Wednesday, June 14, 2017
About Yesterday's Rant . . .
If you were taken aback by yesterday's detour from my customary nonchalant review of family history, I suppose an explanation is in order. While it is true I've been troubled by Thomas MacEntee's analysis of the future of genealogical blogging, that is not really the triggering issue for this week's rant. What really caused me to notice details that may support Thomas' assessment was something that occurred during the weekend's Jamboree conference.
Traditionally, during and after the event each year, one of my fellow genea-bloggers, Randy Seaver, has compiled a listing of blog posts regarding the Southern California Genealogical Society event. His compendium would usually make its first appearance toward the beginning of the conference, and he would add to the list as others notified him of their Jamboree-related posts. Over the course of the four days in Burbank, the list would expand to include several entries—twenty bloggers posting fifty entries for the 2016 Jamboree, for instance.
It's now Wednesday, three days after the doors were shut following the last presentation in Burbank, and yet this year—so far, at least—the count is down to seven bloggers and seventeen posts. An even more drastic reduction was the impression received when I viewed Randy's list on Sunday night, right after the end of the conference: only nine posts added by that point.
A far cry from fifty.
Perhaps that reduction is partially owing to less people blogging, in general. After all, it takes gumption to start a blog and persistence to keep it up; some people just run out of steam.
Then, too, it could just be that fewer bloggers attended the southern California event this year. Or, taking a different tack, that some bloggers are now also speaking at genealogy conferences, adding duties where those energies once were diverted to writing only. I know that was true of Melanie Frick of Homestead Genealogical Research and Deborah Sweeney of Genealogy Lady.
Underlying it all, though, may well be the possibility that Thomas has spotted something afar off and made his assessment, devised his escape plan, and headed for greener pastures—all based on solid analysis of business fundamentals. There are all sorts of aspects of modern life that take on the ephemeral. The sure thing today will be the fleeting fad tomorrow—and all but forgotten the day after that. Better to not be the businessman caught in the aftermath.
Knitted deep within that fabric of modern life, though, are strands that may tell a different story. I touched on some of them yesterday—the niches which don't tend to go with the flow, but yearn for a deeper experience. Examining the reasons why family historians—as opposed to entrepreneurs—seek an outlet via blogging may inform us of a much different focus on the use of this tool of communication. It may be possible that we need to consider that not all blogging is the same.
Then, too, the history of people who take up genealogical pursuits—the history, essentially, of us—has gone through several iterations since the marriage of genealogy and technology. Yet, an underlying current in that story has been the sharing nature of the participants and their willingness to be open about their discoveries. The purposes a genealogist may have in sharing research progress might be as varied as the type of genealogist initiating the communication. A researcher looking for lost cousins has a vastly different reason for sharing than would a professional genealogist in search of a client. It wasn't lost on me that the number of professional genealogists posting on Jamboree in their blogs this year outnumbered those who wrote for other reasons.
It's been said by some writers that an author needs to "find his tribe" in order to continue producing material of pertinence. Perhaps that's a mantra to adopt in the niche of genealogy writing, too. But blogging, like any form of communication, also needs to consider that it requires a partnership. While bloggers may have something they wish to say—and choose this medium as their way to say it to the world—they also are in need of an audience which wishes to hear what that specific blogger has to say. Not that this is necessarily a zero-sum game—audiences themselves can expand and contract, depending on fluctuating levels of interest in any given topic—but it does represent a relationship, a sort of equation.
And that sort of equation may include more variables than any assessments we've seen so far on the state of genealogy blogging in general.