Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Starfish and Coffee

"Why the hell would I want to read about what someone ate for breakfast?"

My colleague Simon and I ran our digital PR 'boot camp' training for a couple of clients last week, and we got the inevitable question about the relevance of blogs, cited above.

I've always been amused by that question because it goes back to some really early Internet conversations about, well, breakfast. Actually it goes back to some of my friends' personal websites and conversations we had in college about the content there – which sometimes included what we had for breakfast.

But the breakfast meme is one that goes around often, and I suspect it's the easiest way for people to think about blogs, which are a personal publishing platform. Personal means you talk about what happens in your life, which means you blog about breakfast. Right?

That is an extreme oversimplification but I suspect it is, at its root, true. But it is absolutely a legitimate question because there are enough personal diary blogs and Twitter feeds out there: why would I want to read about what someone had for breakfast?

But for the first time I didn't just capitulate and say 'yeah, the blogosphere sure is funny huh?' Rather this was my response. Or something like it, since I now have the pleasures of hindsight, a word processor and HTML.

Actually I do want to know what people had for breakfast – sometimes. One of the greatest joys of my marriage to the Beautiful Competition is our Sunday breakfast ritual: we go to a restaurant we enjoy and have a nice breakfast, and our calorie counters can disappear for an hour or so. We talk, catch up, start enjoying the day on the weekend when we make time for us and ourselves.

In Bothell we had a favorite haunt: Alexa's CafĂ©, which I still maintain is the Eastside’s best breakfast outside of a Denny's. And really, who does a good Sunday breakfast at Denny's?

But here in old London Towne we have yet to find 'that breakfast place.' There is no Alexa's here. Hell, there isn't even a Denny's. The restaurants in my neighborhood are alright but they aren't great. They're all greasy spoon style places which isn't bad at all, except that the quality tends to be a little... suspect. But that hasn't stopped me from looking. And where have I been looking? Online. On blogs.

In fact, there is a blog called 'The London Review of Breakfasts' that does nothing but – you guessed it – review breakfast places. Big time London blog Londonist also reviews breakfast places, among other things. Their review of The Diner Camden led to not only a new and relatively satisfying breakfast adventure last week, it also led to a fun day out at the market. All the things I look for in a weekend. It's not the only London-based breakfast blog either! The Greasy Spoon (which, to be fair, covers more than breakfast) blogs about morning places to nosh as well.

In the meantime, the search for my perfect London breakfast will continue, and it will continue online.

My point with all this was to illustrate that there actually is a very legitimate reason why people might want to read about what someone had for breakfast. In fact, there's a very legitimate reason why someone might want to read just about everything. Too often we lose sight that people blog as a hobby, that they write about their experiences to share them as well as get their thoughts down. With a potential audience of six and a half billion people it stands to reason that someone out there is going to be interested in what you have to say no matter how obscure and silly you might think it is.

This isn't a call for people to blog, or a plea for my clients not to dismiss blogs because there is valuable content online. If anything it's an observation that goes back to what I discussed about white noise and tuning in to what's important to you in the vast sea of mediocrity and irrelevance online. Yes, somewhere out there is something of relevance to you. That's the beauty of all this: it may be utterly worthless to many other people but as long as you find it significant, there isn't any reason not to find, follow and participate.

Photo 'English Breakfast' by zo-ark on Flickr.

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