Tag Archives: Joi Ito

How to Really Read Blogs

People often ask me what blogs to read. So I thought I’d put together some thoughts on why some blogs are better than others, and how to get the most out of the blogs that you do read. There are five basic rules:

Rule #1: A blog isn’t a publication. It’s a person

Joi1The thing about blogs is that the most interesting ones are interesting because of the people who write them and the people who read them. You’ll find that while you’re drawn to a writer because of his/her interest in a particular subject, quite often they’ll write about something else which you’re also interested in. Take a guy called Joi Ito, for example, who is a Japan-based entrepreneur and investor in tech companies. Joi is a fascinating guy and his blog makes for great reading. But it’s not always about tech stuff. One post I read recently was about his reading a book by a woman called Betty Edwards about learning to draw. Joi is no artist, but this book was recommended to him as a way of relaxing. Now I know the book, and I know what he’s talking about. And because I like what he has to say about technology, I’m happy to read about his thoughts on meditation and drawing.

Rule #2: Never read someone who is “excited” about everything

Blogs don’t have to be brutally honest, but they can’t be fake. What makes Joi’s comments about drawing interesting is not just the fact that he has credibility in a field I care about (tech) but because what he writes is frank and, well, real. He’s not your average CEO type talking about how much money he’s invested in stuff and how excited he is by everything. We all have our ups and downs and they should be reflected in our blogs (I don’t do enough of this, to be honest. There, I’m being frank about not being frank enough.) The point is this: If we’re interested in reading someone’s thoughts on a subject, chances are we’re interested in their more life-oriented thoughts and experiences too. Without overdoing, it of course: I am very interested in Joi’s musings, but if he starts cutting his toe nails on his blog, even metaphorically speaking, I might not stick around.

Rule #3: Let a million flowers bloom, and then read them

Blogs thrive on the ability for readers to add comments. A great blog will have great, thoughtful readers, who add their comments on each article, or post. These comments will appear one after the other at the bottom of each post. Sometimes the comments are more interesting than the original article. Sometimes they’re not. But they’re definitely worth reading if you found the original article interesting. Joi’s post on drawing elicited a handful of comments which really added to the topic, especially after Joi added his comments to the comments. This is what the techie world calls a conversation. It’s not unlike a real conversation, actually, so it’s a good term.

Rule #4: Come in, the water’s lovely

If you’re reading blogs that interest you then you will quickly feel that you have some opinion to share. Share it. Still a startlingly small number of people comment on blogs but you really should. Chances are other people will love what you have to say, especially if you express it in a neutral way, as if you were joining a group of friendly looking people at a party. Of course, you have the advantage of knowing what they were already talking about before you sidled up, so be sure to read the original article and comments before throwing in your tupennies’ worth.

Rule #5: Follow the trail

Chances are if you like one person’s blog, you’ll like the blogs they read and the blogs they link to. Experiment. Try adding more blogs to your list of favorites and see whether you like them. If a couple of boring or off-color posts appear, you can always remove the feed from your list.

Remember: with blogs it’s not so much what you read, as who you read, and how you read ‘em.

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Japan’s Big Blog

Further to my earlier post about the ‘invisible’ rise of Asian blogging (‘invisible’ because not many of us Anglophones read Japanese, Korean or Chinese) here’s some (rather belatedly noticed by me) evidence from Joi Ito’s Web on Japan blogging stats:

72.5% of people have heard of blogs, up from 39% last year.

25% of women in their teens and 20’s have blogs.

That’s a hefty jump in and a healthy percentage of blog awareness. On the women blogging thing, this is a trend that predates blogs, I think. South Korea has a similarly large community of women bloggers.

Offtopic: The Ogriin of Wrods

 I know this is not the usual kind of fodder for loose wire, but it’s too interesting to pass up (and must have some application for PCs, no?): From Joi Ito’s excellent blog:
 
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, olny taht the frist and lsat ltteres are at the rghit pcleas. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by ilstef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
 
What I find particularly interesting about this is that no source is given, and yet the posting has already spread around the web like a bad smell. The Internet creates myths almost instantly — and some are harder to knock down than others. One reader on another blog has suggested the research comes from two California researchers, but on closer inspection that appears to refer to speech, notthe written word. Another poster suggests it has more to do with the redundancy of many letters in the English language but I’m not convinced either.
 
My tuppenies’ worth: we read logically. When we read, we narrow down the number of words that would make sense so by the time we get to a word, what that word could be is already quite limited. So if it’s misspelled, chances are we know already what it should be. Sure, part of it is pattern matching, so that we read a word as a whole, but if the sentence doesn’t make any sense, we quickly get lost.