Under pressure: competitiveness in blogging

In the fairly meta way that blog posts are now often prompted by other blog posts and so and and so forth, I give you my response to Sally’s well thought out post on whether women should be competitive, which was in turn a response to a post on how too much competition is bad for the blogoverse.

Rather than focusing per se on women, as Sally has, I’m expanding it to competition between bloggers generally because this is my blog and I can do what the damn hell I want to.

This post is really an expansion on my comment on Sally’s post. Talking of which, it’s great that Sally still has comments enabled. I recently disagreed with something a “top US male blogger” said in a post but found out he had comments disabled. Talking to him on twitter, it became apparent this wasn’t as a result of trolling or anything like that, it was actually part of his social media strategy. If people wanted to critique his opinions, they had to either engage with him on social media, or write their own blog post which backlinked to his. Devious and despite the fact I liked a lot of what he said, I decided to unfollow him as I didn’t feel comfortable with the artificial way I was made to engage with him, purely to boost his backlinks and social media stats.

It was part of the competition we all engage in as bloggers to make ourselves heard that I wasn’t happy with.

I think inherently at some base level as bloggers we do compete. If nothing else we compete to be heard, regardless of what opportunities to attend events, review products or feature in magazines may add to the competition, we want someone to read our stuff.

I desperately want more people to read my Kids Do Retro blog project (see, that wasn’t a subtle plug was it?), a thousand unique visitors a month is great but it’s not enough, and I want more. I want more, and to get more I have to compete with all the other retro gaming voices out there for traffic. It’s not a commercial blog, aside from an adsense widget in the sidebar, and it’ll never feature sponsored content or paid articles but it’s something my son and I are doing and I want it to be a success. A retro game doesn’t play itself, nor does a 1,000 words write itself every sodding week, so I want something more than the record of what we’ve done, which admittedly is nice in itself.

It’s a competition isn’t it? But what sort of competition? And that I think is the crux of the discussion.

There are two sorts of competition that people engage in. One is to my mind okay, the other unhelpful.

Competing to do the best you can and be the best isn’t inherently wrong, and in a society where we have non competitive sports day and “delayed success” in studies, I think it’s absolutely right to push competition and push yourself and encourage it in your kids.

On the other hand, for some succeeding isn’t enough, they have to succeed at the expense of others. I also refer to it as Conan Syndrome: When asked “What’s the best thing in life Conan?” the Cimmerian replies, “To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you and to listen to the lamentations of their women.” This is quite negative obviously. But also really cool:

I think we all struggle to stop veering into the second when we aim for the first, especially as bloggers. That’s why I seldom enter competitions where a blog post is your entry. I have around a 50% success rate in the ones I’ve chosen to enter but it brings out the worst in me when I don’t win because obviously I should have won as far as I’m concerned.

I am fiercely fiercely competitive, which is why I chose not to compete much.

I’ve been a long standing member of a FB Dad Bloggers group. It’s mostly Americans as there are an awful lot of American dad bloggers (enough for their own conference, with hookers, and blackjack etc) but it is incredibly supportive.  Even when people are told that their idea isn’t a good one, it’s done in a constructive manner, with the intention of helping out.

But if I was to look at the one UK parent blogger group I’m still in and see the first post is by an admin warning people to be aware that members are screen shotting comments and emailing them to PR agencies for personal gain, I would feel sad but sadly not be surprised.

I made the throw away comment with regards to that admin post that whenever you get a group of women together chaos will ensue and I wasn’t really being serious but I’ve left other groups with a large majority of female members for pretty much those same reasons, so maybe I was being serious in my usual offhand flippant manner. Having said that I don’t really know enough male bloggers to know if it’s a trend there too; most of the male bloggers I know are either ‘tech or film bloggers and they’re all quite matey with each other.

When I think back to all the blogging scandals I’ve been aware of, from Ssshhh! Blogger back in 2010 onwards, they’ve all been in and around the parent blogger scene. I’ve seen issues elsewhere with people nicking content and passing it off as their own both inside and outside parent blogging but by and large the nasty personal stuff has been in the parent blog area.

It’s possible this is a false positive as increasingly I write more in that arena than elsewhere, and I do acknowledge that. How though do we try to engender an atmosphere of positive competition that sees individuals striving to be the best they can, without all the negativity that it often descends in to?

I for one am stumped and open to suggestions!

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