I was initially drawn to blogging because I was fascinated with the idea that I could quickly publish posts in my own little corner of cyber-space in a chronological format. I jumped in with the blog I called Mister Anchovy.
Later I tried an experiment in making it into more of a group blog in which a number of individuals could post. Mister Anchovy became Mister Anchovy’s. That experiment was not so successful. I think that approach can work with a group of people interested in the same topics or ideas. For instance, I can imagine a mushroom hunting blog in which several foragers post photos of their finds, stories of their adventures in the forest and so on. Mostly people who want to do that kind of thing set up forums rather than blogs, in order to bring in a larger number of people. Those forums can become like online communities, such as the Banjo Hangout and the Wild Mushroom Hunting forum. Forums are fine, but I think blogs are more interesting. An example of a group blog that I think works very well is Garden Rant.
Somewhere along the way, blogging, which seemed early on to be mostly some variation of on-line journals, became a possible space for some people to make money. Thars gold in them thar hills. There are some very popular blogs that are full of ads, connected to online stores and so on. For me, Mister Anchovy, Mister Anchovy’s and now 27th Street have never been about making a living (although my blog does have a link to my mosaic work, which is for sale and occasionally to my paintings which also are for sale). It’s always been an expression of what is interesting me at the time. Over the years, I’ve blogged increasingly about my interests in folk music forms – from accordion music in all it’s variety and splendor to old time music and even videos of my own attempt to squeeze out or pick a few tunes.
I’ve never found a blog theme or template that fully satisfied me. Regular readers will by now be used to showing up here to find that the joint looks different from time to time. Sometimes it’s just a matter of refreshing the look, but more recently I’m finding the form to be kind of clunky.
I’ve been toying with the idea of adopting a slightly different form, more of a tumblog type approach that is a simple flow of posts. With this approach the here and now is what is important. I suppose this approach is somewhere between Twitter, which is all about this tweet now and the older blog approach in which the blog is a self-contained unit with categories and tags and side-bars and blogrolls and whatever else.
I have a question for you. Do you care a damn what’s on the sidebar of my blog? Do you do searches? Do you look at the blog by category (I suspect I have way too many categories and might have been better served limiting them to half a dozen treated as menu items). Do you use the blog roll? I used to use blog rolls a lot. If I liked a blog, I’d investigate the blog roll and find other blogs I liked that way. I found some blogs run by people who have become good friends that way. People occasionally come to my blog because of a blog roll. For instance Gerard Vlemmings has my blog listed on the recommended blogs list on his remarkable and popular blog, The Presurfer. I’ve had many visitors over the years thanks to this listing. Overall though, I get a lot more hits from comments I make on other blogs. People read my comment, and click the link back. Far and away though, most of the hits on this blog come from people searching for content on one subject or another.
The other format that has become more and more popular, especially with the popularity of tablets and smart phones is the magazine style responsive theme. I’ve looked at 27th Street in this kind of format, but I think it loses the regular journal-like aspect, which I still really enjoy. On a desktop you see a group of post blocks in one format or another, with various levels of fancy design. They look slick, but I haven’t found one of these formats that rings true for me, at least for my blog as it exists now. I might feel differently about this if I re-invented my blog – kind of like Dr Who morphing into a new actor.
So I’m torn. I can carry on as I’ve been carrying on. I’m happy with the community of people who visit. I find that most people who comment on my posts tend to comment on facebook (I cross-post over there most of the time), and I think I’d prefer the comments live on the blog, but that’s no big deal. My blog does not attract the scads of comments that many other blogs do in any case. Alternatively, I can apply my 27th Street content to a new format, and if I do that, I’m leaning toward a tumblog format, perhaps like Shelf. Or perhaps I could engage a blog designer to make something specific for me. If I go this route, I would strip it bare, and eliminate the trappings of the sidebar altogether. This would really change the feel of this blog. I’m interested to know your reaction to this idea – in particular, as readers/viewers, does the sidebar matter? Does the format matter to you? I’d appreciate it if you’d weigh in on this and let me know. What do you like or hate about this blog (I have thick skin, and I won’t take it personally).
Perhaps I’m thinking about these things because my problem with the format isn’t so much the format as it is a desire to somehow reinvent what I’m doing with my blog. If that’s the case, maybe it is time to retire 27th Street and move into Son of 27th Street or whatever it might be called. A wholesale change opens up lots of new possibilities. Would I lose you? Or would you be excited to come along for the ride?
Blogging remains an activity that is still important to me. I continue to post, if not daily, close to daily. Yes I’m on Facebook but barely. It helps me keep in touch with people but on the other hand, I see blogging as more of a work in progress. It has a look, a feel, a cadence, character and so on. I haven’t fallen in love with Twitter, although for certain things, it’s fantastic – like following breaking political events for instance, or getting news as it happens. If I used a smart phone, I might find Instagram to be an interesting community, but blogging opens up so many more possibilities.
I can’t help but notice that many of the people I know through blogging are blogging much less than they used to or not at all – yet I find myself more interested than ever in continuing to explore this kind of online presence. I think there is technical pressure for blogging to change (and of course that makes the old-school blog more interesting to me). For instance, Google abandoning Reader is significant. I use the WordPress Reader now and it works fine, but at risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, I feel like the form is being pushed to something that is easier to use for mass marketing. On Facebook, at every turn, you’re asked if you’d like to give up some personal information. Want to play a game, ok, here’s the rules. I keep changing my settings to “most recent” and it keeps changing it back to “top stories”. I hate the idea of Facebook telling me what I should want to look at and how I might want to look at it.
I haven’t decided where this blog is going to go or how it’s going to develop or morph or reinvent itself. I am feeling a certain restlessness that I’m sure some other bloggers can identify with. I continue to love the idea of the personal blog, and I appreciate the fact that on a few topics, people contact me with questions and so on because of what I’ve posted.
Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts about blogging and formats and themes and approaches and all that jazz. At the same time, if you’ve been saving up comments about what you like or hate about this blog, this is the time to unburden yourself. I’m not going to promise I’m going to do what you tell me I ought to do (one of the things I like about blogging is that in the end I get to decide), but I sure am going to think about what you have to say.