Monday, February 06, 2006

Thoughts on Blogging

I was visiting Craftylily just now, and she linked to a post written by Annie about how bloggers can be exclusionary. In particular, she mentioned the posting of thank you's and pictures of gifts received from other bloggers and the general "mwah, isn't blogging great, I just love you" tone of a lot of posts.

This really got me to thinking. I have been thinking a lot lately about blogging, and how it makes the world seem like a much smaller place. In a "we're all neighbors" sort of way, not in a "we're all eating McDonald's" sort of way. It really does create a community of people from all over the planet, who are tied together with -- well in our case -- yarn! I think some "mwah's" are likely to result when friends are made, but I agree that it can go over the top, too.

After you've been blogging for awhile, and particularly if you know you're not the only person reading it, you definitely start thinking about what you want to accomplish with your blog beyond documenting your own knitting. Some people like to provide technical help, some people like to provide humor, some people like to sell patterns, whatever. It's all good.

I am not a great knitter, only a really enthusiastic one. I am never going to teach the world to steek. It is unlikely that I will create the next sock pattern to sweep the Internet like wildfire. But I figure one thing I can do is dole out the encouragement and enthusiasm, both for knitting and blogging about knitting. That, I think I can do. That goal is in the back of mind when I am posting and putting things on my blog.

Whether it's linking to a new blog in the sidebar, or giving out goodies, I really am hoping to make the circle bigger, not smaller. Just in case that's not coming across, I wanted to state it flatly. I really, really, really hope that no one has read Affiknitty and felt as though it was the Mean Girls' table in the high school cafeteria. If you have ever felt slighted by something I posted here, I truly am sorry.

Thanks for all the nice comments about Edgar. His charm is growing on me.


Blogger Theresa said...

Wasn't Mean Girls a fabulous movie? Too true.

I'm taking a course right now dealing with some American legal history (sorry, not trying to give you flashbacks!), specifically looking at citizenship and nationalism, and one of the biggest themes is that these concepts are meant to include, but are fundamentally defined by excluding others. There are other themes, it's a fascinating seminar, but -

To make a colossal, Olympic-sized leap back to blogging - I think you hit it when you said that it's important for people to realize what it is they want from blogging, and then they can figure out how to find it. Because it's all there, somewhere.

And, if you were really wondering (and you shouldn't), affiknitty has always seemed welcoming and inclusive to me. Calling attention to certain people/blogs/yarns/patterns/etc. might mean that cafeteria table is too small for us. But what a great cocktail party it can be!

9:18 AM  
Blogger jennie said...

I, for one, can say that blogging has definitely provided me with a community that I never would have had otherwise. When I lived in Philly, and had a knitting community in my own apartment (my roomate was an avid knitter), not to mention my own city, I lurked on knitblogs but was afraid to make my own. Now that I live hours from a yarn store and am, by far, the most experienced knitter I know down here, I longed for some forum to discuss what I was learning, get advice, just feel like a part of things. Blogging has provided that for me.

Like any community (real or 'imaginary,' as some theorists like to call non-geographically delineated groups), blogging includes some and excludes others. This is something that people accept (or don't, i guess) when they become a part of a particular community. I have found knit blogging to be incredibly inclusive. Laura, (now comes the mwah, mwah part, i guess) you have been incredibly inclusive and open, encouraging people to 'come out of the wordwork' and also finding ways to open up the community and bring more people 'into the circle.' I felt a very warm welcome from you when I started blogging. To close this tome (maybe I should have blogged instead of commented? sigh...) I think the key to any sort of community-building endeavor is to find the community that you _want_ to be a part of (and not in the middleschool "she's so cool" kind of way, but rather the community that is _right_ for you). Once you find the right community, that's when the fun starts.

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*Big hugs* That is the best philosophy for knitting, period. Warm & wooly, all colors, all breeds of sheep :) Bless your heart!
Your Edgar is gorgeous, that lovely flash of color to cheer up all who see it.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Lynda said...

I was just thinking the other day, if I had to move, how much I would miss my dear friends in town.... but then I remembered all the dear friends I have in blogging who would still be there, no matter where I went! (and, no, I'm not moving anywhere, just mindless thoughts).

Definitely not the mean table!!!

9:59 AM  
Blogger christine said...

Oh, definitely NOT the mean table - (weren't those awful times, being a teenager......not again, thank you...) I always appreciate your enthusiasm, and remember that you were the very first blogger to comment on my blog - I was flabbergasted - someone would comment? I'm all for making the circle bigger - the more the merrier, and the more interesting.....Also, you widen my eyes to literature, music and other cultural experiences that I would not come across but for, mwah, right back to you....

