Why I blog*

I’ve been asked to write a short general piece about blogging, why, how and so on. Draft is over the fold. Comments welcome.

I wanted to blog even before blogs existed. I’ve always wanted to comment on all sorts of topics, without the constraints and delays of an academic journal article or newspaper opinion piece, though I also find plenty of value in writing these.

As soon as I built my first website, in the mid-1990s, I tried a variety of methods to allow for regular updating and comments, but they were too cumbersome to be of any practical use. From about 2000 onwards I began running across sites using early versions of blogging software, but I didn’t realise what they were until later. I began running across references to blogs in 2002 and started my own in June of that year. At the beginning of 2004, I joined the group blog, Crooked Timber, and I now post to both, though my blog contains more items of purely local interest.

At one time I followed visitor numbers rather obsessively, checking visitor numbers every day and sometime more often than that. These days, I rarely worry about this. The software provided by host says the blog gets about 3500 sessions per day, and a bit under 10 000 pageviews. I’d guess that visitor frequencies follow a power law. A small core of maybe 100 readers visit the blog every day, or more frequently; many of these also comment regularly. Then there is a much larger group (I’d guess thousands, but I have no real idea) who visit regularly but less frequently. Finally there are visitors who arrive as the result of a hyperlink and Google search, but aren’t sufficiently interested to return.

I write mostly about political and economic issues, mostly, though not always taking a leftish or social democratic stance. But I also write a fair bit about books, sport and everyday life. One impact of blogging has been to expand my range of professional interests as an academic and newspaper columnist. For example, since taking up blogging, I have written articles for philosophy journals and reviews of science fiction.

One of the best things about blogs is the opportunity they provide for debate among people with a wide variety of backgrounds. While there are some issues where I can draw on my professional expertise as an economist, arguments from authority don’t go far in the blog world. So blogging keeps me on my toes all the time.

* Stolen from my betters, I know, but that’s blogging for you

17 thoughts on “Why I blog*

  1. John:

    I’m interested in how much time you allocate to blogging? Do you specifically set aside time during the day to read and post?

  2. Both Orwell and Philip Larkin were asked at some stage in their career to pen a short piece explaining why they wrote. I read both at about the same time years ago and so can’t recall which it was that said, in a nutshell,

    ‘I write to find out what I think.’

    I’m sure everyone knows their subject and has an idea of their approach before they begin, but I know myself how often the process of ordering thoughts and expressing them imposes it’s own discipline or agenda, often leading to conclusions not foreseen at the outset. To me, this process is important in ‘personal growth’, in forming a bedrock of independence, the ability to process rather than simply swallow received wisdom or dogma. Keeping the channel open for thoughts that don’t arise from roads already well travelled. The journey is indistinguishable from the destination in a sense… writing (or blogging), rather than being seen as a chore that leads to some deferred pleasure or higher understanding, are sufficiently useful not to require a ‘reason’.

    And pleasurable too; we are the only creatures evolved enough to think, to ruminate and express, and experiencing the sensation of a dawning realisation, a new understanding which adds depth and breadth to your experience, is a pleasure that’s hard to describe or quantify, but it is a powerful ‘reason’ to keep doing it.

    There aren’t too many other human activities that have this sort of effect on me and there are no surprises among them.

  3. Very interesting so far, especially Glenn’s points. To me there is an intrinsic value, in blogging and such exchange for its own sake.

    A bit like a passionate discussion about X, (say sports, politics, work, etc,) but a bit more organised than a talk at the pub, or at least the process might help to clarify and organise those haphazard thoughts.

    One of the key things that brings me back over and over again, is that sense of discovery, learning and serendipity that truly inspires to find out more, and to really “chew on it”, to really try to meaningfully think, even distill something new or different.

    Then again, there is an undeniable pleasure in constructively unmasking incongruent, hypocritical arguments. Even if we are at the receiving end, as long as done it in good faith, not just baiting and regurgitating typical crap, but truly exploring and pushing ideas, especially our own.

  4. Even though mine does not get read much I still enjoy writing. Also I find that other people with differing views contibute to hone and change my own views.

    I also use mine as a research library. Often I just post interesting articles as someday I might need the information in them. I have lost count of the times that I have used my own blog entries for research. It avoids the long searches when you think “just where did I put that article that is similar to this”

  5. you forgot the bit about idle self-indulgence and the ability to lord one’s spelling and punctuative skills (excluding capitals) over others and to procrastinate with time-wasting memes! …or is that just me?
    welcome back to australia btw (totally belated, i know.)

  6. Surely the BLOG provides those ‘unorstralian’, their say.

    While digesting daily vomit from creeps, who have no understanding of how there bureaucracy, are treating the people who voted for them.

    Am I still allowed to label them ,”politicians”?

  7. mephistopheles – “idle self-indulgence and the ability to lord one’s spelling and punctuative skills (excluding capitals) over others and to procrastinate with time-wasting memes!”

    Oh boy I am a master of this:-)

  8. kez, I probably spend an hour or two a day blogging, but that doesn’t count time spent looking at other people’s blogs, which is a common displacement activity for me. Mostly I tend to blog early in the morning or late afternoon/evening, and try to make sure I get something productive done in between.

  9. I support the anonymoose comment.
    You can register, but why?

    Let’s face it, Ruppy loves free speach, so much, that he is picking up anything to do with blogs,while it is cheap.

    He loves bloggers work, we can all expect expensive pay?
    “Money for nothing and your kicks for free”, via dire straits.

    Sad that the bloke, Mr Ruppy!

  10. My reasons are similar to John’s – the other happy consequence for one’s friends and colleagues is that they don’t have to listen to me rant about politics continually since I have an outlet to vent 🙂

  11. Flutey’s Blog/Life seminar

    Flutey is giving a seminar at UTS on how blogging has affected your opinions, relationships and/or career, so go tell him your stories.
    And John Quiggin posts on why he blogs.

  12. John,

    With a browser with tabs, I visit about 18 blogs a day – as far as their stats go. Some I almost never actually look at. In your case you’d get two or three hits a day from my browser loading a tab, but I visit every two or three days and usually look at most or all of your posts. Unless I’m unusually busy in which case a week or so can go by and I’ll miss it.

    Anyway, just thought I’d throw in the bit about tabs. I expect a fair few blog readers are not on IE – which has no tabs yet.

  13. Nicholas, that would be page hits, I should think. A good stats programme should also be able to distinguish individual IP visits every 24 hours, which would only record you once as a “unique visitor”.

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