Categories
Society Websites

Blogs are a platform for normal people

Replied to Understanding blogs | Tracy Durnell by Murray Adcock.Murray Adcock. (theadhocracy.co.uk)

I am a big fan of categorisation debates, so the concept of trying to define what a “blog” is (or isn’t) piqued my interest.

Further exploring what makes a blog a blog — which I agree I haven’t quite landed on yet:

The fact that blogs take the form of a building argument, not necessarily voicing their intent or conclusion immediately, but instead guiding the reader through the narrative to naturally arrive at that conclusion. I agree wholeheartedly with this take, but I’m not sure that this is the essence of “blog-ness”. I think that’s just how people actually talk when given a platform.

(Emphasis mine.)

This connects back to the democratization of self-publishing, leading to greater influence of oral culture (as you point out).

The word “given” here got me thinking — like the soapbox example, blogging is when people create and claim a platform for themselves. The work is self-motivated. No one’s telling us what to blog about. It’s not fulfilling an assignment. The things people blog about are the things they care about enough to spend their free time considering.

And because it’s not “for a purpose,” because it’s self-directed, a blog post needn’t fit a formal format. A lot of blogging really is ‘talking through ideas’ in text, in real time — the thinking and writing happen together. (Or at least it is for me, though I’m sure it’s not the universal blogging experience 😉) Even when a post is edited before publishing to center a specific conclusion reached through the drafting, a tenor of curious exploration or earnest passion often carries through.

That’s part of what makes a lot of content marketing so vapid and noxious: not only is it hollow of meaning, but it’s uninteresting signalling barely disguised as thought. It’s the writer regurgitating what they believe other people want to read about, or what they think will make them sound smart or good or clever. (Not that self-motivated blogging doesn’t have some measure of this, as all public writing does, but blog posts generally don’t feel calculated and perfunctory the way many churn pieces do.)

Blogs tend to be personal spaces (or places attempting to make themselves appear personal, as with brand/ business blogs) that give a person or persons a platform, but one which they want others to consider.

(Emphasis mine.)

This makes me think of imitation bees: the corporate blog tries to pass itself off as a Real Blog by looking like one at first glance, then once you start reading you suspect ‘someone’s been hired to write this’… A lack of feeling, an unwillingness to voice opinions, an empty ‘we’, a cautious and bland tone, become apparent when writers produce for a brand that wants to gain the SEO benefits of a blog without risking expressing any personality. They want to give the appearance of sharing knowledge and participating in community and conversation, but those are positive externalities to their goals of drawing traffic, building reputation, and ultimately selling widgets. I wonder whether I’m being too inclusive in accepting everything that claims to be a blog as a blog…

Categories
Society The Internet

Critical Ignoring

Bookmarked Critical Ignoring as a Core Competence for Digital Citizens by Kozyreva et al (journals.sagepub.com)

Low-quality and misleading information online can hijack people’s attention, often by evoking curiosity, outrage, or anger. Resisting certain types of information and actors online requires people to adopt new mental habits that help them avoid being tempted by attention-grabbing and potentially harmful content. We argue that digital information literacy must include the competence of critical ignoring—choosing what to ignore and where to invest one’s limited attentional capacities. We review three types of cognitive strategies for implementing critical ignoring: self-nudging, in which one ignores temptations by removing them from one’s digital environments; lateral reading, in which one vets information by leaving the source and verifying its credibility elsewhere online; and the do-not-feed-the-trolls heuristic, which advises one to not reward malicious actors with attention.

As important as the ability to think critically continues to be, we argue that it is insufficient to borrow the tools developed for offline environments and apply them to the digital world.

Investing effortful and conscious critical thinking in sources that should have been ignored in the first place means that one’s attention has already been expropriated (Caulfield, 2018). Digital literacy and critical thinking should therefore include a focus on the competence of critical ignoring: choosing what to ignore, learning how to resist low-quality and misleading but cognitively attractive information, and deciding where to invest one’s limited attentional capacities.

This is like a “to don’t” list — deciding what to ignore.

Lateral reading begins with a key insight: One cannot necessarily know how trustworthy a website or a social-media post is by engaging with and critically reflecting on its content. Without relevant background knowledge or reliable indicators of trustworthiness, the best strategy for deciding whether one can believe a source is to look up the author or organization and the claims elsewhere… Instead of dwelling on an unfamiliar site (i.e., reading vertically), fact-checkers strategically and deliberately ignored it until they first opened new tabs to search for information about the organization or individual behind it.

