April 07, 2004

The Hobby Of blogging

I used to collect coins. I mean, I used to be really into collecting coins. My years between 12 and 17 years of age were largely devoted to my coin collection. I would sometimes stay up until 3 a.m., meticulously documenting my collection, calculating the quality of my coins, protecting them, learning about them.

And, I became aware of a lot of other people who collected coins. Numismatists we're called. I went to coin shows, and I read a newspaper called Numismatic News, and I thought coin collecting was the shit.

And I guess it probably was. After all, locked in a bank security box in my hometown lies probably over $10,000 worth of coins, and their value basically goes up a bit every day. I really don't know how much they're worth right now, because I haven't actively collected coins since I lived in Tokyo and then went on to college, and then went on to life. Oh, sure, I'll peruse the change I'm given each day to see if I recognize any rarities in the mix, but I haven't stepped foot inside a coin shop or coin show for over a decade.

This blogging thing, I think, is a lot like coin collecting, or any hobby for that matter, in that it seems a lot more important to people who actually have blogs. blogging has all the earmarks of a hobby.

I started blogging at the insistence of my officemate at the time, Jen. I acquiesced partly to shut her up, but also because I figured blogging would be a great way to strengthen my writing skills and, because I'm a writer by profession (even if it is journalism, with is, like, writing lite), it made sense that I wanted to become better at it. And I think I have.

But, then I started to notice something. I started visiting other blogs, and I realized there are a lot of bloggers out there who have an inflated view of their importance in the world, kind of like the coin collecters I used to run into who believed their influence in the hobby should be recognized by all. "I have a mint condition 1948 Ben Franklin 50 cent piece! Bow before me!!"

It's not that I think blogging is a marginal pursuit or anything. It isn't. I think blogging is an incredibly useful tool for a myriad of reasons. It's just that, right now, I think some bloggers really think more highly of themselves than is probably warranted.

Back in my coin collecting days, I came to recognize some big names in the realm, and I'd recognize some Numismatic News writers at coin shows and I'd be left in a mild state of awe. The same thing, I think, would happen today if I bumped into, say, Glenn Reynolds, or James Lileks, or Andrew Sullivan, or Tammy (okay, I just threw Tammy in because she e-mailed me today).

But, those are the exceptions. The big name bloggers have transcended blogging into something else. They actually make money doing it, and their writing and links can actually occastionally influence the more established mass media (think Jayson Blair). Other bloggers, myself included, are just basically background noise, cogs in the machine that is blogging.

I'm not sure why I'm pondering all of this. I think it comes down to the whole flap about Kos, and the Jello fight between Michele and Wonkette, and numerous other blogging phenomenons as of late. The thing is, that stuff only really matters to bloggers, and maybe those people who don't have blogs but read them instead of doing actual work.

I used to get frustrated with people during my coin collecting days. I couldn't understand when people didn't know about coin collecting. How could they not know? Coin collecting was the biggest and bestest thing ever to happen in the world.

Some bloggers, I think, suffer from the same dillusion, letting their site meter fool them into thinking that they're so influential that they simply must be recognized by the world. A lot of political blogs have almost a desperate air about them, as if their every word is being scrutinized by the New York Times, just in case they're being scooped.

I'm not trying to poop on the importance of blogging. I mean, it's important, to be sure, and in its most valuable form it encourages rational discussion between rational people and I, for one, have gained immense insight into a range of issues.

But, generally, I don't take blogging that seriously. I mean, hell, I was on Blogger for over two years and didn't really care until someone actually had to drag me to a more funtional format. Still, I watch stuff like the big Kos explosion, and I'm left thinking, "get a life, people." And yet, there's a part of me that thinks Kos totally deserved to be run over the coals for saying something so incredibly stupid.

I don't know what the point of this post it. Just getting some stuff out of my head and in print before it disappears into my neural wasteland.

Which, again, I suppose may be the most valuable aspect of the hobby of blogging.

UPDATE: I meant to wrap this up with a tie-in to coin collecting, but work intervened. Anyway, I asked my brother once to name a well-known coin collecter, and of course I just got a blank stare. Now, I ask myself, if I were to approach somebody on the street and ask them to name a well-known blogger, I'm willing to bet I'd get the same blank stare. I guess I'm just questioning the overall influence of the blogosphere, such as it is.

Posted by Ryan at April 7, 2004 11:04 AM

Blogging is important to me because I think every single voice in the universe is important in some way.

I don't think I have any air of self importance. I don't go to bloggercons or sit on panels or appear on tv as an expert in some field because I have a blog.

