Last semester, I asked my grad students to each create a blog to use during the semester. None of them had written a blog before, in fact, most were not blog readers. Throughout the semester, they were asked to respond to topics from the course.
One topic I asked them to consider were the roles that a blogger might need to assume while creating a blog. I presented a few obvious ones - writer, editor, web designer (whether you choose a template for your blog's design or customize it) - and asked them to go on from there.
Since then (and as I prep for the fall version of that course), I have come across other bloggers staring into the mirror. In a post called What Type of Blogger Are You? by Sam Huleatt, he defines three types of bloggers: Proactive, Reactive and Insight. (Yeah, the structure is not parallel - it should be "insightful" but turns out he has 2 types of bloggers, one type of blog.)
He defines proactive bloggers as ones who are consistently posting original and innovative ideas - personal observations, research, developing theories etc.
Reactive bloggers provide value to readers by aggregating news & other blogs and hyper-linking. His examples would include some New York Times blogs.
Insightful bloggers are ones that he feels combine proactive and reactive - reacting to events, news, or analysis with their own insight/opinion.
Certainly, I wanted my students to be proactive or insightful by those definitions. Still, there is value to the reactive blog that aggregates the best of what's out there and acts as a filter for you.
Marc Andreessen says on his own blog that writing a blog is "way easier than writing a magazine article, a published paper, or a book - but provides many of the same benefits."
I think it's an application of the 80/20 rule -- for 20% of the effort (writing a blog post but not editing and refining it the quality level required of a magazine article, a published paper, or a book), you get 80% of the benefit (your thoughts are made available to interested people very broadly).
Arguably blogging is better because the distribution of a blog can be even broader than a magazine article, a published paper, or a book, at least in cases where the article/paper/book is restricted by a publisher to a limited readership base.
This of course assumes that you're not trying to make a living writing magazine articles or books, or you're not trying to get tenure as a professor by publishing peer-reviewed research papers.
It's also been striking to me how much more fun blogging is versus public speaking -- at least for me. And the reach from blogging seems to be much broader than speaking even at the largest conferences. I'm not sure I'll ever speak in public again -- I'll be at home instead, blogging in my underwear.
Here are a few more pluses he notes:
Blogging tolerates and even encourages stylistic idiosyncracies that traditional publishing would not accommodate.
Incremental thinking is OK.
Interactive feedback with readers is possible, even easy.
Revisions in the face of new information are OK. Personally, I think it's a great idea to go back and revise blog posts based on new information.
Your weird writing style and flowery language is not necessarily held against you.
And of course it's much easier to link to other information or other people in blogs than it is in books or magazine articles.
Andreessen is a special case - a kind of celebrity blogger and that changes or possibly adds some roles. More on celebrity blogging later this week, and in part two of this post, I will look at the roles that my students discovered last semester and for the start of this semester.