Friday, August 10, 2007

Thoughts on Blogging and Blog Reading

I want to offer a consideration of two things about blogging and blog reading: 1) how blogs relate to the issue of using our time well and 2) what kind of tone a blog should have. This takes the form of two applications.

1. Save time by subscribing to the blogs you read, instead of visiting each website to check for updates.

A person can spend a lot of time writing on his or her blog, and a person can spend a lot of time reading the blogs of others. I don't spend a ton of time reading blogs, but there are some I read regularly. I have found the google homepage at www.google.com/ig to be very helpful. All the blogs I have subscribed to (to do this in a google homepage or with a feed reader, which automatically downloads posts from the blogs you subscribe to, click on the "subscribe to posts" or "rss feed") have their names displayed with the three most recent post titles. In one glance I can quickly survey the blogs I profit from and see if there's anything new. If I were to visit 15 different websites, it would take much longer. I also subscribe to some blogs via email. Each post is sent to me, and I never have to check to see if they have been updated, since each update is sent to me.

If you have a blog and these options are not on there, please take the time to modify it so that they are available. There are blogs I would subscribe to but do not have the necessary apparatus on the page to do so (or it is well hidden if there), and I rarely check them as a result since I don't want to spend too much time doing so.

Abraham Piper recently wrote an article about the use of our time and blog reading (http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/722_better_blog_reading/). He reminds us to "read what God is saying in the morning before reading what bloggers or news reporters have to say." He also writes: "Every blogger worth taking seriously would tell you that if you had to choose between the internet and books, you should choose books. We will miss out on too much of what is true and beautiful if our reading time is monopolized by the computer. Most of us don't have to choose between the two. Since we use both, we should make sure that we maintain a balance, so that reading blogs does not cause us to marginalize books."

Piper also recommends using RSS. In addition, he suggests scanning an article first to make sure it's worth your time to read the whole thing, and advises refraining from commenting without adequate thinking and listening. In fact, if we take time to think, I believe that will save us from commenting many times! Who has time to read all the comments on popular blog articles where the 100 or so comments take up more space than the original article?

2. Write with humility and read with caution.

If you have your own blog, Owen Strachan gives this counsel: if you're not an expert, don't write like you are (http://consumedblog.blogspot.com/search?q=humble+consideration). Argue, disseminate ideas, but do so with a spirit of humility. He writes, "Blogging can easily go to your head. You get some hits, some people tell you you have a nice blog, you get a link or two, and all of a sudden you're King of the World. This is a common problem among bloggers. Blogging tends to bring out the self-appointed expert in all of us. Upon reflection, I can see that it sometimes has brought out this sin in my own life. For that, I am sorry. I hope to do a better job of thinking humbly, and thus to do a better job of writing humbly. . . In my opinion, we should attempt to write with humility and deference, presenting our ideas not as the Perfect Solution but rather as a humble consideration."

There are too many "proud peacocks" (as D. A. Carson calls them) strutting their stuff, and we must guard against this mindset which is so easy to fall in to. Know who you are, and think about what you write: Is it helpful? Is it edifying to others? How does my tone come across? Do I write from love for God's truth, the spread of His Gospel and the upbuilding of His saints or simply because I want to make my voice heard?

I believe the flip side of this is to read others' blogs with caution. If you regularly frequent a blog, it doesn't hurt to know something about the author. The words of others can easily influence us, so we need to read with discernment. Rumors can spread easily. Many of us have been victims of spam emails that could have been avoided had the sender taken the same amount of time taken to choose all the recipients in the address book to check out the accuracy of their communiqué instead. Some bloggers have good things to say. Some have an axe to grind. Be careful who you choose to read and how you read.

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