Monday, September 19, 2011

Chatter

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Washington DC for a little getaway vacation with my wife Shelly. While there we happened upon a wonderful museum called "Newseum." It is essentially a museum of news. One of the most compelling exhibits in the museum is one which depicts the rise of radio and TV and the eventual transition to the communication revolution we are currently experiencing. In a fascinating series of exhibits it does a particularly good job of describing the transition from controlled news to, essentially, open source news. That got me thinking about what's going on in the ultrarunning blogoshpere lately.

Since coming to the sport in 1995 I have been struck by the general tech savvy nature of this particular community. From Stan Jensen's website which he began over 19 years ago to the infamous "Ultralist" which was the virtual town commons for all things ultra around the turn of the century to the emergence of blogs and then the growth of social media, this sport has always drawn a particularly interesting and interested group. Anybody else remember Matt Mahoney discussing the merits of barefoot running more than 15 years ago? Or how about Karl King's extensive commentaries on electrolytes as he was in the process of inventing S! Caps? Or the inimitable Lazarus Lake's ability to make Barkley a "viral phenomenon" long before we even knew what the term meant? In short, the sort of banter and online rumination that we've been seeing over the past year or so is really nothing new. What is new, however, is the seemingly massive growth and expansion of the sources of information. And that is where I am going with all this.

At this point there seem to be two basically different types of blog sources out there; One, which is where this started, is the personal running blog. These personal ruminations are the core of the content and often provide great insight into remarkable people. On occasion these personal bloggers spill over into analysis but for the most part they are just that, personal. The second type of blog is more journalistic. While these can be personal they are, more often than not, intended to provide news and information about the sport. It is in this area where the content seems to be expanding exponentially and where occasionally the chatter devolves into personal namecalling and potentially insulting accusations. Don't get me wrong, I think the conversation is good, but when the lines are drawn between the personal and the journalistic problems emerge (as I learned with my dnf post a couple years ago).

So, for all of you reading out there, I would like to pose a three-part challenge,

One, what kind of blogger are you, personal or journalistic? You can, of course, be both but understand that your audience may have blurry vision when it comes to your content.

Two, what kind of blogs do you prefer? "AJW's Blog" will always be a personal blog with the occasional foray into amateur journalism while "iRunfar.com" will likely remain a journalistic blog with the occasional spillover into the personal (who can forget Bryon's heart wrenching should I or shouldn't I debate about running WS this year?).

And three, remember, as my good friend Lord Balls always says, the best parts of blogging are not the posts but the comments!

That's all for now!

AJW

17 comments:

steve said...

Hi AJW,

1.) I am a personal blogger, and as much as I'd like to journalistic, I am not well-informed nor qualified enough to be one.

2.) I definitely tend to read the personal blogs and skip the newsy ones that come through my feed-reader. My favorite pieces on iRunFar are Bryon's posts about his own experiences.

3.) I agree, and look forward to many years of comments to come on AJW's blog!

TrailClown said...

I am a Back-of-the-Pack dude (11 ultras, 2 of them 100s) with two small children who has neither a personal blog nor journalistic aspirations. I've been commenting on Inside Trail/AJW/Lord Balls because I think the sport is at a crossroads, and it is about to go down the wrong path. So I just put in my 2 cents (worth much less than a penny) on all these blogs as a conscientious citizen and trail runner. But change is inevitable. When I first found Stan Jensen's site before my first ultra in 2000, I was so grateful for the advice/links, etc. And gratitude is what I think needs to be the primary emotion out there: for the open trails, for the volunteering, for the race opportunities. And for shared experience. Competing is fine and natural, but this new journalistic blog vibe seems to take it to a new level that diminishes what is being accomplished out there on the trails. The sport should continue to be inspirational, and not muddied down.

Olga said...

1. personal
2. personal
3. totally!!!

Andy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andy said...

Mine is purely personal, so personal in fact that I am probably the only one who reads it! :)

Scott Dunlap said...

AJW, your blog has been consistently good from the get-go. It gives us a view into the mind of an elite, but is also good storytelling. Thanks for putting in the effort!

I view my blog as a storytelling medium, and try to weave in some personal and some journalistic stuff. About two years ago, it was clear that a third of my audience was coming from sidebars like the one you have for your favorite blogs, and that pulled me more into journalistic stories to stay fresh. It also resulted in significantly less commentary. I don't do as many interviews, since most of those folks have their own blogs now.

I think B Powell has a time machine where he invents time, for I have no idea how he can cover what he does. I am VERY glad though. The video is a nice, intimate touch.

The more, the merrier. It's all good!

SD

brownie said...

