The Devouring Blog

In natural ecosystems there is always an energy balance. Nature is always trying to keep the system in check. If there are a lot of rabbits – in come the coyotes. The coyotes then decrease the population of rabbits and increase their own population. But since there are no more rabbits, the coyotes face starvation.

Similarly, too many snapping turtles and there are no baby goslings.

Humans think they can manipulate this energy balance. We live in civilizations now, and we horde food. We sustain ourselves through hard times by this food supply. But we are now finding out that our energy sources our finite. Growth cannot continue forever.

Our economic systems reflect this philosophy. We have something called “progress” and “economic growth.” We tend to forget that things rise and fall and there is no possible way that they can continue forever. So we delude ourselves in thinking they can. But we are always feeding off of something, and sooner our later the supply dwindles: the dinosaurs that are the oil that greases the great capitalistic wheel are gone now. The oil is drying up and soon the great wheel will creak and falter.

In nature, things do not grow forever. There is a natural culling back. That is why there is fruitfullness in the summer, and a die back in the winter.

Do blogs follow this natural cycle?

I started this blog to showcase my words and pictures. I knew I would evolve within my blog, and I thought it would turn into more or less a business venture than anything else. It turns out that no editors are knocking on my door asking me to write for The Nation, or provide photographs for National Geographic. No, I have to go out and hit the pavement for work.

What I have found that as I started writing I got a few comments. A few baby goslings. Then, I ventured out and gave my baby gosling comments to other blog sites. A community was created. A small ecosystem. You feed it, and it in turn feeds you. We watch out for snapping turtles and take care of eachother.

James Chartrand, of Men with Pens, discusses this energy balance in Running with The Wolves as Nature Intended. He references the blog post by Michael Martine of running with a pack. A pack of your own size, that is. Because it’s natural.

But it is also natural, at least with wolves, for someone to try and become top dog or alpha male. If someone gains authority, people will always follow. People see it as an opportunity to have the shelter or expertise or knowledge of a large pack headed by the great alpha.

I suppose you have to ask yourself what your goals are. And who gains from it all. People are happiest when they get something from their relationships. It has to be a reciprocal group, or people will wander away to find another group where they feel supported.

And relationships take time. They don’t happen overnight in some big Twitter or Authority Blogging Pack Factory.

I believe that James is right because if you have a smaller pack or association of bloggers, you will find commonality of interests and ideas. You can then group your energies together and work on projects. For instance, I met Sandi Law of Geeked Off! over at Men with Pens and then found out via her blog that she is interested in food systems. So now I’m collaborating with her on an article about genetic modification of our food – something we know very little about in the US, and I think it’s important.

No, I’m not going to win a Pulitzer for my investigative journalism, but the article will be published and I’m sure many people will read it. And that’s important to me.

After all, I’m in the business of disseminating knowledge through words and pictures. I’m not interested in becoming top dog of the blogosphere.

What do you think about all this? What are you trying to do with your blog and your blogging relationships?

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39 thoughts on “The Devouring Blog”

  1. Ellen, what a powerful insight. I have been grappling with the same questions. I tend to look at all of the traffic driving tools as appetizer tables. I have the opportunity to sample and taste lots of different things and because it’s all in one place I can go back for seconds with the stuff I really like. Twitter, AB and the others simply puts me in front of people but ultimately it still boils down to finding something that connects you and building a genuine connection. This week I wasn’t sure why I was blogging and really thought of just throwing in the towel. I am not aspiring to be the biggest but I do want to be MY best. Blogging provides an outlet from writing for work. I can experiment with different themes and styles and perfect my own voice.

    Karen Swim’s last blog post..Three Tactics for Managing Roadblocks On Your Road to Success

  2. My blog is a creative outlet, I want to express myself and make people laugh.

    I am working on a few projects, and hopefully I can make some money out of this. How much, or how little, remains to be seen. If I could quit my day job and just write and blog like this, I’d be the happiest man in the world…for at least a few years.

    But if that dosent’ happen, who cares? Even if I don’t make a cent, I found a hobby I’m passionate about and it’s providing me with a lot of amusement. And I’m making friends in the process.

    It’s win-win for me.

    Friar’s last blog post..…Not the Captain, too!

