I’m not (just) a blogger

I blog, but I tend not to call myself a ‘blogger’ these days. On my twitter profile, and indeed on an early batch my Moo cards, it used to say “Metaverse Evangelist | Blogger | Geek”, but more recently I’ve been dropping the ‘blogger’ bit, since I don’t think it defines me.

I mentioned this to Andy Piper a while ago, and when he later wrote up some thoughts about needing a new strapline. He and James ended coming up with social bridgebuilder between them, which I really like, and describes Andy very well. That’s what he does. He happens to blog in order to share with a wide audience what he’s up to, but if were to describe Andy to someone, I have plenty of phrases like that to use before I’d start defining him as a blogger.

Sacha Chua (whose forthcoming book is no doubt going to convert me to emacs at some point) recently explained that she was between job titles. I like the fact that she describes herself as “tech evangelist, storyteller, geek”, which sums her up nicely. Again, she’s a blogger, but she’s not primarily a blogger.

I think the term ‘blogger’ will gradually fall into disuse. After all, we don’t call someone a “social networker” for having a Facebook profile do we?

Actually, I notice that Hugh MacLeod (the cartoonist) was described yesterday by Bobbie Johnson (the technology correspondent and, incidentally, the newest member of the Speechification team) in a piece in the Guardian as “probably the most popular Facebook user – and by extension the biggest social networker – in Britain”. Hugh retorts on Twitter that “Biggest Blogger” sounds a lot better than “Biggest Social Networker”. While I think he’s right that it sounds better, “blogger” still isn’t much more helpful. Perhaps it is different for Hugh, since he’s a professional blogger, after all, but what I know and love him for is his work as a cartoonist, and lending his online credibility and marketing cluefullness to companies like Stormhoek and Microsoft.

Cory and his laptopLet’s take another example. Cory Doctorow. He co-writes Boing Boing, one of the the most popular blogs in the world, but he’s also a lot of other things besides. In fact, Cory describes himself as “an activist, a writer, a blogger, a public speaker, and a technology person”, but I found that a Google search for “Cory Doctorow is a” reveals that he’s also describes like this:

All of these suggest that he’s (rightly) known for more than his blog, and I’d almost consider it a disservice to describe him just as a blogger because that happens to be the way he shares his interests and passions.

I enjoy blogging, but I don’t want to be defined by the term. People who communicate on BBSes, forums or IRC have never defined themselves by their tools of communication, have they? Ok, some might have been SysOps, moderators or IRC operators respectively, but probably only while they were online. Increasingly, I’m starting to believe that being a ‘blogger’ today might be a bit like being a ‘telephoner’ in years gone by.

It’s something I do, rather than who I am.

[Hugh MacLeod photo credit: David Sifry. I took the one of Cory myself]

10 replies on “I’m not (just) a blogger”

  1. Interesting point, Roo, but I think actually we do call plenty of people after the medium that they work in. We still call people ‘novelists’, ‘TV stars’, ‘radio presenters’ and so on. There’s nothing pejorative about it.

    Incidentally, in the article I called Hugh ‘cartoonist and blogger’. That seems fair to me because it’s what he’s known for and, as he pointed out to me, he’s been really focused on his blog for six years.

    (A side note: as Cory’s editor at the Guardian, I’m also responsible for the description of him you’ve put up there.)

  2. Thanks Bobbie.

    Here’s my theory: there will come a time when blogging no longer marks someone out as communicating differently from the rest of the world. Once it’s the norm (or at least, not unusual), we’ll see people needing to describe themselves and each other more by the things they do, not just how they communicate.

    To your credit Bobbie, you’re already doing this (as are the other examples cited). Calling Cory or Hugh a “blogger”, and leaving it at that, would be lazy, but you don’t do that.

    That’s what I’m keen to remind people (and myself) about. That being a ‘blogger’ is not an end in itself. There are very few people who are only known because they blog. They tend to (if they’re sufficiently interesting) be better known for something else, even if the reason we know so much about them is thanks to their blogs.

    Does that make any sense?

  3. Insightful post, Roo. Eric Rice recently wrote about his dislike of the cocktail-party question “What do you do?” and suggested trying to get people to ask “What project are you working on?” A very good idea, in my opinion, since it sidesteps career labels and actually ends up providing more specific information to the questioner anyway. I bring it up here because it seems an issue related to what you’re grappling with.

  4. I wonder if anyone was ever described as a ‘telephoner’ in the past. Were there ‘posters’ before that, and ‘faxers’ afterwards?! I must admit, I never even liked the word blogger but not for the same reason you’re dropping that moniker: it just sounds terrible.

    James “emailer, minced pie eater and optimist”

  5. I’m sometimes a cellphoner, sometimes a faxer, often an emailer, certainly a talker, and like to blog, twit, podcast etc. Let’s drop normal communications as definers. We are communicators.

  6. Actually, I don’t think there’s ANYBODY who’s only known because they blog. But there are plenty of people who are known because they also blog.

    We aren’t at the saturation point yet where writing a blog is George’s “normal communications” and I’m increasingly thinking that we’ll never get there. Writing a blog takes more work than a phone call or carries more baggage than an email.

    I tend to think of it as a corollary to “novelist” (or even, perhaps, to saying “I write books”) because you are basically using a naming convention that indicates a packaged form of communication, but does not define the content in any way.

    Still, I’d love to not have to pigeonhole people – but when you’ve got a word count to deal with and can’t call someone a “renaissance man” for the sixth time, you boil identities down to the bones.

    Good to see you earlier, by the way, Roo!

  7. Now that I’m back in the country I have a little bit more time to spend on replying to blog posts… maybe I’m a blog-entry-replier :-)

    I like Bobbie’s take on this – that the medium tends to be used as a definition around what we do. Not always a sole one. As you say here, when you mentioned to me a while back (6 months ago?) that you felt “blogger” was a redundant term, I initially wasn’t sure about it. Everyone has a blog these days… OK so not everyone, but a lot of people who are more active in the digital / social media space do, it’s almost the same as having “a homepage” in the late 90s. So that’s why I started to think about defining both who I am and what I do.

    Maybe it’s a fashion thing. Do we need to reinvent ourselves and find new angles to stand out from others? In that space, “Metaverse Evangelist” is a great title which must still generate conversation, but for how long? ;-)

    Sorry for the rambling response. Just randomness direct from my brain.

  8. I am a blogger and industry analyst, or is the other way around? Depends on the client and the audience… cluetrain, don’t you know.

    I do have a question for Bobbie though. Much as I am a fan of Hugh I was surprised to open the Guardian on Saturday and see the whole of page 3 dedicated to Gapingvoid and Facebook. Just wondering if you could give any insights into the editorial decision-making.

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