Sunday, May 10, 2009

Trends in Masonic blogging

Our blogging brother at The North Eastern Corner wrote the other day about how the face of Masonic blogging has changed over time. He notes three trends: centralization, blog fatigue, and extraction.

He points out that the trend towards centralization tends to sublimate the personality of the individual bloggers, and I agree. Part of the pleasure of surfing Masonic blogs is in noting the design, graphics and layout of a particular brother's blog, as well as seeing which links he chose to put on his blog, and what, if any, advertising he showed. All these things, together with his writing, created the individual blogger's online identity and "personality." The centralizing of blogs, such as has been done recently at Bro. Greg Stewart's Freemason Information, lessens the appeal of reading Masonic-theme blogs, for me anyway. I'm not knocking the trend; I'm just adding to the discussion of it on The North Eastern Corner.

Personally I've been suffering blog fatigue for while. Regularly pumping out interesting stories is hard work. My dwindling interest in local Masonic events coupled with my growing knowledge of "improprieties" related to Shriner and Jester activities simply led me to abandon my keyboard for a while.

The North Eastern Corner article points out a third trend in Masonic blogging: extraction, or Masonic blogs going dark or totally disappearing from the web. We've seen a lot of that. For a while there were many newly raised younger Masons who eagerly jumped into blogging with an impressive enthusiasm. Most of these blogs didn't last long; there's only so much a new Mason can say about "next Tuesday I'm returning my Fellowcraft catechism."

The most notable "extraction" in the past year was the unexpected death of well-known Masonic know-it-all Bro. Theron Dunn. Next Wednesday will mark one year since he moved on to the Celestial Lodge.

Bro. Dunn and I seldom agreed on anything.

And I liked that. I found him pompous and self-righteous and often unmovable in his opinions and stance. In that, he was a lot like me.

Debating and arguing with him kept me on my toes. Publicly disagreeing with him helped me hone my writing and my logic skills and often made me think long and hard about an issue. Our "confrontations" strengthened us both, and made us both better Masons. Masons don't have to like each other — we never did — but Masons should ultimately respect each other and treat each other as brothers.

And that we did, even if sometimes it was begrudgingly.

The world of Masonic blogging, like all of life, is constantly changing. I'm glad I'm still here to enjoy it.

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  1. W.S.,

    I have to say, in some respects I agree with you. The enjoyment of reading blogs was the weekly sojourn to the various one, the time to look at and see the new widgets or links on the side, and any overall general theme changes. It was enjoyable to do.

    But what I found is that something changed in the way people interact with blogs. Where at one point people would visit and interact, now they subscribe and seldom (if ever) come back to see what's new.

    There is probably an interesting metaphor there for Masonry, that more brothers like to be members, but most only pay dues to get the trestle board and know that their lodge is still there rather than pay a visit and spend some time looking at the new paint job, or enjoying the new wall hangings.

    In this instance, the RSS feeding of the site is whats dictated the change. If 80% of your audience (and daily views) only receive your posts into their email box (or feed reader) the question to answer then becomes how do I engage them? Is it by more relevant content, or prettier images, and as you said, that need to feed the beast of content creation can be overwhelming.

    So, in light of a decision, stop producing so much, trying to push on, or stopping all together, consolidation of resource seemed the only logical choice. So what was at once the work of one, is now the work of 5 at the sacrifice of overall individuality.

    In some respects, I like this, its a metaphor to the congregation of meeting in lodges rather than laboring by ourselves. By pooling resources, it gives us a unique opportunity to work together and feed that content beast tethered to the end of those RSS feeds.

    And together, hopefully, we can erect a digital edifice to the craft.

    Now, with that said, how'd you like to write a post/paper for us :)

    Br. Greg
    FmI - the digital Masonic Magazine.

  2. W.S.,
    Thanks for the mention and continuation of discussion. What I go back to is the reason I started my blog. After reading your "Small Town Masonry" and enjoying the insight and personal experience you shared about your (excruciating) experiences in your lodge and your personal reflections and well thought writing, I thought "hell I can do that" and gave it a shot.
    I spent long hours on my electronic ediface and always try to write something about me because that is what a blog is after all, a "web log". Your best posts have always been about your journey and not the news flashes of the awful things some Masons do. Get back to work! I'm still doing it!

  3. I have been drawn to comment here because of the mention of Theron.

    I probably spoke to Theron more than anyone did. What you and the rest of the blogging community, would not have known is the absolutely amazing journey this man was on during the time when you and others were at odd's with much of what he had to say and write.

    I was the sounding board, "do you think I was too harsh, Bill", "Could I have handled that better", "Was I wrong to call 'The Widows Son', on that issue".

    In all my bumblings on this Earth in my 59 years upon it, I have never known a man that tried harder to improve himself. What many did not appreciate was - he was not challenging them, he was challenging himself.

    He enriched my life and I can confidently say he would be pleased to have enriched yours. But most of all he would want you to know , he enriched his won life from his contact with you all.

    Bill McElligott


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