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.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Interesting Ad...

I'll explain the silence in depth at some point. For anyone who still has the RSS active, though, you might find this interesting:

GET PAID TO WATCH THE OHIO DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY DEBATE. Help OSU researchers learn about how people respond to candidates in real time by participating in a study of the Presidential primary debate on Tuesday (2/26). Adults with cable TV and high-speed Internet access can take part in the comfort of their own home. The first 100 volunteers to sign up who complete the study will receive a $20 Amazon gift card, and there will be a drawing for another 100 gift cards. To learn more or to sign up, visit