I'm a newbie to blogging. I started barely a year ago, and I'm still a newbie. But I love this form of writing because it is a unique media format yet familiar in many ways.
Blogging is part e-mail, it is part column, it is part news story--it can encompass a wide variety of styles and formats. And it is all within an environment that encourages trying things out, it encourages "beta releases," every "t" doesn't need to be crossed, it can be raw.
Above all, blogging comes with a culture and a sensibility that defines it. As in the rap culture, the top bloggers are known by their cojones, they invite challenge everytime they post. But I've seen aspects of this culture and I've seen it for many years--many years before blogging happened.
And the place I've seen it is in the Rap/ urban Hip-Hop music culture. And that is why it is good to be a newbie to this blogging culture--and to the American culture as I am, coming from London--newbies can sometimes notice things and give respect where it is due.
What I noticed was that "keeping it real" was real important in both blogging and in the Hip-Hop/Rap music scene. Keeping it real is something which you can't fake--you know it when you hear/feel it.
In the Hip-Hop/Rap scene you could see that when artists spent too much time in their mansions--keeping it real became real difficult and often shortened their careers. And in blogging--the same applies, if you can't keep it real it really shows.
Keeping it real
I had a fascinating conversation with Microsoft's top blogger Robert Scoble on this topic one evening. He said that every time he tries to fudge a little online, his readers catch him out.
I said I noticed the same thing too, and that this phenomena is also affecting my off-line life. For example, it is really difficult for me to tell a white lie such as "I got caught in traffic" or "I'm late, my cat died." It just feels too weird and it just "reads" strangely if I try to write it.
I remember the first time I met Jeremy Zawodny, Yahoo's top blogger, we discussed this topic. He asked me a question, "What do you do if if you can't keep it real?"
I told him that was easy: "Just don't say it."
One of the things I learned this past year was that the more I write (blog) the more authentic I become online and off-line. There is something in the process of writing (blogging) that has opened up an entirely new experience of myself. I feel silly writing that sentence, but that has been my experience.
And I often have an experience of being able to "think" through my fingers. For example, I will start typing an analysis of a tech industry news event, and it is the act of writing that allows me to "think it through." That usually means scrapping the first draft and ending up with a much better piece.
There is another aspect of the blogging culture that reminds me strongly of the Hip-Hop/Rap culture.
The play on words, the deliberate misspelling of words, the use of words as sounds. Hip-Hop/Rap did all those things before the BlogoSphere showed up. (And we know how the BlogoSphere values who did/said things first.)
The BlogoSphere was shown how to use words as changing, living, cultural artefacts--rather than as words and sentences of a mainstream culture ruled by grammar and punctuation--a difficult format in which to express the experience of ourselves and our times.
Another familiar theme is that bloggers have assumed much of the "braggadocio" culture of Rap artists. Sometimes it seems that the egos of the blogger elite can barely be contained within our solar system.
As in the Rap culture, the top bloggers are known by their cajones, they invite challenge everytime they post. And that takes balls--only some women and men have them.
But will we get a gangsta blogging culture? Will Scoble's Hummer accidentally nudge Jeremy Zawodny's Prius into a Silicon Valley Superfund toxic sludge pit one of these days?
Not that long ago, I was accused of trying to start a West Coast-East Coast fight between our media elites. It wasn't a serious accusation, but it does show that others do feel the connection between blogging and Rap music culture, and that we need to pay our dues to those that led the way, imho.
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Please see part one of "A Martin Luther King Essay" on Silicon Valley Watcher.