Unsolicited advice: weblogs are about flow

I’ve noticed this thought trend among technologists to want to contain, control and constrain the weblog information space. Some want the content to have more structure so that it can be searched using advanced methods. Some think about establishing uniform style rules so that every piece by every author looks and feels the same. Some exert special effort to craft each post into a work of genius. Some want to track each news message that they read, “keeping” some, marking others as read, deleting others.

The way I see it, these folks are thinking about weblogs in a static way, like a mid-90s era homepage or a Government database that gets distributed on CD ROM. But weblogs are about flow. They are closer to jazz improvisation than Beethoven’s fifth.

To really get into weblogs as a writer, try to keep moving to stay with the flow. The old advice to a budding jazz musicians applies: “If you make a mistake and hit a bad note, don’t stop! Hit it again and keep going”. Too much worrying will make a burden of posting, making work of what should be fun.

To really get into weblogs as a reader, try to avoid micromanaging each weblog post. Holding your posts too closely will often lead to one of two outcomes: a) you’ll have a narrow subscriptions list, maybe 4 or 5 sites, because you can’t possibly follow more (experienced readers can follow dozens); b) you’ll wind up with thousands of unread posts in your aggregator (the horrors of email all over again). I’ve written about this elsewhere.

In short, free your mind, and your weblog will follow.

11 thoughts on “Unsolicited advice: weblogs are about flow”

  1. Andrew:

    Your jazz analogy hit home with me. My post at the BloggerCon site about the “Elements of Style” and weblogs was intended to start people thinking about conventions for typestyle and linking, two frustrations I’ve seen new readers tackle. They are frequently confused when a link to, say “Dave” the movie IMDB is used when the context of the sentence means Dave Winer; it’s purpose is the subtextual comment that Dave Winer is politically-oriented sometimes and wouldn’t be fun to see *him* in the White House.

    Weblogs at this point in the game are edgy and interesting to people that are edgy and interesting. My concern is that the silent majority of readers will drop off the weblog radar since reading a weblog can have such a steep learning curve. I read your weblog since you and I have some common points that cross: technology oriented, writing weblogs, attending BloggerCon.

    I’m flying the flag to see what wind flaps it. I don’t have any interest in ratching down the blogosphere into a “one style, one weblog” type world.

    Best part of your post: it made me think. I thank you for that.

    See you at BloggerCon. I’d like to interview you for my local business newspaper, if you have a spare moment, too.

  2. Hey Steve, thanks for elaborating. I think you’re right about the learning curve. As a separate but related point, I wonder if someone out there has started to catalog the different types of posts and hyperlink usages that appear commonly. A newbie mind find that kind of taxonomy educational.

    See you at BloggerCon!

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  5. Andrew–I like these ideas alot. But I think that many of the programmer types are the librarians of the blogosphere–they want to create the equivalent of the Dewey Decimal system or the Library of Congress classification. For bloggers, the people creating posts, your advice is perfect–let it flow.
    Susan

  6. Nice! I can’t think of any clever sort of jazz-inspired affirmation. And flow’s kinda hip hop. But the vibe is right. See that’s a bad note. Not stopping me and my syncopation. Another one…oh well.

  7. Hi…I enjoyed your advice…I have really tripped out on all of the talented writing going on in these blogs…everyone has such creative flow, in their own way…I, however, have a question that maybe you can answer for me…I don’t think that I am posting mine the right way, as I never see it in the lineup of updated blogs…I am really a novice when it comes to these, and I would like to learn more on what to do…any advice would be helpful…Thanks Auntie

  8. Hey Andrew,
    I really agree with you and like your ideas very much.
    I have come across many talented pieces of writing in the blogosphere and they are so inspiring.

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