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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Perspective in Blogs (or how Guy Kawasaki almost ruined my blogging experience)

The other day I ran across Guy Kawasaki's Signum sine tinnitu blog. I've always enjoyed Guy's speaking so I spent some time on his blog (really good stuff), but then I ran across The First 100 Days: Observations of a Nouveau Blogger where he says:
The more a blogger uses the pronoun “I,” the less he has to say. Many
bloggers apparently believe that people not only give a shiitake about
everything they say, but that these people are hanging on to every word.

If you notice my first paragraph (which is fairly standard in my blog) it contains four "I"s. Uh oh. So, for a couple of days, I've been self-conscious about the number of "I"s in my blog. My experience has been a little like an experience in college when a we challenged a student who used his hands a lot to try to go through our after dinner conversation sitting on his hands. He could barely get a thought out of his head.

Damn you Guy!

The good news is that I've been able to rationalize the word "I" in blogs. Much of what I look for in other writers' blog posts is their experience and their perspective/opinion. In fact, one CEO group that I was part of drilled into your head to never give advice directly, but rather provide relevant personal experience that might help you draw your own conclusion.

In fact, I'm happy to read Guy's opinion about using the word "I" ... and his experience that people like me who use it a lot may not have much to say ... Luckily, I've come to ignore this advice ... but that's just "I" (dang if only that was grammatically correct).

9 comments:

Guy Kawasaki said...

"I" respect your decision.

Guy

Tony Karrer said...

:) Cool to have you visit and leave a comment Guy.

(Whew I wrote a sentence without "I" in it - but I couldn't do it twice.)

Dave Ferguson said...

Tony,

Guy often has a sound point and wraps it in an arresting way. His blog tagline reminds me of Frank Zappa's definition of "rock journalists" -- people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read.

One thing Guy manages is to prod the blogger (or the speaker or the facilitator or the manager...or the individual) to check the frequency of "I" -- and then to look honestly at the context it's in. You don't seem to have too much to worry about.

There ya go...two paragraphs, admittedly brief, neither of which had "I" as a subject.

Karyn Romeis said...

"I" disagree with Guy, much as I admire him.

Many lists of the top ten tips for bloggers include the suggestion that one writes in the first person, addressing the second. This is a more engaging approach, since it brings the humanity behind the blogs to the fore. After all, we are real people sharing our own stories with one another. The only experiences and perspectives we have that we can can share are our own. This is not journalistic reportage (sp?). This is a conversation.

Vicki Davis writes about what she does in her classroom all the time, and others have found enormous benefit in that. Every time she learns how to do something new, she shares the experience. Many people have made use of the step by step instructions she provides (me included!). She has touched lives in a very real way, and I would hate to see her try to adopt a different writing approach.

Kathy Sierra writes about her own experiences, too, and her blog has an enormous readership. I feel as if I know her as a person, which keeps me reading and commenting.

Please keep sharing what you think, what you feel, what you have experienced, and I (for one) will keep reading, reflecting, linking, commenting.

Tony Karrer said...

Thanks Dave and Karyn!

Dave - Guy's thoughts are often right on the money and not something you want to hear. So, I definitely pay attention. I'm coming to a similar conclusion that you did - and I'm not 100% sure I know when "I" indicates self-indulgence and when it indicates communicating meaningful personal experience. So your point to pay attention is good.

Karyn - like you - I really enjoy Creating Passionate Users by Kathy Sierra. It's really well written, easy to read, so I took a look at her style. She uses we, you, I in her writing but not nearly as much as I do. I think using her style as a rubric is a fantastic suggestion! Thanks!

jay said...

Just so I can get me into this comment stream (Ay, ay, ay, ay), I must say I agree with you guys that I isn't bad usage in a blog. I strive to be authentic and often that means stream-of-consciousness, from brain to keyboard with no stops in between. To my way of thinking, the I implies falibility. It's the difference between "I don't believe in God" and "God does not exist." What gets my goat is people who tout their advanced degrees, even in the comments section of their blogs. I could be wrong....

Tony Karrer said...

Jay - I'll take your advice and drop the Ph.D. stuff after my name. Thanks for the suggestion.

Harold Jarche said...

This guy (small g) is sticking to the first person singular, because he's the one that writes the blog. Guy's points make sense and encourages review of one's style, but individual perspective is still a significant factor in a successful blog. If "I" want a third-person perspective, I'll read a book ;-)

Keep up the good work, Tony.

Anonymous said...

Stumbled upon this today, Tony. Have put up a post on my blog on the "I" topic - http://simply-speaking.blogspot.com/2006/11/whos-blog-is-it-anyway.html.