Here’s a Thought

Mmmmm… 10 straight hours of sleep does wonders for my disposition.

I’m going to busy at ArmadilloCon today, because being Guest of Honor means that I spend time in the real world, not online. But here’s a conversational topic for you:

I was speaking with award-winning writer Mary Robinette Kowal today, and she noted that today is the “blogoversary” of her site, which she started four years ago (so go over and tell her congratulations). I mentioned to her that I remember going to visit her blog after I had met her (which was two years ago), and then said to her:

“I actually get annoyed these days when I meet smart and interesting people and then they don’t have a blog.”

Because, frankly, if you are smart and interesting, why aren’t you blogging? Or at the very least, occasionally posting something to your Facebook or MySpace pages.

So, the question:

Are you surprised these days to find smart, interesting people who don’t have an active online presence? Or is it really just me?

Discuss amongst yourselves. I’ll pop in when I can.

89 Comments on “Here’s a Thought”

  1. Actually no, I know a number of smart and interesting people who go through entire weeks and indeed months without even using a computer

    Life goes on without electrons and still manages to be interesting. Long live the art of conversation!!

  2. Other than a mini-blog during the New Hampshire primary I have not blogged. There are two reasons

    1) I don’t have the tech know-how to do it. While it may be simple to learn, at this point no interest in learning it.

    2) I suspect that I am a lot less interesting than I think I am. Ego is a terrible thing.


  3. I suspect the reverse. That the smarter and more interesting people do not blog. I blog, but I’m not so smart nor interesting.

    Blogging requires a mentality that one’s own opinion means something in the vast scheme of things, or worse, that one’s opinion posted to an ephemeral post-it note board means anything or will change anything. Plus, there’s the fact that this ephemeral post-it note board demands a pretty major investment of time and effort to “feed the beast”, providing multiple updates daily like raw meat for the demanding lurkers.

    All in all, there must be better things for smart and interesting people to do with their time.

  4. Not everybody who is smart and interesting in person or
    verbally are as comfortable writing as you are.

  5. @igor I think you have made a point. I am not sure my opinions matter in the grand scheme of things. That being said, I have let my blog(s) lapse this summer because I have been busy. The new semester is practically here and I think I just might pick them up again…after all, I want the scalzi to think I am interesting.

  6. One of the smartest and most interesting people I know stopped blogging. Because it was getting in the way of him becoming smart*er* and *more* interesting. Depends on the nature of the blog, of course, but sometimes dealing with the internet imps just isn’t worth the hassle.

  7. There are several smart, interesting people who really don’t feel like making the effort to blog.

    If you don’t wanna blog, you shouldn’t blog.

    There are many smart, interesting people who are too busy to blog.

    If you don’t have time to blog, don’t blog.

    Then there are several pretentious asses who spend their time on their blogs (and other peoples) complaining about what a total waste of time it is to blog.*

    These people are neither smart nor interesting and should not be allowed even to comment, let alone blog.

    Blogging, unless you’re being paid for it, is not a Hafta, it’s a Wanna. Don’t wanna? Don’t do it.

  8. I consider myself to be smart and interesting, and I even have a myspace page, but I very rarely blog. (except here, of course)

    It’s not that I don’t *want* to, it’s just that I don’t have time. I read Whatever at work (which can really mess up my productivity, letmetellyou) I work for a financial institution, and my workday is filled with, well, WORK. There is no downtime, except during my 30 minute lunch, which I eat at my desk so I can read interesting websites like this one. (i found whatever by reading wilwheaton’s blog, and regularly read neil gaiman’s blog, among others)

    When I go home, I check my personal email, then spend time doing other, noncomputer-realted things. By the end of the day, my eyes really need a rest from the computer.

    OTOH, there have been days (at work) when I would love to be able to post something on my blog, but I can’t access it from work (that whole firewall thang), and just don’t feel like it when I get home.

    Hope this makes sense…

  9. I’ve been going back and forth about this. While I have a MySpace blog to keep up with friends I don’t see very often–or ever–and another blog totally connected to a personal hobby that most of my friends don’t read anyway, I’ve been considering starting a “writer’s” blog because, well, I’m a writer. And that’s what you have to do now if you want to create any sort of presence once you start publishing fiction. It’s almost necessary now. But…
    I fear that adding yet another blog to the universe is just adding to the noise. On the one hand, there is only so much time in the day for people who write blogs to write something both smart and interesting. The performance pressure must be enormous. Just considering what I’m going to say on the two “blogs” I have now makes my head hurt some days. I don’t feel up to it. And then I say something lame and the truth comes out: I am neither smart nor interesting. And on the other hand, there is only so much time in the day for the rest of us to read all of the blogs we love by those who are–and have already proven themselves to be–smart and interesting.
    So, do we use up our energy online in the hopes of finding friends/a following/attention for our projects, etc.? Or do we use that energy to write those projects in the first place. And, just maybe, the blog of smart and interesting tidbits comes later?

  10. Not all smart and interesting people are good bloggers. I know an author is smart and interesting but his/her blog is a snore fest.

