November 15, 2005

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Collaborative blogging

Slowly but surely blogging is morphing: while plenty of solo sites exist, more and more sites are adopting a group blog model. ESWN is appealing for like minded people, Jim has been joined by Paul and Shank and Asymmetrical Information has taken on a third blogger to name three recent examples. For some time I've been fortunate to have Dave as a faithful contributor to these pages, not to mention the various contrubutions of guest bloggers during my breaks.

There are several factors that drive this trend. Firstly as sites evolve and develop followings, those readers rightly expect and demand output to keep them coming back. However bloggers have day jobs, families and lives outside of the cyberworld (believe it or not). Just as mainstream media products are the collective efforts of many contributors, some blogs will imitate their erstwhile rivals. Spreading the blogging load allows sites to evolve into a more continuous stream of output and hopefully thus (hopefully) make them more useful and so draw more visitors.

To that end I have a question and a request. The question is simple: would you like to see this site evolve in such a way, with a roster of 3 or 4 regular contributors? A diversity of views around this blog's major themes of China and Asia (with occassional diversions and tangents) can only be, in my opinion, a good thing. But I owe it to you, the reader, a chance to comment. The alternative is to carry on as now, while acknowledging there will be times where output may drop to zero for stretches of time.

The request is also a simple one. Would you be interested in joining the SW team? The requirements are simple: be able to type coherently in English, have an interest and opinion on the themes of this blog and be able to make regular contributions. If you've never blogged before, you need not worry - the software is simple enough for even me to use. If you already have a blog, I would ask that if you make the committment to becoming a contributor that you take that committment seriously. I am not looking for cross-posters. For example Dave posts daily on his site, with its different theme of Hong Kong and Asian history, while making regular posts on this site of more contemporary nature. If I am going to give you the keys to this car I need to feel confident that you will drive it responsibly, and that you will drive it regularly! The rewards are a regular and diverse readership, vibrant comments and a chance to make your voice heard as part of the democraticisation (or atomisation) of opinion.

If you are interested, have a comment on moving to a group blog or other feedback, leave a comment or send an email to simon-[at]-simonworld-[dot]-mu-[dot]-nu

posted by Simon on 11.15.05 at 04:03 PM in the Blogging category.Site Stuff category.


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a group blog is definitely better, but what will be the difference between, let's say, the Simon World contributed by simon, eswn and dave, and the ESWN contributed by eswn, simon and dave?

posted by: bingfeng on 11.15.05 at 05:38 PM [permalink]

Personally, I think blogs work best when they are primarily the work of one person. I read blogs which are written by people who seem to know what they are talking about, and cover interesting (to me) areas ... as soon as you move to a 'group blog' the focus and style gets less clear, and often I find it is less interesting.

One of the strengths of blogs is that anyone can setup their own - why have 2 people co-blogging when they can each have their own blog? If they're both writing interesting stuff, I'll subscribe to both of them.

As for frequency of posting: As more people subscribe to your feed, this become less relevant. People will be notified when you put up a post - whether it's an hour, a day or a week after your previous one.

posted by: David on 11.15.05 at 05:40 PM [permalink]

So long as the additions' posts measure up to the quality set by Dave and yourself, I wouldn't object to the extra content. But if they're just going to offer tabloid humor and snark, you should send them my way (AP could always use more sensationalism and snark).

posted by: myrick on 11.15.05 at 06:25 PM [permalink]

The idea would be any new co-authors would be someone I would want to read myself. I'm not looking for clones.

Bingfeng- I don't pretend to do what ESWN does, and don't pretend I even could. I sometimes disagree with ESWN and he with me. I would say our two sites occupy different niches. I wouldn't ask to be a guest blogger on ESWN and I doubt he would want to be here - while I have great respect for that site, it's not what this one is about.

Dave - I've thought about that. The problem is one of time. People don't have all day to surf the web and read sites and while it's not so hard to go from site to site, it's certainly easier if the posts are in one place rather than spread across several sites. Point taken about feeds, but they still represent only 10-15% of readers to this site at the moment.

Chris - we all need tabloid - it's what made Rupert Murdoch rich.

posted by: Simon on 11.15.05 at 07:05 PM [permalink]

I think the greatest advantage of a group blog is consistency. If one author goes on vacation, or has a real busy week, the blog is less likely to suffer. It boils down to diversifying your portfolio, especially when one person can't be expert in every subject the blog seeks to deal with. I'm not a Japan-guy, for example, so I'm glad we have monocrat at EAW to pick up the slack on Japan posts.

The danger, of course, is turning into something like NRO's The Corner, which has become nearly unreadable.

posted by: Hunter on 11.16.05 at 12:08 AM [permalink]

First off, Simon, thank you for your kind words. It's been a pleasure co-blogging on your site.

I would encourage all those talented would be-bloggers to come out of the 'lurking' phase and join the adventure. It's great fun, if you have many opinions about Asia, China and Hong Kong you can get a good deal off your chest instead of grating on your co-workers or loved ones.:) As Simon mentioned, it is indeed easy to use his system, really no prior experience with blogging or html is required... you'll just need to pass the Simon M litmus test of creditable (and humorous) acidity!

posted by: HK Dave on 11.16.05 at 08:26 AM [permalink]

Hunter - again a good point, and something I'm wary of. That's why I'm limiting it to only a smallish roster, under the assumption at any one time one or two contributors will be unable to post.

Dave - you've set a high bar for newer contributors...if worse comes to worse, I'll just outsource it to India!

posted by: Simon on 11.16.05 at 09:40 AM [permalink]

I like the current format. If you want to include an extra person, then perhaps you could give them a 1 week trial run and see how the readers like their posts.

posted by: Spirit Fingers on 11.16.05 at 11:53 AM [permalink]

The best collaborative blog (if you could call it that) is the Tech Central Station. It is more a series of columns, rather than a blog...but that is why I think it works.

What I find refreshing with some collaborative blogs are that one person takes over for a period of time...rather than mixing in different writing styles on the fly. That is...Simon does the bulk of the work...then Dave fills in when Simon is away. That works and is accepted, I think, by most readers.

I'd love to be more active on my blog...but as anyone has seen by the month of was a brutal month for REAL work. Someone's gotta pay the bills.

posted by: GZ Expat on 11.16.05 at 01:41 PM [permalink]

I think it's a great idea, and I like Spirit fingers' suggestion. Sometimes another voice can be different, but really complementary, enriching the whole site. I read "coming anarchy" and "Chicago Boyz" often, and really enjoy the interplay of people who aren't clones of each other, yet still operate in the same intellectual universe.

I wish I could find a couple of co-bloggers myself. I've gotten tired, overworked, and bored with it, but don't want to quit. Anybody who thinks they're too lightweight for Simon's place, but would still like to put up a short piece or two, give me a call.

posted by: Sam_S (shenzhenren) on 11.16.05 at 07:06 PM [permalink]

Group blogging is the only way to go and the only way a blog can survive the test of time. Face it -- we can't post everyday, but if we don't, people stop reading.

posted by: Curzon on 11.17.05 at 04:30 AM [permalink]

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