Doc Searls is one of the bloggers I read on a daily basis. He's consistently promoted blogging as a way for us to express ourselves and help each other out. I recently posted comments about the nature of blogging out here in what's known as the "long tail"... so described because if you graph the amount of readers of traffic amongst all blogs, I'd be out in the long tail with most other blogs, having only a few readers.
Here's the basic dynamic, based on an illustration I grabbed from WikiPedia:
The environment that Doc is used to is radically different than the one the rest of us live in. Because he's got a stream of followers, he gets constant feedback on how he's doing. Out here in the tail, comments are a rare occurrence. The torrent of attention becomes a trickle out here. Thus the dynamics that work for him don't play out in the long tail.
It's more likely that someone will leave a comment for Doc, because more people read his work. It's also true that the person leaving the comment is more likely to get other people to read their comment as well, because comments are usually public. Private comments like emails don't enter this picture, but I strongly suspect they have correlation with popularity as well.
The positive feedback loop that helps push up the top bloggers works for the other end as well, the top get pushed higher, and the bottom gets pushed lower. Someone on the long tail might have a few interested followers, but they will likely not bother to go through the hassle of signing up to put a single comment on a web site. An email, or offline comment is the more likely route.
Then there is the male culture factor...
As men, a blogger starts with a disadvantage. Guys like to solve problems, we’re taught not to comment on things unless we can solve a problem, or have our 2 cents to throw in to a discussion. This is why we make crappy bloggers, we’re not good at the blog relationship thing, because we don't give lots of feedback.
We’re also impatient… it takes YEARS to find an audience, we’re used to getting new skills by working hard, the harder we work, the faster we get better…. blogging isn’t like that.
Last but not least, there's the problem of having a wide field of interests...
When you’ve got no traffic, it also doesn’t make sense to put things in separate blogs… so the audience you do have gets a lot of stuff they don’t care about… which discourages them as well. In my own case I’ve realized this and am in the process of separating out my areas of interest into different blogs. Most of them get NO hits on a given day… and one or two every once in a while thanks to random web searches. Is it really worth it?
Do we have a voice in this bold new world or not? From out here on the long tail, it’s VERY hard to tell.
I think the #1 thing we can all do is to make it a point to at least leave 1 comment per day on someone’s person blog. Like complements, they only have value if they say something positive, and are true.
In other words, The love we share, is the love we receive.