 

Via Paul Millerd:

A common heuristic for many is to pay attention to what other people are talking about. This worked well enough for most people for a long time but it seems to be [failing(?)] in an age of information overload because of how fast the “current thing” changes.

This is my approach too — I like the way he phrases it in feeding his curiosity:

My approach instead is to follow individuals and I try to think about this like a diversified portfolio of information, optimizing for the long-term aliveness of my own curiosity.

Categories
Lifestyle Personal Growth

Create space for yourself

Liked Creating space for our productivity (indiewriter.net)

I see rest as synonymous with creating space for myself.

Opening space is the key; filling your time leaves your mind no room of its own. I am often guilty of feeding the dopamine machine with more instead of granting myself time to process — finishing one book and jumping straight into the next. This mind garden helps with that tendency, though doesn’t eliminate it entirely.

Categories
Entrepreneurship Learning Outreach Writing

Anyone can write a how to; think and write at a more strategic level

Liked Jay Acunzo on LinkedIn: We need more people challenging the way we think about our work. (linkedin.com)

We need more people challenging the way we think about our work. We’ve fallen in love with “practical steps.”

But even the most confident of steps don’t… | 19 comments on LinkedIn

Treat your writing as a means to try and understand — not a way to share what you already do.

Stop acting like an expert. Start acting like an investigator.

Replace things you “must” know with things you’re curious to know.

In the end, How-To is the commodity of our lifetime. Expertise and experts are amazingly ubiquitous and accessible. More than ever, the ability to produce How-To-Think content which challenges the status quo and solves meaningful problems for people is how we stop transacting the audience and start transforming them.

This is what I want to do with environmental communication: I want to guide the government environmental outreach community, sharing what I’ve learned in local government while drawing on the ideas I’ve absorbed from other realms of interest — accessibility and community building and co-design. This is why I left my old job: to influence strategy and advocate for more effective, evidence-driven approaches to behavior change.

Chief among those in the environmental behavior change realm is working upstream to improve systems to reduce how much people need to think about. It is ironic for a communicator to realize that the most effective tool is eliminating the need to communicate as much as possible 😎

Also, he’s spot on about quitting reading marketing content. 90% of it is regurgitated hollowness.

Via Tara McMullin who added the commentary:

Expertise is marketable, for sure. And that’s fine if [your] aim is “authority,” which is just another way of saying domination.

 

Curiosity and openness are marketable, too, in their own ways.

Categories
Writing

Article pairing: is blogging self indulgent?

All I Want Is a Place to Quip by Ian Bogost (Substack)

(Emphasis mine)

I’d never be allowed to write 820 words (so far) of ramble at The Atlantic, because we write to respect our readers’ time. This isn’t writing to help people, it’s writing to give me the pleasure of having written.

This was, back in the day, the great joy of blogging: the unedited ramble. But not only has that mode of writing fallen out of favor, but also I don’t even remember how to do it. The thought of writing 500 or 700 or 1,200 word newsletter posts for the people who previously consume[d] my 10-word quips seems like a terrible joke…

+

Never Again by Lucy Bellwood

I’ve wondered with increasing frequency whether it makes the most sense to start consolidating everything on my own site, but the fact is there’s something valuable about maintaining these different tonal environments. I like having Patreon as a space to talk (mostly) about craft and maintaining a creative practice; it keeps my blog free of any pressure to produce “worthwhile” content. 

(Emphasis mine)

 

I created this digital garden to lessen the pressure on myself for the quality of what I write here, since I try to write more in-depth pieces on my blog. But the value it provides me in exploring wandering threads of thought and working through disconnected ideas from the same source does not also give value to readers. I need this site to get me thinking without expectations, but I also need to write more often on my blog.

Is longform blogging self-indulgent, or is there any value to seeing how others think through a problem? Do rambling, unrefined explorations better show personality or release emotions? Do people polish out all the originality when they revise to conform with expectations of professional writing, or do they more clean up cruft and cliches, and clarify thinking?

(I find Bellwood’s comment about thinking of her blog as where she puts content that’s not worthwhile funny because I find her blog immensely helpful and interesting.)

Categories
Learning Meta

Building maps of notes helps synthesize ideas

Liked Maps of Content (notes.linkingyourthinking.com)

Whenever you start to feel that tickle of overwhelm (Mental Squeeze Point), that’s when you need to become a cartographer of your own content and create a new MOC.

