One of the better posts I’ve seen recently is by Chris Pirillo writing about ways to eliminate the ‘echo chamber’. It’s a post that I’m sure many bloggers will find a challenge (I know I did). Here are his main points (in bold) with a few comments of my own (the non bolded stuff) on some of them. I’m not sure I’d be quite as extreme as Chris suggests – but there’s food for thought in the list and I suspect that enacting some of his suggestions from would add new dimensions to a blog (and maybe even help a little with the echo chamber thing too):
1. Don’t live inside your news aggregator
I was actually thinking to myself yesterday that my news aggregator has become way too central in my blogging. While I love the way it helps me to keep my finger on the pulse of many aspects of life I do worry from time to time that it has the potential to suck the creativity out of me as a blogger as it’s very easy to use it as a lead generating machine and allow it to determine much of what you post on your blogs.
2. Say something original at least once a day
– One of the results of living in your news aggregator is that it’s easy to get lazy and to recycle news and ideas from others – at the expense of exercising your own brain power and developing some original ideas of your own. I’ve got nothing against bouncing off others ideas (I’m doing it now) but starting conversations rather than just responding to others or reporting on the conversations that others start can lead bloggers into a fairly one dimensional type of blogging.
3. If warranted, quote an “unknown” source
Chris is spot on with this. It’s easy to only read the A-lister and use them as the source of a story, but the fact is that there are many other talented bloggers who are saying similar things that also deserve attention. This is of course a challenge (as are all other 9 points) as it can be difficult to find the quality ‘unknown source’ partly because no one is linking to them (hence they are unknown). I guess what I’m saying is that sometimes it takes a little work to find them – but it’s worth it when you do.
4. Don’t link to the same site more than once every two weeks
I’m not sure I’d put a time limit on it but the principle behind this is a strong one. I hesitate to say this (for looking arrogant and not wanting to offend) but I’ve come across a number of blogs in the last year that link to ProBlogger in almost every post. It’s almost like reading ProBlogger itself they refer to it so much. Now – I’m very grateful for the links and am flattered by it (truly I am) but I also feel like saying to these bloggers (and sometimes I have) that perhaps it would be good to not only respond to what I write but to find some other sources for stories also. If their readers just wanted to read ProBlogger stories they’d subscribe to ProBlogger. I know it’s easy to fall into this trap at times (to different extents) as sometimes it’s just easier to always bounce off the one blogger with whom you resonate with – but in doing so you’re also likely to be creating a somewhat empty blog.
5. Wait a week before publishing your thoughts on hot topics
It’s always a challenge to know how to write on a topic that everyone else is writing on. On the one hand unless you’re the one breaking the news your post can on it does have the ‘me to’ feel to it – but on the other hand you feel that if you don’t write something about it some of your readers might miss the story and you’ll end up getting email after email telling you you’ve missed it. Chris suggests that one way to combat this is to wait a week before posting. I think this is one good option as it gives you a chance to not only report a story but add your thoughts (which have had a week to mater) to it and make the post more than just a news report.
6. Create, don’t regurgitate
Lots of blogs report on the cool things that others are doing in their niche but sometimes it’s nice to be the one doing the cool thing in your niche.
7. Think twice before using buzzwords
Every niche has its jargon and buzzwords but I’m constantly reminded (by emails from readers asking me to explain what I mean when I use them) that quite often the people who read blogs and the people who write them live in different worlds. Lots of people accuse the Web 2.0 niche of this but I’d argue that every niche has its buzzwords that you should think twice about using.
8. Make yourself uncomfortable
I’ve long been a believer in this. It’s often not until you’re out of your comfort zone that you’re able to grow. It’s a principle of life and one of blogging also – too many of us are way to comfortable in our blogging (PS: perhaps this is what Chris was thinking about when he did this – by the way – not for the easily offended).
9. Stop whining (or worrying) about what list you’re on (or not on)
I wonder who he was thinking of when he wrote this point. I can think of a few bloggers that I might send it to who seem obsessed with their blog’s rankings in different indexes. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with have a well ranked or highly regarded blog, there’s more to life and I suspect the people who are concerned with them could be a lot more highly ranked if they actually stopped focussing on them and started blogging with creativity, originality and passion.
10. Stop saying we need to get out of the echo chamber
Hmmm – a nice challenge to end on – although… “The day for blogging about blogging, and podcasting about podcasting, is long gone.” OUCH! :-)
Here is one more of my own that came to mind while I read Chris’s list:
11. Look outside the Blogosphere
As long as we, as bloggers, continue to look at each other for inspiration, ideas and creativity we will limit ourselves. Read books, see movies, buy the newspaper, take a class or… if you’re really game… talk to a friend. All of these things (and many others) help ensure we ‘get a life’ and will help us to take our blogging to a new fresh level.
Chris makes some great points (some of which I went against in writing this very post). While I love blogging and the blogosphere – I do sometimes wonder if we’ve created our own little universe (language, rhythms, rules, culture etc). While it’s wonderful it can also be quite insular and self important. Like Chris acknowledges in his post – it’s not easy to get out of the patterns we (as a blogosphere but also as individuals within it) have gotten into. Hopefully some of what’s above reminds us to step back from it all occasionally and ask some good questions about what we’re becoming.