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5 Good Reasons Not to Develop a Community Blog

I know some people think that blogs, by definition, must have a community dimension.

I have to say, I’m not one of them.

One of the most thought provoking blogs I follow is written by Seth Godin.

It’s a blog with no comments, no conversation and no community. Yes, I know some people will disagree and say it isn’t ‘really’ a blog… but for me that’s splitting hairs.

He writes, regularly, in bite-sized, post-framed chunks. He develops his thinking through his blog. He shares ideas, pushes, challenges, and questions. He writes direct to me. All of those things, for me, spell ‘blog’.

I’m not trying to provoke a conversation about blog definitions here, really just wanting to make the point that there are times when a community blog isn’t what you’re looking for, or what you want. When there are good reasons not to.

Here are some that occurred to me:

You know you don’t have the time, or the inclination, to moderate and respond to comments. So you’d prefer not to encourage and invite them. It’s more honest that way.

You already have a blog or site with a community dimension and you know you won’t have the time and energy to develop another for the second (or third) site you want to write and publish on

You want to develop your writing and your thinking on your own. There might be another time when feedback and participation helps, but this isn’t one of them

You just want to establish a presence online. You’ll respond to comments and ideas if they come in, but you have too many other things going on to make that a priority just now

You enjoy participating in other online communities and conversations, but you don’t want to try and host them yourself. It’s not something you’ve got the time or the inclination to do

What do you think?  Is there an undue emphasis on the community dimension of blogging as something  you ‘should’ do?  Are there times when you’d rather not feel like you ‘had to’?

Does the community dimension of a blog change your reading experience? For better, or worse?

Seeing as this is a community blog… all comments and ideas welcome!

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Comments

  1. Ulla Hennig
    Twitter: ullahe
    says:

    Joanna,
    I must admit it took me some time to write this comment after having read your post. There are a few thoughts in my head which I now put on the “paper” in a rather unstructured way.
    The big difference between blogs and webpages once was that it was rather difficult to put up content without knowing HTML. So, in order to present their content without being dependant on savy people people began to blog. I think then it was not so much in order to build a community but to present content in an easy way.
    Now we have content management systems allowing us to put up content without knowing HTML. You need - however - a person to put up the content management system. So, I think, still a lot of people use blogs to present their content.
    With the arrival of social media everybody talks about communities - facebook, myspace, twitter - and blogs. So people use blogs to build up a community, they present their content in order to have it talked about.
    And - I think - there are blogs which are in a way between. I present - photos, music videos, paintings /drawings. Of course I want them to be seen, watched, looked at. And talked about? Well, I am glad whenever people come over and talk. I am often a bit slow with my reactions, but I also think they are not only talking to me, but should be also talking to each other.
    And - regarding the “have-to” side of things - I don’t want to feel like I have to. I chose to blog, with all the side-effects, haven’t I?

    Ulla Hennigs last blog post..Marilyn Monroe

  2. Terry Heath says:

    On the other end of the spectrum, a few years ago it was common to come across HTML websites with little things called “tagboards” in the sidebar. These were communication centers where visitors could leave site-wide comments. It was usually things like “just wanted to say hello” but still seemed to indicate a general interest in connecting online before blogging was as popular as it is now.

    Terry Heaths last blog post..Writing Lessons From the Sidewalk

  3. Bo says:

    I am always a bit daunted when a blogger in “my community”-whatever exactly that may be-sends out an SOS apologizing for not keeping up with everyone’s blogs because [insert any possible reason here] and that he or she feels [insert negative emotion here]. People really do seem to get caught up in perceived social responsibilities, an “I’ll scratch your back, you introduce me to your Uncle Mike” presumption.

    If I ever lose interest in blogging, though I can’t imagine that at this point, I am not going to feel guilty that I choose to spend my time in a different activity, or perhaps even doing nothing at all. I hate it when blogs get too high-powered. Pressure to write, pressure to comment. The last thing I choose is to add pressure to my life.

    Am I alone in blogging for the fun of it? Do people get upset at the coming and going of bloggers who are finding their place in the system?

    Maybe we are discussing different types of blogs, Joanna, as my blogs have drifted from writing and information to photography and musings. And they may likely drift in another direction as the spirit moves me. There are many niches in the blogosphere.

    Bos last blog post..Ripples on the Pond

  4. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Ulla thank you for sharing those thoughts. It’s interesting to think about the history of blogging, and it’s relationship to the technology that makes it possible. Your comment makes me think about how different ways there are of interacting with the content that we can now create and publish so freely and easily. As you say, it’s gratifying to publish our material and get feedback on it. I think another dimension of community though is that we learn from that feedback, the questions and suggestions, and our content changes as a result. Sometimes we might also choose to give over the canvas to others, to let them speak (or write, or paint or whatever). But all of that will depend on the nature of the blog, and the community, and what you’re hoping to achieve.

