The Blogosphere: building communities

School of FIsh by Alexandru Stoian

So many fish in the (blogging) sea

A post by greyfluff made me think of this last week. Go check out her brand new blog!

When I started blogging over at The Geek Anthropologist in September 2012, I surveyed the Internet for other anthropology blogs and blogs about geek culture. I wanted to:

  • Make sure the name I wanted for my blog was not taken;
  • Know what was already in the blogosphere about the anthropology of geekdom;
  • Find out how much anthropologists were active online;
  • Connect with other geek anthropologists.

As it turns out, there are several great anthropology blogs, such as Savage Minds, Pop Anth and the AAA blog. I found a few relevant blogs related to geek culture and anthropology, but some of these were no man’s lands that had been abandoned for years.

I also realised that there are a lot of fish in the sea, maybe even too many. That is blogs about other topics. And so many blogs were actual dead carcasses, having been abandoned by their owner for years, sometimes after just one post was published. Others blogs simply shared news and information that can be found anywhere else.

Blogs with original content that is both compelling and well-written are a gem to find, in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great blogs out there. And there is something for every one, too. We all blog for different reasons, and our freedom to do so is precious. Still, as greyfluff pointed out, ”there sure are a lot of people writing stuff”. So many in fact that she questioned the relevance of blogging herself.

So what makes a blog stand out for me?

Gramma loreto, Smithsonian Institution

How to stand out

First of all, a personal voice. Anyone can publish a reworked version of news. Anyone can share pretty photos they found online. But not everyone can share unique ideas, knowledge or opinion in a compelling tone and format. Also important is the uniqueness of the material published. So many bloggers blog about the same topics (personal life, relationships, their personal interests, home decoration, fashion, art, etc.), and yet some people manage to make it sound entirely original, unique, funny and fascinating. Rarasaur and Aunt Peaches are such bloggers.

Then there are those who blog about unique topics: forgive the plug, but I am proud to say that The Geek Anthropologist is the only blog I know of which is dedicated to the study of geek culture from the perspective of sociocultural anthropology. Whether or not our content is good is an entirely different question, and that of course if the most important quality of a good blog: quality, and ideally consistent quality.

Going back to my original survey of anthropology blogs, I came to two conclusions. Overall, it appeared obvious that anthropologists are latecomers to the blogging gig. I also concluded that the best anthropology blogs were written by communities of authors, not by one person alone.

Blogging as a team guarantees more frequent posts, and in my opinion, better material. Each blogger can benefit from feedback from other members of the team, people share data, references and other information with one another, and the blog becomes a hub of activity, a place where the community can grow.

As I commented on greyfluff’s post:

That’s actually why I am turning The Geek Anthropologist into a community blog. It’s so much more fun, challenging, encouraging and productive to work as a team. And my colleagues and I want to keep connecting with other anthropologists who share our interests.

And yet here I am starting a brand new personal blog. One I will write myself. About random thoughts anyone could write about.

That’s probably because blogging is a great way to connect with people who share our interests, and we can all benefit from being part of a community.

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