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section heading icon     other genres

This page looks at some other blogging genres.

It covers -

section marker     introduction

Development of a typology of blogging genres is perhaps best left to an enthusiastic postgrad (and googling indicates that several are hard at work on a neo-foucauldian analysis with the requisite genuflection to Lyotard or Chakravarti Spivak).

Thomas Wrede's 2003 Weblogs as a transformational technology for higher education & academic research paper in discussing narrative forms of weblog posts refers to the MeroLog ("Identify the intellectual components of a given topic"), the ResoLog ("Seek resolution between disparate opinions") and MemeSmear ("Track an idea and show how the language around the issue evolves and changes from one idea to another").

Wrede went on to suggest a taxonomy based on content -

  • LifeLog - Log things offline (children, books, asphalt, trees, bugs).
  • RaceLog - Regularly document links related to racial prejudice, whether black or white or other. Alternatively: RapeLog, PovertyLog
  • TheoLog - Atheists vs. Christians.
  • PoliLog - Create a characters for each political party/movement. Let them argue.
  • CritiLig - Link to critical texts and provide historical critical contexts for the thinking in those texts. Challenge their accuracy and bias.
  • ArtSciLog - For every cultural activity, find a corresponding scientific way to interpret it.
  • CorpLog - Remark on the activities of corporations. Show the social and political precedents for their actions, and identify consequences.
  • ClassicsLog - Read a large group of the classics. Abstract your knowledge into a 20-page text.
  • FuryLog - Create a very angry man or woman and have them write extensively about their opinions.
  • RhetoLog - Identify the rhetorical constructs beneath the links you post. If you link to a news article, examine the writer's biases and use of language. Point out fallacies. Define a system of thinking.

This page instead offers comments on some genres and their reception. Another perspective is offered by the 2004 Bridging the Gap: A Genre Analysis of Weblogs (PDF) by Susan Herring, Lois Scheidt, Sabrina Bonus & Elijah Wright.

Overall we would suggest that the outstanding successes are attributable to individual skill rather than genre. In most cases the best blogs have been written by people who would have been just as successful penning an OpEd, doing a piece to camera or writing an article in a journal. Often they have indeed been successful in those formats: blogging is an extension of existing media engagement rather than a new departure.

Successful corporate blogging - whether for communication across an organisation of with that organisation's contacts - is reflective of the organisation's culture. Those in which innovation flows freely are most likely to develop effective institutional blogs but are arguably the least likely to need them.

section marker     technical communities

Uptake among technical communities has been similarly uneven. Although statistics are uncertain our quick survey at the beginning of 2004 suggested that blogs by librarians outnumber those of engineers and architects by over one hundred to one.

Much of the technical blogging has involved publication for a narrow audience rather than a general readership, eg librarians writing for librarians, metadata enthusiasts for others of their ilk, foes of ICANN for the like-minded. That might lead some observers to question claims about blogging as an engine of public discourse. It has also built on traditions in particular technical communities of using electronic bulletin boards and print newsletters for solicitation of information, delivery of advice and community building.

For many readers the attraction of some specialist blogs seems to that the author -

  • occupies a position of influence within a professional body or institution, with the blog providing an aperture into an often opaque entity (eg Robert Shaw's ITU Blog)
  • is known to other members of the community or has the status of an elder statesperson
  • has an engaging style
  • draws on information from a wider/richer personal network than that of many readers (eg Peter Suber's FOS blog)
  • is able to assess and interpret statements made by other members of the community

John Patrick, whose enthusiasm for enterprise blogging was highlighted on the preceding page of this profile, comments that

It's a way to energize the expertise from the bottom—in other words, to allow people who want to share, who are good at sharing, who know who the experts are, who talk to the experts or who may, in fact, be one of those experts, to participate more fully. We all know somebody in our organization who knows everything that's going on. "Just ask Sally. She'll know." There's always a Sally, and those are the people who become the bloggers. And such people write a blog about, say, customer relationship management, and they're taking the time to find the experts and the links to leverage, to magnify what they're writing about. And from those links people can be led to information and see things in a context they might not have considered before.

People won't go to the company intranet to search for information. Instead, they'll look in blogs see what people they trust and respect have to say. The company intranet simply doesn't have that kind of credibility, nor ever will at many companies. Further, blogs aren't old, like an HTML document that's been there since 1997. Instead, blogs are very likely to be something that interests [the blogger] greatly. Bloggers are writing all the time about what's current in various contexts and subject categories. Blogs are off-the-cuff, candid, real - and now.

section marker     kids - from Nemo to Emo

Blogging among the under-20s spans the continuum from Nemo (pre-teen burblings about cute little fish) to emo, angst-ridden teens letting it all hang out.

