The Blogging Advantages of Murmuring

By and large, the bloggernacle is can be a pretty whiney, carping place. Since becoming a two blog home, my wife and I have discussed this on a number of occasions and come to the conclusion that ultimately the medium is driving things here.

One can overstate this medium effect, of course. No doubt we are seeing a lot of self-selection. People who want to whine and carp are no doubt attracted to the relatively unscripted and open fora of the bloggernacle. Some bloggernackers are simply carpy, whiney people. Still, I think that the medium has a powerful effect here. By and large bloggers blog because they want to be read. Hence, bloggers want to drive traffic to their sites. One of the best ways of doing this is by having lively comments, where readers regularly will check back to see who has posted what comments and if their last comment got a response. The comments drive the traffic.

And the simple fact of the matter is that complaining and whining generates lots of comments. Obviously this is not universally true. Some bloggers don’t care how many people read what they blog (which for some bloggers is just as well). Some blogs have high traffic without comments. Some posts generate lots of discussion without carping or complaining. But by and large, murmuring is not a bad strategy — at least short term — for bloggernacle success.

23 comments for “The Blogging Advantages of Murmuring

  1. April 12, 2005 at 9:41 am

    ” The comments drive the traffic.”

    There’s no reason why this should be the case. There are plenty of blogs at which the content drives the traffic (although perhaps not so much in the bloggernacle).

    If traffic is what you’re interested in, comments are a pretty poor measure. Take for example my priesthood session notes from conference. Only 20 comments, but 700+ page reads, which is a much higher number than many threads with more comments.

    Take-home lesson — look at page views along with comment counts to see who is reading what.

  2. April 12, 2005 at 9:42 am

    I don’t know if I’d agree with calling it whining, but discussing problematic facets of our faith is certainly more interesting than agreeing with each other.

  3. April 12, 2005 at 9:43 am

    (ignore this — just clearing a cookie).

  4. Elisabeth
    April 12, 2005 at 9:58 am

    Great post. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I’ve enjoyed participating in the bloggernacle. I think the main reason is that there are few places where a faithful Mormon can feel comfortable asking questions or discussing difficult issues.

    Unfortunately, some people do seem to only push their agendas (and whine a bit too much), but I really appreciate the opportunity to listen to how other people have negotiated their way through (or around) controversies such as same-sex marriage, polygamy and “presiding”. So, thanks for providing a place for that.

  5. Ben S.
    April 12, 2005 at 9:58 am

    Bah! Your post is fundamentally wrong! Carp carp carp. And it’s the church’s fault! whine whine whine…Why can’t we go back to Jerusalem and rejoice in our possessions! murmur murmur murmur…

  6. Derek
    April 12, 2005 at 10:47 am

    For a church that doesn’t believe in drinking, we sure know how to operate the whine press, don’t we?

  7. Jonathan Green
    April 12, 2005 at 11:05 am

    Sure, Bryce. If you entitled a post “Fulfill your home teaching responsibility for the month by clicking here,” I’m sure you’d get lots or page views, too. Other suggestions: “Download your food storage (with Tucows link!),” “Reading this post is more effective than inviting your friends to meet the missionaries,” and “Find out what was said in that meeting your wife is making you feel guilty about missing.” Oh, wait, I see you covered that last one already.

  8. danithew
    April 12, 2005 at 11:06 am

    Nate I’d be interested in knowing more about your personal approach/policies to blogging and commenting.

  9. April 12, 2005 at 11:13 am

    Hey, Jonathan, you’re making my point for me. You don’t have to complain and cavil to generate traffic. Guilt works just as well.

  10. April 12, 2005 at 12:20 pm

    Nate, I think you are taking an overly pessimistic view of Bloggernacle discussions. These are weblogs, not boards. The most interesting discussions here are the substantive ones, not the communal whining that sometimes crops up. The average academic conference has a higher whining to substance ratio than most B’nacle comment threads if you include conversations in the hallway, elevator, and dinner table (their equivalent of comments). What do associates talk about at lunch, the latest slip opinion from the bench or office politics?

  11. April 12, 2005 at 12:21 pm

    I think that while the “whining factor” is common in blogs in general that’s because people aren’t sure what to write. They have to respond to something so they do it by finding things to complain about – typically by responding to newspaper articles or the like.

    Maybe I just read the wrong blogs, but of the ones I read in the LDS blog community, there seem few that are like that. Many seem to either be summarizing information that people might not be interested in or else are genuinely conducting inquiry. There are a few complaining over political issues, but I think it is the minority.

  12. April 12, 2005 at 12:23 pm

    Isn’t it a bit ironic that this post is whining and carping about whining and carping?

  13. April 12, 2005 at 12:25 pm

    Whoops, that should have read, “summarizing information that people might be interested in.” I’m thinking of some of the low volume but highly informative blogs like William Morris’ or Justin Butterfield’s. They also have few comments but are among my favorite blogs. Other blogs with few comments but which I always read are my brother’s blog, with always thoughtful takes on things and then a few others, like Dave’s. (Although Dave often has posts that generate a lot of comments)

  14. Mark N.
    April 12, 2005 at 12:31 pm

    One person’s “whining and carping” is another person’s “let us reason together”. If we want a web site to go to that doesn’t have any whining and/or carping, may I suggest this one?

