Monday, January 22, 2007

Cassilis the Lost Blogger

In less haste than I thought. Iain Dale draws out attention to this. It is the sad farewell of the blogger Cassilis. It's a very painful and intense read for all sorts of reasons, some intended by the author, some not. But I won't attempt psychoanalysis, I shall just look at his thoughts on blogging. His central point is that blogging is a closed circle - 'most of us read blogs to see if anyone has read our blogs' - and not the limitless open space promised by the prophets of citizens' journalism. He adds: 'It's all about traffic no matter what anyone tells you.' Well, Cassilis is more right than the prophets, but I don't think he's quite right. The, as far as I know, unnoticed oddity about blogging is that the blogger is both performer and audience. When I write for The Sunday Times or produce a book, I know I am performing from a privileged position. That privilege vanishes when I blog, not just because there are a lot of other bloggers, but, more importantly, because I blog as an outsider, observing things the way readers of The Sunday Times do. It may all be about traffic, as Cassilis says, but, in a less depressing sense, everything is about traffic - not mere popularity but contact, belonging, acknowledgment. Cassilis aspires to be a political writer and thought that blogging was the way. His mistake, perhaps, was that he allowed the circularity to get the better of him. He shouldn't have read so many blogs, he should have read other things and then blogged. But he should ditch the politics - a bad subject for real writing these days - and keep at it. His prose has a peculiar intensity, which is why I felt impelled to write this when I should have been rushing out of the house.


  1. It’s a sad story. If you think you’re going to change the world or win national fame and acclaim with a blog, you’re likely to be disappointed. In fact, this form of disillusionment among would-be heavyweight bloggers is so common that I wrote a tragic poem about the very problem on one of my own blogs once.

    For a start, there are an awful lot of blogs. According to these guys, 200 million people have stopped writing their blogs.

    It’s a medium with just too much choice for its consumers. But the upside is that if you update regularly, keep it interesting and above all engage in debates with your commenters, you get real reader loyalty. I think the key to enjoyable blogging is to acknowledge that the circularity and the cliques are features of blogging, not bugs, and to make the most of them.

  2. The intensely depressing part about blogging is that the quality of your work shows through. If your writing isn't up to snuff, you won't get the traffic. Period.

    If you write vividly, if you can express passion and intensity, if you're funny, your traffic will grow. If not, you won't.

    There was some kerfluffle some time ago about A-list bloggers and how they keep upstarts down, until someone pointed out (Technorati rankings, perhaps?) that the A-list three years ago was very different. The open nature of the net ensures that the cream rises to the top. Some of us just can't handle that (this is not a reflection on your guy, however).

  3. Blogging is good fun, and, for most people, that should be the main reason for doing it.

  4. What this blogging?

  5. Cassilis was one of our members, if you look at the Blogpower roll and he was always stating that he couldn't post much - maybe once a week and had a scheme that people could link for e-mail notification of when he was posting.

    The trouble with this is that it stops people coming to your site - that is, hits. Pity too because he had made his site look good recently.

    There was an idealism, as you intimated, Bryan but it didn't take into account the sheer hard work of building up a readership slowly, with awful stats which only gradually increase. That's what blogging is really like.

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