree with you (and the post you cite) that some of this writing isn't very interesting I wouldn't deign to make pronouncements about who is "worthy" to blog.

The issue here is really what kind of blogs you enjoy. It's clear that most of your readers prefer newsy blogs. I tend to prefer those blogs myself. And I also enjoy blogs that enter into a conversation. I do not, however, enjoy reading people who are already in a position of social and economic power talking about who gets to have a voice and defining blogs or any other form of expression according to purist/conservative standards.

One of the first blogs I found in my inbound links is an anonymous blog that details the landscape and emotional journey of a women and her body. That traces her experience as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse into her adult life. Every post concerns the "minutiae" of this woman's life and experience and, in particular, her relationship to her body. Her blog has provided her with a transformative space to explore all of the issues that concern her. And her audience is substantial. At last count she has over 400 inbound links. She also gets dozens of comments on a daily basis. Her readers enjoy what she is doing and they appreciate it. It appears they get as much out of it as she does writing it. Given what I've read above it is clear that none of you would enjoy this kind of blog - nor would (the paternalistic) Vaspers.

I find it troubling that "personal" and "narcissistic" have become so interchangeable. They're actually quite different. As is the idea of "self" expression. But there is a politics behind this debate that, whether you prefer to speak to it or not, is informed by a deeply conservative bias. It is, of course, the only position you can properly assume if you consider yourself a "company puppy" and in that context it is advisable to involve as little of yourself as possible in your blog. This is to have a very different kind of voice than your teenaged son or daugher or the freelancer who temps in your office. They're not bound by the same rules as you are. So I guess what occurs to me is the question of whether your desire to contextualise these voices as narcissistic isn't really coming from a place of resnentment or envy about the limitiations or consequences of your professional reputations and affiliations on your voice/expression?

Stephen Macklin

A couple of my favorite blogs are not really a conversation - they don't allow reader comments. One in particular is almost always distinctly personal - recounting the mundane details of the writer's life. But it is well written enough to keep me and many thousands going back every day for more.

As for Jennifer's comment regarding company blogs "Especially business blogs. Customers will not come back to your blog to hear a bunch of self-important pronouncements about your products, services or company. Talk about something interesting to them. And then listen. Make it a conversation." I couldn't agree more.

So far, one of the best I've found in terms of getting that part right is http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/ written by GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz.

Johnnie Moore

I don't want to read narcissistic stuff like Mickey D's Lincoln Fry blog.

But actually I don't think good blogs are necessarily based on pleasing readers. I write stuff that engages me. Funnily, that often turns out to be interesting to other people.

Creating engagement is sometimes about making sure I am engaged first.

Brian Carroll

Thanks for the reminder. I think all of us have been to a social gathering and met the boring people who just blabbed on and on about themselves...is blogging any different?

I realize that some people use blogs as a form of catharsis to purge their rants, raves, ideas, and fears... hoping someone in the blogosphere will acknowledge them.

Why? Deep down we all have a desire to be listened too. Blogging is about a conversation... to have a great conversation you need to be interested in what others have to say.

A friend gave me this simple advice that’s served me my entire career, "just be people with people." In other words, be real, be authentic, be interested and put your whole self into what you do. That’s the essence of blogging.

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