Category Archives: blogging

Two Types of Blogs

lucas blogging drawing

To follow on from my recent post about “good” blogs… I want to get down on blog-paper a few thoughts rattling around my brain about blogging…

Last year my friend Kirsten asked me about blogging – about how to go about making a “good” blog. She, of course, has a good blog of her own, but seeing as I’ve done a couple of very intensive art projects which use blogs as their primary medium, I do have some thoughts about the nuts and bolts of making them work.
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What makes a good blog?

It’s probably impossible to answer this question. It’s a bit like asking, “what makes a good book?”

Blogs are so many things to so many people – they are forms of journalism, pedagogical tools for university courses, personal diaries, social hangout spaces, places for writing fan fiction, locations for software to be released and discussed… The list is as long as the uses to which blogs have been put, which is to say, more diverse than I can mention.

Although “early” blog theories (that is, those from about 5 years ago!) emphasised the keeping of journals and diaries as the main function of blogs (Viviane Serfaty’s book is a good example of this notion), the explosion of different uses for blogs has led some more recent definitions to reduce what-blogging-is to bare technological terms – that is, blogging is a medium. This way of defining blogs reduces them to something like this: “Blogs are an online publishing tool; blogs consist of a series of individual “entries”; these entries are usually displayed in reverse chronological order.” (Wikipedia’s definition is along these lines.)

As Jill Walker Rettberg explains in her great little book called, simply, Blogging, within this bare-bones techno-definition of blogging as a medium, various genres can be sifted out: political blogging, filter blogging, diary-style blogging, and so on. Each of these genres (and its attendant sub and sub-sub genres) comes with its own set of conventions, and within the genre, those conventions make sense – they can be used to determine a “good” from a “bad” blog.

In general, though, Walker Rettberg presents three basic criteria which define – not what a blog is, but how it is (p.21). Those criteria are “frequency, brevity, and personality” (she borrows these terms from Evan Williams, the fella who invented Blogger). She then goes on to explain that the first two of these criteria (frequency and brevity) are formal qualities associated with blogs. The third criteria, however, points to a further feature of blogs which is very important, and pertinant, I think, to the question of what makes a good blog – personality. Blogs, she writes are “generally written in the first person”. They are subjective. They are social.

How does this help us think about what makes a good blog? Well, if Rettberg Walker’s last point is true (and I believe it is, wholeheartedly) then the question becomes something like – “what makes a good friend?”

My friends are people that I trust. I trust them, not because they come with some kind of accreditation or references (as I would require if hiring someone for a job). I trust them because of some action they have performed, in relation to me, which makes me believe they are trustworthy.

Perhaps they helped me solve a problem I had. Maybe they told a story about themselves which made me think differently about my own relationship to the world. Or they made me laugh. Or they listened to me when I had something to get off my chest. Whatever the case, hanging out with them was a rewarding experience, regularly enough, for me to say, “I like him/her”. The effort expended in passing time with them was worth it. So I kept coming back, and a relationship between us – friendship – was formed.

And it’s the same for “good” blogs, I would say.

Proposal for a (networked_book) about (networked_art), an online network “commissioning and supporting net art” has called for proposals for a web publication discussing recent art projects made possible by computers and networked connectivity. Importantly, the published contributions, being online, will be available for further discussion and additions, which is entirely appropriate given the subject matter.

I figured my blogging-as-art projects might make a useful practice-based contribution to this publication, and to that end, here is my proposal. (You can view others’ proposals here.)

Lucas Ihlein

Blogging as Art: a Framework for the Intensification of Lived Experience

In 2006, I carried out an art and blogging project designed to intensify the intimacy of my connection to my local neighbourhood. I made a strict rule: For two months, I would not leave the boundaries of Petersham, the suburb where I live in Sydney’s inner-west. Each morning I wrote a blog entry about the events of the previous day. The blog, Bilateral Petersham (, developed a large and loyal community of readers and became a powerful tool for framing, participating in, and reflecting on everyday life in my local community.

Bilateral Petersham is one of a series of “blogging as art” projects engaging with different communities which I have undertaken since 2005. In my practice, my starting point is always the inherent aesthetic qualities of everyday conversations and interactions (including those which occur online). Blogging creates a framework in which attention is focused on, and in, these conversations. Dialogue with online correspondents generates a proliferation of new opportunities for encounters in “the real world”. These encounters in turn become the material for tomorrow’s blog postings, which go beyond diaristic reporting or ethnographic record. The blog – an ever-evolving work in progress – is simultaneously a genuine component of “real life” and an extended literary drama.

To demonstrate the dramatic and aesthetic potential of blogging as a dialogical mode of art making, this chapter will examine a series of postings from my blogs. In one particular entry from Bilateral Petersham, “An Easterly Dilemma“, I am confronted with a compelling request to break my own rule and leave Petersham for a family event. This dilemma is opened up to my blog readership, initiating a heated discussion on the ethical tensions between art and life, and prompting an online brainstorming of strategies for future action.

blogging, attention, experience, drama, interaction, art, communicative exchange, relationality.

Three networked writing samples:

An Easter-ly Dilemma“, from Bilateral Petersham.

Cold Turkey, from Bilateral Blog. Having completed several blogging art projects, I am contemplating withdrawing from the internet for a period of one year. This blog entry, “Cold Turkey”, is a discussion of the practicalities and ethics of this “net-death”.

At the Cemetery, from Bon Scott Blog. This entry from the Bon Scott Blog is a good example of the way blogging operates to focus and intensify a series of ordinary/extraordinary encounters. In this post, I tell the story of my day at the Fremantle Cemetery on the anniversary of Bon’s death.

Short CV and biography of Lucas Ihlein.

blog comments etiquette

With all the argy bargy going on over at the situation blog, i've been thinking a bit about the issue of blog etiquette: some folks have been calling for the banning of some other folks, simply because they're long winded or dogmatic. but that doesn't seem like a good enough reason to ban someone. Spam of course would be shitty, but luckily the WordPress software seems to be resisting spam so far.

It would be interesting to see if there was a plug-in we could use for rating comment posts. That way anyone could post anything, but they would be rated by users, and then you could simply choose to filter out all comments with ratings of lower than 4 out of five, for instance. Or, if you wanted, you could choose to read em all…

Here's a fairly clear post about blog etiquette I found by googling "blog comment etiquette":