Personal blog, and I specialize in making fun of others. Really can't wait for my "AJW just DNF'd" post...

GZ said...

1.) personal
2.) personal
3.) Rather we all go for a run.

MannImSchatten said...

1) I used to blog in my mother tongue. It was a personal blog but right at the beginning I stated that I hope I can inspire somebody - it was about my slow and painful struggle to run my first (road) marathon. I was hoping to connect with other like minded people. It worked for some time, but me moving to US made my blog somewhat disconnected ... so I eventually quit.
2) I like both - personal as well as journalistic blogs. After some time, personal blogs seem to repeat themselves, and only few seem to move into uncharted (i.e. being entertaining) territory forever. Somehow I really have mixed feelings about people who start writing a blog, yet declare that they do it "only for themselves". I find it somewhat .... well, no need for name calling tonight.
3) Comments are the most important essence of the blogs. When I wrote something and got no response or the response was meaningless (e.g. "well written as always" and so on) it was disappointing.

Charlie said...

My blog is more of a training/racing log that I write for myself. I love looking back at events and reliving them through my blog. Hardly any of my friends know about my blog because I don't ever talk about it.

I'm not trying to inspire people nor change others lives but occationally I have an inspirational thought and like to write it down. If nobody but me reads it then that is fine by me

Thomas Bussiere said...

1) Personal

2) Both. Personal stuff to read the highs and lows of other like-minded runners! Not a lot of ultra-runners in my area (none), and nice to feel like I'm not on this island by myself. Also great to read what other runners are doing with their training and nutrition so I can incorporate into mine if it fits (Got some from you - Thanks). The journalistic side I don't view as much but still appreciate it for updates with races, gear, and interviews (thanks iRunFar). Nevertheless, the interviews need to include average runners as well and not just the elite. A lot of great stories out there waiting to be captured, but often missed because not a top 5 finisher.

3) Comments are motivating, and provide much needed feedback (good or bad) on occasions. Sometimes we need a dose of reality from others who truly understand what we do.

Eric said...

Does a podcast count?

1) Both. Talk to experts, elites, and Average Joes, while offering our commentary and a few running news stories each day.

2) Both. I love(d) reading about Anton's crazy training schedule, but just as much, I like a solid story about a race I've never heard of.

3) A thong. Wait, what was the question?

Yours has been an inspiring blog since the beginning, mixing great storytellying, banter, and training tips, all from a guy who doesn't "look" like he should have 8 top ten WS finishes. Well done, sir.

eric
www.ultrarunnerpodcast.com

Sophie Speidel said...

1. Personal
2. Personal with a bit of "journalism" to make things interesting (I enjoyed writing my Tough Dirt Chicks post more than most posts, and got the comments to back it up). I write first and foremost to keep my adventures fresh and accessible for me, my family and friends who care to follow. It is really fun to go back and re-live that special race or BHAG achievement at Hellgate (another post I was particularly proud of).
3. Through blogging, I have "met" some great people, such as AJW, Olga, Ronda, and Thomas B (above) who is a regular commenter (thanks, TB). I have also learned a ton about training, racing, and what other ultra runners think are the hot topics in the sport.
AJW, I can't help but notice that there has not been any mention in your post of good blogs written by women... So, for the record, I recommend Ronda Sundermeier (especially her Grand Slam blog and her Leadwoman posts), Ellie Greenwood (for her humble, no-nonsense race reports), and I think Sabrina Moran writes some of the sharpest and funniest stuff on ultrarunning and life out there.

Miles said...

Sophie's point is well taken - more chick blogs! Liza Howard has a wonderful, often-hilarious blog: lizahoward.com.

AJW said...

Sophie, leave it to you to get me on that one. And, you're right. Reading your comment made me realize I don't actually read any women's ultrarunner blogs (unless they come across Facebook or Twitter, like Krissy's, Devon's or Meghan's) That said, if you were to look at the Performances of the Year thus far they's all be by women, Ellie's and Meghan's WS, JPD's App Trail, your SNP run:) In other words, I have a blind spot. How about you do a guest post on AJW's Blog for Women's Blog? In the meantime, I'll start doing my homework...

Olga said...

Sophie rocks with request! Go after it, girl! I agree, Ronda's Slam and Leadwoman series were awesome, Gretchen writes extremely well, and I enjoy Annette's passion shining through a lot.

Sophie Speidel said...

HA! So you are essentially admitting that you don't read my blog, either. Nice job, neighbor! OK, I will take you up on the offer to write a guest post. But first, for your edification and that of your (mostly male) readers, read my Tough Dirt Chicks post:

http://shiningsultra.blogspot.com/2011/08/tough-dirt-chicks.html