When a hundred million blogs talk about a few thousand different subjects, what value can any new or existing site add to the mix? Is there a point of diminishing returns? Does every site need to offer something new or unique to readers? These are just some of the questions people have asked me in the last month whenever I suggest they could keep track of their thoughts on a blog rather than in their head or some other, equally ephemeral, platform. My answer to these questions is typically less than useful, though, as I fall back to the old reliable: it depends.
Having a blog is really up to the person that is going to be doing the writing, and what that person's goals with that writing are. In my case, the writing is more a means of keeping a written record of my mental state over a period of years. It doesn't take very much to see the patterns that occur in my writing beyond the subject changes, nor does it take a rocket scientist to put two and two together about how my opinions change over time. This last item is the one most interesting to me as I've found my initial opinions on a topic to be misguided until corrected. But when does that correction happen? Thanks to a number of blog posts, I can actually see points where I've admitted I misunderstood something or didn't give credit where it was due.
This sort of thing would be impossible if it weren't for a handy database full of words I wrote.
In addition to being able to keep track of times when opinions and attitudes change, I like having the ability to write down memory fragments. Like yesterday when I was conveying impressions and memories of the time I bought a laptop computer, having the ability to share and return to memories of the past will help me to remember the finer details from my youth. In many fantasy and science fiction stories we can see some people have the ability to effortlessly save their memories elsewhere. Unfortunately we can't (yet) do this in the real world, and I don't want to grow old like my grandfather and forget the finer details of my life.
While growing up I had often thought adults had either no memory, or a very short one. I can recall with incredible detail almost every お弁当1 my wife has made for me in the last five years. I am lucky enough to have one every single day, rain or shine. Most people don't have this sort of memory, but we can usually recall events that we lived through with ease. My parents and their friends, however, seemed to have trouble remembering what it was like to be young. This is something I do not want to have happen. Ever. So I record it.
Evernote2 has become my second brain; a repository of things I don't want to forget. When did I make the decision as a young man to forget about being an architect and instead focus on computers? When did I first learn the importance of math when it comes to solving complex, real-world problems? Why can I remember most of the first grade with incredible clarity, but have forgotten most of the 2nd through 4th grades? Evernote has the rough fragments of these memories and they'll be there should I ever remember more detail. Overkill? Absolutely. But this is an experiment for me as much as it is a hobby.
So despite every new blog post released to the web being little more than a remixed post from someone else somewhere else3, there is still value to be had from recording ideas, or sharing opinions. Posting pictures of dinner is also a great way to blog casually. Or talking about a pet. Heck, anything is okay ... so long as it's something that matters to you. If the topic doesn't matter, then there's no need to waste the time writing something down.
Blogging, like anything, is not for everybody. But people who enjoy writing and looking back through their own history will find value in having a portable library of thoughts, impressions, and feelings. As we age and forget the past, it may stand to be one of the only remnants of our former selves.