    Blogs like Scalzi’s or Wil Wheaton’s or Boing Boing are the exception, rather than the rule.

  11. Some people – and I’m thinking of a particular person – are just too private for this kind of thing. Meanwhile, I’m discussing [painful operations] for the world to hear.

  12. I may have mentioned this before, but John Baez had the FIRST blog in the world. It set a standard for intellectual depth (focus on Physics, Mathematics) and travel (he goes to lots of conferences in exotic places) that has never been surpassed. And he coauthors with Greg Egan, so there’s even Science Fiction content now and then!

    With blogs that good, many clever people are slightly afraid to have a blog of their own, which would fall short of quality, but can quite happily make comments now and then on the top Science blogs of others such as those by John Baez et al, Scott Aaronson, Peter Woit, Terry Tao, and the dozens of SEED Scienceblogs.

    You want your Big Ideas? That’s where to go…

  13. Well, i like to think I’m smart and interesting and I blog… but I don’t expect anybody to read it. It’s mainly cathartic whining (indeed, “Whining” is one of the more frequently used tags), reviews of books and movies, and I’m proud of that fact. I did get an egoboo when an author responded to a review I’d posted (but I’d emailed her previously, thinking I’d worked with her at a previous job, so she knew what I was up to).

    I’m not trying to change the world (although if the right people read those whines…), I’m not trying to keep anyone informed.

    On the other hand, I’m probably going to start blogging my professional life shortly, if my company ever puts the page up. There lies fame, in a very, very narrow range. If you think SF fandom is a ghetto, try pharmaceutical regulatory affairs information technology.

  14. I don’t go looking for blogs; in fact, I found this one by accident. I read it sporadically because I have enough time-wasters in my life (and work thinks I should be working while I’m logged on to their computer.)

  15. I’ve met a lot of people (virtually) due to blogging, and some of them, I’ve now met in real life. But nobody I know in real life who I didn’t meet via blogging…blogs.

    They may not have made an F’ing sense at all.

  16. Not surprised but disappointed. I wish that more smart people who share their opinions and ideas using blogs but you know the old saying “if people are going to stay away there is nothing you can do to stop them.”

  17. I don’t know if I’d say I’m surprised. Some people want nothing to do with blogging and things like that. Not that my friends are interesting, but they have no need or desire to be online, so I guess smart and interesting people could feel the same way.

  18. I’m not surprised when people don’t have blogs. for one thing, to have a great site like the Whatever takes a lot of work, and plenty of people i know don’t have the time due to family, work etc. Second, if you want a blog with comments, that can often require putting in a significant amount of work moderating, which is also work and may result in elevated blood pressure. Third, while there are plenty of good legal blogs out there (my chosen profession) there are very good reasons not to have a legal blog. (1) Even with all disclaimers in the world, some idiot may sure you for something you said that the idiot decided was legal advice; (2) your firm or agency may actively discourage blogging or make the permission process to blog about what you do so difficult that it’s just not worth it; and (3) at least in my case, the interesting stuff I’d want to blog about was covered by the attorney-client and attorney work product privileges. So instead, I’ve got an LJ that simply lets my friends know where I am and what I’ve been reading.

  19. I prefer to lurk on other people’s websites and occasionally comment with insights of such penetrating brilliance that others wish I would start my own blog.

    But I won’t. I prefer to . . . .

  20. I like to think that I’m reasonably smart and I hope I’m not a compete bore, but between a day job, a small music career, spending time working at improving writing craft, and keeping up with that thing they call life, my blog/website gets sorely neglected. I’ve got a stack of books I’m trying to write reviews of for the site, plus a couple of op/ed type pieces that I’m working on, and I’m sadly behind. And I’m starting James Gunn’s 8-week online workshop on Monday, so time will be even more crunched. I’ve tried giving up sleep, but doing that definitely makes me stupid and dull, so that’s out entirely. So, while I wish I could be clever and erudite online everyday, I have to parcel it out as I can make the time. Many smart, interesting people i know are in similar situations. I guess this is a long, self-involved way of saying, no, I’m not surprised by people who don’t blog.

  21. I’m with Jemaleddin, cathy and, to a lesser extent, Richard. Scalzi, I think a lot of the answers to your question lie in your very own posts that cover successful blogging and some of the disclaimers you’ve put up. Summed up, interesting blogging seems to either require very copious and current information on events that are interesting to a wide audience or attachment to another incidence of the above that you wish to advertise online in a form other than simple ads (i.e. you and your writing(s) ). Many people who are otherwise intelligent and possibly interesting either don’t have the time or inclination to produce that kind of quality material and (rightly?) assume that everyone would be better off if they didn’t give a half-assed effort.
    Tangentally related to that is the issue of privacy. I, personally, tend to be very careful (possibly to the point of paranoia) about what information is available about me from any given source. You’ve said before that you don’t share all the details of your personal life, but I’m sure you’ve had people tell you that you’re irresponsible and crazy for even posting pictures of your family up there, benign though those pictures be. Some of them probably wouldn’t qualify as ‘intelligent’ by your criteria, but some of them probably would and may have valid reasons for being touchy about posting personal opinions or information in a blog (if they have a job where public image is important, for example, like a teacher or social worker).

