Friday, May 30, 2008
Where have all the bloggers gone?
I've been blogging regularly for two and a half years, and I've been avidly reading all the celloblogs I could find since then. At one point I had come across more than 190 active cellobloggers.
Every quarter I've been purging my sidebar list of any blogs that hadn't been updated in the previous three months. Last time I moved 24 blogs out of the active list into my Dormant list. I have reinstated one or two after a new post appeared.
This time, I fear I'll have to reassign quite a few more more. My GoogleReader statistics service told me that late last year I was receiving about 130 feeds per day. These included not only all the cellobloggers and related comments, but also several other interesting music blogs I'd come across as well as a few general information blogs.
Recently I removed some blogs (not cello-blogs) from my G-Reader because I got tired of having to click through to their main blog to read the rest of the entry. Some of these apparently didn't realize they could adjust their blog feed settings to allow full feeds instead of partial. When contacted - quite politely, BTW - some of them quickly changed their settings. A few others apparently have an ulterior motive in only providing partial feeds - they want to be included in the blog popularity contests (which counts the incoming clicks). For example there's one such list compiled every year by Musical Perceptions (who by the way, does provide full feeds for his blog). It just wasn't worth the bother of clicking through to these blog sites only to find one or two more sentences. One of the blogs I deleted was also one of the most active music blogs in the system, but it finally became just too frustrating. Heck with them!
But back to my main point. Because I pulled out these partial feeds, my feed statistics are not comparable to the December numbers I quoted earlier. Regardless, it is clear to me that many once-active bloggers have gone completely off the radar; others have declined from daily or every-other-day to one a week or less. I've even declined from an average of 15 a month down to 8 or so.
Is this all just a fad passing?
Maybe there's more to it...
When I first began blogging, I wrote for me - only. I put down what was in my head, without too much censoring. Complete freedom under an assumed complete anonymity. After several months, I started getting a few comments from other cellobloggers. I began reading their blogs and offering comments of my own. For quite some time, this was heady stuff! Great for the ego. It was a nice feeling to think someone was interested in what I had to say. Still, I retained some degree of anonymity, sort of.
Four or five months after that, my anonymity was cracked open when my teacher's daughter came across my blog - I had mentioned her name as an up-and-coming musician after a concert, and she came across my blog when she googled herself.
Uh-oh! Exposed. I recall wanting to immediately go back through my entries and delete anything too personal or potentially objectionable or controversial. (I'll admit, I did pull one or two items in the weeks that followed.) Still, to the wider world, I was still just guanaco.
Then, some months later I was contacted by an old acquaintance (offering me a job no less!) who casually asked after my cello studies. Surprised, I asked how he knew about that. He said he found my blog when he googled my name. It turns out I had listed my blog in my profile on one of the violin sites, where you are supposed to use your "real" name. Googling my name brought him to the violin group, and eventually to my blog. Of course, I immediately deleted that link from my profile. (Although the job was tempting [$$$], I turned it down - I didn't want to relocate to the middle east.)
After all this, I began to notice I was censoring myself quite a bit more than previously; as if I was trying to protect my pseudonym's reputation. I no longer wrote about politics or anything controversial. I closed off a big part of myself from my blog and limited my writings to my own experiences with my music. This was, after all, the main reason for writing my blog. But I admit, I was feeling somewhat restricted. I even briefly considered starting a second blog under a completely different name just for those other thoughts. But I realized it would take way too much time to try to keep up with two blogs.
Now, sometimes, I find it quite an effort to write anything at all. Since that first year, I think a lot about who might be reading this. Now I feel as if I've gotten to know all three or four of my regular readers. But when I try to write, I can't help but think of how you might react to what I'm saying. Not wanting to appear a fool, I am a lot more careful of what I'm "saying" and how I "say" it.
One guy who inspires me to be a little more candid is Eric Edberg. Although I do like to include some personal information from time to time, my blog is an extension of my professional practice, and I find myself censoring and gerrymandering my perspective to make it more palatable for potential students and the magazines I write for. When I think something is important to express, and don't know if I should go for it, I look at Eric's blog and am refreshed by how honest it is. I respect the hell out of that guy, maybe more for that kind of writing. :)
I made a goof like that once too. I put a link to my blog in a profile on a forum where I'd once inadvertently signed my full name to a post. When I googled my name one day I noticed the trail I'd set up.
I also worry about who might be reading my blog. Will Maestro stumble upon it and recognize his antics? Will orchestra members take offense at my descriptions? and uh-oh ... what about the photos of them that I've posted?
Well, Guanaco, you might find it an effort to write sometimes, but what you write is most certainly informative, insightful, entertaining, and much appreciated by this reader.
