I realized i wanted to write this column a few weeks ago, but then decided to wait until I had hit 100 followers before I wrote it and posted it here. Since this afternoon I hit the "100" mark (and hopefully I'm still at least there when you read this), here it is.
It struck me one day that being a "columnist" sort of blogger, which is, I suppose, the way I fancy myself, is like writing an editorial column in a newspaper that you own. Yeah, you're now a "published columnist"...but who's going to stop you from publishing? Who's vetting what you write? You might get an editor to look over the column before it goes to press, and that person might tighten things up a little bit, but no one's going to tell you such and such an article isn't print-worthy. It's all the implicit permission, none of the earned privilege.
User-generated web content is the hallmark of the Web 2.0 revolution. You are no longer limited to being a passive commuter driving along the "information superhighway", you're also an architect. building roads and exits and cul-de-sacs, taking people places you want them to visit. If those places are your MySpace page or your Facebook profile, no big deal; those resources are largely there for the purposes of social networking, and self-expression there is informal at best.
Not so with blogging. Although the "blog" grew out of "online journal" services such as LiveJournal, it has become less and less an online diary (although many people use it for that purpose, and that's perfectly fine) and more as a semi-formal soapbox / democratic forum / editorial mouthpiece where any one person or group of people can put forth an idea to the entire world. Although a lot of people don't think this is a big deal, or feel much weight of responsibility, I think just the opposite - it means what you put out there in your blogs is actually very important, and whatever you write should be published with the understanding that, once the various search engines get their hands on it, anyone in the world doing a web search may come across what you've written if they use the right keywords.
All right, I'm beginning to ramble here about the qualitative obligations inherent to Web 2.0 publishing. Moving on...
The point I am trying to make is, we are all blogging. Some of us do it once a month, some of us do it every day, some of us even do it multiple times a day. We write whatever we want about whatever we want to talk about, and it gets "published" for the whole world to find and read. At the end of the day, without any feedback, constructive criticism, or support, many of us can feel that we're just talking to an empty room, so to speak. I'm fortunate enough that most of my columns get at least a couple of comments apiece, some more, and a few don't get anything but that's the exception to the rule.
I've been to other people's blogs, however, where there have been dozens - sometimes hundreds - of posts, and there is almost no commentary feedback and no one "Following" the blog, at least publicly. First, I am impressed that the authors of said blogs are able to keep up the posting for so long without substantial feedback. Second, I always wonder if THEY wonder if they're just talking to an empty room. I know that if I hadn't started getting comments posted to my blog within the first few weeks of writing, I might very well have let it die off, or at the very least, only posted something here once every couple of months.
At the end of the day, feedback is important. "Followers" and even more importantly, comments, are a tangible, quantifiable measure of the worth of what you have to say to the world, and believe me, they do matter to people. Every time I find a new blog and I like what the author has to say, I make sure to leave a few comments, just to let them know "Hey, someone else is reading this, and found it worthwhile". I make doubly sure to do this for new bloggers that don't have a lot of followers or comments - do unto others and all that jazz.
So after more than two years, one hundred followers, and a goodly number of comments (several hundred, surely, since I've got 168 posts counting this one, and each post averages at least 2-3 comments), I just want to thank everyone who's followed this blog or posted a comment here, positive or negative. it shows that I'm not just talking to an empty room, or writing a column for my own newspaper.
And last, but not least, I want to urge everyone who reads this to go out there, find a blog that's interesting to you but doesn't seem to get a lot of traffic, and post a few comments just to let the writer know that someone else finds value in what they are doing.
Here's to 168 posts down, hopefully hundreds more to go.