Wednesday, August 08, 2007

What Motivates Us

Two of my "daily must-read" genea-bloggers wrote on different, yet connected, topics today, and I couldn't help but point them out to my readers who might otherwise miss these posts. I believe what both of them have to say reflects a lot on what motivates us as genea-bloggers.

First off, Tim at Genealogy Reviews Online posted "Blogging for Bucks - Genealogy Style." He points out that genea-bloggers have many reasons for blogging, one of which may be to earn a little money while doing something they love. While there may be some readers out there who would disagree with that purpose, I'm not one of them. Many of the professional genealogists publish blogs, and they use them to help out their businesses by posting their speaking schedules or listing the articles they've written for various genealogy magazines. I see no difference between that and having ads on a blog of someone like myself, a genealogist by avocation. Since my motivation has never been to earn tons of money by blogging, I'm not against picking up some spare change here and there, simply because that's not my main focus. I do dislike going to blogs of any type and finding nothing but ads and links; so I'm trying to set up mine so that my ads aren't overwhelming my content (still working on that).

In his article, Tim posts links to some highly successful (non-genealogy) bloggers who have posted some informative tips for increasing readership, as well as lists four lessons he's learned along the way. One of them (#3 - "Plain text ads get more clicks than banner ads") is actually the opposite of my experience. Looking at my Footnote.com reports, I was surprised to see that of all the ads that my readers have clicked, 74% have been banner ads, and only 26% have been text. I'm interested in how those statistics may change over time. And I'm very interested in following the blogs that Tim recommended, not because I want to get rich enough to quit my day job or glory in the numbers of readers I may have; but simply to reach out to more of those who are interested in learning their family history, or who may have started and are stuck because they don't know what to do next. Besides the readers who may be newer to genealogy than I am, I also hope to attract those who are more knowledgeable than I. It's always stimulating and educational to get a comment from someone who has deeper insight or wider experience on a topic, because I like to learn and ponder, too!

Then this afternoon, Jasia of Creative Gene wrote about "A Dilemma of a Different Sort" that she's facing. There is a certain topic of (ahem!) a sensitive nature relating to genealogy that she would like to address in a future series of posts. Trouble is, an innocent couple of posts she wrote several months ago on the history of women's underclothing were bounced by some of her readers' ISP filters, and she's concerned her new topic would do the same, or even drive away some readers. So curious is she on whether this would be offensive--and if so, how much--that Jasia has placed a poll on her blog and requested her readers to vote and/or comment. I voted and left a rather lengthy comment, which I encourage you to read. Jasia's post comes on the heels of the 29th Carnival of Genealogy, the topic of which was "Moral or Legal Dilemmas." The posts submitted to this carnival had depth and wisdom, and may have produced one of the best carnivals thus far. Yet I purposely declined from submitting a post to that particular carnival, because I have some fairly strong opinions on this subject...and I find that the stronger my opinion is on something, the more likely I am to end up with both feet in my mouth (more on that in the next paragraph)! ;-)

I sympathize with Jasia's dilemma, because I know she would like to share some insightful thoughts while considering her readers' feelings. I'm confident she has the wisdom to leave us with something that is both educational and tasteful. I've read enough of Jasia's posts and corresponded with her via e-mail and instant messaging frequently enough that I am positive that her motivation in writing about this subject is for informational purposes only. Unlike myself, who has had to alter or delete two different posts I wrote on impulse that I later repented over, I've yet to find anything Jasia's written that may possibly be construed as offensive. Of course, that's my opinion, and there may be readers out there who have stronger principles or thinner skin than I. What do you think?

So thank you, Tim and Jasia, for giving me a few things to consider this afternoon. I've spent some time pondering why I--and others--blog our genealogy. It really is a whole other hobby, connected, yet separate from our actual research. It takes time away from the research process, yet enriches that very thing from which it subtracts, by causing us to analyze, synthesize, and refine our research; by educating and enlightening us through our interactions with our readers and other bloggers; and by allowing us self-discovery in our own writings which is a very integral part of genealogy. We search for our ancestors to find ourselves. We blog our genealogy to comprehend it at a deeper level and to share that understanding with our community. Whether we as genea-bloggers do it to learn, to teach, to earn, to perceive--or all of the above--we probably all have this in common: we can't NOT do it.

Why do you blog your genealogy? Why do you read about others' research? Bloggers and readers, I invite your comments below.
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