10:25 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, gals! Seriously, Theresa and Jennie hit on something that occurred to me as I was reading Annie's post. Communities by their very nature both include and exclude. That is, there is something about a group of similar people gathering together that necessarily is not going to appeal to everyone or be meaningful to everyone. For example, my blog probably isn't that "inclusive" for crocheters. I don't know how to crochet, and I therefore have nothing worthwhile to say about it. I don't mean to "exclude" them, but I do, simply by the nature of the discussion here. Similarly, there are plenty of knitbloggers who also spin and blog a lot about spinning. I don't spin, and so I don't feel "included" in their conversations. But I don't feel slighted either.

I guess what this ridiculously long blogpost cum comment is getting at is, there's exclusion that is created simply by the things we all have in common, and then there is what you might call exclusion for its own sake. You can't avoid the first, and I really want to avoid the second. Your comments make me feel better about that!

11:04 AM  
Blogger Olga said...

Waaah! I have to get dressed and run to work, but I absolutely have to comment on this one before I go...

I agree with everyone here about your blogging, and how welcoming you have always been! Your efforts have been outstanding in terms of encouraging participation (all the way back to when a few of us shared blogger Sade in Spain, remember?) (See? and now I can't even write THAT without feeling exclusionary.)

I went and read Annie's post, and all the comments. I suppose I'm feeling somewhat defensive, although I'm trying to examine my feelings about this as honestly as I can. I suppose I am lucky that you found my blog, and that I have come to participate in this small corner of the internets. I am lucky that I haven't felt "frozen out." But I also take the time to comment on other people's blogs (not many, because I would get totally sucked in all day).

I think you have to comment without expecting anything in return. Sometimes people will come back with you to your blog and read it, and sometimes not. Sometimes you'll get a nice email in reply, and sometimes not. Sometimes these people become your friends. I think this is a lovely thing, and a blessing.

It kinda put me off that some of those commenters were saying blech on all the gift exchanging and posting of photos. I thought that posting a photo of a gift was a nice way of saying thank you, and to maybe send some traffic that person's way. I suppose (and here I'm trying to be honest with myself) that posting a photo of something nice that someone did for me can make other people feel jealous. I have been in that position myself, but you know what? I remind myself that I am not twelve years old, that I can buy stuff for myself, and I am happy for the person who received that gift.

The cynical tone of some of those commenters made me sad. Maybe there are some people who send gifts in order to get public acknowledgment and links, but that just doesn't seem to be the case to me. Most people seem to do these things without any expectation of reciprocation, and the whole Random Acts of Kindness seemed to me a lovely way to learn a bit of selflessness.

Again, maybe I sound like Pollyanna because I've been lucky with my experience, but I typically choose to believe the best about people. (wow, this turned out to be a long comment!)

11:17 AM  
Blogger Fru_Gal said...

Philosophically interesting, but pretty far from reality. Laura, you're the last person who'd exclude someone from the table. As long as I've know you, you've been living President Bush's advice to "make the pie higher."

11:33 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Thanks for posting about this, because, as you know, I've been thinking a lot about this as well. I agree with you that the nature of a community is that people will group according to interests, tastes, personalities, etc. That's ok! People will read what and who they like and enjoy and will not sub to people they don't connect with. The posting of gifts and the fruits of swaps has always been fun for me to read and to post. I like living vicariously through other people's blogs, and I hope to share the fabulous knitting of others.

I've always found you to be friendly and inclusive. I hope the people who read me feel the same. In the end though, I think people blog to share a bit of themselves and their lives and hope that this writing strikes a chord with others. I'd like to give bloggers the benefit of the doubt and say that most people are just sharing, not showing off.

11:45 AM  
Anonymous JessaLu said...

As someone who was excluded from the 'mean girls' table in High School (all because I refused to sleep with the soccer team *sigh*) I can say that you most definitely are not exclusionary (is that a word? I'm having Paralegal flashbacks. It's hurting me). I stumbled upon you through Karen's blog and both of you have made me feel most accepted and liked ;o)

There are, however, some bloggers that are exclusionary and odds are they don't even know they are.

As for me, I'm in this to make as many friends as I can and maybe learn something along the way :o) And, you don't even have to sleep with the soccer team to get on my 'Daily Reads' list! ;o) ( *might* help...KIDDING!)

11:51 AM  
Blogger kim said...

