Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What Makes That Good Blog So Good

Merlin Mann has a provisional list:

  1. Good blogs have a voice. 
  2. Good blogs reflect focused obsessions. 
  3. Good blogs are the product of “Attention times Interest.” 
  4. Good blog posts are made of paragraphs. 
  5. Good “non-post” blogs have style and curation. 
  6. Good blogs are weird. 
  7. Good blogs make you want to start your own blog. 
  8. Good blogs try. 
  9. Good blogs know when to break their own rules.
My favorite of these is number two, which I think (along with talent + work) is the motor that drives the other eight. Here's what Mann has to say about it:
People start real blogs because they think about something a lot. Maybe even five things. But, their brain so overflows with curiosity about a family of topics that they can’t stop reading and writing about it. They make and consume smart forebrain porn. So: where do this person’s obsessions take them?
"Forebrain porn" instantly makes me think of a historian's craft, but this "focused obsession" formula also holds true for all of my favorite blogs: Sullivan, Silliman, Al Filreis's 1960 blog, if:book back when Ben Vershbow was in the house, Snarkmarket when it's really cooking, FiveThirtyEight, Mark Ambinder, In the Middle, Obsidian Wings.  There are other blogs that go beyond this to become simultaneously curatorial and informational: Lifehacker, Kottke, Arts & Letters Daily, Talking Points Memo, all of which I think of more as bloggy news services than "personal" blogs as such. There are also the diaries of my friends, which I don't expect everyone else to read, but which more often than not turn up something as interesting as I read anywhere else.

The tenth criteria I would add: "Good blogs are humble." I can't stand Boing Boing, The Huffington Post, DailyKos, Gawker and its ilk, plus most well-regarded author/journalist blogs in no small part because they are all clearly too impressed with themselves. You have to have a sense that the blog is about the person's interest in ___x___, not their own role in ___y___, and it's because of x and not y that personality gets into the mix. If you make that substitution, or if there was nothing to substitute to begin with, it's all just death.

Since I started writing Short Schrift, I've always tried to accomplish 1-9 -- number four in particular was and remains important to me, even if I've gotten over my early reluctance just to include a video or link without lengthy commentary. And I'm delighted to have my 500-odd readers. Your taste is excellent -- not because you've chosen to read me, but because you want to read what I want to read too.

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