Somebody I have known on the internet for years emailed me this afternoon, asking why I chose Blogger over WordPress. I suppose the question really opens a can of worms, so I’ll do my best to explain my thoughts.
The short version goes something like this – “most of the people posting blogs at WordPress.com are self obsessed narcissists, doing anything they can to attract traffic to themselves”. That’s a pretty strong claim to make, but it’s not entirely baseless. The hosted WordPress platform encourages people to use a “like” function, not so dissimilar than the Tumblr “heart” icon, or the Facebook “verbs” function. The problem with any sort of like functionality is that you have to be a member of the network to use it, and that it provides a link back to your own blog if you like something – so of course people game the system – showering likes over anything and everything – forcing their avatar into the foot of other people’s posts, in the hope that they might click on it.
The WordPress and Tumblr dashboards cause a similar insular, incestuous network of connected blogs to arise – where the only traffic you might garner is through likes among the network of “followers” you have gained – many of which are only following you in the hopes of attaining a “follow” back. For a time I posted across the mast-head of my blog “I will not follow back any niche interest, cooking, fashion, marketing, or otherwise business related blogs” – that didn’t stop hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of shill marketing blogs from following me, without ever commenting on anything I had written.
I learned the lesson at Tumblr that a picture of your face would garner far more attention in half an hour than a thousand words about a subject you feel strongly about might in a week. I also learned that the “shelf life” of anything you might post at Tumblr was minutes. If anything you posted hadn’t been reacted to within perhaps half an hour – particularly while the US was awake, then you might as well not have bothered posting it in the first place (if you were looking to engage anybody in conversation).
I suppose it all comes back to the “social internet” not being “social” at all really. It’s kind of the emperor’s new clothes in a way – we were sold the dream of being able to connect with people, but then almost every platform designed to incorporate social features turns into a walled f*cking garden. Friction is removed from communication within a given network, which makes it easy to only bother with people from that community. The lack of friction also means that nobody bothers to engage with each other any more either though, because it’s so damn effortless to “appear” to like something, or somebody.
Blogger was built before the internet became “social”, and so has never really had any pretences about assisting you to connect with other users of Blogger. I say “really”, because Blogger did have some networking features, but Google ripped them back out some time ago.
What am I trying to say here? Maybe that there is value to not being a part of the hive – that there is value to standing on our own, and not relying on a fake community to bring traffic to the things we post. There is value to being an individual, and expressing unpopular opinions or thoughts without fear of being excluded.
I could of course have hosted my own instance of WordPress for a very small outlay, and run my own blog. I could also have chosen SquareSpace, Weebly, or any of the other independent web publishing platforms. I chose Blogger because it’s free – and let’s face it – are the words I write really worth paying to present to anybody? I think not.