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Readers On What Makes a Blogger Engaging   (March 31, 2007)

Two readers submitted thoughtful commentaries on what makes a blog engaging. First up is Darrell C.:

Your latest got me thinking more on what makes a blogger engaging.

You and I share a number of interests, and it seems, the life perspective of being in our earlier '50s. But it's something more about your writing.

It takes me back to a class called "Effective Communications Workshop" a couple of decades ago in a former career. It was an entire week, half on business writing, and half on presenting to groups. The latter was taught by an off-Broadway director making some real money as a corporate trainer.

I'll never forget how he described the ideal relationship between presentor and audience: Imagine you're sitting in your living room, talking with your best friend ... wearing a bathrobe. That level of intimacy! And obviously the opposite of the typical stiff business presentation.

I get that from your writing. It's like having a personal conversation with a friend -- even though I'm only listening and we've never met. You only know me from a couple of emails, yet I find myself writing another reply like I would to a friend.

Anyway, keep up the good writing!
Fellow writer E.A. addresses authenticity, creativity, and the effects of money on a blog--even donations. In my thank-you to E.A. for donating money to the site, I'd written: "if you have any comments about what you like best about the site, what could be improved, or topics you'd like to see covered, please let me know." His response got me thinking:

I think that's just the problem. The donations are already changing your site.

You're a writer: you know better than anyone that writing has to be what it needs to be, what it can best be, not what the public desires. Why do people read or go to movies? They most want the joy of expression, emotion, even by proxy. But the difference in the papers or in other blogs is that they do not have the joy of personal expression, either because they must consider money or because the originator doesn't have it in abundance to give. They are worried of giving, not free. ...Free.

You'll catch the most of us within 30 days. Blogging is different in that it's two-way bond. It's an extended circle of friends where one day, on a lark, one of the friends asked for money he didn't expect. Among friends, that is fine as a one-time or occasional thing, and entertaining for us to surprise you, but if it is regular it becomes a business relationship, which is different. Think of it like trading. You hit something that works, but it won't work all the time. It's like you asked for a hit to support your habit. Now go home and forget this ever happened. :)

A donation tab on the sidebar is great, where people can run into it from time to time and surprise them. If they are not surprised, it will be like a hit-up, a public-radio blogathon and be resisted. As your readership grows, it may even have modest income the way shareware does. But the writing is good because it is pure--did Hemingway say that? I'm not going to remember what book that's in. It is pure because it purely entertains you only. Changing that would change the contract, most especially to yourself, and change the blog, the atmosphere, and your life.
This really goes to the heart of several important issues. I've been worrying since starting the donations link about just these issues, and E.A.'s commentary crystallized my hunch that both being prompted for donations and doing the prompting is getting tiresome after 8 days. I think E.A. is right--the sidebar pitch for donations is enough. So unless I come across some amusing bit which lends itself to the donation link, it's in the background (sidebar no one looks at).

Since I keep a list of dozens of ideas, links and reader comments which would make interesting posts, I don't think this site's content or perspective has changed. But E.A.'s comments make me realise how subtly money--even in the form of donations--could diminish the very things which have drawn readers to the site.

For more on this subject and a wide array of other topics, please visit my weblog.


copyright © 2007 Charles Hugh Smith. All rights reserved in all media.

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