  3. @Janice – I wish we could get more organic. Unfortunately the big chem companies have a stronghold on our food supply here, Monsanto, etc. All I can do is educate people. Anyway I can. Ecology and the holistic viewpoint is in my blood.

    @Tony – You’re right. All we have is conversations and relationships. Sure, I would like to stop by and say hello. Equal ground.

    @Karen – What a great analogy! Appetizer tables. I love it! Yeah, but what’s the main course, eh? I don’t have the time for AB, but you know I’m on Twitter and even that seems to be running its course for me. I get on and talk to people I don’t know, they don’t respond…what’s the point? Maybe I just need to give it time. But like I said, I only have so MUCH time.

    @Friar – Exactly. I’m beginning to think the whole domination of the blog scene is like high school. Who can be most popular? But then the caveat of the so called ALPHA bloggers is the money carrot. There is money to be made online, but not very much. Not unless you can convince everyone to click your ads. All the time. And you have to have A LOT of traffic.

    Making people laugh is a noble goal. In the Theatre of the Absurd at Friar’s. Shakespeare’s comic characters were always the most popular, like Falstaff.

    Oh, and we call speckled trout, brown trout, down here.

  4. Yeah, the most popular blogs are like the “cool kids” at high school. Everyone wants to hang around them and be like them. And like the cool kids, it’s a select group and they only let very few into the Inner Circle.

    I’m not putting down the top earning bloggers, but sometimes I think it’s a popularity contest….because there are so many excellent bloggers out there who are at least as good, but don’t make a cent.

    I was never a cool kid…but I had my own small group of true friends who thought I was “cool” and that was good enough for me.

    Falstaff was one of my favorite characters (in the little bit I know about Shakespeare).

    By the way, I thought Brown Trout were a whole other species (????). I know they’re further south (Southern Ontario). We also call speckles brook trout.

    Friar’s last blog post..…Not the Captain, too!

  5. @Darren – We have mutually appreciation for eachother! Art begets more art. I’m glad you like my turtle. He was not happy when he was picked up. He squirted out some foul goo to make Mike put him down. I think it was stinky. He is a cute creature, no? Of course, he might be a she. I can’t tell the sex of turtles. Geese, yes. Turtles, no.

    @Friar – Yeah, that’s what popularity is about, letting people “into” your inner circle. But who determines what is popular or not? I think it’s mainly the mainstream media and who fits the best description of the ideal.

    I was generally a misfit in high school. And so was Shakespeare.

  6. Bravo James! Thanks for saving my original post! Everyone, copy your stuff in Wordpad before you post it. You never know when WordPress might eat it. I may have had too many browser windows open.

  7. After a long, hard day fielding comments on the subject over at our blog, my mind has very few words of wisdom.

    But I do want to say how much I enjoyed this post, Ellen, and thank you for the link and discussing what I wrote about. I believe in earning readers, a community and a following the honest way in an organic fashion – because that’s what matters most to me.

    To others, it’s just a traffic and numbers game. That’s sad.

    But the strong – and the small packs – survive. πŸ™‚

  8. @James – Yeah, I’m sure you must have been burned out after all of that. It is true you need to earn your readers.

    And I don’t believe in the traffic and numbers game.

    If it is a traffic and numbers game then it isn’t about relationships. It’s just about manipulation.

  9. “If it is a traffic and numbers game then it isn’t about relationships. It’s just about manipulation.”

    Ellen,

    I love this statement. Nail squarely on the head. There is benign manipulation too, which we all love because we love stories and good story tellers. The more malignant types feel like betrayal, propaganda and bait and switch. One will get you relationships and good word of mouth. The others will maybe work once, or twice, but will bite you in the proverbial butt in the long haul. I don’t like those. I suspect most people don’t unless they know the “game” going in. (Well, there is Vegas after all.)

    Janice Cartier’s last blog post..Build Rhythms

  10. @Janice – Yes, we want to be transported by story. We LIKE that manipulation. We like telling about all our human foibles and triumphs through story.

    But manipulation in relationships is not a good thing. Oh, sure, I tell Carolyn, go pick up your room and you can have some of my chocolate. We all manipulate to some extent. And there is good manipulation and bad manipulation.

