Saturday, February 14, 2009

Whither the Topic?

I'm aware that most bloggers write about whatever's on their mind at the moment. I figure that this is the diary- or journal-type mentality in effect: these are our personal sites, and when faced with the task of populating these with content, we naturally gravitate towards the stuff that's going on in our lives.

Just taking a quick look down the line of previous posts, I note that I've written about my new godson, my voice, my personal dislike of plagiarism, my opinion about reusing old works, and my take on a bunch of upcoming deadlines... all in the last two weeks.

I find that there's one catch to this style of blogging, however, and that's the fact that, if nothing interesting is happening in your life, then you end up being at a loss for topics. The same situation results if, say, work is the foremost thing on your mind, and you don't want to break your non-disclosure contract. Or if you're engaged in hobbies that need some significant explanation before you can talk about them (mathematics and Magic come to mind).

When faced with this situation, I think that most bloggers would turn their attention to outside events. We hold opinions on just about everything, after all, and it makes for a legitimate discussion point for our web sites. Maybe it's the Australia wildfires today. Maybe it was the Madoff scheme yesterday. Maybe it'll be the excessive Dumaguete rains tomorrow.

The beauty of writing based on outside events is that there's always some change in the mix. Whatever you're writing about today will almost certainly not be the same thing that you'll be writing about six months from now. Political bloggers know this by heart, I suppose, so much that they can make careers out of this kind of writing. Readers, for their part, are usually willing to delve into organized opinion... no matter how far-leaning or out-of-the-ordinary it might be. (And those out-of-the-ordinary things might even get a better audience.)

Even if there isn't much happening on the outside, I suppose, there's also another direction where one can aim his personal opinion. I find that reviews are common nowadays, for instance — if we're not talking about movies, then we're talking about books. If we're not talking about books, then we're talking about electronics. And if we're not talking about electronics, then we're snapping photos of our favorite dishes at our favorite restaurants. There's a constant question as to whether or not our own personal opinions contribute something to the welfare of the world — one man's treasure is another man's trash, I imagine — but they do help feed our passion for expression.

One thing that puzzles me, however, is the current spate of commercial blogging. I understand this to some degree, mind you: It doesn't take much to realize that some people tend towards moneymaking efforts, for instance, and it's not too far-fetched to imagine that some companies can just as easily use blog services as a cost-effective resource. Profit and personalism don't necessarily conflict, which means that commercial blogs can easily exist in the current community without much issue.

The odd thing, however, is that I see more than a few SEO blogs advocating themselves as "personal" efforts. I mean, is this a move to get more readers? Resolve a strange crisis in identity? Get attention? As much as I'd like to see it, I usually don't find that much in the way of personal contribution among the tide of syndicated content here. But, well... whatever gives them the content that they need, I suppose.

Corporate blogs are even more strange to me, if only because they walk a very fine line between the need for public promotion and the privacy of corporate secrets. The result is a site that gives a glimpse of the inner workings behind an organization without... actually... giving... away the inner workings behind an organization. At worst, there's the question of how they expect to provide updates on a regular basis: Apart from the writers' expected "standard" workload, there's also the question of what they're supposed to write about on a regular basis.

In that sense, personal bloggers have it easy. Assuming that they can draw upon topics completely at random, they can simply write about the first thing that comes to mind. Often, this comes in the form of personal experience or insight — the diary- or journal-type mentality, if you will.

There's a whole slew of people out there, all tapping away at their keyboards for certain portions of each day, and there's just a slew of variations in each and every one of the words they write. Exactly where we draw our content from is anybody's guess, despite everything that I've written above. Maybe we all just pull it from the hands of some master manipulator, some titanic dragon who clutches the primordial servers of the world in his talons and telepathically compels us to use LOLspeak.

But that's a story for another time, and perhaps a dandy piece of content for my next post.

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