Dr. Bernard Finel reached a state that many bloggers find themselves in at one time or another:
An interesting post over at OTB has me thinking about my blog.
I’ve been blogging very lightly recently. The truth of the matter is that I am not sure that I want to continue doing it. Basically, it comes down to a couple of interrelated issues.
(1) It gets me in a lot of trouble. I work professionally in the same field that I often blog about. Which would be fine if I were a congenital kiss-ass, but I’m not. It isn’t so much that I don’t suffer fools gladly, as much as I think that idiotic arguments needs to be called out as such and not just subject to tepid criticisms couched in otherwise fulsome praise of the wisdom of the author in question. Needless to say, this has not made me popular, and there is no doubt that I have severely harmed my future job prospects by pissing off a number of very powerful people in my field.
(2) Which would be okay if it was either opening up other doors or making me rich, but it isn’t. What it comes down to is that my readership is really, really low. High-quality, but small. I am not looking to make money on the blog, but I’d like to think I could be influencing the debate through my posts, but really that is not the case. Several possible reasons for that:
(2a) I don’t seem to be able to get posts out in a sufficiently timely fashion. I usually prefer to mull things over for a day or two, and that is an eternity in the blogosphere. By the time I weight in on most debates, everyone has moved on.
(2b) But more importantly. I think I am not a very good blogger. It isn’t like I haven’t gotten great links from excellent blogs. James Joyner over at OTB has linked to me often. The guys at Newshoggers do so as well. Fabius Maximus, Zenpundit, Schmedlap, Michael Cohen, and several others have linked to me often. But if anyone is following those links, there are not impressed. Which is fine, but my point, I guess is that despite some solid links, I’ve never really built a larger audience.
I feel compelled to respond, point by point:
1. Personally, I enjoy Dr. Finel’s posts because he’s straightforward with his views whether you are going to like them or not. Clarity in the discussion saves a great deal of time. Not everyone finds that quality charming though; particularly in the broad, public intellectual world of academia and think tanks there’s a lot of brittle egos with weighty credentials who are manning the last gates worth keeping – that of aristocratic sinecures to read and write. Sometimes it is not wise to blog the hand that feeds you. I could write absolutely excoriating posts about my profession, but I generally restrain myself and focus on areas of research interests instead, secure in the knowledge that no one I work with gives a rusty damn about Sun tzu vs. Clausewitz, globalized counterinsurgency or superempowered individuals.
2. I think Dr. Finel is being unrealistic as to traffic. The blogosphere has matured to the point that newbies cannot become “stars” unless they are already famous airhead celebrities (which means twitter is a better option for their vapid remarks) or are talented writer-personalities promoted by a major media platform site. If you can acquire a regular audience baseed on “class” as a part-time blogger, you have succeeded as much as you are going to do unless you can attract corporate sponsors or face time on MSM vehicles. Leverage your small but influential audience to get access to other venues.
2(a). Solo acts will never generate sufficient post velocity to compete with group blogs. Accept it. What small time bloggers can do is write posts that make a big splash periodically. Recognition will come.
2(b). Insert Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule here. Just because a person can write white papers or a novel, a biweekly column or a sonnet does not mean they will start out as a virtuoso blogger. Every medium has its own implicit rules that take time to master. Blogging well is deceptively hard to do and blogging poorly is tragically easy. If blogging is not an end in itself, then regard it as a tool for a specific purpose to keep in mind.
Here’s hoping that Dr. Finel chooses to keep at it!