What does 24 Hours of blogging look like? Rules for My Blogathon

Exhausted man at Japanese train station by Flickr user a_malchik

When I ask myself what 24 straight hours of blogging looks like, admittedly, my immediate vision is somewhat grim: I see myself hunched over the laptop keyboard, twitchy from being overcaffienated, bags under my eyes. The words are starting to blur and the impetus to publish takes precedent over quality, coherence, and relevance.

As the aphorism goes, the wise learn from others’ mistakes, and the foolish learn from their own. I’ve had my fair share of being foolish, but when it comes to Blogathon, I am determined to take all the cues I can from the countless others who have done this in previous years, like Raul and Rebecca.

That said, blogging has also changed, particularly in the past few months. Social networking (Facebook) and microblogging (Twitter) have altered the broader context of the online world in which bloggers publish. Who cares if you write a blog post once every half-hour, when the most avid users of Twitter are sending tweets once every 5 minutes – or more? I haven’t gotten a blog trackback in months, for that matter, and I’m hoping it’s not because I’m all of a sudden irrelevant. (Though if you know something I don’t know, please comment… ;)

It’s made me realize that in order for 24 hours of blogging to meaningful, it must do something that none of those other methods of communicating are doing. Blogging – during the Blogathon but also as an activity and a form of communication more generally – will retain its value by getting back to its roots, by doing what it does better and more effectively than any of those other methods.

What Blogging Is To Me (Now)

The way I see it (shooting from the hip here), the strengths and characteristics of online media can be viewed as interfacing with people through three aspects: topicality, timeliness, and people. All content has a different approach to each aspect. Microblogging/status updates and IM approach these three things differently, and that’s why, despite their similarities in feel, they are still quite different. These media also all amalgamate, overlap and include each other through hyperlinking and republishing, something I discovered once I started using Tumblr for TransLinked.

So where am I’m going with this? Blogging’s strength for me, at this juncture, comes in its unique mix of timeliness (not uber-timely) with the longer format and a reasonably elegant use of links. There’s a great sense of reflection, that is part of its charm. And I know that as I start my master’s, it will become more important for me to chart my progress through the ideas, either privately or publicly. In this way, Blogathon is also very timely. No time like the present to find a balance between self-indulgence and providing value.

My Blogathon Rules (Version 0.1)

In order to make the blogathon experience for you, as my readers, my sponsors and my friends, more pleasant, and to ensure that what happens on July 25th is truly amazing and a cut above and beyond what you’d get from my daily FriendFeed, here are the rules I’ve established as part of my Blogathon participation (with some inspiration from Karen Hamilton at TinyBites):

  1. No link round-up posts. This rule’s going to be interesting to follow, because I think they’re fairly easy and provide non-zero value. While they have a timeliness and content value to them, it sometimes seems to me that it could be much more comprehensive and interesting to click on a keyword in Delicious, or to dip into my Google Reader shared items. So I’m ruling this kind of post out for Blogathon. You’ll notice I don’t typically write these kinds of posts regularly anyway, so it’s not so hard for me to exclude them.
  2. Keep the meta to a minimum. In the wee hours on July 26th, I’m sure it will be very tempting to talk about how tired I am, or how I’ve run out of blog post outlines to draw from to write more posts on. But honestly, that’s what Twitter’s for (or, more accurately, the private Twitter account). If I write it in a blog post, I want it to have some relevance to the content and the point, which is to raise money for the Vancouver Public Space Network. Granted, I’m aware that writing about blogging (like I’m doing right now) is one of the great traditions of blogging. And I’m not ruling out putting things on the blog outside of the long-form essay for the sake of experimentation or artistic expression. It just means, I’ll strive to keep the obvious moaning to a minimum, like… 140 characters per blog post or something.
  3. Refer to, use, love The List. So far, I have a spreadsheet of blog post ideas for blogathon, which breaks down the topic, the effort required to write it (in terms of research, prep, etc.), the type of blog post it is, and who’s writing it (since I will be featuring guest posting). Mind you, these are ideas, not fully-completed posts, so not all the heavy lifting’s done.With 9 days to go, I have 22 blog post ideas in the list, and I hope to have that close to 40 before the 24th. The ideas on that list are also not from blog posts I’ve committed to completing before Blogathon either, so the event theoretically doesn’t mean 9 days of silence until the deluge.
  4. It’s not OK OK to schedule posts. As I’ve mentioned, there are two events happening on Blogathon Day that I will find it very difficult to miss: the open house for the Granville station on the Canada Line, and Illuminares, the lantern festival at Trout Lake. I’ll have to close the laptop to go to those events, but I also want to stay in the spirit of Blogathon, so I will commit to scheduling no more than 8 blog posts in total for the entire Blogathon Day, in order to give me some breathing room to get to the events, grab a bit to eat and to enjoy myself a bit. Well, I’ll still be whipping out Richard‘s iPhone to blog about events, but I’m going to have to think of something else to do since scheduling is against the rules. These two events in and of themselves are community events of somewhat different stripes, organized by different organizations, in public space, and I hope to be able to illustrate the differences between them through the blog posts.
  5. Variety is the spice of life. I’m also commiting to not blogging about the same topic more than once. So there will be one blog post from each of the Open House and Illuminares, not five.

