Thursday, January 5, 2012

All This Nonsense About Blogging

[Warning - this is a highly opinionated piece!]

What you are reading right now is a blog.  You may not know that and in all honesty, it doesn't matter. You used a search engine such as Google and based on the words you entered you may end up here. As far as you are concerned it could be a website or just that place on the internet where you found the information you needed. For most people, little thought is given beyond that.

Lately, there has been talk around the blogging community about the quality of blogs and whether genealogical bloggers should work harder to produce good quality content.  The conversation, in my opinion, didn't do all that much except frighten a number of up and coming genealogists and family historians from blogging.

But I digress.

The real point, as far as I'm concerned, is that the discussion about blogging and the quality of blogs doesn't matter. It's irrelevant.

The real point is that quality blogging, quality writing and quality published genealogy (yes, even online) will shine.

Case in point. The brand new blog called The Legal Genealogist by Judy G. Russell.  This blog shines. Judy has only written a few posts so far yet each post is brilliant. They are interesting, well-written, well-cited, act as a great role model for up and coming genealogists and (in my opinion) further the profession of genealogy.

What will put an end to bad content? Good content!

This is what I have been talking about in my previous posts about a mature blogging community.

Let's spend our time focused on developing good content and supporting those who create it and not on knocking down, policing or fussing about what everyone else is writing.  Readers will naturally flock toward good content anyway.

And let's leave room at the table for everyone.  Someone who is a newer genealogist might not write such polished blog posts.  But let's encourage them anyway. And let's share with them the work of quality genealogists who are willing to take the time (unpaid like the rest of us!) to write a blog.

Here I go dreaming, but I can even see a mentoring system develop in the future where more experienced bloggers pair up and help along less experienced bloggers.

Anyway, that's my two cents for what it's worth.


  1. Another outstanding post, Marian. THANK YOU, so much! This needs to be said. Openness is key. Also, many of the top/best bloggers already post weekly referrals to the 'good' - 'best' blog posts each week. New people just need to FOLLOW them. 52 Weeks, this week, asks about that - mine is posted tomorrow, on Friday. Thanks, again. ;-)

  2. I agree. Everybody just do good work and we'll be fine. I'm doing my thing. If it's not your thing, no problem. Don't read it. It's cool.

    The best thing about blogging is that it's democratic. Anyone can do it. The second best thing about blogging is that it's a meritocracy. If people like how you're doing it, they'll come back and read more. If they don't, they won't. You get instant performance feedback, and people get what they want (which varies widely from person to person). That's win-win.

    I don't really care much how other people blog, and I don't take it personally when others say how I should or shouldn't blog. I read the ones I like and don't read the ones I don't. I write what I want. The end.

  3. This is fascinating from my librarian / archivist / writer / heavy Internet user perspective. There is so much great information on the Internet. There is also a lot of bad information. The onus, in my opinion, should not be on the blogger to make sure they write well before they blog. The responsibility should be with the person reading the blog. Learning to be a good judge of information is an important skill to have for anyone, but especially for any good researcher (including genealogist.) We should know that we can't believe everything we read. We should be able to judge which information is worth reading and trusting.

    I agree with Kerry that the best thing about blogging is that it's democratic.I think people can learn a lot from the blogging process. One may even learn to be a better writer just by taking a chance and putting words up for all to see. Don't worry about making sure that you are really good before you try to blog. Worry about finding your voice and making connections with your posts. Blogging is a learning process. Anyone who puts a blog up because they only want to be recognized as an authority on a subject is missing the point, I think.

  4. Thanks Marian - as usual a great post. Blogging has a high learning curve in so many ways. The best advice I ever got was to read other blogs, decide what you want to write about, set up the blog (and keep it private), write a few blogs and see if it "jells" for you, take it public, and then ENJOY it (thanks to Lisa Louise Cooke). Write about what interests you and what you have to share to with others (your family, other genealogists. Don't bite off more than you can chew, rely on the tips and tricks provided by Geneabloggers (thanks Thomas MacEntee), learn from other bloggers and have FUN. Realize that you will make mistakes, have dry spells, get bogged down, but don't give up - get back on that genealogy blogging horse!

    As far as citations and scholarship in a blog, that works for some - great. But always remember your blog is yours and it doesn't need to mimic anyone else's blog. Do good work, play nice with others, share, and encourage your fellow bloggers (hey didn't we all learn that in first grade?). Cheers and thanks for reminding the rest of us what it is all about.

