supp-dem Since it’s free, the blogosphere is inherently not a ‘free market’ of ideas, creations and perspectives. There is supply and demand, of course, but there is an oversupply of stuff that is easy to produce and self-indulgent (no criticism intended here: the essence of a personal journal is the prerogative of the journalist to write whatever and however much he or she desires). There is, as a corollary, a shortage of supply of stuff that is hard to write and might otherwise be provided in return for financial or other reward.

The demand is hard to gauge, since it cannot readily be valued, and since there is no established place or mechanism for capturing or assessing readers’ unmet needs.

Yet we can read between the lines and ascertain, I think, some broad blogosphere preferences that we, as writers, might want to keep at least in the back of our minds:

Blog readers want to see more:
  1. original research
  2. original, well-crafted fiction
  3. news not found anywhere else
  4. category killers: aggregators that capture the best of many blogs/feeds, so they need not be read individually
  5. clever, concise political opinion consistent with the reader’s own views
  6. benchmarks
  7. stories
  8. insight: leading-edge thinking
  9. short educational pieces
  10. relevant “aha” graphics
  11. fun stuff: quizzes, self-evaluations, other interactive content

Blog writers want to see more:
  1. constructive criticism
  2. ‘thank you’ comments
  3. requests for posts on specific subjects
  4. foundation articles: posts that they can build on
  5. reading lists/aggregations of material on specific, leading-edge subjects that they can use as resource material
  6. wonderful examples of writing of a particular genre, that they can learn from
  7. guidance on how to write in the strange world of weblogs

Fellow bloggers, do you agree? Let me know what’s missing.

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  1. Andy Tinkham says:

    I think the readers point e could be expanded… it’s not just political opinion. Clear, concise opinions in general are a thing I look for in blogs. It doesn’t matter whether they’re political, and it doesn’t matter if I agree with them. In fact, at times, I seek out blogs that espouse opinions I don’t agree with so that I can try to expand my understanding.The clear/concise/clever bit also applied to point c. I read several blogs that cover overlapping areas of news. I like them because they all have a slightly different take on what they emphasize. So it’s not as much that the news isn’t available elsewhere as it’s clear and concise and makes me think about the news in ways I might not have otherwise if I hadn’t read that person’s blog.Another thing I look for as a reader is a journal that someone keeps as they go through a process which is different from my experiences. Some one journaling their way through cooking school or training/performing in a career that is different than mine. When I find them, these often become some of my favorite blogs to read.A final area that readers of my blog seemed to like was live blogging from an event that the reader was interested in but couldn’t attend. I recently attended and blogged about the Agile Fusion workshop and had several people thank me for the posts, leading me to think that this may also be an area readers would like to see more of.Now, as a fairly new blog writer, I have one additional thing I’d like to see more in addition to your list (all of which I agree with):More comments of the “your post made me think of this thing in this way” form. I realize this may be more of a growth thing and eventually I’ll (hopefully) start seeing other people’s blogs have that kind of thing in it, but there are times when a thought isn’t deemed “enough” (by whatever definition is in use by the person with the thought) to warrant a post. I think those tend to get lost in the cracks, and I’d certainly like to see them.Thank you for the list, Dave! I’m going to try to keep it in mind as I go forward with my blog reading and writing!

  2. Charly Z says:

    This weblog reader wants to see more:Short, concise posts. A Mexican short-story writer whose name I can’t recall uses to say about short stories, “Short and good, twice as good.” I feel the same about weblog posts.This weblog writer wants to see more:Comments on his weblog. He doesn’t mind comments that just say “thank-you” (though he feels they don’t add anything to the conversation) and actually enjoys those that promise to rip him a new one (as long as they are creative, gramatically correct, impeccably spelled and clearly explain what the writer did to earn such mutilation). But no requests, please; I did enough of them as homework during my school years, and the once I do at work, I get paid for.

  3. I’m with Charly. I love posts that engender a lively discussion in the comments section or even elicit posts from other bloggers. The extended online conversation (as opposed to chat) is one of the things we do best.Blogs are also a great place to discover new resources for your professional life. Thanks, Dave, for allowing me to reproduce your business articles in my magazine!

  4. lightning says:

    Some good ideas. Notes:Blogs aren’t the place for either research or fiction. They are a place for *pointers* to research and fiction.News: This can be obscure news sources or original “I was there” reporting. I’m especially interested in the latter category; I’ve seen many personal accounts that were *wildly* different from “media” accounts of the same events.Viewpoints are good; Salam Pax is the best example here.I am *not* interested in bickering or content- free insults. That said, a good heartfelt rant can be fun if it’s kept on an intellectual level. (If it’s not, it becomes an in- joke.)I’m also not interested in predigested opinions. If you agree with everything that Rush Limbaugh or Noam Chomsky says, I don’t want to hear it.As a writer, the thing I want most (and don’t get) is feedback. Sometimes it feels like I’m hollering douwn a rain barrel. Without feedback, I tend to feel like I’m wasting my time.

