Blogging and Social Networks

As made clear by my lack of posts, I haven’t been at this blogging thing very long. At this point I’m probably coming up on my one month aniversary or so, though I’m not really keeping track. So far though, it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience for me.

This is in some ways surprising. This isn’t the first blog I’ve ever done, in fact it’s the third. My first, now long defunct was a random mix of music, books, and self education links, that probably lasted a whole of six weeks. In fact the only notable thing about it is I wrote my own (very rudimentary) blogging platform in perl as an excercise in learning the language. I spent more time developing the platform than actually using it, my interest going by the wayside once development was done.

My next attempt was a music blog called My Parents Record collection. The idea was that I would rip my parents old recods to the computer, and the post reviews and reflections on the song, with one mp3 per post. It was a nice summer project for about a month or so, but quickly abononed once the school started, due to lack of interest and time.

This blog though, already feels much more interesting and engaging than my last two. What’s different this time? There’s obviously subject matter, my situation in life, etc. But more important I think is the fact that I’ve realized blogging and social networking go hand in hand.

See in my first two blogs, I wrote them pretty much in isolation, letting a few friends now about new posts via email. As such my readership never really took off, so my interest in blogging quickly died off. It’s not just a matter of wanting fame or fortune, more a matter of wanting people that you can engage and discuss with, so that the blog post is a starting point, not an ending one, for thoughts on a subject. This time around though I’ve really tied my blog into facebook, sharing many of the posts I put up with my friends. I’ve started submitting things to Digg, even though I have little expectation they’ll get voted up very far, if at all. And I’ve started twittering my general blogging thoughts and new posts.

Of those three social networks, twitter has yielded the most interesting fruit for me, creating connections to people I never would have found otherwise, most of whom I’d really consider out of my league when it comes all things internet. After all, I’m just a 23 year old blogging who averages maybe five hits a day on his blog. Why would a wired columnist and the co-founder of a health 2.0 start up follow me?

I don’t really have an answer to that question, but what’s really interesting is that this isn’t some fluke of my experience. How do I know this? Because it’s happened to my other real life friends who’ve picked up blogging and twitter. Take for example my friend Sarah, author of Devastate Boredom, a personnel finance/pop culture blogger. Sarah’s been blogging maybe a month longer than I have, and twittering about it about the same amount of time. Through an idle post on twitter about an ongoing tiff between two major personnel fianance bloggers she attracted the attention of one of those bloggers, Ramit Sethi, author of the new personal fanance book I Will Teach you To Be Rich.

Similarly, my friend Jonathan who’s blog Monday Night Brewery chronicles a journey to start a craft brewery with two other guys, has become a sort of  luminary for social marketing and media in the micro brew world. Now granted Jonathan’s rise is not so surprising since he’s a Emory B-school marketing graduate, and he’s been at it for far longer than I, but the point still stands that when you tie social networking in with blogging, you can find your virtual network growing in very surprising ways.

I’ll stop with the specifics, since I don’t want this post to turn into some sort of name dropping excerise where it looks like I’m bragging how cool because of who I know. After all, I’m a pretty small fish in this big digital sea. But the fact that I’m making these sorts of connections with people who are far more into the Web 2.0 world really motivates me to keep at it. There’s a certain level of affirmation and confidence that comes out of it. Plus my connections give me new ideas for material and thought.

When I told my father about my great sucess with blogging and social networking, he made a very interesting comment. “The old ways of finding information,” he said, “are all going away.” I hadn’t thought of it like that before, but that’s really what these sorts of connections are about initially information. When Ramit went after my friend Sarah, he wasn’t interested in making a personal connection with some girl in Atlanta, he was interested in the information and thoughts she had about the challenge he’d made to another blogger. But the social networking part of this equation meant that he could go a step further, and could reach out to her through twitter to hear more about her perspective. After all, what’s better than information? Getting to the source behind that information, the person who makes that blog post, or web page more than just a static non-living piece of data. They make it part of a conversation, that can continue to grow and evolve. That’s really what is at the heart of what people are calling Web 2.0. It’s taking the web and changing it from a collection of information into a community of informed people. And I think that most of us, see that as a good thing. After all, I’ll take a friend over a webpage any day.


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