  5. Marian, et al. commenters: you are all right that blogging is democratic and the "community," genealogical or blogging, or both ... is democratic. It does not matter whether a blog is popular or not, there are a few "top-ranked" blogs that I just can't digest, but that's me. Scholarship in blogs, cite-heavy materials, such as family trees, really doesn't fit with the blog format unless you take great pains with it, which is why I reserve that sort of material in posts to PDF format for download, it just works better. Thanks. NPM

  6. And quality means different things for different people. An experienced genealogist will get a lot more out of blog posts written by professionals. A new genealogist will get a lot more out of blog posts written by those with less experience, because the professionals will go over their heads. There's room at the table for everyone because we all need different things! (Nod to Seth Godin and his new book, I love your mentoring idea...

  7. Thanks again Marian for your astute opinion. I probably enjoy your posts so much because we seem to think alike:) In my opinion, there is room for all. One of the best things about blogging is you can - hopefully - grow writing, researching, analysis skills as you go.
    As the old saying goes, "writers write" and the great thing about blogging is others can see the writing and by commenting encourage and assist the writer to improve. It's great!!

  8. The good driving out the bad. I love it!

  9. Janell,

    Your point is so well taken! I think it is critical for poeple to remember. Everyone needs to take in information at the appropriate level and pace. Each person is unique. Not only do we learn by good example, we learn from people sharing their mistakes or the challenges they've encountered in their own research. There is no set right or wrong.


  10. Marian, thank you so much for the kind words. And let me add my voice to those that say: there's room at the table AND mentoring really matters. I can't begin to say what I owe to people like Elizabeth Shown Mills and Thomas W. Jones in terms of my genealogical education, and to people like you and so many others in terms of genealogy blogging. The key here is that we as genealogists are a community striving to learn and excel. We can help each other every step of the way.

  11. Marian, Back in August 2010, I received this comment, "Barbara, I'm trying really hard to write my blog more often! Writing is good. I have a long way to go before I'm as good as you or Heather Rojo." Thank you Marian, I believe everybody will agree with me, you write often and you write great blogs.

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  13. Thanks for writing this wonderful post! As a relative newbie I almost hung up my blogging shoes upon reading some of the recent opinions.

    The trait that drew me to the genealogy blogging community in the first place was the welcoming nature of everyone I have met along the way. Then add the continued encouragment and I most certainly feel right at home!

    Thanks again Marian!

  14. I'm fairly new to blogging (since last July). I felt a twinge of "should I even be doing this" upon reading some of the opinions that Deb refers to. I shrugged it off after reading the more encouraging ones. I feel the need to write, and I want to write about my ancestors, so that's what I'm going to do :) I read a bunch of genealogy blogs (of the experienced and not so experienced) for a couple of years before I started blogging (and I still read them all). I know I have a long way to go with my writing and my genealogy research skills, and I've had trouble finding my voice (a result of too many work research papers for too many years in the "company voice"). Blogging helps me practice all that. I also take the opportunity to double check my research as I'm writing a post. I'm used to having to cite my sources because of the work I do, so I do that on my blog, too. It works for me, but sometimes it seems the footnotes are longer than the post. I don't know why, but it sort of embarrasses me. Anyway, my mother loves my "articles" as she calls them, and that makes me feel good!

  15. Another great post and I couldn't agree more. I don't know why anyone would get their knickers in a twist over a blog that they didn't think was high quality enough. It's just silly. If people don't like a blog, then they don't read it. End of story. I'd like to live in your dreamworld too, but sometimes I think that there will always be someone farting in the room just to cause a stink.

  16. There is nothing wrong with reaching out like we always have and probably should be to help others, whether it be blogging, researching, citing a source, it is all part of Genealogy.
    This goes back to why I think of the Genealogical Community as a large lose knit family.
    Marian your words were well spoken and as one blogger said to me, "not everyone's style is the same". Nor is anyone's topic the same unless your all working a surname or specific topic. Yet the responses will be personably your own reply. Thanks

  17. I have read several different blogs by different people and, d'you know, there's not ONE of them where I have thought "that was poorly-written rubbish". Everybody has something interesting to say. Everybody.

  18. Marian, well said!!! Thank you.

  19. Marian I've come back to read this post several times - so thoughtful and sincere. I keep putting off the idea that I could one day write a "useful" blog, something that has value, and would be at least interesting - let alone "professional" in some way. I love reading your blogs in particular - they seem to always come from your heart. Thanks for your sharing.