Tuesday, December 2

Writing With Ego: For Jason Falls

Most people like Jason Falls, who pens the Social Media Explorer, and I count myself among them. Recently, he wrote a post inspired by his friend who hosts a blog on MySpace. The post was interesting on the front end, but lost a little steam with the traffic building tactics that have become increasingly pervasive among social media experts. Traffic is easy, but without traction it's meaningless.

Still, traffic tips didn't stop me as much as reading that "blogging is an inherently ego-driven activity." He continued...

"You don’t have a blog if you don’t think your writing is important enough to be heard. As you start to build traffic, you’ll get a little swagger about you. It makes you feel good. It makes you feel important. But the moment you start acting important to your readers is the minute they walk away. I was once a big fan boy of one significant social media blogger. But, in ever-so-subtle ways, he started big-timing folks. I don’t even read his stuff anymore, as good as it might be. So, as good as you are, don’t get cocky thinking you’re some big shot writer person. Continue to participate with the community. That genuine person is what makes people click on your links without hesitation." — Jason Falls

A column called Why write? by Thomas Mitchell, editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, immediately came to mind. Mitchell outlined four primary reasons that people write as it was once defined by George Orwell. It applies well to blogging too:

• Sheer egoism.
• Aesthetic enthusiasm.
• Historical impulse.
• Political purpose.

So Falls is likely right in that some people do blog for sheer egoism, especially as it seems to run rampant among certain echo chambers. But there are certainly other motivations that don't require egoism to drive good content. In fact, in addition to those offered by Mitchell, I might suggest a few more that other bloggers have suggested to me over the years:

• Monetization.
• Peer participation.
• Educational intent.
• Altruistic intention.
• Business and/or product marketing.
• Making interest-related connections (eg. hobbies).

Of course, it might be important to note that the vast majority of bloggers don't really know why they start blogs. Most develop some sense of purpose as they go. As I offered up in a comment on Mitchell's column (truncated and paraphrased) ...

Originally, I started this blog in 2005 (I had another, briefly, in 2004) for the simple purpose of augmenting educational instruction since the class I teach is served up in a truncated 10-week format, which is not enough time to consider the changes taking place within the field of communication. Eventually, it evolved from educational intent (instructional) to experimentation (learning how to apply specific technologies to business for client blogs) and engagement (having conversations to lend some principles of strategic communication to social media).

That's not to say any bloggers are exempt from being bitten by the ego bug as Falls points out, even me. There certainly was a little swagger in my step the first time a single post drew 10,000 hits in one day. However, that little brush with a blog rush wasn't a feel good moment as much as it was a warning not all that dissimilar to winning industry awards.

The first few feel amazing, but then you realize that awards are best left as the sequel to great results. As soon as you forget that they make a poor pilot, you suddenly run the risk of becoming a slave to the pursuit of them. The same holds true for blog traffic. Some of my favorites still remain unpopular and that's fine with me. Not all posts here are written for everyone nor were they egoism driven as described by Orwell...

“Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. … Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.” — George Orwell

Perhaps I was more serious when I was younger, but nowadays I'm more interested in finding the truth. Besides that, the Internet has no place for permanence as my friends and colleagues perceive.

It's fair, of course, for Falls to disagree with me. We do that from time to time, which is why I value the friendship. Yet, while ego can be part of the equation, and there is nothing wrong with that, none of us can really guess at the motivations behind the men and women who blog. It's better when we ask them. At least I think so.



Valeria Maltoni on 12/2/08, 7:34 PM said...

The truth is more important than the facts. Thank you for this island of inspiration.

Jack Payne on 12/2/08, 10:13 PM said...

Looking for logical fits between bloggers and their blogs is a difficult undertaking indeed. It's like wondering why a summo wrestler doesn't play goalie for the Detroit Red Wings. The degree of the ego intrusion into this equation has always puzzled me. And, still does. Despite your excellent piece on this subject.

Rich on 12/3/08, 6:53 AM said...

@Valeria Thank you for providing one of the most truthful blogs on the Internet.

@Jack There is a reason Orwell ended his essay by declaring he didn't really know why he wrote. It's often a mystery, even to the blogger.

I understand why writers sometimes fall prey to egoism, but I'll never understand why bloggers do. The fuel that seems to feed it is often an illusion — rank, ratings, comment counts, etc.

All my best,

Richard Skaare ... on 12/3/08, 9:08 AM said...

Thanks for your straight-up perspective. You probably implied this point in your post but among the reasons I created a blog was the strong desire to capture, organize, and log my knowledge -- perhaps some wisdom -- as validation that I was here for awhile and made some difference.

Rich on 12/3/08, 12:02 PM said...

Hey Richard,

Thanks for mentioning it. That might fall under historical impulse (without the need to see your work last beyond your years. of course). Any work could survive us all anyway, provided we back it up. :)

As for organizing, etc. I use it for that too. A few of my posts make for a quick class handout now and again and reference. It sure beats folders. I have too many as it is!

All my best,

Jason Falls on 12/3/08, 6:15 PM said...

Just returned from my trip and had a chance to read. Excellent points all the way around, as usual. I value our friendship for the exact same reasons -- I love the discourse in our disagreements. That, and you're much more thorough and thoughtful in your posts than I. It's the mark of a good writer ... and one who enjoys seeing his work read by others -- wink, wink.

Promise to flush out better thoughts and respond soon.

Rich on 12/4/08, 7:28 AM said...


Though I'm not sure I pulled everything from the post what did. You're an excellent writer and always thoughtful.

You especially made me laugh out loud with " ... and one who enjoys seeing his work read by others -- wink, wink." Don't you know ...? I generally dislike what I write.

There's no obligation to write another post, but I'd be honored if you did. Seeing something built upon

All my best,


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