Blogging Cliches

  By Shamus   Aug 21, 2007   26 comments

Steven links to Thirteen Blogging Cliches. It’s an interesting list. I’m pretty guilty of #10 – blogging about blogging – although I think this isn’t that much of a sin. I write about what interests me, and one of the things that interests me is the dynamics of blogging and the culture that has risen up around blogs.

I agree with Steven that you don’t need open comments to have a blog. I don’t read comments on other blogs, unless it’s at a place like Chizumatic where I’ll likely be familiar with most of the people leaving comments. I never read comments on political blogs, because even when it’s polite it’s tiresome. Even when everyone agrees, it’s still tiresome. (The difference there is that usually political posts are informational or philosophical, which the comments tend to be nothing more than opinion.)

I see comments as the place for “small feedback”. Substantive, lengthy feedback is optimally placed on another blog, where it can be linked to, quoted, excerpted, highlighted, and annotated. It sucks trying to do that sort of thing in a comment box. In this case, I had a lot to say about Steven’s post, so I wrote here and linked him there. If I had a smaller comment like, “I relly like point #9″, or perhaps a correction like, “I never actually said I’d be doing another screencap comic” then usually I’d put it over there. Another way I think of it is if I want to address readers in general then I post here, and if I want to address Steven himself then I comment there. I know lots of people view this very differently, but that’s how I run things.

Blogs can run just fine without small feedback. (Although a smart author will give some way for readers to let him or her know about factual errors and spelling blunders.)

Number 3 on the list is “No Information on the Author”. This is a pet peeve of mine: Many times I’ve avoided linking to somebody that had something interesting to say because I didn’t know what to call them. No name. No gender. It sucks trying to refer to someone without proper nouns or gender-specific pronouns. I tend to gravitate towards writers who use their real names and have a picture of some sort available. I like to know who I’m talking to. Barring that, I like for them to have a handle and a gender. Barring that, at least a name would be nice. If a blog lacks both then I usually don’t bother reading it. What? Is this a young girl? An old man? A couple? A group blog? Oh forget it.

LATER: I also enjoy it when I get to link to other posts joining in the discussion. For example.

20626 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.


  1. Noumenon says:

    I grew up on discussion boards before blogs, so I know that people with no picture and no real name can have a lot that’s worth reading. I don’t really care if Shamus is your real name, I’ll link with “Twenty Sided has a rant up about anonymous blogs today…”

    Complaint #5 is wrong. Those blogrolls generate clicks. You can see them in your referrals. Making them shorter just for tidiness’ sake deprives people of hits for no good reason.

  2. Selki says:

    What’s so hard about “s/he” and “their” when somebody had something interesting to say?

    Noumenon, I agree with you on your first paragraph, but re Complaint #5, I’m *much* more likely to look at and click on one link of a blogroll of 5 than of 10, much less 52 as in the example.

    I disagree with the list’s problem with tag clouds. I can get the idea of a blog much quicker by glancing at a cloud than reading through a list of tags with a number by each. It’s an image that presents information well, not just a badge.

  3. Dev Null says:

    Its amusing – and he admits it – that he has to break several of his own rules in order to write the post. Which doesn’t make him a hypocrite, it just goes to show that all rules have exceptions – if a tool helps you express your point better, then use it.

    He does seem to have a rather one-sided view of what a blog is for though. I write on two different blogs which were designed purely as methods of communicating with my friends, and one more that is really just for notes to myself that I want to be able to reach from anywhere. None of them is for talking to the random public, though they’re welcome if they’re interested and can keep up. That being the case, I don’t feel any great need to identify myself to the Dark Lords of Spam – my friends already know who I am. His model of a blog as a two-way conversation between you and the rest of the world is common, of course, but its not the only reason to have one – DMotR, were it on a separate blog, could probably survive without us all telling you how (FRIST PST!) clever you are in the comments, for instance… *grin*

  4. Dev Null says:

    Oh and:

    “I never actually said I’d be doing another screencap comic”

    Is that a hint? Or a tease? Or both?

  5. Shamus says:

    Selki: What’s so hard about picking a gender?

    It’s not a big deal until you get a couple of these indecisive goofballs and you try to talk about both of them. Without proper names, all you have is s/he. You have to refer to people as “the author of somesuch blog” which is just as clumsy as “the artist formerly known as prince”. It’s annoying. Picking a name is easier than writing a paragraph comparing the views of two nameless, sexless entities.

  6. StereotypeA says:

    I dislike the idea of “no personal information about author” because, after you’ve read a blog for awhile, you start to form a bit of a personal connection with the author.

    I’ve never met you, you’ve never met me, but I do feel I know you in some small way. I know some of your likes, dislikes, peeves and such…

    Being nameless and faceless I think takes away from that.

  7. Noumenon says:

    I have an anonymous blog and I am always finding that people who read it can’t tell where I stand politically. Maybe they need to attach their thoughts about me to a face.

  8. Miako says:

    … e-mail screws up things.

