Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Welcome to my Indonesian readers - and blogs as fine wine

At the start of Sunday Essay - Musings on Australian foreign policy (among other things) I said that I was taking a break from posting on this blog. That has proved far harder than I expected. So I am breaking my rule - again!

First welcome to my new if small group of Indonesian readers.

Tikno kindly listed this blog in his post The Essence of Blogging. Tikno is a new blogger and worried about his English. His English is sometimes a bit mangled, but it can be understood. And the best way of improving English is to read, write and talk.

To my Indonesian readers, Tikno wanted more on Indonesia and Australia. My post, listed above, was a small step because it emphasised the importance of cooperation between our two countries. I will do more posts. However, I need help on the Indonesian side. I know Australia. I do not pretend to know Indonesia. So comments and feedback welcome.

The term blogochurn was used on Australian radio the other day to describe the way we bloggers repeat, circulate, material. That's true, it's part of our role, but it also misses the point. The blogosphere is a lot more than that.

The blogosphere has given people like me - reasonably intelligent people interested in events or ideas or simply the idiocies of life - a platform to express our ideas.

The photo shows a scene at a restaurant in Beijing. Denise and I found it by accident. We just walked in.

The table in front (you may have to click on the photo to see it properly) is a group of para-olympians and officials. Behind them is a celebration. The guest was a very attractive pregnant women. Table after table came across to drink toasts and to sing songs. Everybody else watched and, sometimes, joined in. We wondered if she was some form of media star.

How does this link to blogging? Blogging gives us platform for sharing experiences, but also for understanding sometimes subtle differences.

While I have learned to perform in public (speaking I hasten to add, not singing!), like many Australians I am a fairly inhibited person. This makes me very different from the Han Chinese. More precisely, they too are inhibited in their own way, but the expression is different from mine.

My experience at the restaurant was personal. Enjoying the enjoyment of those celebrating.

Blogging gives me the chance to turn this type of experience into a more public form, to articulate and test my reactions, to learn from others.

The relations between blogging and the conventional media are complex and fascinating. Blogging does compete with the conventional media at one level simply because the blog response time to events is so fast. However, the relationship is really a symbiotic one.

Most bloggers depend on the conventional media for input - the blogochurn. However, bloggers also provide an external crtitique, a response factor, that has become increasingly important in maintaining the standards of reporting at a time when reporters are under great pressure to meet deadlines.

Regular bloggers have their own deadlines. This has led to criticism of the standard of reporting and analysis in the blogosphere itself. These criticisms are justified, but miss the point.

Taking Australia as an example, for every reporter writing on a current issue there are likely to be a number of bloggers also writing. Some of this writing may be bad, most ephemeral, but there will also be a number of people who do have expertise, some of whom may invest significant time.

This may not feed directly into reporting, although most media outlets do some blog monitoring. Even some of my writing has been picked up! However, what does happen is that blog writing conditions and corrects over time.

One of the most important advantages that bloggers have is the ability to return to a topic, regardless of whether it is news or not. Conventional reporters do not have this luxury.

I am coming to the view that we bloggers do not take sufficient advantage of this. Too many of us write like reporters, write and move on. This may help us in the blogger stakes measured by things like Technorati, current writing gets the traffic spikes and the most cross-links, but is (I think) a mistake.

To my mind, a good blog should be like fine wine, constantly improving with age. To do this, we need not just to refresh our current thinking, but also constantly remove past impurities, recognising mistakes.

We also need to refresh and re-present good writing from our collective pasts, bringing it back into currency.

Active bloggers write a lot. On this blog alone, I have written 851 posts since my first post 0n 19 March 2006. 851 posts. That's a lot! I struggle to remember all of them.

None of us can maintain a consistent high standard all the time. There is, I think, a real gain in standing back from time to time, looking at what we have said before. This helps us in current writing, but also ensures that we make corrections as required to previous posts or, as an alternative, simply provide a link to new thinking or developments. Some posts we may simply choose to forget.

I think that the point that I am searching for here is that those of us who are active content bloggers need to think more about what we do, why we do it, how we do it.


A comment from Neil reminded me of one of his posts, Why I blog — Andrew Sullivan, that was in the back of my mind when I wrote this.

Tikno, Neil has added your blog to his Google Reader list, so you have an added incentive to keep blogging since many of us read Neil's Shared Items An Indonesian flavour!


Anonymous said...

I guess you saw that article on blogging from The Atlantic Monthly which I featured recently. Ties in with your thoughts rather well.

I like Tikno's blog and have added it in to the Google Reader selections.

I have had a number of Indonesian readers, some of whom have given feedback, though not lately. I see from my silly flag counter that 400 have been along in the past several months, though that does combine Floating Life with English/ESL -- the only counter I have that does that. 190 different countries so far! Makes you think, doesn't it?

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Neil. Your post was in the back of my mind. I should have cross-referenced but have now done so.

I am glad that you added T.'s blog to your list. Your international stats are fascinating. It does indeed make one think.

I have always tried to think of international readers, although I do forget. Personally, I find it easier to write sometimes with specific people in mind, whether, David in the US, Tikno in Indonesia or Ramana in India.

While I am not short of subject matter, far from it, the type of India-Australia or Indonesia-Australia posts generated recently provide new slants.

One thing that applies to me is the need not to get totally bogged down in my standard concerns. Blogging should be a learning experience.