  5. silly me says:

    It would seem that the only purpose developing here is for writen media. Not everyone is a writer (read wanna be an author when I grow up) that blogs. Blogs are a multimedia environment (all-be-it limited) there’s not much recognition of that here or elsewhere.

  6. Michael says:

    Dave,You’ve made a great list. Here’s what I would add: 1. I just came across this at http://www.johnsjottings.com/ – “If I post a comment on someone else’s site it’s never easy to keep track of the replies. Especially true if I happen to run across a new blog and I comment without bookmarking it. What I’d like to see is a simple way to flag a page to detect changes on it and email me when changes occur. ” – I think that applies to both readers and writers. I would love for my blog tool to provide a way for readers to subscribe to their comment thread. I don’t want to write a bunch of hacks to accomplish that.2. As a writer, I’d like to see universal support for TrackBack. As a reader/writer, I’d like to see trackback listings integrated with comment listings.I had another one, but it escapes me right now…

  7. lightning says:

    Another category is tools. Right now, Blogger’s latest (what I use) is pretty good for pure text, but anything else sends you into raw HTML. What we need:1. A good way of editing templates/ stylesheets. Right now, it’s “hack the HTML”.2. Better link and image handling.3. Better indexing. On most sites, once a post hits the archives, it’s gone forever.4. A way of doing threaded comments. See Slashdot (http://slashdot.org) for what it should look like. (I could do it, but I have no motivation.)Actually, the world needs better HTML tools in general. They tend to range from clunky to unacceptable.

  8. Michael says:

    Lightning,Those are excellent suggestions. Especially #1 with regard to stylesheets.And as an addition to that – As blog writer I want the masses to use browsers (Mozilla Firebird for example) that actually support CSS properly. I’m new to web development, and the tweaking for IE is driving me crazy.

  9. Susan says:

    I disagree with the commenter who says blogs aren’t the place for fiction, just pointers to fiction. If nobody does fiction online, then what will anybody point to? My blog will continue to be as fictional as possible indefinitely.

  10. mrG says:

    let’s not forget that the most popular shows on TV are reality shows — there is a massive world out there of blogs like SimplySara with none of the criteria listed here, but instead offer to befriend the reader, to invite them in for coffee and chit-chat, simply to share life.Perhaps another criteria is more “Vita” in the Hindi sense of that force of life that won’t stop dancing in the light and shouting out about it’s own existance.

  11. mrG says:

    I’m reminded of a comment made by Dr David Suzuki as the voice-over on a documentary while showing birds in swamp-grass. In the scene, birds perch on rushes and tall grass at regular intervals across the swampland, singing away in the sunshine. Dr. Suzuki tells us how the anthropomorphic principle may have biased naturalists to claim that this arrangement was one of announcing stakes to territory, their voices forming both their fences and their advertisements for mates, whereas closer observation of the birds shows no evidence of either human value-judgement to be important to them.”Perhaps,” Suzuki muses, “they sing simply because they are happy to be alive.“I’d like to extend that only a little: Perhaps they spread themselves out so as to optimally fill the swamp environment with sound — it’s a bird-brained art event!

  12. Dave Pollard says:

    Andy: Thanks for your thoughts, and useful additions to this list. I think I’ll move the list to the sidebar and make it permanent, once I’ve incorporated everyone’s ideas and refinements. Agree with your point on live event blogging, and on the value of short, lateral thinking-type posts.

  13. Dave Pollard says:

    Charly: Is that why you still haven’t replied to my request for more posts about Mexico on your blog? BTW, I spent most of this week with colleagues from Latin America. They sure can party! Now I need to learn Spanish, since at 2am last night I reportedly began talking to them in French. Whew!

  14. Dave Pollard says:

    Lightning: Great blog you have there! (and new to me). Agree with your point on first-person accounts, especially if pics are included. Not sure how you get more feedback other than e-mailing people who read your stuff and asking for it. I’ve done that a few times, and as long as you do it sparingly it’s very valuable. And have a thick skin.

  15. Dave Pollard says:

    Mike: Absolutely right. I end up going back a couple of weeks to check out my old posts, and my comments on others’ posts, to see what additional comments have been posted. It’s an inefficient process (and hit and miss) and the tools wouldn’t be hard to improve to save this effort.