    Remember the first time you got someone’s gender wrong? (it took me almost a year to figure it out too…)

    People screw up things even quicker, though.

    If you must assign a gender to someone, I can guarantee that you will not be able to associate with everyone.

    OTOH, I like handles. They’re more personal than names.

    Shamus, why not just give people handles, if they don’t provide any themselves? It’s standard procedure, from what I hear.

  9. Miako says:

    I agree in posting in your own space.

    But it works like cross-posting in usenet.

    It’s your job to keep the conversation going, to clue in people from both sites (not just your own) about what’s going on.

    So, if you’re commenting on someone’s blog, why not thrown in a link? “My comments here”

  10. Samrobb says:

    “I’m pretty guilty of #10 – blogging about blogging…”

    Except that you’ve managed to take it to the next level – you’re not just blogging about blogging; you’re blogging about someone blogging about blogging.

    You’d better hope and pray that Steven doesn’t, in turn, blog about this post of yours. That feedback loop would draw the two of you into a viscous spiral of self-referential angst, leaving you drooling vegetables haunted by tortured, damaged psyches. Hollow shells of what once was, your only reaction to the outside world a barely noticeable nervous tick whenever you hear someone mention the word “blog”.

    Not that I’m familiar with this or anything. I’m just saying.

  11. Selki says:

    Shamus: I don’t announce my hair color in my blog, any more than my gender. They’re just not relevant to what I have to say. One might draw conclusions from a reference in one entry or another, but I figure those who need to know, know. That’s different from giving a name or having a blog name people can easily use as a name when referring to one, of course.

    If one is trying to encourage people to write about one and link to one’s blog, gender identification will up the odds slightly, because a lot of people have expectations that people should so identify themselves. But not announcing one’s gender can be an active choice. It can be freeing (and I don’t mean just for women, from harassment). It can be a useful mental exercise, as can be writing about other people without referring to their gender identity. To some people, genderplay is part of their identity, or political activism. And some people have gender ambiguity forced on them, by their genes, though until recently doctors have been pretty carefree about imposing surgical gender assignments on babies without worrying about the hormonal and psychological effects on their victims as they grow up.

  12. Shamus says:

    Selki: I’m not sure where you’re going with this. I’m not suggesting people should be FORCED to reveal their gender, I’m just saying that the less I know about the author the less interested I am in what they have to say, and the less interest I have in joining a conversation with them.

    Which is fine. If someone is doing activisim / genderplay on their blog, then I’m most likely not anywhere near their target audience.

  13. Scott says:

    Speaking of comments versus blog entries, do you have ping/trackbacks enabled here? I don’t remember seeing any now that I think of it and I don’t see Thias’s in this entry. Did you find them spammy? Or just prefer to just manually add links like you did here? Or did I just miss them?

  14. Hawkehunt says:

    If the gender of an individual is unknown it is perfectly acceptable to refer to them as “he.” Actually, in formal settings “he” is far more appropriate than “s/he” or similar terms.

    True, you could rant for hours (or pages) about masculine bias and chauvinism and things like that, but that is the way the English language works, so please don’t.

  15. Dave says:

    The problem with stating gender is that it often flavors how someone reads the blog.. if it’s already being filtered by one’s stereoptypes then .. well.. it’s being filtered.

    Now.. Pat would work.. I have a friend named Jaan.. a guy.. or.. Joe.. a woman..

    I understand wanting something to direct one’s comments to. And saying you this and you that sounds confrontational.. I dunno though.. you label me.. you negate me.

    Enjoy!

    Dave

  16. Miral says:

    I normally post with a handle, and don’t make an issue of my real name or gender (though both can be found on my site if you look hard enough). I just don’t see them as important to the discussion at hand. (And I don’t have a photo anywhere at all online, as far as I’m aware. That’s the way I like it.)

    Regarding pronouns, the third-person plural ‘they’ is often used as a gender-neutral singular pronoun as well. (At least locally, anyway.) So if you didn’t know Steven’s name your second paragraph could have begun “I agree with them that…”.

  17. Kyrpä says:

    Bwahaha, my language doesn’t even have gender-specific pronouns. Finland rules!

  18. Shapeshifter says:

    Man, i am envious of Finnish. The lack of gendered pronouns is so awesome.

    But then i’m weird like that. Which is probably why i’m posting.

    All this whining about pronouns is… well… just whining. Don’t give me that, i’ve written over 40,000 words on role playing games without a single gendered pronoun getting in there–and not even resorting to singular “they” or the like–just by paying attention to it. And some of that was, invariably, combat… which can get a bit awkward, but mostly still isn’t that hard.

    Hell, singular they is historical–if it’s good enough for Jane Austen and Shakespeare it’s good enough for me.

    Similarly, my name is my own and none of your business. Where i live, if my real name got attached to my writings online, i’d get strung up. I already have to deal with enough trouble as it is. If it’s going to cost me a reader or two then fine, but don’t go around telling me it’s some great mistake as though i had never thought about sharing my “real” name, picture, gender, home address, or whatever other details you feel are essential before you read what i write. Maybe if i’ve gone through all this trouble to stay anonymous i won’t mind if you don’t get my given name on your citations.

