I can’t remember the route but I ended up at the blog of the head of PR company Edelman and started listening to the YouTube-posted coverage (in ten-minute chunks of course) about their recent conference in London all about blogs.
I was half listening to this, and some bloke from Technorati, while doing other work, when it suddenly occured to me – why do only 50-odd other blogs link to mine? That has always seemed like a healthy number but when I compared to others, even the most mindless, waffling, regurgitators of nonsense get more links.
So I took a fresh look at my blog and realised – it’s me! It’s my stupid mug staring down at people that has done it. I’ve crossed some invisible blog cultural boundary by having my pic up in the header of my blog and I’m suffering because of it. Don’t believe me? I have the evidence and have already embarked on an experiment…
It occurred to me as soon as I saw my looming head that I don’t really see many blogs with the author’s face on it.
Which is odd considering the appalling tendency to stick picture bylines all over the printed media. And then, I started thinking about the blogs I know, and something else hit me – no one actually runs a blog under their own name. Which is incredibly odd if you think about it.
Blogs really are the epitome of personal publishing – one individual decides not only what will appear but how it will appear, and every single word that appears is also the product of just one person. This never happens in traditional media – it always runs through at least two other people who freely make changes. And yet in this incredibly personal publishing media, people not only create and maintain a pretence that it is somehow an independent third-party, but readers themselves feel uncomfortable with the declaration that this is the product of just a single person’s blog – even though that is *precisely* what blogs are.
Don’t believe me?
Check out the top 100 blogs according to Technorati. How many of them use their full name in the name of their blog? Five!
- Michelle Malkin at http://michellemalkin.com
- Beppe Grillo at http://www.beppegrillo.it
- Seth Godin at http://sethgodin.typepad.com/
- Guy Kawaski at http://blog.guykawasaki.com/
- Steve Pavlina at http://www.stevepavlina.com/
But much more than that, the trend is definitely toward not including your name. Andrew Sullivan always used to be at http://andrewsullivan.com, but now has transferred (and literally redirects his dotcom namesake) to a Time blog site at http://time.blogs.com/daily_dish.
Michelle Malkin – the highest ranking full-name blogger is even moving across to a new blog that doesn’t include her name – Hotair.com. And she’s a self-loathing ego-maniac Republican nut-job. How come I never noticed this strange pretence that blogs aren’t personal before?
There are of course those blogs that just use either your first name or surname. I wonder how many people know that The Huffington Post was started by Arianna Huffington. Not that many, I suspect, because it has a very impersonal sound about it – presumably why it was chosen.
There is Robert Scoble who can’t bring himself to use his own name and so has http://scobleizer.wordpress.com. There is Ze Frank – which I don’t know what to make of, so I’ll ignore it. There is http://xiaxue.blogspot.com by Xiaxue. And Trent Vanegas at http://trent.blogspot.com – but he chooses to call his blog “Pink Is The New Blog”. And that’s it.
Of the top 100 blogs, only 10 choose to even include their name in the blog domain or title. There’s something remarkable about that considering what blogs are.
A picture paints 1,000 words, and no blogs
But getting back to my ugly mug. How many of these blogs actually include the author’s face? Here you hit another very interesting bit of psychology. Ze Frank has just his mouth and nose showing – he could be anyone. Seth Godin has just his eyes and his bald head. Robert Scoble is tiny in his header. Andrew Sullivan relies on a cartoon likeness. Michelle Malkin and Guy Kawaski have tiny pictures of themselves almost apologetically running in small boxes at the side.
Only Beppe Grillo, the crazy Italian, has actually stuck his picture on his own blog. And he has pushed it to the extreme of having his own tiny 16×16-pixel website icon of his face made.
I don’t understand this strange requirement for people to sub-consciously believe that a personal web-log is, in fact, no such thing, that it is somehow outside of them. But there is no doubt that it is an American thing – because all the biggest blogs in the world are American and, as ever, it is setting the tone and culture of blogging.
I can only assume there is something in the American mentality that flinches at a picture of the author on a blog, and a personal page being named after the person that writes it. After all, it was the US that created the enormously complex ability to pose as anyone on the Net – something that I have never fully understood (I *always* register as “Kieren” even in chatrooms). Maybe an American could be kind enough to explain? Is it a sense of crass self-promotion? What is it?
Anyway, it’s clear that the recipe for success is to have your blog under some random catchy name, and then to make sure that your picture doesn’t appear on it. I can’t be bothered to shift from kierenmccarthy.co.uk, but I have decided to kill my pic (what’s especially ironic is that I hate having my picture taken or displayed anywhere).
So on my search for a new pic to fill the space I typed “internet” into Google Images and found these two beauties from the same website on the Net’s history. There was something wonderfully ludicrous about the bloke under the satellite engine that pleased me, so that’s it.
I wait expectedly for my links to rocket 🙂