What's in a blog?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.” – Romeo and Juliet

Late last night I got into a discussion with +Mike Elgan about his “Google+ Diet” and the #blogsofaugust  challenge. Mike has been evangelizing the adoption of Google+ as a primary means of social media engagement for some time now. Because of his focused efforts (and inclusion in the SUL) Mike has grown a very large and interactive audience. As part of the challenge, Mike asked us to only post original content to Google+ and not our blogs or other social media channels. To ensure distribution across those channels, Mike allows everyone to syndicate content through tools like ManageFilter (http://goo.gl/whvLY).

This discussion got me thinking as to what really constitutes a blog. Initially a “weblog” was a self-hosted or otherwise hosted platform that allowed Internet users to share their deepest thoughts, experiences and whatever they felt compelled to write about. Blogs were popping up so fast that content management systems like WordPress, Blogger and others began to pop up.

As blogging culture grew, social media started to take front stage on the web. People were no longer intimidated by having to write long-form posts on their blog when they could now “micro blog” using services like Twitter and Tumblr. Pretty soon the whole notion of text was laughable and sites like Pinterest became popular.

I believe Google tried its best to marry those different communication vehicles (short text posts, images, video) into a network that a large number of us have grown to love and used to spread ideas and meet others with similar interests. The reason I believe Google+ has been so successful is that it allows you the content creator or curator to decide what and how you want to share. There aren’t huge limitations, there isn’t a “certain way” to do things, you can just share whatever goodness you have of your own or that you dig up elsewhere on the web and very easily. I think that’s the most important thing.

Maintaining a self-hosted blog with a content management system like WordPress is a lot more work than you ever think it will be. Sure the installation only takes three minutes, but the selection of themes, installation of plugins and tinkering with CSS will take the life out of you. With so much energy invested in trying to make things “look good” you lose a lot of the energy that you need to focus on the whole reason you’re creating a blog: to share something.

Now, of course you could completely abandon your blog, board it up and point your URL to your Google+ page like +Mike Elgan has, but then you stand a great chance of alienating people that don’t like the Google+ platform or are using an older hardware that can’t handle rich responsively designed sites like Google+. Furthermore, by limiting your sharing to Google+ you’re limiting yourself from the ability to categorize, sort, highlight, feature and better customize your content.

If you’ve ever seen a search result for one of your Google+ posts appear, you may have been disappointed with the long-string URL. Personally, I think when I search for my posts on Google and see the mess of alphanumeric numbers in the URL for Google+ posts, I get turned off. When I create a post on my blog I have a nice clean and easy-to-understand URL. While that might not be important for the search algorithm anymore, I think it is something people consider before clicking a link. The only way Google can fix that is to seriously change the way it shows URL’s for G+ posts or to change the way it generates them to begin with. Either way, something we probably can’t change.

While Mike encourages everyone to blog on Google+ and not elsewhere, he leaves out the fact that he is a paid writer and actually writes all over the web. Some of his Google+ posts (quite a few) are summaries of his posts across the web. Mike gets paid to write by companies that get paid by advertisers and that’s something you cannot yet do on Google+: monetize text content with ads.

So, if you’re afraid to leave your blog because of the money you’re making from AdSense or other revenue streams, I don’t blame you. You can, of course, always copy your content from Google+ to your blog, but if it gets consumed primarily here, you can’t count on making too much money.

Regardless of money though, if a “blog” is truly just a log of your thoughts and ideas, it doesn’t matter whether you post it on a privately hosted website or an update on a social media platform. The important part is that you are sharing your passion and interacting with those that are interested.

With that said, I have made a huge overhaul of my blog, PeterGMcDermott.com and I would love for you to check out its simplicity. Because not everything I post on Google+ is my best or most well thought out ideas, I don’t think they all deserve their place on a website dedicated to those ideas. Therefore, I only post the things that I feel are very important to my audience and that distinction, for me, is what makes the difference between a blog and a social media stream.

What do you think? Would you want everything you post on social media to end up on your blog? Is abandoning your website for a social media platform a good idea? Is RSS dead?

I will be copying this post over the my blog–as I will with the rest of this months posts–but afterwards I think I’ll get back to pushing you over there to read and interact. Would you be willing to visit?

http://www.petergmcdermott.com/

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