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Friday, 29 August 2014

Me and My Elderblog

Ever since Facebook launched in 2004, and even moreso following Twitter's online birth two years later, people who think they are in the know have been predicting the death of blogging – translation: long-form writing.

The prognosticators often include the news and magazine media. The future of written communication, they have been telling us, is in 140 characters or thereabouts.

If that turns out to be true, I'm glad I'm old and will die before long. Outside of “Fire, run,” “Dinner's ready” and “I love you,” there isn't much I care about that can be said in one sentence.

In the past couple of years, apparently in backlash, some young entrepreneurs have founded websites specifically to promote longform reporting and other kinds of writing. Vox is one, also Longreads, The Verge and Matter among them.

They and others are fine antidotes to an internet world overflowing with Buzzfeed-style listicles.

A week so ago, Curbed founder Lockhart Steele wrote a (longform) piece at The Verge rethinking the future of blogging which he had forsaken a few years ago:

”I loved those days: writing post after post after post, day after day, forces a different mindset as a writer,” he said. “You loosen up; you get conversational.”

No kidding. I know all about that as do many of you who regularly comment here and those who keep your own blogs.

So strong is the pull of that “old-fashioned” style of daily writing for Steele, whose successful Curbed website was sold to Vox Media not long ago, that he announced the resurrection of his old blog:

”Thinking about all this has stoked my desire to get back in the game myself. So, today, I'm raising my personal blog, lockhartsteele.com, from the dead.

“Over there, on a daily basis, I'll be blogging about Vox Media editorial, as well as things that have nothing to do with our company, such as restaurants and — indulge me here — the Red Sox.

“Part of my goal is to offer a clearer window into what's going on in the Vox Media world; the other, simply, is to regain the practice of daily blogging.”

Lockhart Steele is much younger than I am and still in the career game so to a degree, blogging is a sideline but he's convinced me of his love for the form and its day-to-day nature. That is a large part of how blogging became my raison d'etre.

It didn't start out that way but in the decade I've been publishing timegoesby.com, it gives me reason to get out of bed each day, has fueled my interest in new-ish elder issues such as the Village movement I am now part of, provides the space to hold forth on the main mission here, aging in general, and more.

Steele and I have a lot of in common. As blog topics, he has Vox, I have aging. We each indulge some of our other interests – his Red Sox, my politics. We both like the daily practice of writing in the peculiarly bloggy manner that he correctly identifies as conversational.

Not to mention the actual conversation, the back and forth among readers. There is no such thing on Twitter or Facebook where there is no space – read: length – for actual thought or, with so many unrelated interruptions, any reasonably cogent exchange of thought among the people who post comments.

So I was happy to see Lockhart Steele's disquisition on blogging. I'm sticking with it whether longform writing succeeds elsewhere or not.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Bettijane Eisenpreis: Witnesses to History


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

I can't believe it's been ten years since I taught a class of bright and eager new students. Ten years ago I began to see the effects of SMS (the technical term for 140 character Short Messaging System).

I'd talk with my colleagues about their own students' lack of attention; ten minutes - max!

We correlated it to time between TV commercials. "Was it possible the kids were being behaviorally modified to have shorter attention spans?", we asked ourselves.

We referred to those students as having the "attention span of a Fruit Fly!" hoping in time things would change.

But things haven't . . .

Those kids are now full-functioning adults. They are still behaving as though they were programmed. Even shorter attention spans and shorter conversations; both verbal and, if ever, written.

Tangential to all this, I am wondering how these young adults can afford to buy a $200 stadium seat, then have the patience to sit through watching 40 NASCARS fly around a circular track for three hours! How inspiring.

It is a difficult new world. It is a 'brave new world'.

Jack Webb as Joe Friday in "Dragnet" was the first "SMSer" when all he asked for was "Just the facts mam, just the facts". he knew the value of keeping things short and sweet and to the point. Unfortunately, there's more to a story than just a quick headline and i shudder at the thought of future journalists never wanting to know the who, what, where and when of every story. As for us bloggers, I believe we are all frustrated writers who really would like to be newspaper columnists like Studs Terkel or Ann landers.

My blogger friend, Captain Poolie, mentioned that her reader count was down. I find that I'm getting dramatically less notes: 2 vs 20 on my daily pieces. So of course, I am writing less. Perhaps as a result, I have less to say.

I hate Twitter. Limiting what I want to say in 140 characters or less is so damn hard after years of trying to learn to write descriptively so others can---hopefully---experience what I do as I travel through my days. It seems like a giant slap-down to finally feel like I "got there" and then have the rules changed on what people want to read. That said, blogging is an important part of my day as is reading other people's blogs.

Blip reading is so dangerous and so evident in the gullible belief of whatever hits the headlines, especially from our politicians! Very scary!

Keep up the great work you do Ronni. You do so much to look deeper into elder topics of today.

Blogging allows you to five so much content to the subject and without that words just become sterile facts.

I hope my granddaughters are not the norm, but when they e-mail me (and that's a rare event) they write "just the facts" in about two sentences. And they often use texting short cuts for words. It is so impersonal that even the words "I love you" lose any emotional impact. I could get an e-mail from Nancy Polosi with more content. It frustrates me.

Something rare and precious is being lost. Where are those beautiful letters of yesteryear tied so lovingly with blue ribbons?

I'm with you 100%, Ronni.

Two fairly new developments that particularly amaze me: (1) Government agencies, including the U.S. State Department, using Twitter to make official pronouncements about breaking news events, and (2) how emoji are replacing words altogether in messaging.

Oh darn - when will I learn to preview my comments before posting them? The first sentence should read "Blogging allows you to GIVE ------

Where is the personality of the writer in 140 characters? I remember teaching 'voice' to my English students, not an easy task. Soon it will be impossible.

