Ed tech guru Stephen Downes, author of Stephen's Web, left a very good response to yesterday's post Don't Blog the Cat. He rightfully took me (and Kathy Sierra) to task about the advice to limit the personal in blogs. In part he writes:
What distinguishes the blog media from the traditional media is the idea that each expression has a point of view. Our knowledge of a concept or an event is obtained from combining these points of view.
Knowing about the blog author helps us understand that point of view. When I say "I saw a cat on the streets of Madrid" the meaning is different when you know that I am a cat person and love cats.
He's right, of course and he made me think. (I hate it when that happens.) Blogging more than perhaps any other medium is about the individual perspective and experience that the blog writer brings to the page (screen?) that gives a blog its value.
But for me anyway, it is really more complex than that. The reason Sierra's post struck me perhaps, was because on the morning I re-read her post, one of my cats upchucked all over the bathroom floor, and I thought about publicly asking if anyone else noticed that cats seem to regurgitate twice the volume of food they've eaten - a Seinfeldian sort of observation.
But what I could not do was figure out any way that this observation made a point about technology, education or even life - other perhaps than it's just one damn thing after another. Amusing in a gross sort way, perhaps, but there was no way I could stretch this into a story that made much of a point.
This might be the distinction between purely personal writing (blogging about the cat), and using personal experience as a source for writing for an audience. There needs to be a point. If my cat's actions can teach, inform, enlighten, inspire or even simply raise meaningful questions, the cat becomes a proper subject for the blog. If not, why am I wasting my reader's time and attention?
This is the same way I feel about jokes in presentations - if they don't make some sort of point, they're just a cheap way of entertaining rather than informing.
So thanks, Stephen, and in way of apology, here is a picture of my cat: