December 11, 2003 00:25 | Culture / Features / WebBlogging

Stick this in your Google and smoke it

In a comment on Joi's site, Stewart Butterfield remarked:

I have no idea how to settle an argument about this, but I contend that, for the overwhelming majority of blog readers and writers, blogs have almost nothing to do with 'content', and everything to do with identity and relationships.

Yup. I have to agree entirely. To be precise, not all weblogs would be about content (few are) and not all weblogs would be "identity & relationship building". Many turn out to be a bit of both, in varying proportions (as well as being any number of other things, of course).

For example, predominantly "content-focused" weblogs would be maintained by their authors with the desire and belief that what they are publishing is worthwhile, relevant, interesting, etc... The validity of said belief is beyond the scope of my point, and the desire is at least notable. Among these we can count blogs by Journalists, blogs by pseudo-journailsts (no negative connotation implied!), academics, hobbyists blogging about their hobby, etc. Their goal, if I may say, IS to "publish and share hopefully, somehow, relevant content and perhaps elicit conversation/communication revolving around said content".

Examples of this would be Dan Gillmor and Jon Udell (tech journalism), Anders Bell's Phluzein and danah boyd's Connected Selves (academic/specialized interest), etc...

On the other end of the spectrum we would find the often maligned "what I had for lunch today" style weblog. Here, the idea is to share a bit of one's self and one's life, much as one does at the family dinner table or when "shootin' the shit" in light social settings and daily interactions. "Hey I saw such and such movie last night. I liked it." This essentially identity and relationship management. You get to know a heck of alot about somebody quick by reading their entries of this nature. You get to know them, as much or as little as they want you to, and they get to know you, as much or as little as you want them to.

Again, no absolutes: I am merely setting a possible scale.

So, why mention Google in my title? Well folks, my little RowBoat here leans heavily to the "identity and relationship" side, and as such it seems rather pointless for it to be involved in the ongoing Google-washing that his happening. You wouldn't believe how many referers I get from search engines where people want a picture of a rowboat or to know where to rent a rowboat. If I actually wrote about rowboats, it'd make sense, but as it is, it is merely a silly title I thought up when I was asking myself the perennial newbie blogger questions: "what is this weblog of mine? and what shall i call it?"

So, as of today, using the wonders of the "robots.txt" file, I will disallow search engine crawling of my archives. Also, more serious stuff (content I feel may be of some value/genuine interest) will be remanded to a separate weblog, which I will announce in due time,and which will not be closed to search engine crawlers (spiders, robots, what have you).

The effect of this, I expect, will be that I will be more inclined to fill up RowBoat with stuff about me and my life (fun eh!?)(as you opined, Mike), as well as actually post more of the smarty pants theories I come up with... and they will be much better written and researched of course (as you suggested Anders).


As far as being "content-focused", it has its ups and downs. There have been many times when I have wanted to post about something other than my chosen content. However, I have generally prevented myself, perhaps motivated by a misguided sense of aesthetics.

For the most part, this somewhat blinkered approach to blogging is due to the type of interraction that I enjoy. Since I began the blog in March I have not only enjoyed some good healthy arguments (in one case, my site was the arena for a lengthy debate between an academic and a journalist). I have also learned a great deal from some of the comments left on my site, which added to the information provided by an article I had linked to. I also regularly receive emails from visitors to my site with questions that fall into my areas of interest and I am sometimes able to help them along with their own research. All in all, I have benefitted greatly from my experience with a "content-focused" blog.

However, it is unfortunate that the most commented article on my site falls into the category of those few things that I have blogged about, which have nothing at all to do with my general content. This particular article's popularity is due to both its subject (a movie that is in production) and the fact that Google has my site ranked at number two when you search for information about this movie.

I am loath to deleting the article in question (despite the overwhelming and distracting popularity of its comment thread), and I cannot disallow crawling as I rely on Google for much of the new traffic I receive. Therefore, I have simply made the decision not to include such popular (sic.) material in the future. This may sound like the antithesis to the ideology of social networking, but I think it is important to retain relevance when experimenting with a "content-focused" blog.

Oh and Boris... I don't think I suggested that your articles ought to be "better written". Personally, I think you write real good!

Hi Anders. Thanks for the on-point comment.

I can suggest one thing: in MT, click on "Create new weblog"... ;)
(No reason you can't have more than one eh!)

Thanks for thinking I rite reel good! Though I should have put a comma between written and researched, as what I meant was you had suggested I do proper research and attribution in my "smarty-posts". ;)

Interestingly, I find I'm almost entirely content-focused on my blog, with the occasional relationship-driven quote or link — but I'm much less content-driven when I'm leaving comments on other blogs, perhaps because there's a strong relationship aspect inherent in the action of commenting alone.