    I guess what I was trying to get at with this post was that there is more than one way to blog, and we should chose the way that suits us, not the one we think we ‘should’ do. I’m absolutely with you on that.

    By the way, I think there are also ways to build community in the things you do off your own blog, and you’re a shining example of that. More on that front on Friday!

  5. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Terry that’s interesting. As I said to Ulla, you can learn a lot from the way these patterns have developed over time, and in response to the developing technology. I missed the early frontier days though, stuck behind a corporate firewall, with no idea how much free thinking was going on!

  6. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Bo I hear some of those voices too sometimes, and also think it’s a shame. Once we get caught up in shoulds and musts the fun, learning, enjoyment and creativity can quickly die. I have at times caught myself thinking I ‘should’ write a particular thing to meet the expectations of readers here, but the relationship and feeling shifts as soon as I catch that thought, in a way that I don’t like. So I adjust back to the focus on what the blog means to me, and what I want to achieve with it.

    I think you’re not alone in blogging for the fun of it, I certainly hope not! But I think it’s good to keep exploring what we mean by it, and leaving room for people to define the terms in the way that suits them. I’d much rather someone blogged their heart out writing what was really important to them, and focused on that, than ‘tried’ to keep up with online networks and communities and disipating all their effort and energy.

    Or letting those shoulds get in the way of the path their spirit wants to take them…

  7. Brad Shorr says:

    Hi Joanna, First of all, I’m wondering if Ulla’s comment is longer than any post she has written so far … :) (She’s one person who’s really evolved as a blogger, revealing new hidden talents all the time!) I actually author a no-comment blog for a client on search marketing -
    http://www.whoast.com/blog/. It’s been a wonderful project for me, for many of the reasons you mention. Time is always a a factor, and in this case, we felt the target audience probably wasn’t as interested in conversation as in getting useful tips and information. We are reviewing that position now, but my general point is to consider what your community wants. I think there are times when conversation is not on the top of the list.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..Welcome Bill Welter, New Blogger

  8. Luke Gedeon says:

    I think a big difference is the loyalty factor. Sometimes you just need to get the information out, possibly increase your search engine rank, or can easily command loyalty in some other way. Celebrities (or near celebrities like Seth) command a following through the entertainment value of their content. If you are not already a famous entertainer, investing in your community is a necessary part of gaining the loyalty you need to survive.

  9. Ulla Hennig
    Twitter: ullahe
    says:

    Joanna,
    it is nice to be called a shining example - if you could see me now you could see my face getting a real nice shiny reddish color…
    Same as you, Brad - thanks for your kind words.
    Regarding the length of my comment and the length of my blog posts: Sometimes I get carried away when commenting - something I try to avoid when writing a blog post…

    Ulla Hennigs last blog post..Marilyn Monroe

  10. Karen Swim
    Twitter: karenswim
    says:

    Joanna, thank you so much for hosting what I believe is timely and important discussion. I absolutely share your belief that a blog without a community is still a blog. In fact, we may see more of this as conversations become mobile and we have real time discussions on Twitter, FaceBook, FriendFeed and other social media platforms. In fact, I read an article on TechCrunch about the declining authority of blogs that touches a different aspect of this issue.

    I have clients who have a blog that provides helpful industry information for their clients. They have neither the time nor inclination to create a blogging community but still want to create value for their established community.

    The other interesting aspect to this is as a blogger learning not to place our value on the number of comments we receive. For years there was this conditioning that encouraged us to judge our worth by quantity of comments, and that is no longer true.

    Karen Swims last blog post..Say What? The New Age of Comunication

  11. Luke Gedeon says:

    Wouldn’t you know it, about the time a find a bunch people who are willing to comment on my blog, someone goes and declares comments to be of “declining value”.

    Well, I don’t care what they say. Your comments are extremely valuable to me.

  12. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Brad yes, isn’t it wonderful to watch people grow? That’s interesting about whoast, and I agree that there are times when readers don’t want comments and conversation. It’s not just that you don’t want to, for whatever reason, but that it’s not what they’re looking for either. Good point.

    Luke certainly the relationships you develop through a community blog will have a lasting value, quality and I guess loyalty too. It’s not easy though, and does demand time, so I suppose it comes back to what you’re trying to achieve and how it fits in with that.

    Ulla I love making compliments that get my friends blushing!

    Karen that’s interesting - so the blog might become the home or basecamp, but the conversation and connections would take place elsewhere. Although that would still = an investment in community, as the skills and approaches you’d use would be similar in terms of listening, valuing, learning, celebrating…?

