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None Of My Best Friends Are Content Creators

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Kid Koala released a superb album in 2003 called Some Of My Best Friends Are DJs. That title always stuck with me. I’d like to loan its concept to start this rough post in the same vein: None Of My Best Friends Are Content Creators. At first, I intended to write Bloggers instead of Content Creators, but that would only make things worse.

I’ve read numerous blog posts about others trying to convince people to start writing/creating—of which most recently Tom Critchlow’s how to get more people small b-blogging (Thanks, Frank). Tom is grateful for his own blogging work:

Blogging has changed my life. Writing online, not even consistently but gradually, in various forms on various platforms over a long period of time has changed my life. Opening doors and opportunities - leading to friendships, jobs, clients and more. It’s hard to overstate the impact it’s had.

I can only second that: see a triumph for blogging. However, he continues:

And yet of the people I know “in real life” very few are bloggers.

Again, I can second that. He then elaborates different attempts at getting people into blogging. Most attempts failed (second that). Most people just give up after a while, citing various reasons: nothing important to say, too difficult to write, too much friction involved, the workflow doesn’t feel good, not into webdesign, don’t have a server, etc. Objectively, most of these are excuses are nonsense, but subjectively, they are of course perfectly valid.

I know lots of (ex-)colleagues that used to blog but stopped for one of the above reasons. The problem I think is that, especially for people in the tech world, they think they have to write about tech, which gets boring after a while—or they get burned out on the tech employed at work. This is just a misconception. To me, the more weird and personal a blog and its writing subjects are, the more interesting and more fun to read. A prime example here is of course Ruben Schade’s Rubenerd, which always was a champion of topic diversity.

Self-inspection teaches me that Brain Baking also started as tech blog, writing about unit testing, enterprise software development, and programming language hacking. These things still interest me. But those are only a small part of Wouter, and to be honest, perhaps one of the more dull parts. Friends who are freelancers somehow feel the pressure of putting themselves out there, which results in yet another dull tech blog that ends in a quick death. When I ask them about their blogging adventures, they readily admit that they only write when they’re out of work to promote their freelance work. That’s not a blog. That’s corporate sales. Things like Blogging For Devs make my stomach turn. I’m glad it helps people get into blogging, but please, stop thinking about SEO and how to “build a resume”. Again, that’s not blogging. That’s corporate sales. Sure, nothing wrong with a bit of self-promotion, but if it ain’t nothing but that, to me, it’s not worth reading it.

By widening my blog subjects, I got to know and interacted with more bloggers, enriching my social circles. But most of the people I know “in real life” don’t create anything. The few that showed signs of interest I of course regularly nudge in the right direction, but none of those efforts so far paid off. It’s not that I’m getting a bonus cheque per created blog (and sustained one over each year). But I love reading what others are up to, and I am 100% convinced that everyone can write something compelling. The problem with social media like Twitter and Facebook is that most people just share either status updates (to show the world their status) or rants (to show the world their status?).

Perhaps I just don’t know whether or not people I know are blogging, I thought. So I made a list of my close and not so close social circle and tried searching for content they created. Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t find anything interesting. One friend migrated from a personal bog to Twitch streams (which isn’t the same but still content) but also stopped doing that. Another friend had written a corporate blog entry. Isn’t that sad, putting in all that effort just to promote your employer? Most other meaningless stuff I found were of course again Twitter and Facebook links.

By limiting the stuff you share to something like Facebook, you risk falling back to the “Today was a lovely day, yay! (insert family pic here)” posts to let everyone know you’re doing great. Short WhatsApp-like messages that all but enrich each others world. By conforming to the target platform and audience, you’re not “keeping it weird”, as small but interesting blogs should be, according to Tom Critchlow.

Which leads me to the following question: how long are you willing to keep a blog in your RSS reader? When do you decide they’ve had a good run and kick them out? Some bloggers are much less prolific but still active and interesting. A few articles a year can still be compelling enough to keep them in the reader, yet blogs with entries well into 2019 and older perhaps start smelling like a rotting blog corpse.

I wish more of my best friends were content creators. The easy way to achieve this is to make more friends. The hard way is to keep on nudging. If you’re still not convinced, read Alexey Guzey’s Why You Should Start a Blog Right Now.

Addendum, 15th April: Lukas V. reached out and added the following interesting remark:

I think one of the greater issues with small-b blogging is that lately there has been an incentive to monetize your hobbies. The core idea was this: people feel compelled to turn their hobbies into revenue streams, and they shouldn’t have to. You could say this has something to do with society (I say, waving my hands in no particular direction), but I think it’s natural for us to go “well, I’m doing this anyway, so I may as well make some extra cash from it”.

On deciding what to keep in your RSS reader, Both Mike Harley and Lukas V. agreed that they almost never kick someone out for not posting, in the hope of the blog becoming active again. I have adopted this and re-added a few old ones from friends and prepended them with “zOLD |” to keep them there, but at the bottom of the list.

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I'm Wouter Groeneveld, a Brain Baker, and I love the smell of freshly baked thoughts (and bread) in the morning. I sometimes convince others to bake their brain (and bread) too.

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