Good Blogs

What, in your opinion, dear reader, makes a good blog? Bloggery is such a freewheeling medium, it’s difficult to say, isn’t it? This blog, The Occasional Papers hasn’t really come into its own yet, mainly because I’ve been chimping around with the sorts of entry I write in it. I think I used to want to be Richard Herring and used my old blog to report comically upon the stacks of daily ennui and neurotic detritus that so plague the urban layabout. These days, however, I think the hight of blog perfection has been reached by Momus who uses his blog as a mixing tray for ideas and as a sort of well-informed online gonzo journalism.

Assuming that the number of comments a LiveJournal entry receives is a fair indicator of an entry’s ‘goodness’, I find that the best sorts of entry are the ones that relate to an issue that the majority of the blog’s readers know a bit about already. Trouble is: I hate writing about the news. I’m not in politics and anything I have to say about the news is bound to be a half-baked load of claptrap. If only some other bloggers realised that then the blogosophere could be a better, less littered cyberplace.

I try to write these days about art (visual, televisual, literary, musical, comedic) and the train of thoughts I experience as a result of it. To me, this is what an integral, considered blog should be like. But are other people interested in this? I met Stewart Lee recently who advised me not to go into standup comedy with an agenda (such as to be subversive) but just to talk about what interests me and let the ‘agenda’ be a byproduct. I’m not sure how I feel about this: if a comedian just wanted to talk about things of interest to him, why would he do it on a stage in front of thirty to three thousand people? If I wanted to write a diary of personal memoranda or things that interest me exclusively, then I wouldn’t publish it online but instead write it in one of my many notebooks. If it’s not going to entertain or interest other people then it shouldn’t be on the web.

I recall Dickon Edwards writing on a few occasions about what he thinks makes a good blog (or ‘diary’ in his case). He said that entries are best received when short and frequent. I think he’s probably right. The problem is though, that the reason they are so successful is that people (I strongly suspect) often treat their friends’ blogs like pieces of online daily admin: little chores that they have to get though, akin to checking email or their ebay stock. I know that I’m guilty of this. But there are blogs that I really enjoy (namely the aforementioned journals of Momus, Dickon and Herring and perhaps those of and ) that I actually like to savour and read properly. I’d like my to be like that for other people. Why shouldn’t a blog be an entity in its own right rather than just a piece of metacritical detritus floating around the web, akin to all those bits of debris in orbit around the planet.

Lots of people use their blogs to critique or respond to what a proper critic (in a newspaper/magazine/popular blog) has said about a TV show/film/album/gig. I don’t realy understand the motivation for doing this. The person being written about will never read the opinions recorded here (unless they play the google-my-own-name game and the blog is popular enough or covered with enough metadata to be picked up by Google). So why not write to the critic in question (they are usually quite accessible) or else take part in a discussion on Comment is Free? I realise as I write these words that I have bitched about a columnist in these electronic pages in the past. I guess there is a certain ‘psychological escape valve’ aspect to blogging: our blogs can serve as safe and soudproofed padded cells despite their being on a huge electronic stage for all to see. I wonder what we did to satisfy our desires for a soapbox before we had our webblogs? And what do the vast numbers of the blogless do?

Perhaps a good blog simply depends upon who’s writing it and what they do. Herring and Momus are constantly travelling and attend interesting events frequently enough to always have something interesting to report upon.

So, what makes a good blog? Why do you genuinely enjoy reading some of the blogs in your livejournal friends list and skip past others? What makes you leave a comment?

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