    On the number of comments point.. steady on - that’s part of how I knocked out the Copyblogger in March madness writing wars last year - of course they count! It’s an interesting point though. I don’t think I judge others by the numbers of comments they have, but I do watch my own posts in terms of the feedback, conversation or learning that they lead to. I pride myself on the quality of the comments from you wonderful readers here, and if that started to change I’d certainly want to try and find out what was going on, and how I could keep them going.

    Luke Every comment is of value to me too. Every one.

  13. What is a Tribe? - Luke Gedeon says:

    [...] 5 Good Reasons Not to Develop a Community Blog (confidentwriting.com) [...]

  14. Damien Riley
    Twitter: rileycentral
    says:

    I never got those either. A blog should be a voice, not voices … then you have a forum. Nonetheless, I guess if you have enough interest in the subject and our people, a community blog would be interesting.

    Damien Rileys last blog post..Wives Don’t Like Old Girlfriends and Girlfriends don’t like Old Wives

  15. wilson says:

    To be honest, Joanna. I used to do a community blog 7 years ago, when I was still a college student with my classmates. Trust me, this wasn’t an easy job at all, as you have to spend a lot of time to keep tracking all the comments (Not to mention about tons of spamming comments!) and it was a nightmare to me…

    I think we should take Joanna’s advice, or you can try it out and feel the torture by yourself!

    wilsons last blog post..To All Mother: You Should Choose the Infant Milk Carefully!

  16. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Damien your comment got me thinking about how many definitions there are out there… and how I failed to bother defining my terms here. My bad. I guess I was referring to conversational blogs that aim to build a community of readers, followers, commenters and possibly also contributors. I’d put this blog in that category. Community blogs that are written by multiple authors are quite strange creatures… I write at one - Joyful Jubilant Learning - and I think it works more for the writers than its readers. But it’s a very dynamic, fun place to be and we all get… we all learn… a lot from the experience.

    Wilson you are funny, I wasn’t suggesting it would be torture! Though it is definitely something people should think hard about. Not everyone is going to have the time or the inclination to want to engage with readers, commenters and members of the community. Better to know what you *do* want and focus honestly on that.

  17. Carla says:

    This is really interesting. My blog is in a niche that some posts will command comment and some (like my latest one) will not so much. Though I love to see comments all the time, it is a relief not to have to moderate and respond so much (especially since spammers are getting more clever).

    Whenever I go out of town and or just not able to keep up for a day or five, I feel like I’m letting my readers and fellow bloggers down.

    Initially the blog was to give my main website more exposure but blogging seems to really have taken over.

    Carlas last blog post..Eco Fashion: Do it yourself - Organic Fabric

  18. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Carla, I think you describe very well a common challenge for bloggers as their blog grows and they become more successful. The comments and feedback that have helped us to grow can start to become a burden or responsibility which isn’t pleasurable any more. I’m not too sure what the answer is, other than that the blog is your own, and can be adapated so it’s suiting your needs and purposes. As you’ve said it is possible to construct a post in such a way that it won’t generate much comment and reaction. You can also stop visiting other blogs and networking in the wider community. Problem is that those things are often also the most enjoyable dimension of running the blog…

    I hope you manage to find a way through that works for you.

    Joanna

  19. Davina says:

    Hi Joanna.
    I appreciated reading this different perspective because I’ve been intent on the whole idea of community around blogging. But as I was reading this I found myself nodding inside.

    I’m back from a mini blogging break. Been rethinking a lot of things and still haven really come to any major decision yet… I let my readers know I was taking a short break. It just feels like the right thing to do. I’ve seen other bloggers disappear for a while and many of their readers become concerned about what has happened to them.

    Davinas last blog post..A Vision of Fulfillment

  20. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Hi Davina

    I popped over to read your post on the blogging break and thought you explained it really well - keeping your readers in the loop at the same time as giving yourself the time and space to take stock. Blogging can be overwhelming and I know we probably all put more time into it than we ‘should’. I’m glad this post was of some value to you as you consider how you want to go forward.

    Very best wishes

    Joanna

  21. The Teich Group » 4 Perspectives on Collaboration - An Essential Skill in the 21st Century says:

    [...] A different perspective on building community with your blog -  Joanna Young discusses reasons why you would not want to create community and collaboration on your blog. [...]

  22. Davina says:

    Hi Joanna. Thanks for checking out that post, and for your feedback. Oh that “should” word eh? :-)

    Davinas last blog post..A Vision of Fulfillment

  23. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Davina, indeed. Have fun working out where to go next :-)

  24. Ruth says:

    I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Ruth

    http://pianonotes.info

    Ruths last blog post..Piano Notes – Free Online Tutorial

  25. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Ruth, hello, and sorry your comment disappeared for a while. It got gobbled by the spam filter.

    Thanks very much for leaving your first comment, I appreciate it. Come back again soon :-)