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January 19, 2005

On Blog Addiction

(I'm busting this one out the door - been sitting in draft too long)

How long have you been blogging?
I have been blogging about 28 months. I have been writing online for 11 years.

Do you believe you're addicted to blogging? Please explain, and be honest.
I'm a writer, and blogging is just a form of writing. I am particularly enamored of the form because of what the blogosphere has become. I wouldn't consider writing an addiction because of the negative connotation. I am no more addicted to writing than I am to working. I suppose if the world were a different place I wouldn't write, but it's not. I intend to keep writing until my fingers fall off.

That said, blogging does enforce a kind of discipline on me that at times I feel reluctant to break. I will comment on these pressures as 'addictive' in the ways they are unique to blogging but not other forms of online writing.

A. Oxygen
What is singularly unique about the blogosphere is the extent to which one's contribution to the overall discussion appears to be uniquely one's own. I call this 'sucking the oxygen'. Certain individuals, because they are popular, get an inordinate amount of traffic because they are popular. Sort of like the definitioin of a celebrity: people who are famous for being famous.

Even though people have web counters, and overall traffic goes up on the blogosphere. This is different from participation in a usenet or email discussion in that those have more of the feeling of a collective discussion. But the hits on your thread feel like they are your own. I say that it is difficult to disaggregate one's own worth or value as a writer from the value of the blogosphere at any one particular time. Some research ought to be done which could quantify that.

There are several examples that come quickly to mind. When the Nick Berg video was released, overall traffic to the internet rose, and search engines pointed to blogs. So whatever bloggers wrote about Nick Berg, we created a kind of artificial gravity. As an individual blogger that feels like it's about what you are writing. I know that I put all kinds of keywords in my posts, rather shamelessly that week.

Also, however, as a black blogger, I know that the recent controversy over certain comments made by Bill Cosby directed more traffic to my blog. I tend to believe that I legitimately own more of that gravity. I often also refer to popularity / issue bandwidth as 'oxygen', which is to suggest that interest in reading blogs is in short supply and certain bloggers are genuinely capable of sucking up the oxygen on a given issue, to the detriment of others.

Part of that is due to the interactive nature of the blogosphere. However I think I am unique in a couple ways. I think it is important to say that I consider myself to be a fairly popular blogger. Nothing spectacular, believe me, but I am a Large Mammal and I take that seriously. I have international links and something of a core readership. All this goes to say that I worked for an audience and I feel a certain responsibility to them which is different from other forms of online writing.

Firstly, ever since the advent of blog spam, I have taken certain countermeasures and despite my best efforts to be welcoming of comments, people have been put off by the lack of interactivity this has forced on the site. So


Have you ever taken a hiatus? If so, for what reason and how long?
Not really. I may have gone four or five days without blogging, although sometimes I think I go that long without a good idea to share. Still, I consider myself to be a fairly original contributor.

Have you ever thought of giving up your blog? Why or why not?

Yes. The first reason is that in blogging itself I have defined a mission. Which is to say that I started blogging to achieve a particular goal, and I believe that for the most part that goal has been achieved to my satisfaction. I have adopted a fairly particular style and range of subjects for this blog, both of which have broadened over time, perhaps to a the detriment of its original purpose.

The second reason is that I anticipate moving to China for a couple years. I am not sure that I can blog from there. If I can, I almost certainly will create a new blog.

The third reason is that I can see myself subsuming my writing under the auspices of a group blog.

The final reason and most likely to affect me is the tax of actually working. I am a fairly energetic individual and my writing is more important to me than watching TV or gaming. However there are occasions when I work so hard during the day that I don't feel like doing any writing in the evening. Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, since I am a genius, nobody has yet given me a job which could be so intellectually demanding that it would suck all of the oxygen out of my mind such that I had no energy to write constructively about other subjects. However if that were the case, I'd probably just blog about my job.

Posted by mbowen at January 19, 2005 01:35 PM

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