  22. I think there’s a lot of discomfort with the idea of a blog, at least with those who are, like myself, what I would describe as “middle-aged”. You are, after all, putting whatever silly thing you happen to say out there on the internet for all time. Well, maybe not for all time. But it pretty much doesn’t just “go away” after a week or two.

    In anonymity, such as this post, I feel comfortable saying whatever dumb thing I happen to think is smart or witty when I happen to foolishly say it. But the idea that my words, smart or silly, would be out there and traceable back to me (as they would be in a blog) gives me the creeping heebee-jeebees just to conceptualize. I wonder therefore if the blogging/not-blogging quandary gets settled toward the “IMG not!” side simply because someone (smart and interesting or otherwise) shudders in private little horrors at the very idea of all that public openness. I also wonder what the percentage bloggers is of people who are “outgoing” in their everyday lives, and if that carries over to a greater comfort zone when blogging.

  23. Consciousness is a horrible thing. If one is smart, or believes one is smart, then they must realize that there are people who are both smarter and less smart than they are. Those who are smarter have already thought of any conceivable point which could be made by one less talented; by the same standard those less gifted than the putative author will not entirely appreciate the nuance and subtlty of the thought. Why, then, should one blog?

    In a world of billions, there may be some millions who are of comparable caliber, but wouldn’t these already be able to generate the thought themselves? The act of writing to one’s peers for purposes of disseminating thought seems to be an act of sheer futility. Perhaps it is a labor of unrequited love. If one is to labor, however, why would one not labor for profit or personal gain? Love – can love really be professed for thousands of anonymous visitors, lurkers and regulars alike?

    On the other hand, perhaps blogging is a unique form of narcissism or perhaps even the precourser to paranoia, where the thought that one is so important that they are worth watching overwhelms common sense. Yet there are millions of voices howling their love, hate, shame, fear, brilliance, sophistication, degredation, indignation and hope into the ether. Is this disease communicable or communicatory?

    Humanity is said to be tribal at the core. Perhaps zoning laws have destroyed communities by denying local pubs and gathering places, and the need to associate, to gather, mingle, flirt, talk and communicate thoughts and concepts down the chain is so vital to the race that this alternative, the intangible community of the mind, has sprung up to fill the void. Does that not presuppose a void however?

    Why would an interesting person not have a blog? Perhaps they have their own community and challenges. Perhaps they already lead in different ways. Perhaps they communicate differently or feel no compelling need to form their own when there are so many excellent sites already. Should we not rather be celebrating that so many interesting people do have blogs and brighten our days with their labors of love?

  24. as commented upthread, there are many such people who don’t have time or inclination.

    on the converse side, I am neither smart nor interesting, yet I blog.. my only excuse is that I have an occasional itch to write: scratching it this way lets me share easily with the few people that are interested. Also, once I’ve ranted on the blog, it appears to have the moral and psychological effects of actually ranting in real life, which is a relief to my feelings if nothing else.

  25. I tried having a Serious Blog, but my goal of writing serious disquisitions on topics of interest proved enough of a barrier that it rarely ever got posted to. Meanwhile, my online journal, where I’m free to be as whiny and uninteresting as I want, lives on.

  26. Blogging in a serious way takes effort. So much effort that it’s a nuisance unless it gets you something. What a blog usually gets you is attention, which is something a lot of people want. But to get attention you need an audience and bootstrapping an audience is hard, so hard in fact that a lot of people don’t bother to blog in a serious way.

    So, no, I’m not at all surprised when impressive people don’t have blogs.

  27. I’d guess you find it irksome because it is a major outlet for you. Most of my friends outside the field don’t blog and find it a little silly that I do, almost seeing it as a generational thing where blogging is for people younger than me.

    My blog is for little snippets, comments, links, etc. The more serious stuff, such as it is, go into my fanzine or other forms of writing.

  28. Once I’ve put my daily energy into writing, I don’t have much left for blogging. I have a blog, but it’s updated less than once a week, which sort of defeats the purpose. I don’t know–for me, writing and blogging don’t seem to go together. Which is unfortunate, because it could, at the very least, be a good publicity outlet for my plays and the novel I’m working on. Maybe this’ll change if my career takes off. But for right now, I’m just not very good at blogging.

  29. I’d be surprised if I met a smart, interesting artist, writer or political analyst who didn’t have a blog because, as Whatever has demonstrated, a blog can be good for your career.

    For people who work more conventional jobs (doctors, lawyers, programmers, accountants, actuaries, portfolio managers, chefs, etc.) it is really going to depend on time and inclination, and not so much on how smart or interesting they are, because such a blog is more likely to be a labor of love with little or no influence on their career except for an extraordinary few. I work with many smart and interesting people who have little time or interest for blogging.

  30. AZ:

    I think this is a cogent point, which is that many of the smart/interesting people I meet these days are of the sort you mention, purely as a function of who I am and the circles I float in.

    And to be clear, I don’t think not having a blog is a mark against someone. On my end it’s that when I meet new people I like, I want more of them, and a blog/online presence is an easy way to do that.

