I have a T-shirt that I wear so infrequently that two blue moons came and went in between the two times I’ve worn it. It says “no one cares about your blog”.
The first time was in April 2007. At that point, I was five years into my PhD, with no end in sight. If you’re anything like me – and as it happens I am very much like me – blandness at work extends to your personal life as well. So when there was going to be a meetup of Toronto bloggers for the first time in years, I was looking forward to that bit of social interaction with perhaps a little bit too much enthusiasm. I’d seen a funny T-shirt online that I spontaneously ordered, because I thought it’d be so hilarious to wear in a group of bloggers.
The shirt, proclaiming that “no one cares about your blog” was a great icebreaker. I made a lot of new friends that evening, and even briefly dated someone, all because of the shirt. A friend took a few photos of me, including one in which I tried to look angry but ended up looking mostly insane. Soon afterward, that photo was used in a feature about T-shirts on a popular Toronto blog. Everyone’s a critic, especially on the internet, so there was one commenter who accused the site of using a “stock photo” of a “hipster girl” with “bad hair, big glasses and lame slogan [T-shirt]”.
The bit about the hair was spot on, but people jumped in to explain that I was neither a stock photo model, nor a hipster, and that my shoddy eyesight really required optometric involvement. It was so embarrassing…
By the time I found out that people were making fun of me on blogs around the world, creating Picasso-style parodies of my photo, and using the image to illustrate blog posts about internet advertising and technology presentations, I had already sworn to never wear the shirt again and go back to being more wallflowery at parties. I kept the shirt, though, because it clearly had a story, and wasn’t deserving of Goodwill abandonment.
Found on an Italian blog, underneath the original photo.
A lot happened since that blog meetup in Toronto. I started blogging on Nature Network, I finished my PhD, I organized some SciBarCamps, got paid to write about the science of a TV show, was invited to speak about blogging in Washington and New York, attended a bunch of science blogging conferences, spent a year as a freelance writer, started a side project interviewing scientist/musicians, went to Sci Foo, moved to England and started a fulltime job running a community science blog.
Maybe people cared about my blog after all?
During all of this, the shirt lay buried among moth balls at the bottom of a Rubbermaid container, unaware of what had changed in the world since it had last been worn. It barely even noticed its journey across the Atlantic. But recently, the shirt started to stir, wiggling underneath other wardrobe mementos, and yearning to be let out again.
The shirt, as you may not be surprised to learn, doesn’t care one bit about me or my blog. But it cares about the concept of blogging being blown out of proportion. It despises “blogging about blogging”*, and any occasion that confuses the medium with the message.
When a soft drink company tried to start a blog on a science blogging network, and chased away a good proportion of the resident bloggers, causing an explosion of new science blog networks, the shirt could not suppress a muffled scream. “No one cares”, it coughed from underneath a pile of old student union rep uniforms. “No one cares about your blog!”.
Unaware of the T-shirt’s cries, bloggers asked “Where should we blog?” “Which network should we join?” “‘Should we set up our own?” “What is the theme of these blogs?” “Are we diverse enough?” “Have you heard the news? It’s been all over the blogosph-”
“NO ONE CARES! LET ME OUT OF THIS BOX!”
I heard the shirt now. Still muffled, but louder. It knew that I’d registered for Science Online, where people would be talking about blogging again. About how important it was, and how it should be done, and what people thought about it, and why, and how often, and with what software, and for what audience, and who to trust and whether that mattered.
I opened the box of T-shirts. Fighting the nauseating mothball smell, I dug around, and just on top of a worn-out band T-shirt I saw a familiar shade of yellow. “No one cares… no one cares about your blog…” whimpered the shirt as I took it out from underneath a misguided attempt at screenprinting.
I tried it on and looked in the mirror. “I look horrible in yellow…” I whispered. “serac eno oN” replied mirror-shirt, and egged me on to take it to Science Online. “But what if people think I’m weird and unprofessional?” I hesitated. “No one cares!”
And so it happened that three and a half years after its first adventure, the shirt went out in public again. I wore it on the first day of Science Online. People liked it, and saw the joke of someone telling them their blogs didn’t matter at a meeting that had entire panel discussions devoted to blogging. I got complimented on the shirt. I made new friends. My picture was taken again.
“I don’t think they’re getting it…” mused the shirt during that evening’s Fringe Frivolous event. “Look how much they’re still caring! They’re passionately debating blogging again!”
I shrugged in the shirt. “I don’t care anymore”.
The thing is – it’s just writing, isn’t it? Talking extensively about science blogging is like having intense discourses about what you can do with pen and paper. “Should we staple all our pieces of paper together, or only the ones on which we wrote about our work?” “Can I glue a picture on my piece of paper? And if so, with what kind of glue?” “I don’t think anybody saw what I wrote on my sheet of paper – how can I make it more prominent? Should I use paper with the logo of a big company on it?” “Lines or grids?”
See? That’s how the T-shirt sees blogging. Caring too much about the medium is missing the point. It’s not that no one cares about the content of your blog, they just tire of hearing about the blog an sich.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I still have to send an e-mail about sending e-mails, and call some people to talk about telephones.
*sorry, shirt – I’m aware of the irony here