Felix Salmon has a great post that starts out as a rant about Kottke, and turns into a good discussion of blogging in general. I doubt there’s anyone reading my (minor) tech blog who hasn’t read kottke.org at some point, but for those of you who’ve somehow escaped it, Jason Kottke wrote a very popular blog vaguely about usability, design, and content. Last year he quit working for the man and solicited funds from his readers to build a bigger, better, blog. He actually got like $35K in donations, but then he did diddly squat with them and ended up screwing around.
Which is what most people do when they’re on unemployment. I’ve logged two separate six-month stints on the dole, and although I did a few things (finished NaNoWriMo 2002, travelled a lot, read a bunch of books on memetics, DJd, did some freelance PM work, applied to graduate school – okay, maybe my idea of slack is different from most people’s) I ended up wasting a whole hell of a lot of time. Part of the challenge of having a non-traditional schedule (as I do as a grad student) is structuring my time. Methinks Jason Kottke just, you know, kicked it.
The reason I like this post is because Felix points out quite clearly the difference between “some guy in his pyjamas uploading whatever he feels like on a semi-irregular basis” [in full disclosure, I am wearing flannel pajamas with clouds all over them right now. And a Laura Ashley bandanna. Don't ask] and the kind of blogs that get front-page NYT stories and cash & prizes for their writers: BoingBoing, Gizmodo, Gawker, etc. He sez:
It’s worth noting that the kind of blogs which make the cover of New York magazine are the blogs which are updated dozens of times per day, whether the editors particularly feel up to it or not. In other words, they’re not a stereotypical blog…they’re professional operations, where blogging is a paid job with well-defined responsibilities. Pete Rojas might now be a millionaire. But he got there by working 80-hour weeks more or less non-stop since the launch of Gizmodo in August 2002.
When I moderated a blogging panel at the Apple Store in May 2004, I think the tide was turning. At the time, Nick Denton was still in his blogs-will-never-make-money mode, but both Jen Chung and Choire Sicha conceded that what they were doing was a far cry from what 99% of other bloggers did. They updated their sites regularly because they had to, which was great in terms of building a readership, but much less great in terms of the kind of satisfaction that most people get from publishing their thoughts on the internet and getting feedback on them. Blogging had, for them, stopped being something they loved to do, and had turned into being a job.
You probably know plenty of writers who spend their days churning out action-oriented copy “for the enterprise” (flexible, scalable, buzzworthy) and are too burned out at the end of the day to work on their great american thirtysomething novel. Same with designers, musicians, teachers, professional eBayers, anyone who starts out with a hobby that becomes a job. There’s a BIG difference between doing something because you WANT to and doing something because you HAVE to, even if it’s the exact same thing.
And so I am going to stop feeling guilty if I don’t update my blog very often. Right now I’m totally into it, but I’ve been running a website for 11 years (!!!! OMG I AM OLD) and I am fully aware that I ebb & flow in terms of my enthusiasm of sharing my life with the internets. I am lucky that this is something I like to do rather than something I have to do, and I am going to go with that rather than wishing I had one thirtysecond of Cory’s readership. To use a very early 90′s (and thus incomprehensible to my under-21 readership) analogy: it’s like the difference between a fully-funded publication like Spin or Rolling Stone and xeroxed zines like Beer Frame, Cometbus, or Thrift Score. Most blogs are a labor of love. If you want to get famous, this is probably not the way to go (try reality television).
In other news, lovely to hear from my MA advisor, David Silver, who is a *great* teacher, an inspiring guy in general and the founder of the super-rad September Project. Nice to see you around these parts.