  31. For most of human history, interesting people didn’t talk about their work. A single book might cost as much as a family farm, and technical knowledge was tightly controlled by specialists and guilds.

    This lack of communication led to all kinds of crazy results. You’d have one little corner of Greece that could build sophisticated machines in 150 BC, while the rest of the world still thought that iron spearheads were pretty high tech.

    Thankfully, Gutenberg invented movable type, and all those interesting people started writing books. And suddenly, after 50,000 years of grinding poverty, the human race had an industrial revolution and sent rockets to the moon.

    So I’m delighted when interesting people write blogs (or books, or scientific papers, or fanzines). They’re helping make the human race just a bit smarter.

  32. I have a blog, but haven’t written anything on it in over a year. I consider myself smart an interesting in a limited context – the industry in which I work – but starting about a year ago, found that most of the smart and interesting things I was finding to blog about were getting intertwined with the smart and interesting things my employer was paying me to figure out about the industry I’m in.

    So I basically stopped providing free of charge analysis to all comers, and instead focused on providing it to the people who enable me to pay my mortgage.

  33. I work for a politician. Need I say more? But I always lurk on the best blogs around the net!

  34. I feel like a lot of smart and interesting people in my generation feel like they are unworthy of a blog… like the right to have a blog is something one must earn. When I tell people I have a blog, they are always surprised and put on their “No, really?!?” faces.

  35. I think I’m smart, although others may differ, not that sure I’m interesting. I was actually thinking of starting a blog yesterday, and signed up for an account (but didn’t post anything yet :)

    My theory is that I want to be better at conversational writing, and the only way to do so is to do it on a regular basis. My personal prediction is that I’ll try it for a bit and get busy and then update it once a year or so, but you never know.

  36. re #37,38:

    “For people who work more conventional jobs (doctors, lawyers, programmers, accountants, actuaries, portfolio managers, chefs, etc.) it is really going to depend on time and inclination, and not so much on how smart or interesting they are, because such a blog is more likely to be a labor of love with little or no influence on their career except for an extraordinary few.”

    That’s an interesting an interestingly incomplete list of “conventional jobs.” Half the people on Earth still work in Primary Occupations, the original conventional jobs. Namely farming, fishing, logging, mining, and otherwise directly extracting valuable raw materials from Nature. I’m sure that there are farmers and fisherman and loggers and miners who have blogs, but not (almost by definition) peasants. There are a Billion (10^9) people in the world who’ve never sent nor received a phonecall.

    The Industrial Revolution brought an explosion of Secondary Occupations — milling the grain, canning the fish, cutting the logs into boards, smelting the ore.

    The rise of the Consumer state meant an explosion of Tertiary Occupations: responsible for the sliced bread in supermarkets, tuna salad sandwiches at Subway, Ikea furnature, making the steel and aluminum into SUVs.

    Since about when I was born (1951) half the jobs in the USA were Quaternary Occupations: the so-called information workers, or knowledge industry, or white collar jobs that AZ calls “conventional.” This includes government (1/6 of US jobs), education, science, and the arts (including Science Fiction books). That’s the core constituency — now — for blogs.

    I predict that the EU will try again to approve their resolution that the right to a web site/email/blog is a Human Right. All children will at birth be issued a default web site/email/blog.

    This year, China passes the USA in netizens. Look for China and India to drive the new wave of webizens. But under political control.

    My breakdown of occupations in 4 tiers is from my mentor Herman Kahn, and explained in the book he co-authored with Daniel Bell: “The Year 2000” — which as it turns out had Science Fiction magazine stories as part of its streams of input data. But that’s another story.

  37. I think I’m fairly smart. I leave it to others to say if I’m interesting or not.

    But one thing I do know — I’m lazy. And running one’s own blog and writing on it more or less daily just seems too much like work. ;)

  38. I don’t have a blog. That’s not because I don’t think I have interesting things to say… if I didn’t think that, I wouldn’t be commenting here right now.

    The point is, though, that I don’t usually find myself with something interesting to say on a topic that’s not being discussed somewhere already. And this is what comments are for. People are more likely to read what I say if I post it here, or on Making Light or Slashdot or any of the other popular sites I read regularly.

  39. If academic performance means anything at all, I am smart. Some people (not all or most) consider me interesting. But I have no blog, and no page on MySpace, Facebook, or other similar sites. It is highly unlikely that this situation will change.

    I post here, and am a member of a couple of online forums (fora?) concerning subject matter that interests me. I post on usenet groups that interest me. Those, plus old-fashioned face-to-face contact and phone and e-mail conversations, seem to be sufficient.

  40. See also yesterday’s (?) New York Times article on whether or not Social Networking systems such as LinkedIn helps the techno-elite find jobs. And numerous blog threads at the SEED ScienceBlogs about whether blogging helps or hurts a professor seeking promotion or tenure. Bottom line: these are all hot debates, with strong proponents of almost mutually exclusive positions.

