May 21st, 2007 | Oddments, Site Update
Okay, I kind of hate to bring this up again, but it’s been hanging over my head for a long time and I just want to be done with it. Remember my “open thread” suggestion of April 10 which peeved many readers? I quickly put the kibosh on it, but your comments, pro and con, went on for some time, and I promised that I’d post my own “formal response” after I’d mulled over everyone’s ideas.
“What is the purpose of this blog?” I asked myself. “To whom does it belong? What constitutes ‘off-topic’ when my own posts are often quite frivolous?” And after protracted and deliberate consideration, I replied to myself, “I have no fuckin’ idea.”
I’d sort of like to leave it at that. But before I do, here are a few stray thoughts.
The blog’s purpose has been constantly evolving. It started as a half-hearted experiment. It morphed into a home for my comic strip, a travelog, a publicity tool, and then, to my surprise and delight, a community.
After Fun Home came out, the blog also became for me a kind of journal manqué as I dealt with the sometimes bewildering increase in my visibility as an author. It was a way to hang onto the kind of intimate exchanges I’d grown accustomed to having with my readers, just with a lot more of them at once. Perhaps this has been a “false intimacy,” as the cliché about online communication goes. But perhaps not.
I love this blog. I enjoy having an audience, in spite (or maybe because) of the fact that most of the time you’re chatting amongst yourselves about other things. But recently I started getting a little nervous about the responsibilities of facilitating this sometimes unwieldy discussion. Occasionally there’d be small flare-ups on heated topics, and although people self-regulated quite impressively—ignoring trolls, treating one another with intelligence and respect—I still felt a lot of pressure to keep an eye on everything. After all, it was my website. That’s when I proposed the open thread plan, in a misguided attempt to contain the conversation. But as I explained above, I quickly retracted it when a majority of commenters objected. Still, the rather intense response to my suggestion left me feeling even more overwhelmed and confused about what we were doing here.
But now things seem to have settled back down, and I’m feeling more comfortable with the idea of not having to monitor or respond to everything. I mean, I’ve never responded to everything, but I ‘ve always kind of felt like I should. Someone posted a link to an NPR piece about blogs a while ago that quoted Ira Glass. They eventually had to take down the blog for This American Life, he said, because it was taking too much time to moderate, and anyway, what they really wanted to be doing was making a radio show.
I also read the recent NY Times Magazine piece cited here by a few people, “Sex, Drugs, and Updating Your Blog.” At one point the author writes, “Will the Internet change the type of person who becomes a musician or writer? It’s possible to see these online trends as Darwinian pressures that will inevitably produce a new breed—call it an Artist 2.0—and mark the end of the artist as a sensitive, bohemian soul who shuns the spotlight.”
It’s true I’ve discovered a strangely exhibitionistic side of myself here. But much as I like showing you my blurry wildflower porn, and tempting as it is to spout off my autobiographical musings before they’ve properly steeped, I’m not a blogger. This is not my creative focus, or I’d (hopefully) do a much better job at it.
So for now, the purpose of the blog is: Whatever.
I expect it will continue to evolve. As I cut back on the frequency of new DTWOF episodes and the hullaballoo over Fun Home dies down, there will probably be less, or quieter, traffic here. And once I get properly immersed in my next book, I won’t have time to post so much. But I very much hope you will continue to chat here about factoring polynomials or whatever else strikes your fancy, whenever you feel the urge. That’s all. I just wanted to get that off my chest.