...that is, talking about blogging instead of actually doing it.
I've been visiting lots of blogs in the past few months, some of them repeatedly. It's fascinating to see the conventions emerging in the different genres.
The major genre might be called the introvert blog--it's all about the author's personal life. One of the striking aspects of this genre is the author's denigration of himself: the blog is purported to be "chaos," "random," "neurotic," and generally reflective of a failed life.
The content bears this out; posts are often highly self-critical, describing work not done, tests flunked, relationships failed. Even long gaps in the blogging record require mention and apology. Against this background, occasional highlights appear: a wonderful concert attended, a happy dinner with family, a new job. No need to single out any examples; they're all over the blogosphere.
The audience for such blogs consists, I'd guess, of the author and a small number of friends, who will sometimes post encouraging responses. The Book of Job somehow springs to mind.
Another kind of personal record is in the extrovert blog, in which the author pays more attention to the surroundings. A great example is Big White Guy in Hong Kong, a Canadian expat's funny and opinionated view of life in his adopted city.
Another genre is the job blog, in which the focus is on events at work. Depending on your interest in the job, this can be boring or fascinating. One of my favourites in this genre is Oh Jen Jen's It's a Zoo Out There. She's a medical officer at Changi General Hospital in Singapore. This spring her blog was a mesmerizing narrative of the hospital's struggle to contain SARS--a struggle that cost the lives of several admired colleagues. Dr. Oh's blog is clearly aimed at her colleagues, but during the height of the SARS outbreak she was being read around the world. Now she's back to routine emergency-room problems and talking about her favourite TV programs.
The specialist blog can be a variant of the job blog, but the specialty may be just one aspect of the job, or a hobby. The specialist is clearly speaking to colleagues, comfortable with a technical vocabulary that may baffle outsiders. Emphasis here is often more on the audience than on the author, with plenty of links to other specialist sites. This site and Writing Fiction are examples; I try to provide a convenient spot to get a lot of information on the subject. (Writing Fiction will, I hope, expand considerably over the next few weeks.)
A good example of a specialist blogger is Clay Shirky, who writes some very interesting and thoughtful material about Internet communications issues.
Here's one interesting difference between most blogs and introvert blogs: the introvert blogs tend to run long, long paragraphs, while the others tend to present short posts or at least long posts broken up into very short paragraphs.
I suspect that's because the non-introvert blogs are aimed more at the reader, and the author realizes (instinctively or not) that long paragraphs are hard to read on a computer screen. For the same reason, introvert blogs often have designs that make them hard to read--greyish text, for example, on a dark background. The readership is less important here than providing a blog that mirrors the author's feelings.
Advocacy blogs interest me a lot; I first got into blogging by visiting news and advocacy blogs in the run-up to the Iraq War. Advocacy blogs tend to be one-sided (here's my opinion and here are the blogs that agree with me), but a few do invite visitors to check out the evil blogs of the opposition. In any case, they offer a useful service by gathering news stories (and blog posts) from a host of sources and putting them all in one spot.
A good place to get a wide range of advocacy blogs is The Agonist, a Texas-based newsgathering site that offers frequent updates plus a long list of blogs ranging right across the (American) political spectrum.
I guess it's clear that my own tastes don't run to introvert blogs, but this is not to dismiss them as somehow inferior to other genres. If anything, it reflects poorly on me that I feel so little sympathy with the publicly unhappy folks who write them.
Whatever the genre, much of the writing in the blog world is pretty bad. But I hope and believe that it will improve as bloggers become more comfortable with the medium and with the conventions of their preferred genres. Bloggers will try to emulate the writers they admire, and to distance themselves from the bad writers. In science fiction, Sturgeon's Law decrees that "Ninety percent of science fiction (and everything else) is junk." We can strive to reduce blogjunk to a somewhat smaller percentage.