    Relationships are a matter of trust, and they take a long time to create. And betrayal is just the worst thing. I’m sure most of us have had that happen. I know I have. And that seems to happen in relationships that are not honest, that don’t have good communication.

    I could never live in Vegas. It seems like it is full of sad and desperate people. Harry apparently likes it though. Guess it can’t be all bad.

  11. I’ve given a lot of thought to the whole Chris Garrett thing and I don’t see it as “gaming the system.” I see it as a place where people who want to gain readership (eyes on blog) can toss their hat in the ring and have the chance to introduce their blog to others that share the same motives. It’s not that different from other forms of marketing. I have not used it to manipulate or to gain diggs, stubmles or whatever it is just a way for me to have people at least give my blog a look. If they like it and me they’ll come back, if not they won’t return. Chris says as much in his post – you’ll click with some and others will fall away. I was in sales for years and this is no different than cold calling, you knock on a bunch of doors and you develop a few leads, some turn into an actual sale but you won’t get a sale unless you have a pipeline. As a new blogger, I needed a pipeline and this does help a little.

    Karen Swim’s last blog post..3 Proven Methods to Drive Away Your Customers

  12. @Ellen: As Janice says, Vegas is like any other city. You could say that Hollywood probably has a lot of sad and desperate people too (along with New York, Miami, Chicago, etc.)

    The only sad and desperate people here are the ones who don’t realize the house always wins. Vegas is built on the illusions, and once you learn that, you learn to look beyond it and see what’s really going on. There’s a lot more going on than the glitz and glitter.

    Harrison McLeod’s last blog post..Fiction Writing: Conflicts and Characters

  13. @Karen – I understand your point of view, and I guess it just gets back to what your goals with your blog are. If you want to cultivate readership and meet new people, yes, that’s one way to do it. For me, the organic method is better because this is how the best and I feel, truest relationships are formed. If this blog gets too big I can’t answer everyone and that negates the purpose of the communication I feel is important here.

    And there can be a misuse of the system. Tony Lawrence makes some real good points on his blog about the whole social media phenomenon. For instance, Digg. The Digg system can be easily manipulated. If you have a whole bunch of friends that will digg your stuff, than it gets tons of diggs. But is it newworthy? It can also lead to mediocrity. It is just like a political system and buying your friends. Of course I am more apt to digg stuff for my friends. I dugg a post for Naomi Dunford of Itty Biz because a. It helps her business, and B. She’s a good writer and I thought it was Digg worthy. But I won’t do that for just anyone because I’m part of a huge “pack.”

    I think it’s good we have these discussions. It’s important. Look at the media we have in the US and how it doesn’t inform us crucial issues going on overseas. Things we need to know about! Things I would rather know about than this crazy campaign (and aren’t they all). I want to know what’s going on in Myanmar and Darfur more than the campaign. Well, thank God for the Web where I can look it up and not rely on the evening news!

    @Harry – All we see here in the Midwest is the media’s depraved version of Vegas. And I haven’t been there yet, so I can’t judge for myself. I was never a big gambler, and I still don’t know quite how I feel about legalized prostitution. It’s probably a good thing. I would think it would lead to less violence against women. It reminds me of that movie with Nicholas Cage…Leaving Las Vegas. That was a good movies.

    Yeah, every city has sad and desperate people. Hell, we have them here in Kalamazoo! I have noticed the homeless people are starting to migrate again. They come north when it gets warmer.

  14. @Ellen, you’re right people do “game” the system even when the system was not intended for that purpose. I tend to miss those things because I am always going to operate based on my own values and guiding principles.

    I love Vegas! When I lived in LA we went 4-6 times per year and I don’t gamble. I also had it as my territory for several years so also saw the professional side. As Harry said, every town has good and bad but there is so much more to Vegas. I highly recommend a visit. πŸ™‚

    Karen Swim’s last blog post..3 Proven Methods to Drive Away Your Customers

  15. @Karen – Democracy at it’s best, I guess. Everyone can decide for themselves. Yes, I operate out of my own value system and have my own yardstick. But everyone else has their own, too, or lack of one! Ha!

    @Harry – I don’t often trust the media. But I work in the media and I’m trustworthy! Again, have to judge for yourself and read different sources.

