Proposal and Method
My final project for Weblogs and Wikis (ENGL 3177) was titled “Mapping The Blog Genre.” In my project proposal, I detailed a strategy in which I would proceed with my so called “mapping.” Very briefly: the process included selecting a blogging topic, reading three to four weblogs, posting notes and analysis on various elements of those weblogs, and writing a compilation essay in which I drew on the aforementioned notes. At the end of each week, I was essentially hoping to define each blogging topic. I was looking for particular tendencies and similarities within each blogging topic in order to get a more clear idea about specific types of blogging. I was surprised to find that I was able to follow this format for the whole five weeks of this project. On each note-post, I divided my analysis into three sections: Identity and Theme, Multi-modality, Tags, Categories, Content arrangement, and Content Analysis. My Compilation Essay’s began with an introduction, followed by body paragraphs in which I detailed the most prominent or important similarities and observations among the blogs. I used this format on six blogging topics: Art, Creative Writing, Travel, Politics, Lifestyle, and Food.
When I began this project, I was happy to discover that my posting format made it rather easy to keep up with posting. As long as I chose a blogging topic that was quite prolific in the blogosphere, I never struggled with producing posts. My project became stable in the sense that during most weeks, I wasn’t scratching my head for what to write about. I’m actually quite proud of this stability, because I’m guessing it means that my planning/proposal was rather well done. For the most part, the project was smooth sailing.
However stable my project was, from week one I was starting to think my work was trivial. The reason for this, was the simplicity and superficial nature of my note taking format. I thought of myself as an observer of the obvious. I took notes on the theme and about pages of certain blogs, mentioned multi-modality, tags, categories (a rather pointless observation in the end) and content. I felt as though many of my posts were boring to write and read, because it was all surface information that was simply being drawn from elsewhere – nothing new was being created. I think I expected this at first, since my “creation” was meant to be piled into compilation essays. Regular posts were meant to be surface level notes (in the beginning). While I do think my compilation essays were more interesting, I think I restricted my project in some ways by thrusting too much importance on them. About halfway through my project, I contacted our professor MC Morgan about switching projects simply because I thought this project was boring and trivial. He pointed out my lack of analysis in many of my posts, and that’s when I tried to modify my approach to lean towards analysis as much as I could. In my notes, I began speculating on why bloggers chose particular themes, methods of content arrangement, and content.
During these five weeks, I’ve received what I would consider a fair amount of interaction from the WordPress community. Early on in my project, I had a rule in which I would contact each blogger I took notes on. This sparked many comments from bloggers who expressed interest in my project, and gratefulness for having been written about. I also had a pretty “high” viewership at times. I’m guessing that most of the interest that individuals took in my project stemmed from the fact that I was basically promoting blogs. Even though I wasn’t in the act of promoting or reviewing blogs, I believe the mere mention of specific blogs drew readers to me.
What This Project Means for Me
I think I’ve learned a lot from this project. The discipline required for a post frequency of five posts per week is very demanding. After calculating the word-count out, I discovered that I was writing almost ten pages of material per week. That means this entire project has produced over fifty pages of content – to me, that’s insane. This schedule has made me realize that writing every day forms a valuable habit. I’ve also learned a lot about my waning interest in writing during the later stages of this project. At times, I began hating writing because I was so sick of the project. Again, this might have been due to my terribly boring process at first, but I think it becomes natural for any writer to eventually despise writing – it’s just something we can’t stop doing at some point.
I also believe I’ve collected a lot of valuable information about the elements of blogging. Throughout this project, I started to position myself as a reader; I began to analyze what impressions certain themes, content arrangement, and content would have on me. A theme becomes very important as an introductory statement. Organizational structures and sidebars have a convolution threshold before they become too confusing. By no means do I consider myself a blog connoisseur, but I do think that this information will assist me in creating a more efficient blog in the future.
What Does This Project Say About Blogging?
In a lot of ways, this project was an experiment of sorts. I wanted to see how I could define specific blogging topics much in the same way one would define the word “blog.” I would consider my results rather unreliable since each week consisted of a low sample size. Four blogs from one blogging topic is nothing compared to the hundreds or thousands needed to accurately define the tendencies of a blogging topic, especially since I restricted my search to WordPress (just for simplicity’s sake). In spite of this, I do think that I’ve pointed out some attributes of these topics that are actually quite valuable. My compilation essays address these attributes, but here I’ll attempt to articulate what I think it all means.
One example of a trend I noticed during my observations was the use of virtual galleries in art blogging. Two out of the four bloggers I covered formatted their blogs in such a way to showcase their artwork efficiently – either on separate pages or on their home page. As an artist, I believe there is tremendous value is presenting one’s work in this way since it’s organized, emphasizes images, and highlights artwork by removing superfluous elements such as text. I would say that virtual galleries in art blogging is tremendously useful and generally just a good thing to have. However valuable virtual galleries might be, does a blog that chooses not to use them becomes less of an art blog? Certainly not. What this means is that I think my project ultimately became less of an effort to define, and more of a effort to judge particular aspects of blogs. As a reader, I more often than not pointed out elements that were advantageous for a specific blogging topic instead of defining the topic as a whole. Virtual galleries are only one example of this.
Some of my observations were more definitive than others. For example, travel blogging almost always uses photography. In this blogging topic, it is so common to see bloggers sharing images of their travels that the line between photo album and travel blog has become blurred. Similar to virtual galleries, photography in travel blogging is advantageous for content and popularity. People are attracted to photos since they require less effort to interact with than whole bodies of text. Are there travel blogs that use no images? I’m sure there are, but I would argue that using images improves the travel blogging experience. In this way, my project has become a body of information that catalogs these various “advantageous” attributes. Creating a blog – from everything to theme, about pages, and content – is a very deliberate process. I think good blog authors should spend an enormous amount of energy on making important design choices. The information I’ve collected with this project might help others realize that the choices they make about their blogs matter, and maybe in my compilation essays they will discover what works for a particular blogging topic.
Pink candy floss.
If I were to do this project again, I don’t think I would change much of anything. As I said before, I believe my proposal was quite thorough in detailing my process. The minor change I would make to my posting format would be to remove the “Multi-modality, Tags, Categories, Content arrangement,” section, and simply add “Content Arrangement” with “Identity and Theme.” In my very last posts on food blogging, I’ve already practiced this revised format. The reason for this change was the fact that the Multi-modality section totally lacked in substance and meaning for my project as a whole. I felt like the section didn’t offer opportunities for meaningful observations aside from the fact that some bloggers do not know the difference between tags and categories. In this sense, I felt as though I was ridiculing the bloggers I was writing about. However, I do believe analyzing content arrangement was important, which is why I would merge this element into my Identity and Theme section. Also, removing the word count from that useless third category provides more space for the most important aspect of my project: content analysis.
I might also change the method in which I approached searching for my blogging topics. The hardest part of generating my content for this project was coming up with a satisfactory blogging topic to write about. This made each week’s success relatively uncertain. Many of the topics I covered have had very prolific communities. However, political blogging was an example of a topic that was not only hard to find blogs for, but it was also extremely difficult to write about. So in terms of deciding on topics, I definitely wish I had planned my course out more clearly. I might have also benefited from searching other blogging sites for potential blogs instead of remaining on WordPress.