Emily Nussbaum in the New York Times commented in 2004 that for many bloggers

distinctions between healthy candor and ''too much information'' are in flux and that so many find themselves helplessly confessing, as if a generation were given a massive technological truth serum.

A result of all this self-chronicling is that the private experience of adolescence - a period traditionally marked by seizures of self-consciousness and personal confessions wrapped in layers and hidden in a sock drawer - has been made public. Peer into an online journal, and you find the operatic texture of teenage life with its fits of romantic misery, quick-change moods and sardonic inside jokes. Gossip spreads like poison. Diary writers compete for attention, then fret when they get it. And everything parents fear is true. (For one thing, their children view them as stupid and insane, with terrible musical taste.)

Parental angst, however painful, however inevitable, is perhaps less of a concern than youthful inexperience with concerns such as harassment, defamation and long-term accessibility.

Rhodri Marsden questioned the 'it's my blog and I'll cry if i want to' trend among some older bloggers, commenting that

I find confessional-type entries a little difficult to stomach. You're having all manner of stuff revealed to you - personal foibles, health problems, sexual inadequacies - when you barely know these people. I've seen people announce on their blog that they've dumped their fellow-blogger boyfriend. And then proceed, a week later, to blog about the new love of their life. And then blog a request to their boyfriend not to be "such a dick". And all in public. You can't help feeling that a phone call between the relevant parties would have been a better course of action. It certainly doesn't make for very comfortable reading.

It can also bite you, after the requisite 15 nano-seconds of fame. US senatorial aide Jessica Cutler for example was fired in 2004 over the "unacceptable use of Senate computers" in blogging her personal life, notably what the UK Independent characterised as "her racy love life with up to six different partners", with the claim that

Most of my living expenses are thankfully subsidised by a few generous older gentlemen. I'm sure I am not the only one who makes money on the side this way: how can anybody live on $25,000 a year?"

That is of course more than the earning of most of the world's population, although they don't blog or live in Washington DC.

One attempt to get to grips with female bloggers who apparently aren't dependent on the kindness of strangers is Lois Scheidt's 2004 paper Addressing the Unseen: The Audience Envisioned for Adolescent Diary Weblogs.

She might have been reading a namesake's entry -

I don't know why i post blogs... seriously. i've always thought they were kinda gay when people wrote about themselves and tried to get attention and what not.


i'm posting cause i'm bored.... and its 10:50pm and i've got nowhere to go, noone i really wanna see, and honestly... i'm a pussy and don't really wanna go out and do whatever all night and have to wake up at 5am to go to conditioning so i guess i'm making a right choice for once.

Blogging about the under-fives (aka mommy blogs) has emerged since 2002, with the New York Times sniffing in 2005 that

For the generation that begat reality television it seems that there is not a tale from the crib (no matter how mundane or scatological) that is unworthy of narration. ... While it is impossible to know if the reader of Good Housekeeping circa 1955 would have been recording her children's squabbles on, had the internet arrived half a century earlier, it is hard to imagine her going head to head with Ben MacNeil, who has chronicled his year-and-a-half-old daughter's every nap, bottle feeding and diaper change (3,379, at last check) on the Trixie Update (

Today's parents - older, more established and socialized to voicing their emotions - may be uniquely equipped to document their children's' lives, but what they seem most likely to complain and marvel about is their own. The baby blog in many cases is an online shrine to parental self-absorption.

Ayelet Waldman worried (why worry in private when you can share via a confessional article in Salon) about

discovering a compulsive need to open the tattered edges of my emotional raincoat and expose the nasty parts beneath. But at what cost to my kids?

.... I blogged daily, chronicling everything from what my youngest son ate for dinner (one spaghetti noodle, one pat of butter, and all the green, blue and pink frosting off a very large cupcake), to the Supreme Court's dramatic shift on sentencing guidelines, to the various side effects of the medications I take for my bipolar disorder. As soon as I read something interesting, as soon as I heard something moving, as soon as one of my children said something funny, I posted to my blog.

She notes that

My daughter shouted at her father, "You like being mean to us; you're nothing but a hatred machine." Half an hour later, it was in print online. The children are not allowed to read my blog -- they are still young enough that I can monitor their computer use with relative ease. ... there will surely come a day when they will Google themselves, find my blog and both be furious with me for having stolen their lives and humiliated at the extent to which I have laid open my own.

section marker     confblogs

The latest genre appears to be confblogs, ie blogs that cover conferences.

Typically they feature comments - often in real time - about presentations at conferences, with some of the more zealous confbloggers posting full or partial transcripts of presentations and panel discussions. In some instances audiences at conferences have been reading comments posted by wireless while the particular session is underway.