Interesting post... I've run across some blogs that have more than a bit of pics of 'stuff from the mail', and it doesn't strike me personally as 'I belong to this group and you don't...ha ha on you..'-- I kind of like seeing how imaginative secret pals can be. It's almost like watching someone else open their Christmas presents (which I get a big kick out of, myself.)

As for the 'good table in the cafeteria'....ugh...*shudder*....I know what that's all about, and this isn't it.

12:02 PM  
Blogger msubulldog said...

I have to agree wholeheartedly with what everyone has said. I am amazed at how many blogs you read--and introduce me to as a result. I love it! I know there's a huge world of blogs out there to read that I never see and I really apreciate learning about them from ol' Affiknitty! :) You're definitely making the circle bigger.

12:04 PM  
Blogger msubulldog said...

I also wanted to chime in with the Affiknitty rendition of "I'd like to teach the world to steek . . . in perfect harmony. . . I'd like to buy the world some yarn . . . and keep it company. . ."

12:10 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Yay, Amanda! Affiknitty now has a theme song!

12:48 PM  
Blogger Courtney said...

You're not one of the Mean Girls. Not at all. You were one of the first "strangers" (not my mom or one of my friends) to comment on my blog and it made me feel famous. I also learned about bloglines through you and I love bloglines almost as much as knitting and yarn. I think you're doing an excellent job of widening the circle. Thanks!

1:42 PM  
Blogger Sourire11 said...

Great Post!!!! I’m not really sure why I blog other than that I like reading other people’s blogs and I know that this wonderful knitting community wouldn’t exist if noone contributed… so I guess I blog to make a little contribution. By the way you’ve totally inspired me to update my sidebar and include links to everyone I’ve been reading. Do you mind if I link to you?

Oh yeah and welcome to Knit Ohio!

2:12 PM  
Blogger Coleen said...

Your blog is definitely not exclusionary. Heck, I only found you a week or two ago, and you already made an effort to come check out my blog - something I truly appreciated.

I'm really new to this whole blog thing, but so far, most of the people I've been in contact with have been very nice and welcoming. (Yourself included, of course!)

2:31 PM  
Blogger Coleen said...

Oh... one more thing... can someone please explain the MWAH thing? What am I missing? :)

2:32 PM  
Anonymous deety said...

Laura, you're one of the friendliest bloggers that I read. Don't let anyone's words make you feel otherwise. If there's someone out there who feels that you're too exclusive, then their opinion is suspect and not worth listening to.

I've never thought about it this way, but I can say that I've never been bothered by other people posting gift photos. I like looking at the various kinds of yarn and gadgets, though I admit that I sometimes don't read those posts as closely as others. Maybe I'm being exclusionary in my reading habits!

When I first started blogging, I was surprised that anyone would find it interesting enough to leave encouraging comments or subscribe to my feed. I don't expect comments or links or gifts from people who I only know through their words and photos, because I'm blogging for my own satisfaction/writing practice and for others to read if they're interested. Feedback is always enjoyed and appreciated, but never necessary.

I have one other thing to say that I really hope no one takes the wrong way. I am not trying to say that this is true of the person who made the post you referred to or the commenters there, but:

I am convinced that some people who feel like outsiders in a given situation aren't trying much to be included. I think that there are people who would rather stay on the outside and feel bad about it than try to get more involved and risk getting rejected.

This may sound harsh, but I've been there. When I think back on the experiences and friends I might have missed because of my own self-conciousness and worrying, it makes me a little sad. And I feel even worse to know that there are people who feel excluded on the internet. The internet is a community where you can always find people who you'd fit right in with. It should be making us feel more connected to the world, not isolated from it.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Carola said...

Gosh, you got me thinking. Why do I blog? Because I don't have a knitting community or group or even a single person here around to knit with - and probably even worse: hardly anyone who appreciates what I do. So I have to admit, I'm just here to show off! But no, I also felt, after benefiting from sneaking into other blogs, that I should go into the open myself.
I like theme-related friends, one you take to the movies, one to discuss politics enthusiastically and one (or more!) to talk about yarn with. Lucky for me that I live in the age of internet and the possibility of finding those people all over the world. (Well, maybe not the movie-goers)
I never felt excluded from anybody but then I am in general not a very intrusive character. I hope on the other side, I never excluded anybody. I also have never felt jeaulous about any 'See what I got' posts and even felt when reading rhapsodising posts/comments that it is always better to read something positive in any kind of uhh and oohhh way than reading negative, cynical or unreasonably poisoned posts/comments. I crave harmony ;-)
And to you, I enjoy reading your blog and felt welcome from the first moment. Actually even very included. Maybe that's due to a lack of first hand experience? Growing up in an environment without high school culture, I don't even know what the mean girls' table is! Though I think I got the idea thanks to the omnipresence of US movies - so I do not sit down here accidentally ;-)

3:38 PM  
Blogger sparkli said...

well i think that you are a great knitter... i lurk around these parts alot...but you knitting socks = great knitter in my book! LOL.