    To me, these are pre- and post-paradigm shift mutual misunderstandings. Those opposed to use of blogs seem to me like the days when legitimate Scientists and Engineers had to publish their Science Fiction under pseudonyms (i.e. Caltech Math profesor Eric Temple Bell = John Taine; and Isaac Asimov’s hazing in PhD Oral Defense; and women writing SF under male pseudonyms until that was finally exploded with extreme prejudice by “James Tiptree, Jr.”).

  41. Unrelated breaking news: RIP Jerry Wexler.
    Revered producer and Atlantic Records co-pilot, music-biz legend who coined the term “rhythm and blues,” then worked with some of the genre’s greatest artists on some of their greatest recordings, dies at 91.

    Proof that #49 is correct with “A person may be ’smart’ and they may be ‘interesting’, but these two conditions do not denote: ‘functional’.” — The Math professor better known now as the Unabomber. You never know if the flaming troll is that dangerous. But Ted Kaczynski was (is) certainly smart, certainly interesting, and his Manifesto was published in the N.Y. Times, albeit by a marketing technique not likely to work in Science Fiction. And his lawsuit now is interesting — he objects on intellectual property law over a museum profiting from his shack, formerly in anti-Federal Montana…

  42. an example of a smart and very interesting person not having a blog, not even the own website, is china miéville. i asked him why and he said that he expresses himself through what he’s publishing. if people want to read him, they have the books. if people want to hear his political opinions, for example, he’s doing occasional pieces in several newspapers, and if he wants to express an opinion, there’s always room to have it expressed.
    i guess it’s just that some people are more willing to express themselves, more interested in communicating through this media.

  43. If I ever publish a book, I’ll make myself an online presence. Meanwhile, I’m a slooowww writer. Oh well, Maxfield Parrish couldn’t sketch, either. A blog would consume far too much time with little benefit. And then, I’m not a sociable person, and don’t care that much to be online-connected.

    I’d rather sit outside in the garden, go watch birds, do Tai Chi, walk in the woods, cook and eat. Real life stuff. I see the internet as an essential tool and playground, but it’s not life. I like to physically see my friends and hear their voices.

    This is partly a generational issue. I didn’t grow up with computers. Hell, I didn’t even grow up with calculators. If all my friends had blogs, I might feel differently. But it’s my friends’ children who have blogs and MySpace pages. And most of them are pretty boring. Practically everybody YOU know who’s smart and interesting has a blog; practically everybody I know with the same qualities doesn’t.

    On the other hand, change is good. And I AM commenting on a blog I enjoy.

  44. @igor

    I have to quibble one bit. I don’t blog because I think that what I have to say is that important, or that it can change the world.

    I blog because I run into so much stuff that I want to share with friends and the world in general (whether it’s stuff, links, my opinion on stuff, etc) or that I want to “save” somewhere for later reference that blogging is just an efficient, centralized place to blargh it all out.

    Now, granted, there is some assumption on my part that anyone wants to hear what I have to share. But when it comes to my friends, I’m on pretty good ground with knowing what they’re likely to find funny or interesting or important. And if my blog catches stray readers, well, all to the good.

    But I don’t depend on readers to feel good blogging (which would seem to negate the idea that it’s the importance of being heard that fuels me). I blogged for years with little more than the occasional peep from the outside world. Would I love to have the ear of all humanity. Well, yeah, sure. Do I need it? Nah.

    I think, at least in my case, that it all boils down to being a writer by inclination and temperament, rather than by accident. I blog (write) because when I don’t it builds up and I get brainstipated. If what comes out resembles a product of the other end of my body, eh, well, no one argued differently.

    But I sure feel better afterward, even if I am just flushing all that text into the Great Galactic Waste Treatment Facility in the Sky. :-D

  45. Hell, yes. Good point. There are a couple of writers out there I would love to see blog that don’t. Connie Willis? Hello! How awesome would that be?

    Just imagine how great life would be if Heinlein and Asimov were around and blogging.

    Dick Cavett has a blog at the New York Times that started up recently and that’s a doozy.

  46. Are you surprised these days to find smart, interesting people who don’t have an active online presence?

    No, but I’m always surprised to find smart, interesting people who aren’t reading my active online presence.

    Okay, semi-active. The active one is at ComicMix. But you get the idea.

  47. I’m surprised no one has posted a link to Robin Hobb’s rant about blogging.

    She makes the point that blogging is easy and can take time away from the actual task of writing. I suspect that it will vary based on person of course :)

    My favorite line from the rant is:
    “Compared to the studied seduction of the novel, blogging is literary pole dancing.

  48. Like so many people, the problem is time. After getting home from work, there’s time to spend with family, time getting mundane things done like taking out garbage or washing dishes, time spent reading books, time spent writing, and time reading blogs and other net content, maybe watching something on TV.

    That’s six post-work activities. Even if you spend only an hour on each thing, that pretty much takes up most of an evening. Something gets sacrificed as it is, which means no time for blogging, especially since I would consider that time taken directly out of writing fiction, and I don’t have enough time to devote to that as-is.

    Dammit, even this comment is a distraction!

  49. Perhaps it is an age thing, but I think it is more of a personality thing.

    I love love love online conversations.