A little insight. In the late 90s, I was working in Woodbury, LI, NY with Ericsson. My specific project was to put together a program that would enhance cellular usage; hence the SMS. Cellular was still an up and coming product; from cumbersome analog to compact digital.

There was room in the software for a short albeit 140 character buffer. The idea grew; but later became what we thought would be a fruitless product.

We released ourselves and gave the idea to a Brazilian arm of Ericsson.

Reason I said this: those who may think 'someone out there' is part of the Thought Police foraging their way into our lives! (Which, at the time, it wasn't.)

I love reading. I love the intelligent yet easy going conversations in which we read and participate. I feel a part of it even on days when I do not comment. I know I have a voice here and love to "listen" to everyone else. Thank-you Ronni for doing this blog. Thank-you for making me feel like I belong and may make some contributions to other people. It is a nice way to wake up in the morning and start the day.

Your blog remains one of the highlights of my day. My blog subscriber (first google reader and now feedly) was filled with various personal blogs 10 years ago. That has changed in the last years. Some blogs, like yours, I will subscribe to until you decide you do not want to do it any longer. More and more though, my feedly feeds are from various international newspapers.

My son wonders why I continue reading blogs. It is just because you and the others enrich my life. Thanks.

Today's title caught my attention - and my breath. Rushed to the end and found needed relief. Whew! Your blog, with comments included, is a reality touchstone. Not only because it provides well-researched topics, but includes elegant writing, blunt opinions, and references. It's comfortable - something a one-liner cannot provide. Exceptions to this are Jon Stewart, Colbert, & a few others. Jessie's comments pertain well to me also.

Slowly and surely I'm cutting back on "news" via computer & paper. TV has been on 11x the last 6 months (mostly soccer). Partly due to poorly presented information or downright misleading dribble, even the once reliable news sources are vying for readers with sensationalism or teasingly brief briefs.

Some relatives find my emails troublesome, as they post via Facebook & Twitter; I use neither, so I've missed some announcements, functions, etc. I can live with that.

Keep on keeping on - blogging, and we'll be reading.

Shake hands with your teaching partner, Yellowstone.

Bruce, Studs Terkel's "Working" is one of my favourites.

I don't Facebook or Twitter. Blogging is more creative.

Jivetalking-

And have we met somewhere? (Good chance!)

Another vote for Studs Terkel's "Working"--great book! Also another vote for Ronni's blog. Although I'm not there yet when it comes to liking old age (of course, I appreciate that I'm not dead yet), I enjoy reading TGB and do so every day along with all the great comments.

I love Twitter. It's a whole different world from blogging (which I've done for 7 years) and Facebooking (5 years) and even Instagrma (1 year).

Each of these venues is fun in its own way. I treat each one differently. Twitter makes me edit myself, which is something I don't always do when I post on FB or especially when I chatter away on my blog.

We are forced to look in on Facebook to keep up with activities of relatives and friends, because that's the only way most of them provide any news. I rarely comment, and post on FB infrequently--usually only to announce a new blog post I think may interest all or a large number of my FB "friends." That seems to be effective; my blog readership has increased steadily over the past three years since I started the practice.

Twitter? Forget about it!

I love most of Studs Terkel's work. Have all his books and some video material. All wonderful. Back in the early 1970's, I was a young mom with a toddler who loved Sesame Street. So did most of the other kids, so I haven't been surprised by truncated messages designed to take about 30 seconds becoming the norm. The show based its fast paced vignettes on the length of a television commercial, as that what the research showed captured and held kids attention. Music, color, action, but in brief bits. There was some push-back from child development professionals, but it stopped nothing and here we are today. Makes me wonder where things are going from here. People are having microchips implanted to allow them to do a variety of things, I suppose it's not so hard to imagine telepathic communication is not so far off. I think I'm with you Ronnie in being happy that much of my life, as a human being with authentic experiences with other human beings, is behind me, as I do not look forward to living in a Bladerunner community, or the Matrix, or what ever the future may look like if this continues.

With this topic, you have precisely nailed the reason I loved TGB from the beginning. It will not surprise anyone to learn that I am a fan of long form writing. If it's worth saying, it's worth expanding on until you feel satisfied that you have said what you mean. I like the format of tossing out topics with the blogger's opinions on them and inviting readers to run with the subject. This is quite different from some blogs which are all opinion, and for that reason elicit fewer comments.

TGB readers have a lot to say and they say it well. It would be a shame to limit their stories and we would all be the losers. One day, some electronic archeologist can dig up the TGB archives and find out more about how elders live and think than can be found in any academic treatise on the subject.

Excellent post!!!!

I do enjoy your Blog. Hope it doesn't go any where soon.
I also subscibe to 4 listservs that were suppose to go away a long time ago.

This post is a major statement. I agree: keep blogging and we will keep reading.

I think Gabbygeezer may be on to something. Posting very little on FB, then linking one's blog to FB may be the way to go. It would increase traffic to the blog. However, I am hesitant to do that in that I write on the blog things that I don't really care to share with some of my FB friends.

A few of my blog readers follow me on twitter or are friends on FB, so they see all of my rantings and ramblings.

You keep writing and we'll keep reading, Ronni.
a/b

Late to this discussion because I've been off the grid for a couple of days. Thanks Ronni for your continuing endorsement of longer form writing. I too have made blog writing an organizing feature of my days and find it tremendously rewarding. I worked for many years on the bleeding edge of democratic (small "d") politics and still feel I have insights to bring to bear on the world in which we live. So I write.

Ronni -- you're a vital model to me.

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