Wednesday, August 15, 2007

blogging, public sociology, and your cat

Jay Livingston, who I had the pleasure of meeting at ASA, has posted about the session on blogging on which I was a panelist. He has me saying:
“People say they don’t want to read about your cat,” said Jeremy Freese, “but in fact the posts about your cat are the ones that get the most response.”
I appreciate the nod, but this isn't really what I said. I did invoke the idea of blogging about one's cat. However, this was because when I introduced myself I said I had started blogging after seeing Kieran's blog, but I didn't want to misrepresent my own blog as having the same content orientation as Kieran's. So, what I said was that Kieran had once told me that when he started blogging he wasn't sure what he wanted to do but he knew I didn't want to blog about his cat, and I said that I didn't have a cat but if I did, I would almost certainly blog about it sometimes.

Chris was the one who said something about there being the idea that nobody is interested in what you had for lunch and then it turns out that, indeed, some people are interested in what you had for lunch, and might even be more interested in that than some serious post you spent a lot of time on.

Later, I made a related point, which is that audiences very much influence the content of blogs, as content of subsequent post tends to bend in a direction toward those previous posts that get the most response. I cited one example at the panel, which I won't repeat here, but I could cite others and, for that matter, this blog as well. Eszter argued against this as a normative argument--she argued that people should follow their muse because the explicit feedback they get isn't even a good indicator of what posts people actually like--but I intended the statement mainly as a descriptive one, as part of what typically happens with blogs.

I might write more about the blog panel later. Scott from Inside Higher Ed was there; I was sad we didn't get a story out of it, although he has provided good coverage of ASA.


Jay Livingston said...

Sorry for confusing who said what about cats and lunch. I guess I inadvertently illustrated something someone else said: that unlike writing a reviewed and edited piece, blogging risks putting something incredibly stupid or wrong out there for the world to see. Maybe I'll go back and change it.

I had thought to include your idea about audiences influencing bloggers, which I thought was one of the more interesting ideas offered. But I couldn't summarize it in any snappy way that might still be accurate.

The photo wasn't bad though, was it?

dilettante said...

I think that Jay makes a good point about the difference between blogs and edited works. A recent question that somebody asked Steve Jobs about why Macs don't feature "Intel Inside" stickers like other computers resulted in Mac bloggers deriding the stupidity of such a question. As this summary ( of the situation points out, however, none of the bloggers thought to actually contact the reporter who asked the question for his take on the event. So it seems that blogs have the potential to bring us closer together, but by writing in this informal way we also run the risk of ignoring avenues for meaningful dialog with those with whom we disagree.

Gwen said...

People seem to like my posts about cats well enough. I mean, my posts about cats usually include my getting the crap scratched out of me by one or my mom neutering one in the kitchen, but I have found cat stories to be rather well received.

I think basically if people find you interesting, they'll read about mundane stuff in your life that, if they came upon that post first might bore them and cause them to ignore your blog but, once they've decided they like you, is tolerable.

eszter said...

What I thought I'd said was that I don't necessarily follow what I think people may or may not want to hear about. I didn't mean for this to be a guideline for others. I was just suggesting that while I think you're right that many people are influenced by what they *think* their readership finds of interest, this is not necessary and isn't always the case.

Anonymous said...

Hear! Hear! An honest woman.