Dave, I’ve been reading all sorts of stuff on different weblogs about “character blogs”, but I’m still not clear on what they are and whether they’re a good thing or not. What’s your opinion?
Quick: is Dave Taylor a real person, or fictitious? Am I one person writing, or a group of people working together but publishing under the rubric of a single identity?
Those two questions are the crux of character blogs and you’re right, it’s the buzz of the moment. In a nutshell, character blogs are blogs written by fictitious characters, whether human or otherwise. Some examples: Captain Morgan’s Rum, McDonald’s Lincoln Fries, “Moosetopia” and Barbie.
Some of the interesting articles I’ve read on this subject come from BL Ochman, Neville Hobson, Susan Getgood, Tris Hussey, Steven Streight, Amy Gahran and Shel Israel.
My personal opinion is that since anything goes in the world of blogging, character blogs are an interesting experiment and I’m glad that some companies are pushing the boundaries to see what will transpire. That the more vocal minority of the blogging community sees this as an “attack on authenticity” suggests to me that they need to expand their minds a bit to encompass this new experiment. It’s really rather naive to think that any communications tool can be “pure” in any sense of the word, particularly when you then ask the obvious question: who decides what’s pure anyway?
The crux of the matter shouldn’t be “is it a real person?”, but rather “is it worth reading?”
I have read many excellent novels that are written in first person: is that a violation of the unwritten pact between author and writer, does that lack authenticity? Similarly, how many movies have you seen where you are privy to the thoughts of the protagonist because of voice-overs? Are those some sort of sneaky trick, implying that the actor or actress is really having those thoughts?
Years ago, I wrote a gossip column for a tech magazine under an assumed name. In fact, we made up the name Raymond Rank, a combination of Raymond Chandler (for the writing style) and Rank Studios (for the inevitable newsreel and because I love the gong visual at the beginning of Rank movies). In years of writing the column we never received a single communication that complained about “Raymond” not being real. Other fictitious tech columnists are in the same boat, including Robert X. Cringley (I know of five people who have variously written that column) and “Spencer the Kat”.
My final thought: character blogs are fun and interesting experiments, even if some of the current attempts are rather lame. Bloggers who believe that the medium is too fragile to withstand these variations, these marketing attempts to exploit the zeitgeist of blogs just need to lighten up.
I mean, c’mon folks. Once someone does a good, amusing character blog everyone will suddenly decide that it’s rather cool after all.