Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mommas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Bloggers

Redhorse likes to address his "Dear 19 Readers." It's the rhetorical device whose theft for this blog I've had the greatest difficulty resisting. It simultaneously acknowledges that one does, in fact, have readers. It also acknowledges the small-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things number of readers one actually has (though PBD has, deservedly, many more than 19... the self-deprecating humor of the particular number being another of the really appealing bits), and finally, it implies that the folks making up the set of readers one has today is roughly the same set of folks as the readers one had last week, which is also more or less true.

So... Who are/were Blue Bexley's 19 readers? Why do they read?

I don't necessarily have a great answer for these questions. But the possibilities that arise when simply considering them represent about 70% of the radio silence here. They also figure prominently in explaining why it's difficult to write about about the other 30%.

In the run-up to the 2007 election, I picked up a lot of Bexley readership. As this happened, more and more of my social circle started reading as well. It should be noted that my social circle is basically made up of my wife's colleagues. This is in part because my old boss is one of my wife's colleagues. When he was my boss, I got him into blogging. Eventually, in the midst of an argument about other issues, I was threatened with dismissal. You can't really fire someone from that job just because they've pissed you off, you need actionable cause. The actionable cause(s) that was available came in the form of time-stamps on entries on Blue Bexley, time-stamps during work hours.

Eventually, heads cooled. I had selectively applied for some political jobs in the spring/summer, sincerely telling folks that I wasn't looking to leave my job, but I'd be willing to do so and even be willing to take a pay cut in order to be doing something more like Blue Bexley than my then-current job. When I didn't get anything, I realized how much I really wasn't happy at my job, and that political jobs were primarily attractive because writing about politics was the primary "other" thing I did besides work and family. Realizing this, I started applying for other jobs where I could put my social science/statistics skills to use. My first in a series of interviews occurred just before the blow-up at work, and the first reference-checking started occurring a few days later. Realizing that I had already been shopping my resume before the blow-up put a new perspective on the situation for my employer, and I was happy to stay on for a month after accepting my new position elsewhere, and we parted on good terms.

Regardless, I learned some new things and had some old things reinforced. Sure, your blog can bite you, but not always when or where you thought it might. When it does, it might hit you, or it might land closer to your loved ones. Perhaps I should have learned this from other bloggers' wives being telephoned, fathers' arrest records published, etc., but I never used to pick fights with other bloggers (the primary source of such extra-blog aggression), and I thought that was sufficient precaution. I'm less confident now. Especially since a much greater fraction of my readership knows me out in meatspace than was previously true. Blog-Life and Real-Life can be a little close for comfort.

This leads to the reasons that have more to do with my life than my readers. My wife is an assistant professor at OSU. She goes up for tenure this fall, meaning that she puts in 60+ hrs/wk. Our daughter turns two in April. My current job has a much steadier and less cyclic stream of work to do. It's enough of an accomplishment to get through my RSS feeds, let alone make intelligent contributions to the ongoing discourse. Not to mention, putting in more time at work and more one-on-one daddy time with baby toddler-C has made my self-view a little less Bonobo-oriented. Charlotte can't stand me using the laptop, but she loves to shout "GOAL" when she hears the horn go off, so we've been watching lots of CBJ games. The Jackets having their best-ever season, and therefore playing meaningful post-New Year's games, has also had an undeniable opportunity cost in terms of maintaining BB.

And finally, for a while there, I just didn't give a crap about any of the stuff I normally write about. Some of that was due to a flare-up of chronic seratonin/dopamine problems which has once again been addressed, but part of it was actually rooted in the subject matter. See, I mostly write about politics. The primary focus is local, then regional, then state, then finally, occasionally, national. I'm assuming, therefore, that the 19 readers read Blue Bexley because they are interested in these subjects, because they are interested in me personally, or in a few rare cases are actually interested in what I, in particular, have to say about these things. And what I say in the context of partisan elections can generally be boiled down to: positive bits about liberal/progressive/Democratic candidates, and negative bits about right-wing/conservative/Republican candidates. I tend to ignore rather than spin the many items of interest that don't lend themselves well to this framework.

Besides not working as well now that 'Bonobo' and 'Jason' have become less distinct, this doesn't work during a primary. I'll give my actual primary thoughts next post, but for now I'll just say that most of the contests have little to do with policy and ideology. Right now, the primaries are looking a lot like figure skating. The results aren't as capricious as the cynics claim, but aren't nearly as correlated with performance as the rest of us would like to believe. Under those circumstances, there's cause for complaint, but no real reason to take sides. And I really don't like pointless complaining.

So, to sum up:

  • The cost/benefit ratio of my blogging increased
  • My ability to put up posts declined
  • There was little I had to say worth saying enough to overcome those two things
So if you wondered where I was (and I appreciate those who've expressed concern), well, that's where. Am I back? We'll see.

4 comments:

redhorse said...

Oh, please, feel free to thieve. That bit might be the only clever thing I ever do, and if someone with skill employed it, I'd be happy!

Regardless, hope you get you blogging shoes back, but if not, that's understandable as well.

I can empathize completely with the time constraint. There's no way I can post from work, and so I don't bother. But at night, I sometimes have engagements, family and otherwise, that don't permit reading, thinking, and finally, posting.

So I've tried to post shorter pieces, and I don't worry about not having something up everyday. Funny thing about those 19 readers, they tend to come back for reasons I don't comprehend.

Of course, I often get to rambling and after looking at the clock, curse myself for posting at 1am again.

Such are the risks.

openmind said...

Bonobo,

I definitely fall in the right-wing/conservative/Republican category, and yet I find myself checking your site a few times a week. I appreciate your take on a lot of issues. I don't necessarily agree with all, or even most of them, but I appreciate them. We are roughly the same age; I have 2x the kids.

Those little girls need their 1-on-1 time with their daddies. Twenty years from now I doubt you will ever regret not posting as much as you could have when that time is spent with your "baby" girl.

openmind said...

Welcome back/Goodbye. Whichever is applicable.

Paul said...

Bonobo:

I understand all you're saying.

Let me suggest that the advent of RSS readers makes it much less important that you post frequently than it is that you post when you have something important to say. Frankly I've stopped monitoring Jill's blog for that reason - the signal to noise ratio has become pretty poor.

I've got lots of RSS feeds in my reader that may only post once a month. But they're usually gems.

I found my way here because my particular interest is in the politics of schools systems, and there was a time when you were writing about this.

Since then I've weighed in on a couple of your political thoughts, mostly to say that while I have deep political beliefs, I hate what partisan politics have become in this country, and I wish the rhetoric were not so shrill. I mean this Barak HUSSEIN Obama stuff by the McCain camp, and the Obama-in-Muslim-garb ploy by the Clinton folks are childish.

I think that you and I agree on much more than we disagree, but because I happen to pick the label 'Republican' and you pick 'Democrat', it seems like we're on opposite sides and have nothing in common.

These distinctions feel even more stupid to me when you peel back the onion a layer or two and figure out that the big money interests (both corporate and labor) hedge their bets by feeding both parties. It's less important who is in power than it is that they get a person in office that 'owes a favor.'

Anyway, please show up when you have something to say, and don't worry about posting frequency.

PL