Monday, August 31, 2009

Blogging and Community

One of the topics that I'm always rolling back and forth in my head when it comes to blogging is community. Kathy at BermudaOnion, an incredible and prolific reader, commenter and blogger, wrote a post this week that got me started thinking. When I started my blog, community was really the last thing on my mind; I started the blog to have a place to write about books, to improve my writing and to build a body of work that I hoped would somehow help my career. And because I didn't really reach out at first, nobody read my blog.

But blogging in a vacuum is no fun, so I started to make an effort. I joined the book bloggers' web ring, the Book Blogs ning site, hosted Tuesday Thingers. I made a concerted effort to visit every blogger who visited me, and took part in a number of weekly memes. I opened a Twitter account, linked my blog to Facebook, even got a MySpace page. I got business cards and started promoting the blog to people I know professionally. Over time things picked up- every week I would have a few new followers, or a few new subscribers.

But I feel like I'm abysmally bad at the whole community thing, no matter how much I want to be everyone's pal. I can't possibly return every visit I get from every blogger. Just yesterday I deleted about 30 comments from the beginning of August I was never going to get around to replying to. Memes were starting to take over the blog and I had to scale back. I participated in only one blogging challenge- the Jewish Literature Challenge, because given that I'm a temple librarian it's one that I could complete in a single workday if I chose. I don't know how people manage real challenges! I can't even finish the ones I set for myself! And I'm unforgivably slow to pass out those blogging awards I receive every now and then- and it's not that I don't appreciate it. Believe me, I do. I signed up to participate in Book Blogger Appreciation Week by serving on a panel, and I feel completely overwhelmed by just that tiny job. Is this normal? Am I just lazy?

What does community mean to you? Does it mean joining certain sites? Does it mean fulfilling certain responsibilities, either to yourself or to other bloggers? Do you ever feel like you're letting yourself down or disappointing someone else if you don't return a visit, reply to a post or pass along an award in a timely manner? What does "timely" mean when a blog is a personal hobby and not a job for which you're held accountable by a boss? When, if ever, do you let yourself off the hook?

Or is "community" more an attitude and less a list of to-dos? How do you define it, and what role does it play in your blogging priorities? Is about respect and courtesy and giving back, or just about self-promotion?

One bright note- I recently joined the BlogHer network of affiliates, and I am loving what BlogHer does to promote community among bloggers by running promotions and highlighting posts so we can visit each other and read things outside our normal watch-lists. Check out some of the posts that get highlighted every week- there are some real gems out there.