I hardly ever write about playing my 'cello, which is a shame. I very much like reading about your 'cello activities, your practice and performances, Cellocracy, and--yes--your up and down of mood about enjoying it.
In the end the blogs that I find the most interesting are the ones written by people who care about what they're writing. As for being yourself online, I say do it as much as you can. It's refreshing! It's liberating! It's empowering!
For the sake of science I googled my name and was surprised to see it pop right up from our church's bulletin that is posted online! It doesn't connect me to my blog but still a bit surprising. And I was amazed how many people share my name.
That's interesting about the full feeds. I've collected a number of blogs that I enjoy following and couldn't figure out why they blogged such short bits. Dah!
As many of my classes and activities wind down I hope to get more focused on my cello blogging. For the most part I try to be open with my blogs but I try and not to write anything that will offend a friend or family member directly and yet I have a point that I may want to get out. I think some of my writing has "gotten" to who really needs to understand what and how I'm thinking. Writing often gives me my "aha" because I've had to struggle to get my thoughts in to words.
I hope you continue writing as you have been. I enjoy reading your blogs and following your cello progress.
Blogging--It's Good for You
The therapeutic value of blogging becomes a focus of study
By Jessica Wapner
Self-medication may be the reason the blogosphere has taken off. Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery. A study in the February issue of the Oncologist reports that cancer patients who engaged in expressive writing just before treatment felt markedly better, mentally and physically, as compared with patients who did not.
Scientists now hope to explore the neurological underpinnings at play, especially considering the explosion of blogs. According to Alice Flaherty, a neuroscientist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, the placebo theory of suffering is one window through which to view blogging. As social creatures, humans have a range of pain-related behaviors, such as complaining, which acts as a “placebo for getting satisfied,” Flaherty says. Blogging about stressful experiences might work similarly.
Flaherty, who studies conditions such as hypergraphia (an uncontrollable urge to write) and writer’s block, also looks to disease models to explain the drive behind this mode of communication. For example, people with mania often talk too much. “We believe something in the brain’s limbic system is boosting their desire to communicate,” Flaherty explains. Located mainly in the midbrain, the limbic system controls our drives, whether they are related to food, sex, appetite, or problem solving. “You know that drives are involved [in blogging] because a lot of people do it compulsively,” Flaherty notes. Also, blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to stimulants like music, running and looking at art.
The frontal and temporal lobes, which govern speech—no dedicated writing center is hardwired in the brain—may also figure in. For example, lesions in Wernicke’s area, located in the left temporal lobe, result in excessive speech and loss of language comprehension. People with Wernicke’s aphasia speak in gibberish and often write constantly. In light of these traits, Flaherty speculates that some activity in this area could foster the urge to blog.
Scientists’ understanding about the neurobiology underlying therapeutic writing must remain speculative for now. Attempts to image the brain before and after writing have yielded minimal information because the active regions are located so deep inside. Recent functional magnetic resonance imaging studies have shown that the brain lights up differently before, during and after writing, notes James Pennebaker, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin. But Pennebaker and others remain skeptical about the value of such images because they are hard to duplicate and quantify.
Most likely, writing activates a cluster of neurological pathways, and several researchers are committed to uncovering them. At the University of Arizona, psychologist and neuroscientist Richard Lane hopes to make brain-imaging techniques more relevant by using those techniques to study the neuroanatomy of emotions and their expressions. Nancy Morgan, lead author of the Oncologist study, is looking to conduct larger community-based and clinical trials of expressive writing. And Pennebaker is continuing to investigate the link between expressive writing and biological changes, such as improved sleep, that are integral to health. “I think the sleep angle is one of the more promising ones,” he says.
Whatever the underlying causes may be, people coping with cancer diagnoses and other serious conditions are increasingly seeking—and finding—solace in the blogosphere. “Blogging undoubtedly affords similar benefits” to expressive writing, says Morgan, who wants to incorporate writing programs into supportive care for cancer patients.
Some hospitals have started hosting patient-authored blogs on their Web sites as clinicians begin to recognize the therapeutic value. Unlike a bedside journal, blogging offers the added benefit of receptive readers in similar situations, Morgan explains: “Individuals are connecting to one another and witnessing each other’s expressions—the basis for forming a community.”
The whole anonymity thing online is pretty interesting. I try to refer to people by initial only, although I've noticed I've referred to people by their names before. I'm sure if any of my friends came across my blog, they'd identify me right away- even if I use acronyms and stuff, they'd be sure to spot my wacky writing style. ;)
Well, I know my summer resolution will be to keep my blog updated!
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