The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Blogger Blogs, Wordfest 2006

by J.A. McDougall

I give up.

All day I’ve been trying to bring some insight to the page about the revolution blogging has stimulated in publishing, or at least conclude something intelligent about where our own CWC blog fits. I hoped to achieve this based on my attendance at a terrific Word Fest event last month. The Blogger Blogs: Where is the internet publishing revolution taking us? was moderated by self described non-blogger Shelley Youngblut, Editor-in-Chief of Swerve at the Art Gallery of Calgary on Stephen Avenue Mall, October 14.

The session was not very well attended, but for that I was glad. I took a keener seat in the front row and jotted down as much as I could, asking as many questions the moderator would allow.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but halfway through the program, I realized that titling a session with the word blog is akin to inviting people to a meeting about computers. The range of topics that were discussed reminded me of how little I really know about that world. I could have sat there all day. When I gathered my notes together today and began poking around some of these links, I became increasingly intimidated. This medium has exploded. Promotion, public forum, debate, news, directory. The uses and content areas are unlimited.

The three panelists brought vastly different histories and approaches to blogging. Monique Trottier, Internet marketing manager for Raincoast Books writes a personal blog devoted to “books, writing, tap dancing, technology, and other amusements”. Her answer to the session’s focus, is “towards an online environment that is more participatory, has a higher level of engagement than present, and is more viral.”

Trottier commented that she created her personal blog simply because she wanted to discuss books and other things she enjoys with like-minded people. This discussion base broadened easily and Trottier credits online access with being not only more convenient for fans but also less intimidating which further fuels participation levels. Trottier is obviously an expert in navigating and utilizing the internet for building conversation groups and promoting ideas and products. Here are a few of her favorite sites:
Tiny Little Librarian
For Illustrators and Cartoonists

Karen Neudorf of Calgary edits the beautiful Beyond Magazine, a non-profit publication with a number of holistic and virtuous principles including the dedication to “help our readers reflect on their lives while inspiring them to be instruments of justice, compassion, beauty, and meaning.” The accompanying website and blog extends the experience of the magazine itself. Neudorf recommends getting on a blog reader like this one to help sift through and locate articles most useful and interesting to you. A few of her favorites:

Cool Tools
Apartment Therapy
A Directory of Wonderful Things

Charles Campbell’s site is set up like a blog in that it is updated daily and the focus is on two or three main stories, but The Tyee is really an independent alternate media vehicle that has the freedom and motivation to dig deeper into issues of regional interest. This is one of the great opportunities of online writing. Campbell talked about the long tail in Canada being regional books. With 90% of visitors to The Tyee from BC, his "blog" is certainly feeding this trend.

The conversation eventually made its way to the struggle of balancing healthy discussion in a public forum with the self-centered and uninformed nastiness that can develop. All the panelists recommended diligent moderating to keep the comments within a decent a standard. But, as one mentioned, defining this standard can be tricky. At what point are moderators keeping out dissenting thought? It seems that everything in publishing always comes back to the same over-debated issue of censorship.

At this point, I glanced around the room and smiled sheepishly at some of the other audience members. One thing about sitting so close is that it becomes possible to imagine you are there alone, to forget your manners, and dominate the Q & A.

Trottier had a shining example of one blog that has maintained a particularly high standard of respectful behavior. Young fans of Harry Potter continue to bring their shared love of the books without having discussions descend into flame wars. Trottier created ten rules for her own behavior when using the internet and applies these to conversations in her blog. They include not embarrassing any company or organization, not publishing anonymous remarks, and not engaging in any flame wars.

After a day spent chasing these links around the net, I’m possibly further away from forming an opinion of any consequence so I will leave you to your own journey through with the above sites. Please send me a postcard en route.


Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Super post! Talk about going above and beyond.

Tue Nov 28, 04:47:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Holy Links, Batmama.You know, looking at other blogs, I think ours is unique. Thanks for sharing all your research, Jen.

Tue Nov 28, 10:16:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

Thanks for reading you two.

Welcome home Tricia!

Tue Nov 28, 11:11:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Blogging is too easy- there are too many! I can't even read all the novels I want to get to, let alone the blogs. I'm going to check out your links though- thanks for the quality tips.

Fri Dec 01, 09:20:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger tamara said...

Wow, there's a lot of reading ahead of me. I'm grateful for the research, Jen. Btw, The Tyee is one of my favourite reads.

Mon Dec 04, 03:22:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Monique said...

Hi, thanks very much for your post about the Wordfest event. I think you nailed it by saying that naming a session using "blog" is the kiss of death for audience attendance. That said, I think the people who did attend had fantastic questions and insights into blogging. Thank you for coming to the event.

I'm also glad that you posted the great links. I was trying to remember Apartment Therapy yesterday and could not find my notes.

Tue Dec 05, 09:42:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger lisa ling said...

thanks for the tips Jen! I'll check them out. You are like a writer/supersleuth in one. I still don't know how you find time to do all this with 4 kids! I'm guessing this is your 'me' time...equivalent to my 'gym' time. Gotta do it.

Wed Dec 06, 08:52:00 pm GMT-5  

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