So if you're the kind of person who cares about the meta-bloggy stuff (and I realize most of you don't, so feel free to skip on if you wish) you may be interested in reading Sullivan's long-form piece about what it means to blog in the latest Atlantic Monthly. There's a portion of it in which he describes finding his blogging voice, which he did with the help of Michael Kinsley:
As soon as I began writing this way, I realized that the online form rewarded a colloquial, unfinished tone. In one of my early Kinsley-guided experiments, he urged me not to think too hard before writing. So I wrote as I’d write an e-mail—with only a mite more circumspection. This is hazardous, of course, as anyone who has ever clicked Send in a fit of anger or hurt will testify. But blogging requires an embrace of such hazards, a willingness to fall off the trapeze rather than fail to make the leap.That really hits home for me because, more than anything else, my blogging has its roots in the almost insanely high volume of emails I send to my friends. Indeed, the first post I ever wrote for the old Bull Magazine -- which, for all intents and purposes was a blog, even if I didn't realize it at the time -- started out as an email to a friend of mine. Even now, when I find myself writing some 150-160 posts a month, almost every single one starts out with me thinking the same thought I get whenever I email someone: "hey, I bet someone else would want to hear about this." It's all internal motivation and inspiration. To the contrary, I think the bloggers who burn out quickly are the ones who think "hmm, I suppose I have to write about this," which is all external motivation and a sense of obligation. The former lasts, while the latter often doesn't.
Sullivan's piece hits all of the big points about why I like blogging so much. The immediacy of publication and response. The self-correcting nature of the work (if you screw up in a magazine you may or may not have to run a correction next month; in a blog, you had better fix your errors quickly lest you get a reputation for being unreliable). The sense that, because you are constantly posting, constantly updating, and constantly developing your thoughts, beliefs, and prejudices, you are engaged in something closer to a stumbling search for the truth as opposed to an omniscient pronouncement of it. Such a dynamic is much more satisfying to me because I don't believe any of us knows all that much for certain to begin with. Life is about learning our way through it, not knowing it all to begin with. For our purposes, baseball is how the season plays out, not the preseason predictions. Saying "And That Happened" tells us something useful. Saying "This Will Happen" is a parlor game.
Sullivan has one final observation that I think is worth thinking about for a bit:
The pioneers of online journalism—Slate and Salon—are still very popular, and successful. But the more memorable stars of the Internet—even within those two sites—are all personally branded. Daily Kos, for example, is written by hundreds of bloggers, and amended by thousands of commenters. But it is named after Markos Moulitsas, who started it, and his own prose still provides a backbone to the front-page blog. The biggest news-aggregator site in the world, the Drudge Report, is named after its founder, Matt Drudge, who somehow conveys a unified sensibility through his selection of links, images, and stories. The vast, expanding universe of The Huffington Post still finds some semblance of coherence in the Cambridge-Greek twang of Arianna; the entire world of online celebrity gossip circles the drain of Perez Hilton; and the investigative journalism, reviewing, and commentary of Talking Points Memo is still tied together by the tone of Josh Marshall. Even Slate is unimaginable without Mickey Kaus’s voice.This is why I have, for the most part anyway, resisted joining various blogging collectives that have been generous enough to ask me to join them. It is also why -- and I apologize Prez -- I have had a hell of a time getting into the flow over at FanHouse, despite the fact that those guys are better than any blogging collective out there. Simply put, I have very little confidence that any one post I write, in isolation, says anything worthwhile. Over the past 18 months, however, I feel like I've been able to say, oh, ten really good things, developed over the course of 2000 posts and a lot of back and forth with my readers. Blogging truly is a conversational medium, and a collective -- despite all of its good points -- is more like a cocktail party than deep discourse with a good friend over brandy and cigars.
What endures is a human brand. Readers have encountered this phenomenon before—I.F. Stone’s Weekly comes to mind—but not to this extent. It stems, I think, from the conversational style that blogging rewards. What you want in a conversationalist is as much character as authority. And if you think of blogging as more like talk radio or cable news than opinion magazines or daily newspapers, then this personalized emphasis is less surprising. People have a voice for radio and a face for television. For blogging, they have a sensibility.
Like I said, I know most of you don't care about this crap. But I do, because while the stated purpose of this blog is to talk about baseball, the larger purpose has been to help me figure out some basic things about my life. Like, what I want to do with it. How I feel about the world. How I relate to what, if I'm being honest, is kind of a silly little pastime, no matter how much I love it.
And if you don't like it, well, get your own blog.