Posted by mike in Internet,News at 3:18 pm on December 30, 2006

As people are often wont to do around the end of the calendar year, I’ve decided to take a few moments to reflect upon this site and do a little self-critiquing. In general, I don’t think this blog is very good. Largely this is probably due to the fact that I haven’t quite gotten used to the whole idea of it yet. I tend to write a lot in general, but most of it isn’t directed at my blog. I think in the future I’ll try to turn it around; a large part of the reason I started a blog, in fact, was so that I could direct all of my writings to a central location. I found myself repeating the same thoughts, rants, criticisms, and general opinions in many different forums, and thought it’d be better to focus on writing each particular idea once, in a slightly more formal manner, and then linking to it as the topic came up elsewhere. I’m going to try to do this more, and hopefully in 2007 you’ll see a much higher posting frequency.

I’d also like to increase the overall quality of my posts, and another area in which I’d criticize myself is my posting style. I said in my first post that I was going to play it by ear and see what direction the site would take on its own, and that open-ended policy has given me an opportunity to see what kind of posts I would make naturally, without trying to shoehorn myself into a specific style or tendency. That said, the posts I’ve made so far seem to fall into two categories:

  • Current Events: These are generally shorter posts about something that has just happened, or is ongoing at the time of writing. They are more along the lines of what I’d consider to be a diary-type blog.
  • General Opinions: These are what I suppose would generally be called “rants,” but that term is thrown around so often in reference to blogs that I find it to be a bit too cliched. Because of this, instead of just bitching about something, I have tried to make longer, more thoughtful posts, again in a slightly more formal writing style than everyday online conversation.

And of course there are some posts that are a combination of the two: sometimes I use a current event (or something I’ve recently read/seen/encountered) as a springboard to discuss a broader topic. Personally, I think that these are my best posts (the God Bless America post is probably my favorite so far). In the future, I’d like to add anecdotes as another broad category of posts–stories I’ve told over and over again that I think would be entertaining to others. I’m not interested in retreading the same ground where the likes of Tucker Max and Jason Mulgrew have gone before, but I think I’ve accumulated some unique and entertaining stories that others would enjoy reading, so I’ll try to get some of them written out and see what kind of a response they get.

I think my biggest criticism of myself thus far is that I’ve tried to be too autobiographical in several of my posts. The intention was that if you read every post, eventually they would build up somewhat of a story about “who I am” or something, without actually having to read a page called “About Me.” To this end I’ve tried on a few occassions to frame my posts in the context of some biographical information. I think that this presents several problems, though:

  1. It dilutes the focus of the post. Beginning a post about some religous jackass by talking about Kevin Smith movies doesn’t make any sense, for example.
  2. It makes the site too scattered. Somebody coming to this site to read about a particular topic wants to read about that topic. If they care about who I am, they probably aren’t interested in reading every single post I’ve ever made to piece together the bits of biographical information for themselves.
  3. It’s probably more information than I want to give, anyway. I don’t do much to keep myself anonymous (hell, I’ve posted my picture), but I’m not really interested in this site being used as a portrait of who I am. I don’t think I’m giving away too much by revealing that when my group at work interviews job candidates, we hunt for any online records we can find as a way of fleshing out our impression of the applicant. The Chronicle of Higher Education details some of the downsides to this in an article entitled Bloggers Need Not Apply, which concludes:

    We’ve seen the hapless job seekers who destroy the good thing they’ve got going on paper by being so irritating in person that we can’t wait to put them back on a plane. Our blogger applicants came off reasonably well at the initial interview, but once we hung up the phone and called up their blogs, we got to know “the real them” — better than we wanted, enough to conclude we didn’t want to know more.

    So in the interest of maintaining at least a slight amount of anonymity, I’ve attempted to keep identifying information to a minimum. If you Google my full name, nothing from 1000monkeys.com is returned, and that’s intentional. (As an aside, I realize that once a visitor has arrived at this page, it would be fairly trivial to discern who I am–all one would need to do is look up this site in whois–and from there to perform further searches to find out more information. It’s the other direction I’m concerned with, though–given some of that other information, I don’t want the connection with this site to be obvious.)

  4. It makes posts too long. I know this may seem like an ironic comment to make around the 900 word mark of this post, but I’m allowing myself some leeway here in the interest of making a thorough analysis. I will likely continue in the future to allow myself some lengthy posts, provided they maintain focus (see #1 above). The specific criticism here is to note again that somebody coming to this site to read a particular post probably isn’t interested in a couple of paragraphs of expository information that provides context for that particular post in my personal life.

While I’m not going to go so far as making precise rules for myself, I think the above are good points to keep in mind as I go forward. As I said at the outset, though, this is merely reflective of my own thoughts about this site. I welcome input from my readers, as always, and would be interested in hearing if you think this critique is accurate or not, as well as any other criticisms you might have.

Comments (2)

2 Responses to “State of the Site”:

  • (note: since they’re already a Mark on this site, I’m going with my high school nickname of “Tree”)

    Anonymity is very important to me. In my blog, I make no mention of my real name (that’s where the alter ego thing comes in) so I use an pseudonym. I have never posted my last name online, nor my pic on any website, and my location is generalized. Shit, even my email outgoing name is something else. While on the other hand, one of my friends posts pics of himself & his friends, his phone number, address, full name, as if his blog will be considered some character strength thing. Tho quite honestly, his blog content sucks, it’s rather boring, bland, and obscene when it comes to all of his dog-love. And what has happened so far? He’s received emails from long lost classmates (tho only a few), including a disgruntled middle school teacher that everyone hated, who he mentioned in an entry once. Suffice to say, the teacher sent a rather nerve-wracking email to my friend about it.

    And as for your entries, I say, “make it as long as it has to be”. Whether it’d be a one-sentence entry (i.e.: “Today’s entry was unavailable at presstime because the printer’s cartridge was out of ink”) or a 10,000 word rant on ‘why can’t we find any Tang anymore?’. Generally, short / middle / long entries are better than no entries.

    Since you’re going with a tag entry format, it makes sense to keep entries focused. Multiple daily entries would be a good tactic if you have a lot to say on a lot of different things on a particular day.

    And this is only a personal preference, but I find the best blog entries is when the creative writing process kicks in, a la dialog sketch – comedy story format.

    Another suggestion, is people like images & pictures. Like say if you’re talking about your sports team, grab an image from the game last night. Or some cheesey clip art thing. Sure, it’s kinda dumb, but it brings some light & color to a blog. (tho i call this “Hell” when it comes to the near end of a month on dial-up)

  • One of the advantages of having an extremely common name is anonymity by numbers. Google my name and you won’t run across a single thing related to me in the first 50 pages of hits. Still, I tend to keep my posts neutral (read:boring), so as not to paint myself in any particular color. On those forums where I do tend to take a side or rant a bit, I use a pseudonym.

    That said, I think your best posts are the ones where you pontificate a bit. I tend to agree with you on most subjects, yet I find you to be far more eloquent than I.

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