Monday, May 05, 2008

Helmut Answers A Couple of Qs

Phronesisaical, or the "Phron," is one of the first blogs I ever read-- and after more than two years in the "blogopshere," I'm still checking in on an almost daily basis. Founding blogger "Helmut," (not his real name) is a DC friend, a professor of philosophy and an expert (he's edited an anthology for Johns Hopkins University Press and testified before Congress) on the philosophy of torture. Apropos of the workshop I gave last Saturday on writers's blogs for the Maryland Writers Association, I asked "Helmut" for his thoughts on blogging.

Madam Mayo: Do you read any writers's blogs?

Helmut: If fiction, I don't really read many unless I e-stumble upon them. I find McSweeney's, for example, really annoying in its overly self-conscious and preening cleverness. So, I assiduously avoid the site. My dislike there has more to do with the writing itself than with the fact that it's blog-based. It may be that writers' blogs and their drawbacks/assets have as much to do with the medium of blogs rather than writing itself. Part of this has to do with market. For example, I like James Wolcott as a writer and urbane wit, but I tend to check his blog more often than he posts. In some cases with other writers, this would doom them to blog oblivion (under the blogoid assumption that you continually have to post new content)-- that is, supply not keeping up with demand. In the case of Wolcott, however, he has the institutional heft of Vanity Fair behind him, but also individually has a large-ish market of readers. They'll come back, like me, to check for new posts.

Madam Mayo: What do you think attracts readers to a writer's blog?

Helmut: Given the vastness today of the blog world, readers tend to congregate around those blogs that either established themselves early on or have had the good luck to have some basic quality or particular product discovered by some other well-established blog. But to keep the readers, the blogger has to post fairly often. That need to post (if one wants readers and to retain those readers) is going to be in basic tension with the quality of the writing at some point, I would think. If one doesn't care about the readers, I have no explanation for why they're blogging in the first place... Frankly, I have no idea about these things regarding my own blog; otherwise, I wouldn't have given it the ugly name it has and wouldn't have committed myself-- on a whim-- to posting fruit photos.

Madam Mayo says: check out the latest fruit photo on the Phron here.