3:38 PM  
Blogger sparkli said...

oh and i was going to say, it's your blog, you shouldnt worry so much about everyone else and write what YOU want to write's about you, not us. *nods*

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Annie said...

Hey, thanks for continuing the discussion! I think it's helpful to hear everyone's opinion and read people's thoughts. I'm feeling really bad that I've made people even question their blogging. I was really only referring to an invitation-only bloggers exchange, and the Knitter's Review article. I guess the KR writer felt excluded by knitting blogs in general (I'm paraphrasing), so I was trying to discuss that one particular point. In the comments, a lot of people got caught up by the one or two sentences that I wrote about the gift exchange.

Anyway, it's nice to visit your blog and I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

3:43 PM  
Blogger Acornbud said...

Thanks for sharing your insights on blogging. It always amazing at the number of contacts that are made over the Internet with people I would never cross paths with in person. And, it's a geometric progression of incredible ideas, creativity and links. Simply fascinating!

5:49 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

"I am not a great knitter, only a really enthusiastic one."

I would use those words to describe my own knitting- and I like to think that it transcends itself into daily life- you don't have to be the best in anything (including blogging), but being enthusiatic keeps you in the game. And, perhaps more importantly (and getting back to the point of your post)- showing enthusiasm is the best way to foster inclusion.

7:43 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

huh. I never would have thought of blogging as being an exclusionary endeavor. If anything, I've been able to meet and keep up with people MORE through blogging than if I didn't blog. The thing about posting about gifts... I kind of get that, but at the same time, I think it's nice to go on and on about how nice someone is. And if they blog, it's even better because people then go over and get to visit with them and see what's going on.

Anyway, good to catch up with you, though I apologize for being gone for so long (again). Stop by and visit when you get a chance!

Edgar looks lovely, and the Jaywalkers are again looking quite lovely! You're going to leave the rest of us in your dust in all the sock KAL's.

8:49 PM  
Blogger ttbookjunkie said...

I have never thought you were a mean girl... I totally know what you mean though, I have run into some mean people in blogland. And you are a great knitter!


9:27 PM  
Blogger kim said...

Ok...I'm glad I'm not the only one who had the Coke song (but with 'steek')running through my head too...all day long...

2:10 AM  
Blogger candsmom said...

Yours could never be the Mean Girls table at the cafeteria. And I fear that this may come off as very "mwah," but you are seriously one of the sweetest bloggers out there. Would a Mean Girl have had a 3 Blog Thursday and sent TONS of traffic to other peoples' blogs when they could've monopolized that audience for themselves? I think not. Would a Mean Girl encourage others to delurk and then visit all their blogs? Nope. And I'll never forget that you were kind enough to visit my blog even after you figured out that I'd been stalking you. ;-) I've never felt any exclusivity here at Affiknitty at all- only inclusiveness and an effort to expand that circle.

I have to say, that post by Annie has given me much food for thought these past two days. To the point that I've discussed it with the DH and several non-blog friends to get impartial (blogwise, anyhow) opinions to help sort my feelings out. Like Olga and Spazz, I was initially defensive when I read Annie's post. But that defensiveness caused me to examine my feelings more closely. Sure, one can argue that blogging is a totally personal and individual endeavor and that what anyone else thinks doesn't matter. And while that may be technically true, that may be as specious as saying that the integrity of a leader doesn't matter so long as he/she is an apt leader, or that celebrities have no obligation to consider the young children who may idolize them. The same may apply to blogging.... initially, blogging may be an individual way to document knitting, but eventually, with an audience, it also becomes about a community of sorts. Which leaves the arena wide open for the development of exclusionary behavior. That said, I honestly thought that blogging about gifts or swaps was part of the proper knit blog netiquette. I saw other knitters doing it, so I just assumed that was part of the proper protocol, in addition to a private thank you note or email. I can definitely see, though, how that could be considered exclusionary. Maybe not the swaps or KAL's that anyone is open to join, but perhaps other private exchanges, or gifts from friends. That said, like Spazz, I often think it's nice to go on and on about how nice and generous someone else is. It's never been my intent to post about gifts, etc. to say "Hey! Look at my loot!" but rather to say, "Hey! Look at how awesome and generous so and so is, and now go and check them out and make friends with them because they're wonderful." So, I'm still not sure where I stand on the whole issue. I'm pretty sure that private exchanges should be kept just that- private, but I'm not sure how to handle unexpected gifts or RAKS. While a private thank you is certainly in order, I'd also like to be able to publicly acknowledge that kind of generosity without it coming across as "mwah" or "mememe." I guess the bottom line is that some people may always find others exclusionary, in spite of that person's best efforts to curtail that. I can only hope that through my comments and responses, that others realize that I only have the best intent at heart to always expand the circle.