    I love getting to know people who live in different states and countries and who have different political opinions.

    But primarily I love to write and I love to read and I love to make people laugh. So if I see something funny, I want to share it, and write it up in a way that will amuse other people. And I love reading the ideas and thoughts of others.

    When I find someone who’s writing gives me joy or makes me think or makes me laugh, then I want more. It’s as simple as that.

    To be honest, I think on-line conversations have some advantages over face-to-face conversations. I like being able to take time to structure my thoughts and responses (almost as much as I like firing off a pithy response off the top of my head). I think having to write down the justifications for many of my opinions has caused me to rethink my beliefs, and to carefully consider my thoughts and ideas.

    Does this make me a good and interesting blogger? No. But it does make me someone who appreciates those who are able to blog well, and to enjoy the communities that spring up around their blogs.

  50. Dave @59

    Exactly right. My time is budgeted out to 30 second intervals. (not really it just seems that way)

    Maybe some of us who do not blog are concerned about being consistently entertaining enough for prime time.
    I feel that I’m rather bright, my job requires a certain level of intelligence, Biomedical Electronics Tech, and as far as interesting is concerned, I have my moments. But entertaining on a consistent basis? Man, I don’t think so.

    I have to admit that having time to blog and toss out some of the random, sometimes goofy thoughts that jump out would be fun.

    Than again, a conversation with my daughter’s, who are budding writers, artisans and otherwise cool people usually fills the need. We recently had a conversation about the relative merits of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern verses other minor characters in Shakespeare’s plays.

    That bent the mind for a couple of days afterwards

  51. that should be daughters not daughter’s, darn it.

    and I previewed it too.

    So much for the intelligence part :)

  52. I blog because I like to write and I like to share stuff. For me, stuff usually consists of knowledge and impressions. That is pretty much the essence of blogging to me. So I am surprised when somebody who I think expresses themselves well and has great ideas does not blog (nor do the old-style blogging equivalent, e.g., write columns). (I also don’t count this against them; I am merely surprised.)

    People who confuse blogging with ego tripping seem to equate being willing to share with being narcissistic. “Do not speak unless spoken to.” I was raised to and lived that saying for over 20 years. It’s a stupid and self-limiting kind of life.

    Great, or even good, ideas deserve to be shared, and there’s nothing better for sharing than the internet. Otherwise those ideas die out with you, which is not such a great thing for the human race in general.

    A blog’s not a ball and chain; you don’t have to update every day unless you really, really want to. You don’t have to stress out about people not coming unless you really, really want to.

    I’ve always been amused by the idea that novel writing is worthier than blogging. You can write horrible novels and horrible blogs; you can write great novels and interesting blogs. Both take a lot of talent, experience, time—and balls.

  53. Compared to the studied seduction of the novel, blogging is literary pole dancing.

    She says that like it’s a bad thing.

    If nothing else, you can generate a lot more interest pole dancing– and make a lot more money.

  54. I had the pleasure of meeting (now Poet Laureate) Kay Ryan at a reading and signing once, and I kind of offered to set up a web site for her. She graciously replied that she didn’t really think she wanted one. I think some people, like our illustrious host here, can manage blogging and otherwriting well, and some people work better if they reserve most of what they have to say for their primary medium.

  55. I used to have a blog. Then I realized that everyone else did, too.

    Being the eternal contrarian, I promptly shut mine down.


  56. I am a smart and interesting person, and I have a blog, but I also have a 9 month old daughter that I take care of and by the time I think about blogging I’m ready to just shut down my brain.

    But I still manage to get one or two blogs out every once in a while.

  57. John – I think you’re missing the fact that having a blog has nothing to do with whether a person is smart and interesting. It has a lot more to do with whether that person enjoys writing, has the patience to deal with all of the administrative hassles of having a blog, and has something (or several things) they want to say (whether it is smart, interesting, both or neither). There’s also the time factor of keeping your day job. There are plenty of dumb, boring blogs out there, so there just isn’t a correlation.

    I understand where you’re coming from though. When you meet someone who attracts your mind, you want to learn more about what they think and how they express it (“Lead them by their minds and their hearts and eyeballs will follow.”(?)). And it’s disappointing when it turns out you can’t grok them without calling or emailing and interrupting them.

    While this may be stretching the point, I also think that since you’re a writer who mingles with writers and readers (and bloggers and commenters), it seems strange to you when you meet smart/interesting people who don’t express themselves through writing, at least in a blog.

    I have to agree that a person needs to be smart/interesting for their blog to be interesting over the long term (yay you!). While the rantings of idiots may provide guilty pleasures, schadenfreude or entertaining examples of social darwinism in the short term, the amusement wears off quickly. One danger of being a snark for example, is that it’s a one-dimensional role.

  58. Look the thing we really need to address isn’t the smart people who don’t have an active online presence, it’s the ones that have a PASSIVE online presence.

    We know you are here.

