There is no shame in not having a blog.

I just saw the Farm Water Coalition’s new blog.  That (and reasons in my powerfully mysterious real life) leads me to a rant.  Listen well, folks, because I know this part.

Do not blog if you do not want to blog.

Here’s how you know if you want to blog:

  • The voices in your head start composing sentences, and do not stop until you put them somewhere.
  • You read and like blogs.
  • You want to respond to news and some idiot blogger who got it wrong on the internet.

Here’s how you know if you do not want to blog:

  • You think your organization should have a blog, because all the cool organizations have a blog.
  • You want someone to be representing your side of the story.
  • It will increase your “web presence.”
  • You want to “market” yourself.

If you are blogging for those reasons, it will very quickly become a sucky chore.  Readers will know you don’t like doing it, and they won’t like reading it.  That starts a downward spiral, in which you resentfully blog for fewer and fewer readers.  Further, maybe you have unrealistic ideas about who you will reach.  Here’s the thing I’ve realized in years of doing this (here and elsewhere).  You will only ever reach people who like blogs.  No one else drops by.  You can mention people by name, discuss the things they are involved in, put up ideas that intersect theirs.  People who love you could know that you’re blogging.  But if they don’t happen to like the blogging scene, you will not bring them in.  By its very nature, people who like blogs are people who like text-based serial narratives.  That is not most people.  Most people will simply never know your words exist.  Look, I have what is likely the most influential water blog in the small world of California water.  I live and work in Water.  I have never heard anyone mention this blog in day to day life.  No one at a conference, in any meeting, in any gathering has ever said, “Well, I read this thing…”.  That’s because they almost all haven’t.  If I mentioned that I write a blog, they’d hum vaguely and get back to the real topic.

Do you want to know how many people will read your new blog?  On days when I post nothing, I get 20-30 regulars.  These are bored blog junkies.  When I get a high-placed link from Aquafornia, on a good day, I’ll get another 100 hits.  The AquaBlogMaven tells me that is high.  Most days, I hover around 60-70 people.  My best days, when I’ve tapped into some buzzing political activity, I’ll get a couple hundred hits for a few days in a row.  Twitter is usually good for about 10 hits, if one of you likes a post enough to Tweet it.  That’s it.  That’s all.  I’d bet money that all of those people are already water junkies who have pretty solid opinions. 

So really.  Are you going to go to the trouble of daily work, recurring slight hassle to reach 50 people?  Especially if you are going to be an aggregator with an ag and water focus?  Any RSS feed can do that, so if you aren’t going to add an editorial function, like prioritizing stories and highlighting the relevant content, there’s no point.  Besides.  The only way anyone would find that blog is if they get there from the excellent aggregator who is already a fucking professional at the work you’re just learning to do.  And who does it full time.  You aren’t prepared to put in full time resources on this, and your product will never compare to someone who does.

For all that, Farm Water Coalition, I wish you had a good blog.  I wish you had a blog that taught me stuff I don’t know about Farm Water.  I wish you had someone who loves ag water, who churns with thought and wants to tell the story of farm water every damn day, because they talk about it all the time if they don’t have somewhere to write it down.  I wish you were running a farm water blog that introduced me to ditchriders and district engineers and showed me pictures of gates and canals.  I would read everyday if you told me what it feels like when some mouthy blogger blithely points out that you’ll take the brunt of climate change.  If you wrote posts about how fucking impossible it is to jump through state hoops, not in the abstract, but in the details of trying to achieve a particular project, I would read that, link to it, and write about why the State came up with that bizarre process.  If you wrote about lobbying and defending your interests in all the crazy state venues, I would hang on every word.  I wish you had that blog, Farm Water Coalition.  But first you’ll need to have someone who wants to write that blog.

Last thing, Farm Water Coalition and everybody.  I swear a lot here.  You don’t have to swear to have a good blog.  But if you aren’t writing about something that is important enough to you to make you swear, don’t get started.  It will feel like work.  It won’t bring you want you want.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “There is no shame in not having a blog.

  1. anon

    All good points, and also: that Farm Water Blog has about the hardest-to-read type I’ve ever seen. Even if I really wanted to read it, I probably wouldn’t, because it would hurt my head. If you’re going to have a blog, don’t do that.

  2. Noumenon

    The “coalition viewpoint” parts seem like fine blogging… for people who like reading blogs. Example:

    2. Water transferred during surplus water years to fill the bank went into an environmentally friendly water storage system, which is what the environmentalists clamor for instead of building more dams. Capturing water and storing it during wet years for use at a later date is the way California’s water supply system works. That’s why we store water.

    That sounds almost like you, it’s a nice explaining+frustrated informed opinion. The only problem is without quotes from the story I have no idea what they’re objecting to. But maybe they’re writing for people who already know the story a little; I’m just a person who likes to read blogs who works in a plastic factory in Wisconsin.

  3. onthepublicrecord

    You’re right. One of their guys, Mike Wade, comments heavily on newspaper stories. Most of his comments would be good blog posts. Their press releases would be fine, too. Trying to be another aggregator doesn’t add a ton of value. They should find the stories that are water and ag, and focus on those.

  4. Thank you for the courage of your honesty. (Which you probably take for granted.) For a fellow blogger, it’s more encouraging than you might realize…

  5. “If you wrote posts about how fucking impossible it is to jump through state hoops, not in the abstract, but in the details of trying to achieve a particular project, I would read that, link to it, and write about why the State came up with that bizarre process. ”

    Wow, that would be interesting.

  6. and, having actually clicked over to the Farm Water Blog and read this in (dear mercy) their masthead, I’m not expecting to read any more:

    “The CFWC has three primary goals in its mission to positively affect the perception of California agriculture’s use of water and provide a common, unifying voice for agricultural water users”