What makes for a good blog?

My colleague and associate Debbie Weil, who was attending the recent Weblog Business Strategies Conference, has a new entry in her own blog reporting on the attendee consensus of attributes of a good blog. But I don’t agree, in a really fundamental way.

Let me explain…

First off, according to Debbie’s reporting of the conference, good blogs:

  • are authentic
  • are honest
  • have personality and voice
  • are subjective but truthful
  • have integrity
  • may read like a first draft
  • but are well written
  • and (this is key to blog etiquette) link to lots of other blogs

Here’s my response: I don’t agree. In fact, I have a problem with anyone trying to pin down and quantify an inherently qualitative issue like “what do you think makes for a good weblog?”

It reminds me of a time years ago when I was walking through San Francisco with a pal and we saw a freshly painted anarchy symbol on the wall. He commented “that’s not a real anarchy symbol; they did it wrong.”
I just stopped and stared at him until he realized the complete absurdity of what he’d said. By its very nature, something that is intended to represent anarchy can’t be quantified and evaluated, can it??

In the same way, I think it’s a mistake to take the step from “what I think makes for a good blog entry” to a more specific set of criteria as listed, however obvious and reasonable they may seem.

This seems quite obvious when you consider how many popular Weblogs actually rarely have anything you think is interesting, yet are highly rated and clearly quite popular in the so-called blogosphere. Conversely, there are some barely known weblogs that have way-cool information and content, stuff that I find quite compelling and interesting. Does it mean that the former sites are not “good” on some objective measure, or that the latter sites are “good”? Of course not. But with a general set of criteria, isn’t that what’s implied?

Is this some spill-over from the obsession in this country with quantified and standardized testing, perhaps? (probably a different discussion!)

Anyway, the only one I agree with of all these criteria is that, for me, good writing always trumps bad writing. Except for the blogs that are written from the heart, blogs that have the angst and anguish (or joy and love) of their writer clearly expressed, even through the tortured grammar, atrocious misspellings, and weird layout problems.

But am I foolish enough to believe that my criteria are quantifiable and that I could derive some sort of “objective” numeric ranking from it? Of course not. (to be fair, I’m not saying that the conference attendees are doing that, but I think that quantification inevitably leads to measurement, which itself begets comparison and ranking, with a sort of tedious inevitability).

What do you think? Am I in the twilight zone here, barking up a dead tree, or … is there some sort of minimal cluefullness here?

5 comments on “What makes for a good blog?

  1. I agree that such things can’t be quantified. There’s absolutely no accounting for tastes, opinions, or unexplainable fads.
    I think it’s pretty obvious that things like honesty, integrity, etc, at the end of the day don’t matter when it comes to blog popularity. There are plenty of liars and folks other with qualities that I might find deplorable that attract and keep readers.
    Everybody has a different idea about what makes a good movie, but at the same time most movies follow the same structural blueprint. So perhaps a case can be made that there are necessary elements for a good blog, just not as specific as the ones your colleague listed.

  2. I think your reaction to your friend about the anarchy symbol was perfect: Had you said something like, “That’s not true. The rules of anarchy are that there should be no rules” you would be creating a paradox that could cause the universe to explode. But seriously, maybe I’m just a bit new to this whole “blogging” world, but I don’t see why somebody would put down a set of rules to follow, although I can understand moderation rules like, “In my forum you don’t make political statements” or “no flame wars allowed” or whatever. Or maybe this one: “In my forum you don’t post messages when you should be working on that book you’re writing, JEFF.” (I better get back to work. 😀 )

  3. About Blogs

    Thoughts Thinking about Thinking has “What is a weblog?”. Her weblog also has other entries about blogging. RussLipton on “What is a weblog?” DaveWiner on “What Makes A Weblog A Weblog?” DaveWiner on the History of Weblogs JoiIto has a…

  4. What makes for a good blog?

    Is it a true, personal voice? Is it topicality? Is it readership? Is it language? Is it layout? Are there any standards? Are spelling and grammar important? Is asking the question, “What makes for a good blog?” just like asking,…

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