One night, Anna was watching me Twitter over my shoulder. After a while, she announced: “I get it. It’s a video game where you compete for attention from strangers on the internet.” She’s completely correct. Having a web presence is effectively a real-world immersive internet game. The scoreboard is your stats page or follower list. Like any good iPhone game, Twitter even has a built-in global leaderboard.
Blogging scratches the same itch in me as SimCity or Civilization, except instead of building a virtual terrarium I’m building social connections.
This is not to knock SimCity and Civilization at all. They’re a ton of fun, and they’re brilliant teaching tools for computer science and the concept of emergence. Blogging is a better real-time strategy game, though, because it brings me non-hypothetical real-world benefits.
The stats on my blog are a writerly gold mine. Anybody who clicks on one of my posts is voting for the ideas in that post. I tend to put stuff up when it’s about two thirds of the way done. Posts that get a lot of hits and comments get more attention and revision from me. My readers decide collectively what gets more attention, what gets polished up into presentable prose and what gets left as free form public note-taking. The really hot ones, about the Funky Drummer or Delicious or Auto-tune The News, are smooth and polished like the rocks in a particularly lively river.
No surprise: the internet loves Michael Jackson and Lil Wayne. Surprises: the internet loves math. Especially dividing by zero. The internet also loves quantum mechanics and its broad overlaps with musical harmonics.
Even better than the stats are the commenters. Moderating my comments is one of the most fun aspects of blogging. I get to be the editor of my own private little Atlantic Monthly. Asking for comments has been a good way for me to crowdsource research, mobilizing my smart friends and any internet stranger who happens along to gather unexpected new data.
I don’t approve all of my comments. Any blog attracts a lot of automated spam comments, some of which slip past the filter. Fortunately, spam is easily spotted. As for hate mail, I don’t get very much. Usually people who disagree with me just stop reading and move on. Long, thoughtful disagreement is even more rare. When someone does disagree with me at length, I take it as a token of respect and am happy to post and respond. This guy’s comment was an opportunity for me to practice my grownup debating skills, learning to disagree agreeably. This is a growth area for me, and the blog has been good for practicing.
Blogging from the iPhone has turned out to be an unexpected treat. I would have expected the phone to be a severely limited blogging tool compared to the full screen and keyboard. For editing HTML, the phone is not the right tool for the job, but it’s perfectly fine for writing prose. Editing and moderating from the WordPress iPhone app is still cumbersome, but the fact that it even exists and they give it away free is a near miracle. I wrote most of this post while waiting in lines. Who needs a Game Boy?