Sunday, May 15, 2005

The NYT Notices That Blogging is Hard Work


Oh, the mercy! Instead of simply bloviating on the editorial page after talking to a taxi cab driver or a prostitute or a "sources says" person, bloggers have to be knowledgable and write stuff a lot and use lots of links in articles and use google and other arcane tools on the internet not to mention, interacting directly with readers on a daily basis. Terrible! Awful! No way.

David Greenberg struggles to fill the shoes of a blogger only not any blogger but a right wing blogger. For some forsaken reason, Greenberg thought this would be easy. He didn't expect the tidalwave of freeper hate directed towards him much less the cruel jokes and laughter at his expense. We all know that if some right winger were to hand me the keys to his blog, I would have a field day there, running amock, fighting with everyone. Hooray! Fun, fun!

But poor David, this came as a total shock.
Last week, I had my chance. My wife and I agreed to be "guest bloggers" - the online equivalent of what David Brenner used to do for Johnny Carson - for Dan Drezner, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, who runs a popular libertarian-conservative blog,

How hard could blogging be? You roll out of bed, turn on your computer, scan the headlines, think up some clever analysis while brushing your teeth, type it onto your site and you're off.

Confession time here: running this blog ain't easy. It has many pages and subheaders and organizing them, clicking through them, coordinating them is time consuming. I like doing it but it isn't a joke. It is real work. Thinking of saying something is work, too. Anyone can say the obvious. This is why I sit on news like a hen on an egg for a while. Waiting for more stories to come in or pondering about the past and looking for connections or simply waiting for inspiration to strike. Usually, gardening or doing housework or best of all, running the backhoe gives me great time to ruminate.
But as I discovered, blogging is no longer for amateurs or the faint of heart. Blogging - if it's done well - has evolved into an all-consuming art.

Last Sunday, after a cup of coffee, I made my first offering, a smart critique, I thought, of an article about liberal politics in The New York Review of Books by Thomas Frank, the author of "What's the Matter With Kansas?"

Earth to David: blogging well always was an art. Anyone can stick up an ugly site and say dumb things, look at Rush Limbaugh! But most good bloggers tend to have complicated sites with good graphics and well designed interface or no one will come and visit...except for freepers who seem to not care about these esthetic matters, this is why they are...freepers.

The "what is the matter with Kansas" has been thoroughly chewed over by both the right and the left months ago. We liberals have decided the good people of Kansas are spoiled since Kansas and other red state get more tax money back than they send out and because they are all welfare queens they hate the worker bees in the cities and blue states. We can't fix them. They will pay with pain from their own leaders pissing on them. Tough love and all that.
Serious bloggers, I realized, aggressively report a pet issue, updating their sites throughout the day. They scavenge the Internet for every shard of information on a hot topic, like John R. Bolton's chances of becoming ambassador to the United Nations or Tom DeLay's ethical troubles.

Since I wasn't going to make myself expert on these subjects anytime soon, I decided to write about what I knew, history.

On Tuesday, I posted a link to a piece I'd written for the online magazine Slate, faulting President Bush for his remarks criticizing the 1945 Yalta agreement, in which he said that Europe was unjustly carved up by Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin.

This time I got a lot of responses - abusive ones. Sample: "Anyone who thinks its 'ugly' to point out what was done to millions of people at Yalta is a moral cretin."

Earth to David: all liberal posters on the net who have done battle with freepers know that bringing up historical realities causes them to go insane. It is like garlic to vampires. Eeek. These keyboard geniuses all think they could win any war any time which is why they never sign up to fight any wars just like their heroes, Bush and the others
.As I checked other sites for ideas, I now realized that I didn't need only new information. I needed a gimmick - a motif or a running joke that would keep the blog rolling all week. All of a sudden, I was reading other blogs, not for what they had to say, but for how they said it.

The best bloggers develop hobbyhorses, shticks and catchphrases that they put into wider circulation. Creating your own idiosyncratic set of villains to skewer and theories to promote - while keeping readers interested - requires as much talent as sculpting a magazine feature or a taut op-ed piece.

No shit, Sherlock. I am in awe of my fellow bloggers but even more, I am in awe of the posters who often comment on the various blogs. There is deep talent there. A great deal of intelligence. Sometimes the comments expand upon and add information to posting that really opens the eyes. This gives many of the better blogs a depth of field that is amazing to observe. Truly, a good blog is a group effort.

Ask Kos or Atrios.

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