One of the coolest things to me about blogging is how it encourages participation. The ease of adding comments to posts (something that came about with the arrival of blogs in the earlier part of the decade) really spurred the development of what is now called social media. Before blogs, electronic communication could be one-on-one (e-mail), in a Usenet/forum/message board environment (kind of like public e-mail), or as information presented on a static HTML page. People could surf to and view content created by the owner of that particular website, but interaction with said content was minimal at best. The most social forms of interaction (forums and e-mail) did not lend themselves to the creation of rich content, while avenues for rich content did not provide for easy social interaction. The advent of blog commenting (and all of the other Web 2.0 innovations that were to follow) created a new method of communication, allowing for the creation of deep, rich content that could then be discussed by readers of that content—sort of like a miniature forum board built into each and every post.
To me, the next logical step in the social media that is blogging is to encourage blog readers and commenters to become contributors, and that is what I have been doing for the last several months here on the Bass Blog. Nicholas Hart’s weekly double bass posts are a great example of bringing creative users into the content creation process. Nick actually writes content for the blog, and his contributions deepen and enrich the content here. I also frequently include stories, videos, and essays from other contributors, making for a richer and more satisfying palette of material for the reader.
Other users e-mail me ideas for stories, links to resources and videos, and other material which I subsequently include in blog posts. This is another method of user contribution that increases the value of this blog. For many people, the work involved in setting up and maintaining a blog (I spend several hours each day working on this site) is simply too much of a hassle to bother with, and submitting ideas for posts is a middle ground that is quite satisfying. Imagine if you were reading the daily newspaper and were struck with the idea for a story. Getting this idea through the proper channels at a mainstream media outlet is a daunting task (to say the least), and the prospect of that idea making its way to print is probably quite slim.
On the other hand, if you’ve got an idea for this blog, all you do is e-mail it to me. You’ll see it up on the blog later that week. How easy is that?!?
I always like sites that, while containing some user-submitted content, have a clear author who keeps things thematically consistent and serves as a focal point for the site. The problem with social sharing sites like Digg is that there is no one at the helm (Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson are the point people at Digg, but not in the way I am describing). My preference is for sites (great examples are Problogger.net or Adaptistration) that, while containing a lot of content from the community, still have a clear author.
It can be interesting to read blogs from people who are completely inwardly focused. The typical image of a blog for many people is in fact just such a site, with one person writing an online diary. That is a completely valid and satisfying way to blog, but it is not for me. I treat this site more like a bass and music news online service, and while I include a lot of personal references here, the site is really about STUFF and not about me. I’m not that interested in making things into the Jason Heath Show—in fact, I try whenever possible to feature the bass and music community and not just me.