When I turn off my computer,I go back to washing the kitchen floor or helping my kids with a science project or just being a lazy, no good bum, sitting around playing video games in her pajamas.

The thing with Wonkette was all in fun. Two days later and she'll forget all about my blog. I'll never be an equal with her because I'm not one of the beautiful blogging people.

See, I'm not an important person. I just play one on the internet!

Posted by: michele at April 7, 2004 11:15 AM

I certainly didn't mean to insinuate that you of all people feel self-important, Michele. You're one of my daily reads, after all. I don't know why this was nagging at me, to be perfectly honest. I think it came about because of something I read on moonbat Hesiod's site. Now there's a guy who suffers from an inflated dillusion of self-importance.

Perhaps this entry needs an update to better clarify my thoughts.

Posted by: Ryan at April 7, 2004 11:39 AM

Uh, Ryan, it's delusion.

And Michele, you'll always be beautiful to me! When is the jello fight, by the way?

Posted by: Pixy Misa at April 7, 2004 01:34 PM

Oh, man. For a second there I almost thought you meant that I wasn't as important as I know I am. Fortunately my ego took over at the critical moment and decided that you were just using sarcasm.

Phew! That was a close one.

And it wasn't so much dragging you off Blogger as it was a constant eroding of your resistance. Think "battle of attrition". ;-)

Posted by: Jim at April 7, 2004 01:35 PM

I love the quizzical looks people used to give me when I'd mention that I blog. Now I don't advertise the fact that I write online all the time. I like keeping my lives apart.

It makes it alot easier to write about what assholes my neighbors are being if they don't read my blog, eh?

But yeah, I'm well aware that I'm a little fish in a big blogging pond. I don't think that makes me insignificant by any means, my voice is just as important as the next blog's. But I recognize that importance is a very relative thing. My blog is very important to me, far, far, far less important to the rest of the world.

Unless I've put up fresh puppy pics.

Posted by: Johnny Huh? at April 7, 2004 02:03 PM

Ryan, I didn't mean to imply that you were implying that I think I am self-important.

I think it was a really good post.

But there are a lot of people who *do* think I have an air of self-importance. Of course, those are the people who think there is some great Blogging Club all the cool kids meet at every night, wearing our sleek sunglasses and toting around iPods and Notebooks and drinking fancy things with umbrellas in them. Oh, and hobnobbing with the media and political elite. And maybe even Britney Spears.

Yep. Here I am in my jammies in front of my dusty computer, swatting away my kids while they compete to tell me the biggest lie about each other.

Posted by: michele at April 7, 2004 06:45 PM

I am secretly a very important man.

Posted by: Joshua at April 7, 2004 06:54 PM

if someone asked me to name a well-known blogger, like your brother, i don't think i'd have an answer either. but, i would say that i know some bloggers who've made some difference in MY life. you for one, inspired me wayyy back when i was a wee sophomore in college. after reading a bit of your sharp wit, i was hooked. and i'm still writing...hoping that one day, i'll achieve your level of informative, witty and almost always funny eloquence.

Posted by: kat at April 8, 2004 03:09 AM

Hehehe... Somebody told me yesterday that he was self-absorbed but not self-absorbed enough to have a blog. I think he may have a point or two.

As for me, I used to be full of myself (still am somewhat gassy) but my blog is not that important anymore, and I refuse to have sitemeters, and the like on my blog anymore.

Posted by: plumpernickel at April 8, 2004 08:48 AM

Heh. Sharp wit. And here I thought I was just being a cynical ass.

Posted by: Ryan at April 8, 2004 09:49 AM

Johnny Huh? wrote "I'm well aware that I'm a little fish in a big blogging pond"

And the pond is filling up with more and more little fish every day.

Posted by: Scott McGerik at April 8, 2004 12:52 PM

i would like to know an example of a "well known blogger" that EVERYONE who blogs knows. is there such a thing? most blogs run in little circles, and there are small degress of separation, but i don't really have a sense that some bloggers are "famous" even inside the realm of blogging.

or maybe i'm just not paying attention.

Posted by: leblanc at April 8, 2004 04:23 PM

leblanc, maybe I'm wrong, but I think Instapundit is pretty much a giant in the blog world, maybe not known by ALL bloggers, but certainly a lot of them. The same goes for Lileks. If they link to something you write, you can bet on an absolute deluge of page hits. Hasn't happened to me yet, and I'm not sure what I'd think if it did.

Posted by: Ryan at April 8, 2004 04:33 PM
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