Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The personal economics of blogging

I haven't really thought a lot about this until just recently, but what are the personal economics involved with blogging?

By personal economics, I mean the cost, and the payoff, to the blogger of fulfilling the need to write what amounts to a personal journal that the entire world can see real-time.

I know many of us think we have a lot to say. That we're somehow unique in our point of view. That we have some specialized set of knowledge worth sharing. And some of us use it as a way of expressing our creativity, or our angst and anger at the world.

I know bloggers that share knowledge of their industry that's invaluable to their readers. There's a fellow here in Boulder (Brad Feld at www.feld.com) who's a Venture Capitalist and who writes about the VC world, and his life in general, regularly. The knowledge he imparts, at least to a specific audience, is literally invaluable. He also shares some of his passions. He is a marathon runner and is running in the Boston Marathon this year. He was invited to do this because of charity work he did for an associated to the BM charity, and, well, he's a marathoner.

I know he was very happy to have this opportunity (not everyone get's to run that marathon) but when he blogged about it, one of his readers sent a scathing letter belittling his 'buying his way in' to this rather elite runners event. He posted some of it (with a thoughtful and measured reply). What this person wrote was more than hurtful. It was bordering on vicious.

By his reply it was obvious that he was taken aback. This was a special event for him. Something he'd worked toward (in ways he's particularly gifted at) and rewarded for. And he shared that goodness with his readers only to be lambasted and ridiculed.

Many would hang up the blog after something like that. He, of course, took it in stride, but it had to hurt.

We share our experiences and, in some ways, we teach using blogs. We teach about things we've learned in live. We impart knowledge and experiences. And we're, often, rewarded by our readers with notes of thanks and encouragement. But we pay a price as well. We open ourselves up to attack from people we often don't even know (but who feel they know us because they read our blogs regularly, and take a little tiny piece of our minds with them).

When someone like Brad who's blogging truly adds back to the world has something like this happen, you have to wonder if the price is worth it.

In a limited way, I suppose it's a little like becoming a celebrity to a very specific audience. He has several thousand regular readers who know him pretty intimately through his blog. Many, I'm sure, feel he's their 'friend'. It really is in a (very small) way like being a movie star. People feel they can say things to you (because of what, to them, is intimate familiarity) they would never say to someone they'd never met before.

As with most things, it's a two edged sword. The good (kudo's encouragement and thanks for your insights and observations) countered by the unbalanced and irrational attacks of someone who, I would guess, couldn't get into the Boston Marathon and was pissed off Brad did, so attacked. Hard.

It does make you wonder though. It is worth it? Maybe it's a 'that's life' thing, but it never ceases to amaze me how people can take the good someone does and turn it into pain.

I doubt it will change Brad's blogging much. But I would bet it'll change what he writes about to some degree. And I'd also bet that he'll think more about what he puts in his blog and the reaction they may or may not evoke (at least for awhile).

The personal economics of this? You’d have to ask Brad, but there’s most definitely a cost.



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