So, any thoughts? Those who have done the Blogathon before – do you think these will make the blogathon too difficult? Have I made it too easy for myself with some of these rules? Have I missed any that you think are important to the experience?

Everyone else – would you like to sponsor me based on whether I’m able to keep to all these rules? :)

5 Comments

  1. I find it funny how you mention that “you haven’t gotten a backtrack in months” yet your blog is one of the top in my Google Reader. The thing is, I’m not sure that linking back is anymore a measure of relevancy.

    For me, you’re one of the top 3 people I think about when it comes to transportation (Stephen Reese, Paul Hillsdon, Karen Quinn Fung, that’s my triad). Well, I do think of Erika Rathje too, but you guys are the top of mind. So, I think relevancy is not measured by trackbacks or linking back anymore. I think it is by readership and how your thoughts are being carried on and your legacy shared.

    The work you did for VanChangeCamp will be durable and long-term. So, you ARE more relevant than you think.

    My 2 cents. BTW love your rules of Blogathon :)

    Posted July 20, 2009 at 8:40 am | Permalink
  2. Raul:

    I’m not sure that linking back is anymore a measure of relevancy. It’s definitely not one anymore, but I wonder if that’s a good thing? Part of what was previously attractive about blogging was being able to track the lineage of an idea, and to see that idea reflected in the thoughts of others. That same joy, of watching something propagate, get remixed or debated or used in derivative works, doesn’t happen as much anymore, with text, even as it probably still continues to happen with images, text and sound.

    Granted, upon further reflection I notice that there are two fairly pointed critiques of what I say as well:

    1) There’s less of this because there are more people on the Internet saying interesting things, so there’s a bigger pool of inspiration. (It would be interesting to see whether I’m linking to things less too, as a result of just sharing things in Google Reader, for instance.)

    2) The other reason people don’t link to me as much might be because I’m not writing as much as I used to either! ;)

    Posted July 21, 2009 at 4:11 pm | Permalink
  3. While it DOES make Blogathon more manageable, scheduling posts is against the rules.

    Posted July 21, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Permalink
  4. *Looks up the rules*

    As I should learn to expect, @raincoaster, you’re right.

    …OK, going to update my personal rules.

    Posted July 21, 2009 at 9:21 pm | Permalink
  5. Sorry to be a buzzkill. They’d have a TON more participants if they’d allow that. I’m dying to go to Illuminares, but can’t figure how to do that and blogathon.

    No way am I able to meet the “every half hour” thing. I know it’s just not possible. But I will get 48 in there somehow. Dunno about that “report for duty at 6am” thing either, since that’s my usual bedtime. Maybe I’ll just sleep all of Friday?

    Posted July 23, 2009 at 2:32 am | Permalink

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