John Whiting on blogs
I was invited by the good burghers of The Guild of Food Writers to talk about blogging. Those people in the room, who had kindly paid to come and hear me write about food professionally. Hence their incredulity that I spend so much time writing without any expectation of being paid. I can see that is rather scary from their point of view. Eyedropper gives a pretty good summary of the night.
However, I was particularly intrigued by an email I received from John Whiting. I have known, in the internet sense of the word, John for a few years. We have come across each other primarily on food forums and exchanged emails. He has been thrown off virtually every food forum for managing to infuriate one management team after another. An impressive feat that I admire him for - especially as so far he has managed not to get on the wrong side of the notoriously controlling lot at eGullet. He is also the author of Whitings Writings, a website, not a blog he would stress, that focuses on Paris bistros.
Back to that email. John had written a summary of my talk for fellow members of GFW, that I found thought-provoking. He has agreed for me to repost it here, which I have done, in full below. I am interested in readers' views on what John has to say about the importance of blogs. I'll post my views in the next couple of days.
Silverbrow’s workshop on blogging was so expertly presented that it narrowed down attention from the larger and more interesting question of websites in general — indeed, of the entire internet as the growing means of global communication. Blogging is getting all the attention because, like using a Blackberry, anyone can do it (providing they’re young enough). Newspapers and magazines are wild about blogs because they fill up the space vacated by their shrinking journalistic and editorial staff; never mind the quality, feel the width.
At the entry level, blogs are to writing as ready-meals are to cooking. They’re fine as Show and Tell for grownups, but as a carefully considered and categorically arranged archive they are about as accessible as a stack of old newspapers. And there’s a breathless air about them that doesn’t take kindly to the discursive essay. Imagine the prose of Elizabeth David or M.F.K. Fisher in blog format — it would be like dressing them in track suits.
As for finding your way around in blogs, the more sophisticated versions may have on-site Google search, but that’s useless if you don’t know what to search for. Down-the-edge indexing, if it works, just takes you to a snapshot in an endless home movie. (Political blogs are a different matter; their content tends to be both urgent and ephemeral.)
As a vehicle for your CV, contact details and samples of your work, a blog soon looks dated if you don’t keep adding to it – unattended blogs have a strong whiff of mortality. And the more you add, the more your original material gets buried. So what’s the solution? Putting together a proper website, like cooking a proper meal, is a skill that doesn’t come instantly. You must be prepared either to put in the time and effort or pay someone who knows how to do it properly — there are so many slick websites now that a bog-standard format looks amateurish.
If you go to the GFW Members’ Web Links page, you’ll find that they are all proper sites, not blogs. The only exception is Charles Campion’s, which is attached to the Evening Standard, for which he writes; it goes with the territory.