  16. Dave Pollard says:

    Lightning & Mike: My only concerns about improvements to these tools are (a) I’m too dumb to learn how to use them properly (can’t even master HTML) so my blog will look pedestrian by comparison, and (b) good writers are already scared away from blogging by the steep learning curve, and this would make it even steeper. When will someone make a blog tool that is at once powerful and idiot-proof?

  17. Dave Pollard says:

    Gary: Bernd Heinrich’s books provide compelling evidence that some birds do in fact sing strictly for fun (some do it when all alone, for example). And I like friendly conversational blogs, too, as long as they’re well-written and have a certain level of intellectual content. I guess I’m a blogsnob, but to me only about 2% of ‘conversational’ blogs meet that standard.

  18. Susan’s blog is fiction? Ah, shit. Another illusion shot all to hell.

  19. Charly Z says:

    Talking to Mexicans in French, Dave? That must have been a grrr-eat party!

  20. Dave Pollard says:

    Si Senor Z. Merveilleux.

  21. lightning says:

    Re fiction on blogs.IMHO, one of the funniest things ever to hit the Web is cassieclair’s “Most Secret Diaries” of all the characters in “Lord of the Rings”. It was originally published in her LJ (http://www.livejournal.com/users/cassieclaire/). However, like most fiction, it is intended to be read from first to last. LiveJournal, like all blogs, is shown last- to- first. In addition, you have to wade through a lot of non- Most Secret Diaries stuff to get it all (hey, it’s an LJ.)Much easier when it’s broken out on a separate site. (http://home.nyu.edu/~amw243/diaries/). Web hosting ain’t that expensive, and anyway your Internet account probably comes with a few megabytes of space.

  22. kara says:

    Thank you Dave, as always a thought provoking post. BTW -Very interesting synopsis mrG

  23. augustine@natda.f9.co.uk says:

    The other thing that’s great about comments boxes is that you get to hear of sites you wouldn’t necessarily have known about. Like in this collection, which I’m happily exploring.Dave, I don’t know if you’d categorize my blog as conversational: do imaginary cartoon interviews with the likes of Bush, Blair, Saddam and Van Gogh count as conversation? What I like in your blog is the smooth mix of visual and verbal information/analysis/personal stuff, with no rigid divisions between them.Anyway,

  24. Gobi says:

    Thanks,Dave for the pointers, and to all those who commented; this is all helpful stuff for a new blogger. I’m in the game just for personal expression and to hear individual opinions on any subject preferably different to mine and not strained.

  25. Dave Pollard says:

    Welcome to the blogosphere, Gobi. I’ve added a couple of pointers over at your blog.

  26. Gobi says:

    Thanks, Dave. Did appreciate the pointers.

  27. rsbell@mindspring.com says:

    Hi Dave,I’m a relatively new blogger, but even with my limited experience, I agree with the commenters who think that the Blogosphere could use more interactivity. This isn’t just a matter of what is posted or responded to; it’s also a reflection on the current state of technology. For example, I would like to see:– interactive polls that could be embedded in a post or threaded between blogs (i.e., you could take my poll and include it on your site and the tally of votes on both sites would appear in both locations).– content subscription tools similar in function to My Yahoo with which users could configure blog pages to show only content they like. For example, they might decide that they care to see only my posts about technology and that they don’t care to see posts about my personal life.– better tools for collaborative blogging through syndication of content. For example, let’s say that you and I both like to write about movies. I’d like a technology that enables us to agree that my new posts about movies will automatically appear on your blog (with credit to me) and vice versa. This helps users by building more effective blog communities without imposing a duty on them to surf from site to site, which is time-consuming and inefficient.– better commenting systems. As noted by lightning, HTML commenting systems are nearly all clunky. It would be nice to be able to sort comments by topic, by author, and by how recent a post is as well as to subscribe to a thread and receive an email whenever it is update.– better RSS/XML technologies. Do I really have to enter a feed URL into a newsreader every time? Wouldn’t it be more useful for users if the blogosphere possessed the equivalent of a vCard for blogs that one could click once to add a blog’s RSS/XML feed to the newsreader? For that matter, wouldn’t it be great if one could bookmark an interesting article in the newsreader or obtain a list of articles on similar topics in a newsreader courtesy of Technorati or some similar system?– better archiving systems to enable new visitors to find related postings. I’ve never searched for any article by date, and I don’t know anyone who has, yet date and time based archives are the lingua franca of the blogosphere. There should be more widely available options for archiving older articles by topic.Ron

  28. nancy_smith@hotmail.com says:

    nice work!!

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