In an age of instant messaging, you should take a lot more than an instant to consider what exactly it is you're communicating.Recent news reports tell us that controversial bloggers, Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, hired by the John Edwards US presidential campaign, are in trouble. Their previous blog posts are being used to claim that they are "anti-Catholic vulgar trash-talking bigots," among other things.
Content is a record. What differentiates content from other forms of information is that it is formal and recorded. It isn't a conversation in a café. It isn't a chat at a bar. Blogging may well be conversational but a key difference is that it leaves a record that others can peruse.
Conversations tend to happen in context. People who converse usually know each other and are often picking up from a previous conversation. Conversations often leave things out because they were covered in previous conversations. Conversations often occur within groups, communities, clubs, gangs.
One of the first things a community decides is where the boundaries are. Who is in and who is out? Who is the enemy? Who's the friend? Who's to be hated? Who's to be admired?
If you want kudos from a community one of the best strategies is to attack the enemy. In certain communities, the more vicious you can be the better. People will think you're authentic, honest, truthful, real. Break the taboo and say all those things that those cowards won't say in print, won't say on the radio, won't say on TV.
What happens when your enemy (or your future boss) can read everything? What happens when they can take what you've said out of context, reshape it and fire it right back at you? What happens if you've rushed to judgment without the facts? What happens if you didn't wait long enough to make sure?
We are constantly pressurized to respond instantly. But never has there been a time when responding instantly carried so much danger. An email written in haste, a blog post fired off, can be repented at leisure after you lose your job or fail in an interview.
Blogging is a wonderful form of communication but you must have something to say and you must say it well. I scan a lot of blogs. Some I just discount immediately. After the first 30 words I know they're not for me.
Other bloggers will peak my interest. I'll go back occasionally over a period of weeks, perhaps months. A select few will be chosen for regular visits. Most will fall by the wayside. I'll decide that this blog is not really very useful, that the blogger has a few interesting things to say, but that's it.
Blogging is a literary form. Great writers and great thinkers who love writing make great bloggers. There are many great thinkers who don't write well. There are great writers and thinkers who don't have the time to write.
Blogging is a long-term investment of time, energy and creativity. It is also about discipline, about getting the facts right. Sure, there is impulse involved, but the impulse should not drive you to write something that will make you look foolish in a year's time.
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.