Whew!! I keep thinking that Blogger is going to spontaneously eject me, while spewing something out like "Too damn long, girlfriend!" ;-) ANYWAY, thank you for the awesome post. I may be linking to it in my next post, because it's something I want to address, as well. Take care, Laura! :-)

2:49 AM  
Blogger Atla said...

It seems as though everything I wanted to say has already been said, so consider my voice an echo of your praise in previous comments ;)

8:46 AM  
Blogger Jenny said...

I've never seen the Mean Girl table, so maybe I'm just lucky. I've met so many great people in the "knitting cafeteria." You're the one who is inviting the new kids to sit at your table.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Sonya said...

Oh, Laura, you are so not a Mean Girl. As a newish blogger, I have felt totally welcomed by you and the other peeps that I comment on and receive comments from regularly.

I often felt invisible in h.s. (and sometimes now). So for me to be included in the knit blog community, after reading them for a long time, is quite special to me.

Common interests will always create communities. But I think exclusion is more about the attitude toward including new people with that common interest. Some groups don't want to be bothered; others are eager to encourage and welcome.

And there's the matter of time too. I hesitated for a long time to start a blog because a) I didn't know if I'd have much to say (I'm still not sure about that) and b) the time involved. I don't have a busy social calendar but a person could spend many, many hours reading, posting, commenting when they could be knitting, communicating with the significant other, or *gag* doing housework. Sometimes keeping up with my regulars is all I can manage, although I think checking out new blogs and offering encouragement is important.

Perhaps in the spirit of Three Blog Thursday, we should all try to give a shout out to a fellow blogger once a week, or once a month or something. Especially newer bloggers who get a huge thrill in seeing a spike in stats or comments. It would be a great way to say welcome to the neighborhood.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Lolly said...

Whoa whoa! quite the discussion you have going here - and I am late! (I guess that means I get to see all of the well thought-out comments, however). Goodness, this is something that everyone has an opinion about ;)

I often worry about that too - and I can promise you, I have never thought of you as exclusionary! You are so kind. I still remember the first comment and email you wrote to me months ago!

1:59 PM  
Blogger Catherine Kerth said...

i love ready your posts and as many others this one is just as insightful... i absolutely feel the same way about being neighbors with many bloggers around the world! right on!

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Jackie said...

Wow - this discussion really is all over blogland. Your thoughts are so beautifully said...I am lucky to have stumbled upon your blog for the first time as a result of all this. I am really thankful that the can of worms was opened because I've found a lot of great blogs in the past few days that I didn't know were out there! You can bet I'll keep reading yours. :)

6:49 PM  
Blogger --Deb said...

As knit-bloggers, I think the things that pull us together are stronger than the petty, unimportant things that pull us apart. You said more or less exactly what I think--I'm here for the community, and I find it rewarding, or I wouldn't be here. I don't mind or worry that others are more popular than me--that's been true all my life (grin)--all I care about is that the people who read my blog, or respond to comments I make have all been nice, warm, friendly people--whether "popular" or not. And I'd rather have a handful of good friends, any day, than mass popularity without a chance to connect to anyone.

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Susie Bauer said...

Hi Laura! I have checked your website a few times since I met you at Panera the other day. That was great that you stopped me to say how much you love my Knitters Without Borders bag (filled with project of the week). When I got home I emailed my mother in law/ fellow knitter. I told her you said something like "When I saw the bag I thought - here is one of my people." I think knitters have more in common than just the knitting . . . thanks for writing the blog. I agree, those mittens rock. So much to do, so little time.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

Okay, I think everyone has pretty much said in Chorus at this point that you are so far from the mean girls table that you have different weather. Still, I had to chime in... I read this post and I wanted to jump up and run to wherever the heck you are and say, "Oh, no!! Don't think that!" Your warmth and genuineness is what really comes across - on your blog and in your comments. You are one of the people I love reading all the time and I always feel like if I lived nearby, it would be totally cool to show up with coffee, ice cream, and yarn (or maybe margaritas and yarn) to hang out for a while.

2:48 PM  

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