Lindon, who, if anyone, should know a lot about having & not having blogs (is this one the 4th?) gets to a serious nub about blogging and communities [emphasis mine]:
“I spent some time on the week end pondering”Blogging”, ‘cause here I am again with the initial wave of posts diminishing to a trickle.
Do I not have the will? – Grief I’ve coded plug-ins for Photoshop’s (then) arcane API, so I think I’ve got will enough.
Do I not have the time? Well, no one has the time, and I’m no one so that should be fine…
Is it not satisfying? — Bingo! (but why not?) Blogging I’ve come to see has little to do with community, it’s “Stand-and-deliver; chalk-and-talk” by any other name, and that was a form of teaching I didn’t enjoy as either a student or lecturer. It’s one way traffic, it’s publishing (”duh!” I hear you all saying, well OK both of you), but I now realise I had aspirations for it as a feedback mechanism, not to start with but as soon as my interest began to flag (again).”
Which is very very interesting. I’ve been thinking about niches and smallness more and more of late and this kinda seems to link in, in a way.
Let’s say, for example, that someone was a bit of a model plane enthusiast (exchange this for interest of your own here). Now, they are pretty busy, there might be a group of enthusiasts that meet face-to-face but they have a family / stuff to do and while they go don’t necessarily get on with all of them. Besides, they’re also interested in a very particular type of model plane and while there are thousands of other people who are they’re scattered round the country and world.
So, thinking about how the web can help them out I guess there are a few options:
Email / special interest groups
It’s not hard to rock over to Yahoo groups and pretty quickly find a ton of model plane groups. Once you’re in a group you also get to email them and get their emails, as our email addys become more and more something we keep for ever people are most likely to get your message and you might be able to have some pretty good conversations.
But joining a Yahoo group (or similar listserv) isn’t for everyone… they do have RSS feeds (but they’re v. limited for advertising purposes) and you can control things like digests but it is still email and that has it’s own intrusive / spam and various other issues to deal with.
In the same way as email groups you’ve got instant (and now unobtrusive, no ’email to everyone’ going on) communication and community… should you choose to participate (as lurker or actively).
Or of course you can set up a blog… and now here’s the rub… I can give you now an absolute cast iron guarantee that a community will not gravitate to you. Your questions will not be answered, your ideas knocked about or your posts commented upon.
Because blogging is bloody difficult.
First you have to figure out the blogosphere (if it exists) for what you’re writing about (and believe me, it is not large for model planes, this was about the best I could find) and then you have to alert them to your blog (which they may or may not like).
Then you have to ‘put in your bit’ by which I mean ‘take part in the conversation’ by commenting & linking to interesting things other people are saying, leaving comments on blogs, emailing authors… participating… it only takes two of ya!
And even then half the stuff you do write gets ignored (I didn’t mention that you probably should be writing something half interesting / useful too did I ;o)
But then, through all this work and giving and participating, you can get a pretty amazing community, you can manage conversations through RSS and you can get plenty of feedback, help, support and good things.
You’ve also got you’re own owned voice and the knowledge that you’re not foisting upon everyone through email stuff that you haven’t well edited and aren’t 100% about (after all, they all subscribe to your feed, it’s their choice) and I prefer that.
Having said that there’s plenty of room for RSS enabled discussion forums, definitely, and I think that you really can use email tied into blogs and forums very well, and Yahoo groups obviously works for a lot of people.
But for me, blogging is better… just extremely difficult and lots of hard work at the same time!