The genre does pose some questions, including authorisation by conference organisers and speakers (some of whom expressly prohibit capture of slides or recording of speeches).

section marker     an authorial tool or PR opportunity?

In one of our unkinder assessments of blogging we suggested that some bloggers were writing with an eye to repackaging the online text as a print-format book.

Others have used their blogs as a mechanism to solicit input. Dan Gillmor for example posted

This is a draft of Chapter 6 of my upcoming book, "Making the News."

My editors and I are most interested in your immediate feedback on:

What's missing -- that is, a topic or perfect anecdote that absolutely has to be included.

More important, what's wrong. If there's a factual error I want to fix it before the book is published.

And, of course, we want to get rid of any cringe-inducing cliches.

McKenzie Wark, a practitioner of the higher obscurantism, similarly encouraged readers to participate in an experiment with the Institute for the Future of the Book

to see what happens when authors and readers are brought into conversation over an evolving text.

One observer commented that

Inspired by the Wikipedia encyclopedia which allows readers to add to and correct its entries, Wark lets readers comment on his latest book, GAM3R 7H30RY, as he is writing and revising it. When the book is "finished," it will be conventionally published ...

and presumably receive the requisite genuflections from post-modernists wowed by the oh-so-cute title.

The Public Relations Society of America was on the ball with advice about

how to land your clients in the right blog at the right time in order to reap the benefits of their highly receptive audience.

The most important thing a publicist can do before pitching a blogger is to carefully read his or her blog. Unlike beat reporters at typical news outlets, bloggers are extremely idiosyncratic in choice of subject matter and slant. In order to begin a conversation with one - and it should be viewed as a conversation, rather than a pitch - it is vital that you are well-acquainted with the interests of the blogger. Many of them still consider their sites to be personal forums for their views and perspectives, and are wary of corporate or PR interference.

section marker     litblogs

Reviewer Adam Kirsch cautioned in 2007 about reception of what have been tagged as 'litblogs' or 'book blogs' -

book bloggers have also brought another, less salutary influence to bear on literary culture: a powerful resentment. Often isolated and inexperienced, usually longing to break into print themselves, bloggers — even the influential bloggers who are courted by publishers — tend to consider themselves disenfranchised. As a result, they are naturally ready to see ethical violations and conspiracies everywhere in the literary world. As anyone who reads literary blogs can attest, hell hath no fury like a blogger scorned. And the scorn is reciprocated: Professional writers usually assume that those who can, do, while those who can't, blog.

In fact, despite what the bloggers themselves believe, the future of literary culture does not lie with blogs — or at least, it shouldn't. The blog form, that miscellany of observations, opinions, and links, is not well-suited to writing about literature, and it is no coincidence that there is no literary blogger with the audience and influence of the top political bloggers. For one thing, literature is not news the way politics is news — it doesn't offer multiple events every day for the blogger to comment on. For another, bitesized commentary, which is all the blog form allows, is next to useless when it comes to talking about books. Literary criticism is only worth having if it at least strives to be literary in its own right, with a scope, complexity, and authority that no blogger I know even wants to achieve. The only useful part of most book blogs, in fact, are the links to long-form essays and articles by professional writers, usually from print journals.

section marker     debt blogs and addictions

In 2007 the New York Times reported on "dozens" of debt blogs "that have sprung up in recent years taking advantage of Internet anonymity to reveal to strangers fiscal intimacies the authors might not tell their closest friends".

Like other debt bloggers, Tricia believes the exposure gives her the discipline to reduce her debt. "I think about this blog every time I'm in the store and something that I don't need catches my eye", she told readers last week. "Look what you all have done to me!"

A decade after the Internet became a public stage for revelations from the bedroom, it is now peering into the really private stuff: personal finance.

The blogs open a homey and sometimes shockingly candid window on the day-to-day finances of American households in a time of rising debt, failing mortgages and financial uncertainty.

Apart from the problematical nature of much 'anonymity' online and concerns highlighted here, one might be skeptical about the narcissism that impels people to undress on a global stage in the guise of 'therapy' or self-discipline. There is much to be said for keeping some travails in a desk drawer, rather than on Oprah, Geraldo or a blog.

Henry Mackenzie's 1771 The Man of Feeling sensibly questioned such revelation as

the confession of a person to himself instead of the priest — generally gets absolution too easily.

A reader of this page accordingly asked where will it end? Blogs by serial killers, wannabe urban cannibals, burglars and terrorists?

One perspective is Therapy Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability In An Uncertain Age (London: Routledge 2003) by Frank Furedi. Presumably people will come to claim that they are 'addicted' to blogging.

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