    @Friar – I would swear you made up that name. I haven’t been to Nevada either. Texas. Does that count?

    Good God. I just checked Pahrump. It does exist. It looks like it is about an hour and a half from Vegas.

  16. @Harry – Bunny ranches?! I learn something new everyday. Are they like “eat the bunny” ranches?

  17. @Karen & Harry – Well, aren’t I the naive little pumpernickel. See? You learn something new everyday. I thought they were like a regular livestock ranch. When you think about it, I guess they are!

  18. First, this is a beautifully written post. Second, it carries an important message. When I first started blogging, I visited a lot of the blogs that had hundreds of comments every day and I just felt lost in the crowd, just another commentator among hundreds and it wasn’t at all unlike attending a concert in a huge arena. But these smaller communities are more like intimate jazz clubs where everyone is close enough to make eye contact with the musicians (i.e. bloggers) and that’s just more meaningful. Thanks Ellen πŸ˜‰

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Metaphor Creativity

  19. Now…Pahrump is real. They even were mentionned on “CSI” once. It’s an hour drive away, between Vegas and Death Valley.

    Strange little town in the middle of the desert (Well, its kinda messed up like Splat Creek, but only more so). There is even a website called “Pahrump sucks”.

    Slot machines everywhere. A golf course in the middle of the Mohave desert that isnt’ running (but they still water the grass). Gun stores and pawnshops, and retirement trailer parks.

    They even have a legal brothel in town and you can see the prostitutes buying their groceries in 6-inch heels.

    Worth seeing….once! (If you’re on your way to Death Valley National Park)

    Friar’s last blog post..Friar Toons (May 23, 2008)

  20. @Melissa – You are a woman after my own heart. Not only are you an excellent writer, but you speak the truth! Hail!

    @Friar – If I go to Death Valley National Park maybe I’ll stop by Pahrump Otherwise bunny ranches hold no allure for me. Gloria Steinem even did the bunny gig once. The Hugh Heffner kind.

  21. Well, you pretty much hafta drive through Pahrump to get to Death Valley. But the bunny ranch is on the far side of town, out of the way…..(at least they had the common sense to do that).

    Death Valley IS worth seeing, though. (But make sure you have air conditioning in your vehicle).

    Friar’s last blog post..Friar Toons (May 23, 2008)

  22. @Friar & Karen – You guys crack me up. I can’t believe my blog fell to the lows of prostitution. Selling things in 6 inch heels and 3 inch skirts. Well, I guess it was inevitable, with Friar and his ass crack blog. And it started out so nice…

  23. @ Ellen *pointing upward, looking innocent* He started it! LOL! I laughed so hard when I read your response that my eyes teared up. We do tend to go way off topic at this pub, but that’s part of the fun of coming here. πŸ™‚

    Karen Swim’s last blog post..Fashion Your Own Style

  24. Oh, no..! You can’t blame my blog on this!

    All I wanted to do was show a photo of myself jumping into a cold mountain lake…to show that you can do crazy things (Like Brett rolling down the hill in is hamster ball)

    Then some of the (ahem) “ladies” hijacked the blog, and started mentionning ass-cracks and such.

    I didn’t do it. πŸ™‚

    Friar’s last blog post..Friar Versus the Grayheads Part IV

  25. @Friar – Yeah, you’re right. That wasn’t polite of us.

    @Karen – That is THE fun, eh? Meandering around in our minds.

  26. Hi Ellen,

    Blogs are great breeding grounds for cyber friendships and people who share the same values. While we blog, we teach each other and we learn. We get support when we’re feeling uncreative, and we get kudos for a job well done. We “talk to” people online that we will most likely never meet, but it’s in the interaction of comment sections, emails and social networks that we find joy.

    My blog is my “home” in cyberspace, and like yours, the door is always open.

    Thank you for letting me share my thoughts.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Be Inspired By Nothing

  27. Barbara,

    Writing is a lonely business, so it’s good to reach out to others.

    The door is always open for you, and your welcome to share your thoughts anytime.

    Your right about the comment sections, emails, and social networks bringing joy. They are the little perks we get from our hard work. They make us feel appreciated.

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