  59. There are those individuals who might acknowledge that I am a smart and interesting person, and I do have a blog. However, I am able to post on it only infrequently. If you’re smart and have interesting things to say, then preparing blog posts can be a time-consuming process. There is a lot of blogging that is the conversational equivalent of wasting oxygen; the “hey look, isn’t that interesting, goreadthewholething”, followed by the obligatory link, sort of blog post. For my money, that’s crap and I’ve simply stopped reading anyone’s blog where it’s a writing strategy. If you are going to write on any substantial topic, particularly if it’s something that you’re not the expert in down to your fingernails, then it requires some background reading, writing, rewriting, editing, and compiling graphics, to create a meaningful blog post.

    Along those lines, the day job for me is a significant impediment to the blogging pastime. “All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind”, which I understand was said by Aristotle. Unless blogging is part of your business model (for me, “Whatever” falls in that bin), then there’s always the tension between blogging and working. Without a doubt, there are smart and interesting people with greater discipline for time management than I have, who don’t blog. Blogging fails as a criteria for defining who’s smart and interesting.

  60. What’s interesting to me in this discussion is the focus on “blog” even though Scalzi’s original question said “online presence.”

    For me, it’s sort of like those people who don’t have answering machines. Sure, you don’t have to have one. If someone really wanted to talk to you, they could call back but it places the burden of contact on the person who is trying to reach you.

    If I run into an interesting person at a con, and we don’t exchange business cards, the first thing I’ll do is google them. A person with an online presence — even if they don’t blog — has made an easy gateway for me to contact them. If I want to refer other people to this cool person, I can just link to their site.

    Now, I can understand people wanting to maintain privacy, but it seems to me that the internet is creating a shifting social paradigm. One doesn’t need a website/online presence any more than one needs an answering machine or a cell phone, but choosing not to have one is a deliberate choice to not participate in part of a new social structure. One might argue that its unnecessary, but its not going away and as time passes will become necessary because people will expect it.

    Those of you who use cell phones know what I’m talking about, right? When you first got it, it was either a) a new toy or b) annoying. Now, aren’t you a little surprised when you are trying to meet up with someone who doesn’t have one? Aren’t you a tiny bit annoyed, even if you understand why the other person doesn’t have it?

    Or take voicemail. When was the last time you got a busy signal? Annoying wasn’t it.

    For the online culture, a person who doesn’t have a presence creates exactly that same sense of void. That sense of wanting to connect and being unable to do so.

    Again, I’m not saying that its good or necessary, just that it is becoming part of the social structure.

  61. I try to write regularly on my blog and I try to make it interesting for those who are interested in my field of work. But I also write personal stuff, things that happen around me, the occasional rant about politics… It all started as a means to give the readers of the books I publish an insight into the way those books are produced. But you know what? The post that got me the most visitors and keeps being brought up in comments (kinda like our host’s cat+bacon) is the one about discovering that my 5 year-old daughter had taught herself reading. And this makes me try to write for those who read me for how I write as much as I write for those who read me for what I write about.

  62. MRK @ 73

    You make a ton of sense, (of course you do) and I realize I got off on the blog portion rather than the online presence part.

    I probably will get some kind of online thing going, LJ or something, but it may have to wait until I get a better handle on the new job and the time I have for outside interests. I’m getting more comfortable with commenting in general and the interweb life overall isn’t quite as daunting as it once was.

    Unrelated to the thread. Mary, I hadn’t read any of your work until John suggested it a few posts ago. So, I followed the link and read some of the offerings. I had a great time and will be back for more. ; ) Next comments about your writing will be on your site, I promise.

    That darn Scalzi, making me want to read more and more authors, expanding my reading list and widening my comfort zone. What’s next I ask you? I may have to start playing with breakfast food items or something…

  63. I teach middle school. I’ll show my ass and say that an active, accurate online personal presence for me is a liability at best and most likely dangerous to my career.

    No one sane wants all of any given person’s opinions and viewpoints save maybe that given person’s spouse. Even this i find dubious. If you spout out all of your opinions and viewpoints eventually you will offend someone.

    If an artist offends a customer, they lose a customer. If a civil servant offends a customer, they can lose their job.

    No thanks, not interested. I can be interesting and cool privately in a non-permanent fashion and be perfectly content. And employed.

  64. I am not ever surprised when smart, interesting people don’t have a blog (blogs are a huge time commitment). I am ALWAYS delighted when they do. I have found several wonderful blogs through the comments on this blog. “Whatever” is my daily treasure hunt. Happy happy.

  65. @77 Todd:

    I don’t understand. Do you think that being active online means sharing your deepest secrets? It doesn’t. I blog as if I’m talking to a colleague whose company I enjoy, but we’re standing in a room full of strangers. Heck, that’s the way I talk to people at cons. If I have something more intimate to say, I wait until we are alone. Which would be email or IM, online. Or phone, if I don’t want a record.

    Online presence does not equal blog.

  66. What MRK said. (sorry, can’t type all of those letters).

    When I start a job, I sign a deal memo and all of them include some sort of non-disclosure clause. I’ve noticed a lot of folks who work in film blog anonymously (with varying degrees of success at maintaining anonymity). I made a conscious decision to blog in the open which forces me to think twice about what I publish.

    And I save the juicy stuff for email and phone calls.

