Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Thinking about Blogging

During this long weekend, while fighting off those bacteria that seem to think my sinus cavities are a theme park, I've been reading through old blog posts and e-group posts that I have written over the past 12 years.   I got online in late 1998 and discovered that a keyboard plus a cyber-network can add up to a wonderful venue for writing and socialization with kindred spirits, both at the same time.

I think the first group I joined was the e-list called Quiverfull.  I don't know if it's still around.  It was excellent training for a newbie because the members were usually able to talk about very "hot" topics in a very honest, charitable tone.   Sometimes it got a bit fiery, but the moderation was excellent.  I learned a lot about netiquette that way. 

Later I joined the Classical Christian Digest (I believe it's gone now -- does anyone remember it?) and soon after that I found the Catholic Classical Education Yahoo List; I soon was asked to take over moderation, and I moderate to this day, though it has gotten very quiet recently.  I loved the conversations that went on and they inspired me, though I'm not sure now looking book if they genuinely improved my homeschool compared to what would have been if I had never gone online.   I ended up participating actively in several different lists, and still belong to a few.

How does one compare two things, by the way, one of which never happened?  It's like comparing what my kids are like now compared to what they would have been had they gone to public school like most of their peers.   I still do the comparisons, but they can only be exercises in fantasy. 

Later on I became a moderator and active member of the 4Real message board.  It was the first message board that I could bear to read!  Most message boards have a terse telegraphic style and, can I say it, visually ugly formatting.   4Real was different.  And because many old friends from different e-groups were on the board, it was like picking up a familiar conversation in a new venue.   I don't participate as I did at first, but I still go there occasionally to keep up.   

In 2005 I started blogging, just about the time there was an explosion of blogging among homeschoolers.   My first blog was written in solitude.  Here are some early posts.  I just wanted to experiment with the technology and the blogging voice, so I didn't publicize it.   I blogged only occasionally during the next few months, but eventually got where I used the blog as sort of a sticky-board for my thoughts and plans.  Eventually I started sharing the link and got more of an audience, which was nice because some of my commenters became new friends.

I was and am ambivalent about blogging.   I love the fact that it's an easy webpage format.  I always wanted to have a website but found the technology difficult -- I would spend too much time setting things up.  Blogging is technically easy and yet visually good-looking.   And it parallels some of the advantages of a scrapbook or journal -- I never could bear to fiddle around with crafts but it's fun to make visuals on a blog.

However, blogging really doesn't have the conversation that was one of the most appealing features of the e-groups.   Sure, once in a while there are back and forth conversations among blogs, as for example with Cindy's book discussions and the recent Catholic Ephesians 5 discussion, but it's the exception rather than the rule.   When you are blogging you are broadcasting your voice out into cyberspace.   My husband used to flip through cable stations late at night, when the amateurs could afford to buy some time and you would get the local atheists, the half-hour commercials for weight loss or 70's rock anthologies, the local Catholic station.   Blogging feels like that sometimes.

And blog-reading often has that channel-surfing feeling, at least to me.   Whenever I try to catch up with my reader I feel that way.   I have a fair amount of subscriptions.   All of them are worthwhile, many of them are the blogs of people who sometimes comment on this blog or people that I admire for their scholarship or passion on topics of interest.  I don't often comment on peoples' blogs, unless they are someone I know from somewhere besides blogging.   But I try to keep up.  Yet too often I'm in a big hurry to skim through to get "through" my subscription list.   Though the topics are of interest, they are scattered over my mental landscape.... I am reading about Thomism, about weight loss, about someone's family life, about homeschooling plans.   I don't assimilate well that way.  My favorite posts are the substantial, thoughtful ones (so I usually click the "share" button so I can read them more carefully later).  And sometimes I do read them later, but often I end up skimming and never coming back.   Which is a shame. 

This post is a case in point, as many of mine are!  My comfortable length is looonggg, with 5-sentence paragraphs.... but who has time for that nowadays!  And too often I feel self-conscious when I blog.   I have changed blogging venues several times hoping to avoid this.  But then I feel like no one is listening, which is also disheartening. E-groups were different because it was a conversation.  I was usually responding to something someone else said, which is where I feel strongest.

Yet blogging is like a notebook.  It's almost impossible to weed back through egroup archives and find my posts, whereas it's so easy to go to my old blogs and click on the archives and find out what I was thinking or seeing on a particular day, and who responded.   I love that about blogging.   Which is probably why I keep doing it.  Plus the visuals.  So much nicer than any e-group. 

I started off wanting to talk about actually reading my old posts, but I got off on this tangent.   Oh well, I am glad to have this off my chest even if no one reads to the end, which is quite likely, because I can hardly ever read to the end of my own posts!   I suppose blogging is like any form of regular writing -- you write a lot of mediocre stuff and then once in a while manage to get out something  comparatively good, and you don't always know if it's going to be Really Good or just Ordinary until you write it out.

Paddy wants breakfast so on to the things that make a difference!


  1. Willa, some of us do actually read all the way to the end!
    Rest with Our Lady & get well.

  2. I miss the back and forth as well and will sometimes go back to the e-groups to search out conversations I have such fond memories of.

    As far as your blogging, I have yet to come across anything mediocre ;-)

  3. Barefoot Momma, that is so nice, thank you! I go back to the e-groups sometimes too. One that still is active and thoughtful is the Unschooling Catholics yahoo group.

  4. I was on the CCE list, and loved it. I do miss the conversation. At first blogging had that, but now the technology has changed so much, it has gotten a bit lonely. I didn't know CCE was still going. I didn't actively unsubscribe, maybe I'll check it out again.

    I remember how happy I was to find blogs from people that were on CCE. You got to hear more about what they think, and what their families were like. If I remember, you had to stay on topic or you got a warning or something. Reading blogs allowed for more open conversation. Now, though, it seems people just read blogs and don't comment as much.
    Anyway, I still and always enjoy your writing, and have been following you and your family for years, in one form or another.


    Renee Wiesner

  5. I remember you, Renee -- but I didn't know you were on the CCE list! CCE has gotten a little less topical, recently... now that there are fewer active yahoo groups (or so it seems) there doesn't seem to be such a need to keep all the posts strictly focused on classical education.

  6. I read to the end too - I'm much better at reading than commenting, as you can see from how long it has taken me to post this. I think on the whole I prefer blogs because they are more personal. The early days of the egroups were fun, though.


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!