Over at The New Republic Princeton’s Anthony Grafton has a great piece on blogging. The focus is on Mary Beard’s new book Its a Don’s Life, which is a collection of posts from her popular blog by the same name.
Grafton’s morning starts off a lot like mine does, minus the coffee (I don’t drink the stuff):
Morning, nowadays, means coffee and the Times, as it did for my parents. But it also means something they never experienced: a trip across the Web. Slipping from link to link, occasionally falling in and spending a few minutes in one place, I pass from TNR to NYRB to Bookforum, from Atrios to Steve Benen, from Easily Distracted to University Diaries to Tenured Radical to TigerHawk, from Historiann and Arts & Letters Daily to Cliopatria and Athens & Jerusalem, from Andrew Sullivan to Megan McArdle to Ta-Nehisi Coates—and, for perspective, to the obituaries in the Telegraph.
Grafton is especially interested in the kinds of communities that revolve around blogs,. Mary Beard’s blog seems to have done a really good job of cultivating this kind of community:
A great blog needs a great blogger: but it also needs a group of readers who have the range, the flexibility, and the wit to keep up with the site’s proprietor or proprietors and to put their own twist on the discussions. These communities are hard to create and harder to maintain. Distance promotes discourtesy. Concerned trolls lurk under every electronic bridge, and discussions of controversial issues like the repatriation of antiquities, on which Beard has taken a strong position, attract commenters who have no commitment to the blog in question but still parachute in to flame the proprietor. All too often the participants in a thread sound like the citizens of the Simpsons’ Springfield in one of their periodic fits of moral indignation.
I wonder if we can get this kind of community going here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home? In the meantime, here is a question: Does a blog need a community of commentators to be successful or worth following?