    Dear current boss: I’ve never disclosed anything about anything or anyone anywhere. I swear. Rly!

  67. Mary:

    Perhaps we need to define a bit more what constitutes “online presence”. For example, I have an online presence that goes beyond the blog. Searches I’ve done have incidentally uncovered narratives that I recognize as something I had written, though these frequently don’t have my name attached to them. These often are portions of large technical documents which are submitted to public agencies for review and hence are posted online. However, most would not find those interesting.

    I wrestle with the same dilemma that Todd has. What I write is drawn from my professional experiences, and occasionally approaches issues I am directly working on. I maintain a thin pseudonym and practice a considerable measure of self-censorship (I’ve also signed NDAs for certain things I’m working on) as limited protective measure. The latter makes my writing less interesting than it could be, but let’s face it, we all can’t be the “Rude Pundit”.

  68. John,

    I just finished OMW and Ghost Brigades back to back. Very nice work. Really. Also, I’ve been lurking about your websight and again very nice. Interesting even. And while I do not claim to be smart or interesting myself, I have two questions that I hope are not against any blog etiquette I’m unaware of.

    Question 1: Is there a blogware that you can recommend? I’ve been meaning to give my own web presence a make over, but there’s a lot of options out there. Any advice would be helpful.

    Question 2: I’ve also been reading your Critics Rave! corner, tell me your making those things up? No? Gee….Hey, don’t let ’em wear you down man.

  69. Mary pretty much summed up my thoughts on this. It is just like meeting people who don’t have a mobile or email address.

    I find that over time I lose contact with people who stick to older forms of communication.

    We’re actually in something of a “singularity” at the moment with personal interactions – I just don’t think we’ve noticed it yet. However, we are going to end up with blocks of people who are left wondering where we all went.

  70. In re Mary @79

    No Mary, my statement wasn’t blanket. I was responding to the long riff on blogs. In re: blags – its not even deepest darkest secrets. I think you’re dramatically underestimating how paranoid and/or ignorant suburban parents are. One link you think is tame that a parent doesn’t, one comment that is not kosher for one squeaky wheel and you’re in a conversation with the compliance department.

    While I agree that an online ‘presence’ is a requirement – any sort of depth to it is a net liability in my opinion.

    Maybe to help clarify my position a bit more – I teach middle school biology in the home city of CBN and its ministries.

  71. Todd @84

    Sadly, I’m familiar with suburban parents and their paranoias. I work in puppet theater and once had our company black-listed from the county because a parent was upset about the “implied violence” in our production of Hans Christian Anderson’s “Snow Queen.” This was a show she hadn’t seen, but had only heard about from her kid.

    So, I take your point about the dangers of blogging to teachers. Which totally sucks and says a lot about our society, but that’s another question.

  72. Reinforcing what Todd said @ 77

    The paradigm may be shifting, but the current vulnerabilities of the new paradigm are, for some people, greater than the potential rewards.

    Open source networking works well for some but is a death knell for others. Most people do not realize how much of their personal and business information they inadvertently give out through their on-line presence. Talk to some one who specializes in open source data collection sometime.

    Anyone who holds a public trust or works a lot with sensitive or private information needs to have a very limited or heavily regulated on-line presence.

  73. I am an introvert *and* a private person, and I *do* have an online presence. I don’t blog, I’m not on myplace or arsebook or any of those other “anti-social networking” sites, for the same reason I don’t have a cell phone (if I can help it) – I wish to remain in control of my own life.

    I do have a web site (which is down at the moment, but can be found), and it is irregularly updated – with important things like lessons and my “cards”. I’m sure my online presence could be completely mapped; I don’t go out of my way to disassociate myself from myself, but I don’t make it easy, either.

    Why? Well, even if I was the sort of person to keep a diary, I only survived high school by limiting what others knew about me to the absolute minimum (and four years of therapy have helped with the problems that that caused, TYVM for asking). What I do or think is mine to parcel out to people, depending on whether I think I can trust them or they deserve that insight or whatever the hell I choose to use as a delimiter – and “friends v rest of the world” just doesn’t cut it. So no blog.

    It’s also professionally worthwhile for me to seriously control my online presence; I work in the computer industry, and what’s the first thing someone does when looking to see if I’m a good fit for their company? Right, look me up in Google. Hm, do I want to tell them, before they hire me and see how good I am, how weird I am and my non-standard views? Or my petty gripes with other people in my hobbies, or what I had for dinner last night, or who I slept with and when? (My wife, last night, just like all the other nights, but still). That makes me different from people in the writing field, where it’s not what you’re writing about, but that you can write about it well, and here’s yet another example.

    But mostly, I don’t have the kind of “online presence” that John, you’re talking about, because if one is interested, they can talk to me. If I’m interested, they’ll get my email and can talk to me again. Or phone number. Or I’ll hit them up at the next convention. If I’m not interested, I won’t. I should be more outgoing, but oh yeah, the introvert thing.

  74. DG Lewis @ 35: “Here’s the real questions: are there Tasmanian Bloggers?”

    Author and editor Dirk Flinthart for a start: (no www).

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