May 11, 2008

Just Like High School: Your Blogging Clique Will Move

Most bloggers who have spent a good amount of time building their site and community end up with a small group of peers who share the same interests, discuss the same topics, and more often than not, frequently link to one another's blogs, or feature links to friends' sites in their blog roll. This cliquish behavior can result in something of a larger echo chamber where friends talk to friends, and it can be hard for someone new to break into the circle.

But just like in high school, cliques change. Maybe as a blogger, you've found the people you thought were your friends are now not paying attention to you. Maybe, they've stopped blogging altogether, and you now have to look around and find new friends to talk to, link to and discuss the same stories. Maybe they stopped talking about one thing, and now you don't have the same interests.

The resulting feeling as a blogger can be just like it was back then when acne was a major concern - one of loneliness, and questioning who you really are. Do you need to change who you are to fit in with a new crowd? Or is it possible you're just not interesting to anyone and you too should quit?

Just in the last 18 months or so, I've experienced this to some level with my site.

When I first started getting my footing back in early 2007, one of the major peers I looked up to and shared stories with was Tony Chung of Tony and I both shared an interest in Apple and next generation technologies like wireless power. But Tony gained a degree, moved to Taiwan, started blogging less, and changed his focus to be more philosophical, or covering the arts.

Another Web peer with whom I could exchange ideas and argue (at times), is Kent Newsome of Kent is a great writer, and would often burst onto Techmeme with thoughts on the Five Stages of Blogging or when he wrote a fantastic Declaration of Blogging Independence on the fourth of July. But seemingly just as he was rising to Web stardom, posting to his site almost disappeared. Now, his last note is from late March, and he's had three notes since February. Another peer, leaving the clique.

Sometimes, good news for one friend could mean bad news for you. MG Siegler of ParisLemon got a new gig at VentureBeat, and has seen the majority of his efforts turned that way. Our co-authored Techaiku site lies largely dormant, the two of us haven't been on the same Elite Tech News podcast to date, and when MG does get the chance to talk on his personal site, it hasn't been to join my conversations.

These are just a few examples of how my blogging clique has changed, and one of the reasons I dumped the blogroll in a site UI update a few months back. No sooner would I highlight one friend, but I'd have to go back and pull their site when they stopped updating or got otherwise distracted. Seeing my blog clique change makes it even more important to make sure I'm blogging with a purpose, to start conversations, announce news, or engage with new communities, rather than trying to be popular. I expect that in twelve months, the circle of friends in the blogosphere I have now will be wildly different.

That's part of why I started highlighting five new bloggers a month who are engaging and having great voices in the blogosphere... not so much to beg them to be my next BFF, but to ensure those who are adding value are recognized, and will get the satisfaction they need to keep going. After all, if this is something like high school, somebody has to play the role of the upperclassman showing the new freshmen around the place.

So what do you do? Has your blogging clique changed? Do you want to join my clique? It's not where the cool kids hang out, but it's not like we're sitting around playing Dungeons and Dragons either.