  15. Frank McIntyre
    April 12, 2005 at 12:36 pm

    It is ironic. It’s like meeting the man of your dreams, and then meeting his beautiful wife.

    Anyway, Nate has a fine ear for whining and I think he is dead on that there is a strong tendency to criticism, only some of which is helpful.

  16. Nate Oman
    April 12, 2005 at 12:41 pm

    Aimee: Quit complaining.

    danithew: I wish that I had something as grand or well thought out as a personal policy on blogging. My involvment is largely driven by my work schedule. I actually seldom have time to closely follow comment threads, so I am not as engaged as I could be. (Given the quality of my comments this is all for the best.) I am still trying to figure out what sorts of things work well in this medium and what sorts of things do not. I think that William Morris and Justin Butterfield do a great job of pulling together genuinely substantive posts. I think that blogging probably is a good medium for trying out rough drafts of half baked ideas, but I am skeptical about its ability to do much more than that. If it has any real value, I suspect that it comes by lowering the costs of finding and interacting with like minded individuals. I am still not quite certain about what it is all for.

  17. April 12, 2005 at 12:44 pm

    Frank, it sounds like you are offering us good advice that we just can’t take.

  18. April 12, 2005 at 1:01 pm

    Discussion. Isn’t that what it’s for? I love to discuss the Gospel (I rarely, if ever, comment on other types of blogs). When I first discovered the Bloggernacle I always said it was the Gospel Doctrine class I always dreamed of. Whether or not there is inherent virtue in having a conversation, I’m not sure, but I feel like I’ve gain insight that I otherwise couldn’t.

  19. April 12, 2005 at 2:10 pm


    You forgot to mention offending people. That really drives up the traffic. People who are offended often come back to defend themselves and offend others. Of course, they may never come back to the site again, but at least they pumped up the thread comments–woo-hoo!

  20. Nate Oman
    April 12, 2005 at 2:12 pm

    Heather: I can’t believe that you would say such a thing. How on earth can you call yourself a Latter-day Saint! All I can say is that I feel sorry for your husband….

  21. April 12, 2005 at 3:34 pm

    Nate writes:

    “I think that blogging probably is a good medium for trying out rough drafts of half baked ideas, but I am skeptical about its ability to do much more than that.”

    Absolutely. As we’ve discussed before, it does take time that could perhaps be spent on more formal, substantive work. But before I began blogging, I wasn’t doing much writing anyway. The beauty of blogging is that it keeps me engaged with my field and sometimes even helps me generate ideas — half-baked though they may be — for projects that I may engage in someday. Indeed, I feel like I’ve made some progress in some of my thinking on Mormon aesthetics and the Mormon market over the past 10 months.

    In all, it’s perfect for someone with a little bit of experience who is just starting out thinking and reading about Mormon issues. Others are different, but I personally need a lot of time to mull things over before I can get a clear vision I’m *reallly* interested in. Or at least interested enough in to do the hard work.

    Of course, blogging is also a nice fit for me because I’m more familiar with short-form writing and because I’m naturally superficial what with being a pr flack and all. :-)

    But seriously. Even if no one ends up turning their blogging into more *serious* work, then it’s still worth the investment. There’s something to be said for popularizing and validating this type of discourse and these issues. As we know, the Internet is already saturated with LDS-related content. LDS bloggers provide a valuable counterweight to anti-LDS stuff as well as balance out (and overlap with) apologetics and official discourse.

    And to be honest, I’d say that the Bloggernacle’s contributions to the Mormon personal essay has already earned it a significant place in Mormon letters. Indeed, if we produce as many over the next year as we have over the past, then I think we should start talking about putting an anthology together.

    Nate also writes: “If it has any real value, I suspect that it comes by lowering the costs of finding and interacting with like minded individuals.”

    This is something that I value highly. Although I enjoy my interactions with many of the members of my ward [something that isn’t the case with every ward I’ve been in], they aren’t necessarily interested in all of the things that I am and/or are able to or want to spend their time differently.

    So thanks everybody.

  22. April 13, 2005 at 8:52 am

    Some mentioned that blogging can be driven by offending others as well as by complaining. On my blog, I like to think that I’m avoiding both–but I do get a fair proportion of surprisingly hostile comments. I sometimes wish I could remind people that I’m actually a faithful believer, just trying to work out my own perspective–same as anyone else! The thoughtful feedback and the chance to see how other people think about what I think are worth the occasional angry comment (and the far more than occasional hateful flame email!) that I get. And it could be argued that I’m inviting the hatred by posting content addressing the possibility of constructing a perspective of radical economic change within an LDS context. But what? Am I supposed to simply shut up and let the folks I disagree with have the only voice?

  23. A. Greenwood
    April 13, 2005 at 10:33 am

    Blogging is the Mormon equivalent of Edwardian dinner party conversation. A chance to be brilliant, thoughtful, witty, full of personality, etc., without having to sustain it.

    And as everyone knows–and Oscar Wilde exemplifies–it’s much easier to be brilliant, thoughtful, witty, etc., at the expense of other people’s nostrums than in generating and defending one’s own.

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