Blogging Cynicism – What Drives the Blogger

A wide range of motivations drive the creation and maintenanceof weblogs (blogs). I’m using the term “blog” to genericallyrefer to the content management system that many are using today(such as what you see here), even though it is quickly evolvingaway from the minute-by-minute “what I’m doing and what I’mlistening to!” style that earned it so much deserved derisionin the first place.

Sometimes someone really has something they want to gripeabout, and a blog offers an easy and accessible soapbox tovent from. Brand X makes terrible cars, the waiter atthe local Denny’s was a jerk, or Walmart represents satanincarnate (or incorporate?). No one is forced to read it, andif search engines are polluted with these random rants, well that’sa search engine problem and not a blogging problem. 

And why shouldn’t they use this cathartic medium if it helpsthem get it off their chest Even if their entries are onlyread by a couple of close friends or family, that is the originalspirit of the internet materialized.

Other times a blog is a tool to promote yourself, or a product,in a way that one hopes to leverage into business or personalsuccess (in new-speak: to monetize it somehow. Indeed, that’s thecase here – I have an exciting venture that I’m going to use as asource for content in here on occasion). Generally this sort ofself-promotion blog gets the initial slingshot by capitalizing onsome association with a famous event, product, or corporation, andleveraging that into (often unearned) authority in otherrealms. “Bob, the guy who worked on the install for Office 95,has written some thoughts about Microsoft’s opposition toOpenDocument…

It’s become quite a proven formula, and examples abound.

I consider Joel Spolsky ofFogcreek Software apioneer in using a blog for this sort of self-promotion, using the”authority” technique I mentioned previously, even though he wasdoing it before we called it blogging. He has used topublish some fantastic essays of various levels of formality (whichwere even printed out in dead-tree form), doing so for quite a fewyears. He has taken the fact that for a brief period he worked onthe automation engine for Microsoft Excel and parlayed it intoattention and credibility for his business, and has gottenattention for his thoughts regarding virtually anything relating toMicrosoft (in particular those things that could be interpreted as”anti-Microsoft”. The minions love when Joel disparages Microsoft,because his tenuous association with Excel in the past makes him anauthority figure on all things Microsoft).

Joel is a “best case” example of this technique, as he happensto be incredibly insightful and pragmatic, and is an excellentauthor as well.

The “Joel Fomula” – leveraging some industryconnection or history to build awareness for some new venture – isgrowing in popularity as more are seeing this as a criticalstrategy. Everyone who had anything to do with any well known (orinfamous) product, however remote their role, is coming out togive their take on some current situation (and a cynic would saythat they’re “karma whoring” – they’re saying exactly whatthe populace wants to hear, throwing sand in the eyes of their oldmasters if it helps get them mentioned on Slashdot).

This is becoming so formulaic that I’m getting a bit cynicalabout it all. Oh look, the former `Director of Product Marketingfor Apple’s “Pro” applications’ has given the world histhoughts about digital rights management (all 271 words).Zzzzzzz.

Expect more somehow-connected-at-some-point people to pander tothe populace as they try for their piece of the Bubble 2.0 action.They’ll tell us how everyone should get along, Microsoft is evil,all IP should be free, and so on. It’s a proven equation.