The Problem with Providing Value (And an Approach to Idle Blogging)

The value lies in the eye of the beholder This morning, I enjoyed reading a post by Oscar Del Ben about the necessity of providing value in blogging. Think twice about what you want to write, think twice about how to write it, think twice about hitting the “Publish” button – and always have in mind the value you provide. Because people are receiving way too much information already, and you don’t want to mess with them. If you ask for their attention, better bring something noteworthy.

Although I generally agree with this recommendation, it also entails a problem: Value lies in the eye of the beholder. While I enjoy surfing around the comic section of Arthur Magazine from time to time, others may find it completely stupid. But then, I am not much into buying penis enlargement pills, while apparently a lot of other people are. So if you only focus on providing value to other people, you can easily become predictable and boring. I think that’s because everybody is trying to find out about this value thing – and often draws some inspiration from other blogs. While this can lead to the creation of great content, it also may result in producing meaningless repetitions of old stuff that was useful once, but is not anymore. Carlos Miceli referred to this when he advocated to avoid echo online. If your post is just a repetition of a repetition of a repetition, it’s meaningless. Provide a new angle or trash it. Or better still, don’t even start to write it.

This means: Learn to be silent. Silence is the way of the idle blogger, and silence may provide much more value than you think. It saves you work and it saves people time. It’s a win-win situation.
Of course you want people to come to your site, you want to engage in the discussion that’s going on. That’s fine. But be sure to provide new insights. Don’t get distracted by some bloggers that are repeating themselves over and over again. Don’t get dazzled by large numbers of subscribers. Start an information diet, blind the noise out, focus on signals.

And if you decide to really raise your voice, don’t just focus on providing value to others. Because you cannot always know what will be valuable to them. You’re not a market research department. You’re a blogger. And as a blogger, you have the right to be deliberately dilettante and do what sparks your interest. As long as you’re original and honest, and as long as you focus on the quality of your texts in a sense of craftsmanship, you can do whatever you want. (Well, you actually could also copy stuff, be dishonest, and write in an ugly style. But then you would be a spammer, not a blogger.) As Oscar puts it, don’t be afraid of change. Move into new directions and provide new points of view, even though they may appear ridiculous at first. I’m an idler that engages in activism. Is this a contradiction, is it derangement? Or is it a paradox you can live by? Who am I to tell? I just seek to write good posts. Give it a try. If it doesn’t bring you more readers, it will make you a better writer at least.

At the beginning of your blog, you just don’t have a clear readership. Many business bloggers recommend focussing on your target audience. I say: Forget your target audience. People are coming to you from everywhere and you don’t have much control over it: They may be friends looking what you’re up to. They may be employers checking you out before hiring you. They may be twitterers that have never heard of you before. They may be lonely Googlers that yet have to start to engage in a community. Be open to them. Be original. Be honest. Maybe they will connect and maybe they won’t, but in the end, you will never know if you don’t give it a try. You can never be sure what synapses get stimulated by your writings in the brains other people. Just avoid endless repetitions, provide quality over quantity, lay back, and look what happens. This might be a valuable approach to Idle Blogging at last.