Why blog?

The Past

Over the last 27 years I've used many methods to broadcast work and communicate with writers. Here are some starting dates and comments

1983: Face-to-face workshopsThese seems as popular as ever, though competition from the WWW might have narrowed the variety of people who attend.
1983: PerformanceNorwich, Nottingham, Cambridge
1987: Printed MagazinesThese continue much as before - even the letters pages with their turn-around time of months don't seem too affected by the Web. But the recession may take its toll on printed magazines.

Then I started using computers

1987: Usenet (rec.arts.poems)This continues on Google Groups. Then as now it's unmoderated, which limits its usefulness. It's been superceded by functionally similar Web Forums.
1989: E-mail-mediated workshopMore private but by today's standards not user-friendly.

Then the Web arrived. Web magazines are in abundance, but the better ones perform much the same role as their printed counterparts (cheaper for submitters though, and less money for editors). Other uses of the medium emerged

1993: Web sites Litrefs and, later, Love the PoetTicking over. Top pages in Jan 2010 were Metaphor and Simile (1649 hits), Translating Dante (884 hits), and Getting your poetry published (880 hits). Oldest version dates from Jan 17, 1999
2001: WWW-mediated workshopModerated
2007: YouTubeI have a few poetry videos on YouTube
2007: FacebookI glance at this weekly for invitations and announcements. The communication there seems mostly phatic and ephemeral to me.

I've never used Twitter. I've never published podcasts on iTunes (though I considered it once), and I've only added a few sentences to Wikipedia.

The Present

In December 2009 I started a blog, just when Stephen Fry, Rob MacKenzie (Surroundings), and others were cutting back on web emissions. Why?

Some people use blogging software because it's the only way they can put things online. Nowadays that's not restrictive - blogging software's developed into site-management sofware, so blogware can be used for magazine publications nowadays. That said, blogs remain by default time-sequence-based, and items disappear from sight (posts get compacted into months, and months into years), which is why I duplicate info on the WWW so that I can categorise and structure it. If something's worth saying, it's worth keeping - news that stays news. However, with tags, gadgets and sophisticated searches old posts needn't be lost, and blogs are providing other ways to do what structure provides for a traditional web site so I may eventually relegate my web site to being a back-up site.

Blogs come in so many shapes and sizes that it's hard to decide whether a page is a blog let alone a good blog. Here's a list of sites that I like and sites that are generally popular

The Future

I started drafting this article a few weeks ago. Since then, Adrian Slater's written Literary Communications where he writes that "the blog and online magazine used to complement the offline publishing world - I get the feeling that they're both sinking a little together". Perhaps so.

I can understand why blogs get abandoned. Budding authors are advised to start blogs so that agents notice them. Authors about to publish books are advised to promote the book in a blog. And some people start a blog like they would a diary as a New Year's resolution. Blogs that are started for these reasons aren't likely to last long. Other authors look upon their sites as providing an information service to the writing community, which may result in pressure to keep material up-to-date, to keep publishing (I've seen people apologise on their blogs for not posting recently. Why?). Some bloggers may feel that they're in competition with their peers and develop deadline anxiety. Eventually, some bloggers (especially when they see the access statistics) may wonder if all the effort's worthwhile: without income, purpose or loyal readership the effort's not sustainable.

I don't think I'll suffer from such pressures (if nothing else my web pages have longevity), but I'm unsure what role my blog will play. Perhaps this uncertainty is more wide-spread, and is a factor in some blogs' decline - is a blog a soapbox, personal journal, self-publishing on-the-cheap, a place to post drafts for comments, a discussion forum, a magazine, or a filing system for interesting URLs? Is it mostly static or mostly ephemeral? Of course, it can be any of these things, but sometimes while trying to do too much a site can lose focus and audience.

I expect to use the blog for literary purposes - drafting articles, making topical announcements, and advertising items from other blogs. I'll post every week or so (I can post revised files from my website if I run out of ideas). I'll mention the blog in bios. I'll use the website to store static information for posterity, and I'll use Facebook for making announcements as well as making/receiving invitations.

Tim Love
February 2010