MOCs are nondestructive, non-restrictive, non-limiting perspectives… MOCs are “overlays” that add relevant information but that don’t affect your base level notes.

I like the framing of making a map of thoughts and notes. I’ve been feeling like I want another way to organize and collect information, this might be one way to think about it.

Categories
Resources and Reference

Diagram organizing cognitive biases

Bookmarked Cognitive Biases (busterbenson.com)

A cheat sheet to help you remember 200+ biases via 3 conundrums.

Categories
Writing

Idea-first or word-first writers

Replied to What are some tips for advanced writers? How do you push your writing into by Venkatesh Rao (Quora)

You could divide the world of advanced writers into a 2×2, based on whether they are prioritizing developing their thinking or their writing, and whether they are focusing on fiction or non-fiction.

Prioritizing thinking or wordcraft is an intriguing way to divide writers. (I usually find what Venkatesh Rao has to say interesting, though I often disagree with him.)

This mind garden is thinking-focused, often an unrevised braindump (sorry anyone reading 😅). I revise as I write, the writing process being largely a thinking process for me as well, with most of my edits to reflect changes in my thinking as I draft. I try to cut out my pet issues, which are usually asides tangential to, and distracting from, my main path of thought (of course, always after I’ve spent ten minutes writing a rant 😉) — although in casual writing like blogging I do like a more stream of consciousness, conversational style.

In my fiction, too, I’m an idea-focused writer. One of my friends writes lyrical prose that casts  mood beautifully — a writing style that serves her well for short stories. I don’t care enough about wordcraft to put in the work to develop gorgeous prose — and fortunately my workman prose is suitable for the commercial genres I write in, romance and science fiction. (I wonder if my indifference to finely crafted prose contributes to my distaste for literature 🤔 Other readers derive a lot of value from beautiful writing, but I’m honed in on the action and skim-read on fast forward to get to the good stuff, so the prose doesn’t really register for me unless it beats me over the head like Raymond Chandler 🤷‍♀️)

What matters to me in both my fiction and nonfiction writing is clarity — a mark I miss more than I’d like in first drafts 😉 In fiction I tend to write in a reverse order from what makes sense to the reader, so revision involves a lot of moving sentences around. In non-fiction, I tend towards overlong, overcomplicated sentences. Em dashes, semicolons, parentheticals, give em to me 😉

Learning to recognize your personal writing patterns and tendencies is a key aspect of getting better at revision; when I worked as a writing tutor we listened for patterns we could point out to a writer, so they could focus on spotting and revising those in future works.

How much, and how quickly, does practicing revision improve your first draft writing? In fiction writing I can focus on improving one aspect of my drafting at a time. Gradually, my initial versions need less attention. I’ve focused this way on dialogue and visual / sensory description (my fiction suffers from white room syndrome 😂) — but also know to put extra emphasis on checking for these in planning and revision. Part of becoming a better writer is adapting your process to suit your style and weaknesses — the quality of your first drafts is less important than the finished work, as long as you’re actually revising 😉

Categories
Art and Design Learning Personal Growth

Body of work

Liked Going Beyond The Single Image by David duChemin (davidduchemin.com)

Shifting your focus from making single images—which is necessary in the beginning as you learn your craft—to making bodies of work instead is a huge step forward for most photographers.

Next level thinking.

Categories
Getting Shit Done Writing

Thinking time is writing time

Replied to No really, it’s work by Marie Brennan (Swan Tower)

In all seriousness, one of the trickiest things about writing as a line of work is the part that doesn’t look recognizably like work.

I’m currently in progress on a background project, and I’ve had to accept that as much as I would like to be charging ahead and putting words down on the page, doing that right now stands a high chance of producing material I’ll just have to cut later. I need to think.

The lack of a tangible sense of progress from thinking phases is totally a mental challenge of the writing process. I feel like learning how to do this, practically and mentally, has been part of my writing growth the last few years — not that I’ve totally gotten it figured out, but I find I need both active forms of making myself think about problems (free writing, excel sheet planning, brainstorming / mind-mapping, worksheeting) as well as just letting my brain have some stewing time. Reading books about writing is another adjacent thinking activity, because I can’t help but think about my book’s issues as I read craft advice. For a long time I thought I just needed to give myself the time, but months would pass without progress, so I’ve learned that I also need the active thinking processes to keep the problem top of mind and give me something new to chew on.