    And let me just say also: “He” is not gender neutral in any way, shape, or form. You never hear–except in cases where people intend to say things like this specifically–“he gave birth” or “his breasts are rather shapely” or some other thing like that because he is not really a gender-neutral pronoun. Now, you tend to not hear “they” used their either–but it could be. The fact of the matter is that using “he” in that manner is just default-male pronoun: male until proven otherwise. That’s how people actually use the word, rather than how you think it should be used.

    Of course–with a few exceptions–stay far away from stuff like “s/he”, as that way lies disaster.

    Sorry if that was kind of ranty, but people keep getting up in my face about this stuff and it annoys me.

  19. Huckleberry says:

    I don’t have my own blog, and I only post comments on boards or other people’s blogs (such as yours, Shamus) rarely. When I started leaving comments on the internet, I decided not to use my real name because I do think that gender, nationality, age etc bias other readers’ reading of what you write, and a handle is such an easy way to avoid all that, allowing my comments to stand for themselves (plus, I don’t like my given name all that much, and it is hard to pronounce). But I always use the same handle, so all my comments and posts on boards can be linked to one source.

  20. Miako says:

    He is still the gender-ambiguous pronoun. English -defaults- to that.

    Yes, it would be stupid to say “his belly was pregnant” — there the gender is not ambiguous.

    “He went shopping” however, is a perfectly valid thing.

    I’ve seen people who used jer (or other made up names) to talk about people they didn’t know the gender of. Dont’ knock it too hard — it works when the community agrees on it [so they added a new word to English? what else is new?]

  21. Selki says:

    Shamus: where I was going with my remarks was in relation to your “indecisive goofballs” crack. It reinforces binary thinking (denying the reality of people who make choices to not reveal their gender (for whatever reason)), and it trivializes the pain of friends of mine who’ve been attacked (physically, requiring hospitalization in one case) because they didn’t appear unambiguously-gendered enough to suit passing thugs. I’m sure you didn’t mean it that way, but if you use a phrase like that, you should know the effect it has.

  22. Luke says:

    IMHO the comments are there more for the author than for the other readers. Comments are instant gratification – you post something, and you immediately see that people are reading and thinking about what you said. And it’s a more personal kind of feedback than you can get by looking at your server logs or by following trackbacks.

    Furthermore, I see comments as community building tools. People comment, you comment back, and a conversation starts going. You get to know your readers, they get to know you. My comment threads often go on off-topic tangents and etc…

    I have a small group of regulars who usually read me, and I kinda know what they like, what they will get a kick out of, and I can cater my content for them.

    But that’s just my opinion.

    Oh and I completely agree about the anonymous blogs. In fact, just after reading that article on Jeff’s blog I went and updated my About page to include my full name. I realized that up until then it only displayed my first name, and some nicknames I used on different sites.

  23. Shapeshifter says:

    If it can’t survive being used in the specific then how can you claim it is a gender neutral pronoun?

    The fact of the matter is that “gender-neutral he” is primarily a hypothetical construct and does not at all reflect the way the word is used or (more importantly) perceived.

    For instance:

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2294/is_n5-6_v34/ai_18539390

    “…it has been found consistently that the use of the generic masculine pronoun evokes a male referent (Gastil, 1990; MacKay, 1980; Martyna, 1978; Moulton, Robinson, & Elias, 1978). In other words, people think of men, not men and women, when “he” is used to refer to an individual whose gender is not specified, even when it is supposed to be clear that members of either gender are being referred to. For example, Gastil (1990) asked participants to read sentences that contained either “he,” “he/she,” or “they” as the pronouns for generic individuals and subsequently to describe the images that arose. The use of “he” evoked the greatest number of male images, even though the sentences explicitly referred to people of either gender.”

    And using custom pronouns runs the risk of just confusing or scaring off your readers–some of them are really terrible, too. I am, myself, partial to the Spivak pronouns but those are kind of obscure. Now, if you’re trying to change things or if you’re talking to a group of people who have an agreed upon gender-neutral pronoun then use whatever is appropriate. But, for instance, using “s/he” in formal writing tends not to work so well. Using it to refer to a specific person who prefers something else is a bad idea.

  24. Miako says:

    Yo! Shapeshifter!

    I grok that. Got a citation that proves/disproves the hypothesis that in “female gender neutral” languages, people consistently think of women?

  25. Shapeshifter says:

    Thank you for misunderstanding the point of the studies. If “he” really were gender-neutral then people would understand what’s being said. For instance, when people say “they are nice people” the assumption isn’t that the people being talked about are all male–“they” is an actual gender-neutral pronoun.

    The point is that “he” is NOT actually a gender neutral pronoun, despite what people (ie, you) might think. Just because you SAY it doesn’t make it so.

  26. Miral says:

    Or in the singular, “they are a nice person”. Again, gender neutral, and quite common usage. Although I’ve heard it’s not as common in the US for some reason.

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