I was sorry when Will Someone Feed the Cat pulled the plug on her blog here at OS. I thought she was an excellent writer, so I wasn’t surprised when she sent out a PM disclosing her true identity as a Canadian newspaper columnist. A couple days ago, I finally got around to checking out her official blog over at the Toronto Star. Same first-rate writing, as you’d expect, but I can’t really imagine myself going there to read her posts on a regular basis, even though I’d eagerly read the very same words here. How come, I wondered?
I decided to solicit the opinion of my buddy Mumbletypeg, a font of wisdom on many things. Interestingly, M-peg had a similar response when she visited Cat’s site. And she came up with a tentative theory: OS is like a box of chocolates (ack…not going there, exactly), while someone’s private blog is more like a bulk bag of caramels. You might like the caramels but they’re all the same and therefore not nearly as enticing as the box of chocolates, where you can fish around the box taking random bites of whatever you’re in the mood to sample. Might be a lemon creme. Or a gooey marshmallow. Even an occasional nut.
Sure, I can see that, OS as a nice box of all-dark Godivas, say, or maybe something more along the lines of a Whitman’s Sampler, depending on the day and your particular point of view. Back when I was a kid in Detroit, every now and then my dad would buy my mom a box of Sanders candy, the Motor City equivalent of Godiva, which she would share with me under strict supervision. When it came to candy, I had a definite larcenous streak and I remember sneaking into a near-virgin box one time, promising myself I’d eat just two or maybe three chocolates at most, a level of pilfering that I’d perfected on previous raids, one that was easy to cover by spreading out the remaining pieces to cover the gaps. But my resolve weakened that morning and in the time it took to my mother to shower and dress, I’d pretty well cleared out the entire box, leaving behind little more than a crumpled mass of brown wrappers and a couple of half-finished nougats, which have never been one of my favorites. Though my tolerance for glucose was stratospheric in those days, two layers of a Sanders Deluxe Assortment proved to be well beyond my limit and I felt woozy with self-recrimination.
I’ve experienced a similar sensation right here on occasion after binging on one too many posts, particularly where cute pets or salacious personal revelations are involved. As with chocolate, the feeling is only temporary, however, and it isn’t long before I’m rummaging around for more.
But getting back to the subject of personal blogging vs. community blogging, bear with me a moment while I extend the food analogy a bit further. Visiting a personal blog, I've noticed, is sort of like sitting in a restaurant where you’re the only customer. It can feel uncomfortably quiet. For better (and, every so often, worse) there’s a palpable energy here on OS, something more akin to table hopping at a busy joint where you happen to be one of the regulars. Writing can be a distressingly solitary occupation at times, and being here makes it less so. Sure, some folks always seem to get the great tables in the front while others languish in Siberia, but the management seems pretty reasonable and I appreciate the fact that they don't expect extravagant tips...at least, not so far as I'm aware...
Of course, a private blog can differ in other ways, too. Over at the Toronto Star, Cat is the professional and I’m just a lowly reader, a relationship that’s not nearly as appealing, at least from my perspective. Here on OS, we're all thrown in together like a bunch of kids in a freshman dorm (which may explain a lot, come to think of it).
Anyway, I’m curious about what you think. Are there personal blogs away from OS that you regularly read? Meanwhile, as long as I’m in meta mode, here are some guidelines I’ve established for myself to get the most out of my own OS experience:
Don’t get into the habit of hanging out with the same circle of people all the time. Expand horizons regularly.
Try never to comment with an eye towards boosting my own readership. Focus energy on posts I truly can take time to appreciate, rather than racing through too many at once.
Avoid praise inflation. If I think something is brilliant or if I LMFAO over somebody’s humor, by all means let them know, but don’t overdo it to the point where we’re all going to have to invest in shovels in order to wade through a comment thread.
Don’t ignore Gail Collins because I’m too busy blogging. Or that guy snoring over on the next pillow, whose name temporarily escapes me.
Further thoughts, anyone?
UPDATE: Cat said it was okay if I revealed her true identity. She didn't intend to make a big mystery out of it. Her name is Lorraine Sommerfeld and you can find her at www.lorraineonline.ca