Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Once and Future Blog

The Self Knowledge Symposium really needs a blog. For most of this past year I've been thinking about it, and I think the time has finally come to start making it happen.

Why does SKS need a blog?
  • The website needs content. We've got some cool stuff on the site, but cool stuff is usually only enough for one or two visits. If you want people to keep coming, and remain engaged in what you're doing, you need to give them a reason to come. Nothing wrong with having a cyber-brochure, but that was never our vision. We really wanted something that reflected the nature of our community: dynamic, participatory, something with a spine and an organizing principle but still open-ended and continually emerging.
  • Alumni need a way to engage. We've had many, many students come through our student communties, and then go on to remarkable lives . . . usually somewhere else. We try to keep tabs on our alumni, send them mailings and announcements, make them feel like a part of what we're doing, but when all your contact is one-way and group-initiated, it's extremely time-intensive and inefficient. We need to give the alumni a way they can really participate in what's going on. As both readers and guest writers, a blog gives them that avenue for active participation. We've had some remarkable email threads in the past that accomplished the same end, but they were sporadic and ephemeral.
  • Student groups need visible center to look towards. The campus groups tend to become isolated from one another unless something pulls them together. Sometimes it's easy to forget that there's a larger world of fellow-seekers out there. A blog could keep students engaged on a daily basis, too, which helps supplement weekly meetings to keep students constantly engaged.
  • Bite-sized content. The virtue of blogs (good ones, anyway) is that they provide "snack" content. It's small and easily consumed. Our current content is usually much longer: essays and white papers of several thousand words. As good as that content may be, it doesn't lend itself to online consumption, especially by newcomers. Blogs give a glimpse of style and content, enough to intrigue and engage, without overwhelming the reader.
  • Bite-sized contributions. Big content takes a big time investment. When we published The Symposium magazine, we discovered that getting people to write 3000-word articles required extreme forms of torture and duress. The end product was good, but it was always hard-won. We burned out a lot of good, creative souls bringing that magazine to press. Blogs, however, can (and should) be written in a single sitting. It's something small enough that even a busy person can contribute to it. And publication is instant, automated, and entirely non-centralized . . . so we can both produce content and get it out the door without meetings, budgets, and other pain-in-the-butt logistics. Low-threshhold contibution might seem like a (literally) small thing, but the vast wealth of content in the Wikipedia was built the same way: small, incremental additions by a distributed network of interested parties.
  • Leveraged effort. Of course, the usual reasons for putting stuff on the web still apply: the world gets to see it. If people are talking about good books, sharing experiences, planning their lives, arguing about weighty issues, and doing all that SKS stuff, I'd like to can it and get it out to whomever might find it.
  • Very cool. I'm excited about it. When I started blogging I didn't know where it would take me; I just knew I needed to start writing. But I did expect it to take me somewhere, and ultimately tie back into the spiritual work. This feels like the next step. Stay tuned.



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