IRL, y’all, I am a touchy person. A rude driver can ruin my morning. If I call The CEO’s cell phone to ascertain whether he picked Gaze up from track practice at the middle school, and he answers all my questions truthfully yet not completely, Bill Clinton style, obfuscating the situation and making me think ma blue-eyed bebe with his long eyelashes is standing on the school steps all alone instead of riding safely home with his sister, I am livid for twenty minutes.
Also, I can hold a grudge like nobody’s business. I am the Repeat World Champion of Grudge-Holding. I can cradle up my grudges like an armful of fluffy kittens and not let them go even when they are scratching me to ribbons.
I am working on changing this behavior. It is not easy. Today I have failed, miserably.
Sometimes it takes me awhile to get my mad on. I’ll hear or read some comment and be vaguely annoyed, and tell myself to just “let it go.” So I’ll have, I thought, let it go, and six weeks later I wake up mad, and it takes me some time to figure out why. And then I will need to address my feelings about whatever-it-was that annoyed me, and get the feelings all out in the open before I can really release the issue’s emotional hold on me.
So. Here goes. And I warn you now, toes will be stepped upon. I have my big girl boots on today. Names will be named. I am prepared for the consequences.
I read this post by Dane on Pere de Pierre, which talked about “crap bloggers” and chastised new perfume bloggers for being unlearned and spreading misinformation. It annoyed me, and I considered commenting, but then I realized that Dane has never once responded to any comment I’ve made on his blog, and that there was very little point in my saying anything to him.
Besides which, I get the feeling that he’d consider this blog a “crap” one.
I’ve been blogging regularly since 2009, but I don’t have any industry expertise at all. I’m not an expert. I’ve not done an internship with IFF or learned my way around a perfumer’s organ. I’m not a sales associate. I don’t make my own aromatherapy products. I’m not a lifelong sniffer who wore No. 19 when it was new and asphyxiated my dorm-mates in the 80s with Poison. I wasn’t even part of that original cast of MakeUp Alley that spawned so many influential writers-about-perfume: Robin of Now Smell This, Patty and her Perfume Posse, Tania Sanchez, among others.
As a result of posting reviews on fragrance forums and finding that I enjoyed it but always seemed to have more to say than the space warranted, I started my blog. I intended from the beginning to write not just about perfume, but about anything else that struck my fancy. I wrote a few posts in April of 2009, got busy, let it slide. I picked it up again in September of that year and haven’t stopped since, posting at least one article a week, and usually more frequently. And although most of my posts concern fragrance, that isn’t the only thing I write about. You’ll still find the occasional book review, movie review, rant, celebration, or collection of random thoughts here.
I have been open, from the beginning, about my firmly amateur status. I wrote this post in 2010 explaining why I don’t consider myself a “perfume critic,” and I still hold this stance: I’m not an expert. I have at this point smelled a ton o’ stuff, including a number of raw materials/perfume ingredients (I highly recommend this, if you can manage it), as well as a plethora of classic and modern fragrances.
However, I’m not the “history of the brand” buff, and I’m not usually a student of individual perfumer styles, either. I can only tell you what I think or feel when I smell something, and I could be either ignorant or just plain wrong or unduly biased by my personal experiences, so please keep that in mind when you read anything I write. Think of this blog as an extended form of, say, Basenotes – but minus the testosterone overdose and the flaming Creed wars. Add a hefty dose of cows and storytelling, and you’ve got me.
I do not agree with the idea that anybody who blogs has to be something of an expert. I take issue with the concept that blogs must of necessity be informational. I think there is room for people writing about perfume and making mistakes while doing it.
So what, in my humble “crap” opinion, characterizes a good blog?
I say, a blog is the blog owner’s intellectual property, his castle, her baby, the blogger’s very own playroom in the big house of the internet. The blogger gets to decide what the blog will look like, what its content and policies will be, who gets to come in and play.
The reader, on the other hand, gets to decide whether she will read the blog. I will argue that the very fact of opening up one’s blog to the public creates an informal contract between blogger and reader, in which the blogger offers content and the reader consumes it, and the two engage in some form of conversation. Bloggers can expect that readers will conduct themselves in an acceptable fashion, and readers can expect that bloggers will produce a blog that falls within a range of expected norms based on the historical “shape” of the blog.
For example: if three years ago your blog was full of lyrical perfume reviews and descriptions of delightful vacations and the adorable things your dog did last week, and suddenly the posts become repeated three-sentence “I’m really busy right now but I had an amazing yoga class last night, here’s a giveaway, y’all talk amongst yourselves,” snippets – well, that’s an example of the blogger-reader contract lapsing. Readers will be disappointed.
Look, if you started a blog merely as a way to have conversations with yourself, to get out of your head what’s in it, and you truly do not care if anyone reads your blog, and your topics skip around from your recent pedicure to your cat’s tuna breath and your trip to Disney World, that is fine. If you’re posting whenever you feel like it, with long stretches between posts, and your readers are accustomed to that schedule, that is fine. If you are a self-aggrandizing kind of person who thrives on attention and your blog is even a kind of ego stroke, that is fine too. It is your blog. You can do whatever you want with it.
It’s my personal feeling that if you have a regular posting schedule and regular posting topics, and you change either one of those characteristics, it would be both wise and appreciated to give your readers a heads-up. One blog I’ve enjoyed has recently gone from mostly-perfume reviews to mostly-not, following some changing interests on the blogger’s part. But the blogger said straight out that she’d be posting less frequently, and on different subjects, so I didn’t feel cheated. Another of my favorite blogs has been silent for over a year now, while the blogger is out of the country – but she said ahead of time that she would be winding things down and didn’t know when or if she’d be back. (I’m disappointed, but I don’t feel cheated.)
One blog that I’ve followed for some time has stopped replying to comments, and that did make me feel cheated. I visit much less frequently these days. As I say, the blog belongs to the blogger – and the blogger does not have to rely on readers’ opinions or respond to every comment or continue blogging about something that no longer interests the blogger or even make a statement that things are going to change – but if the blog has readers, the blogger has to consider them in some fashion or face losing readership.
Not too long ago, I was all depressed about not having a meaningful income-producing job, and The CEO, bless his heart, was being all supportive and reminding me that I blog. I had to explain this to him: Any idiot with a laptop and an internet connection can blog. It’s true – it’s easy to start, when you have something to say and the means to say it. The hard part is keeping on. The kids are sick, or work got crazy, or you’re moving across the country, or you get bored with writing reviews, and you can’t find anything to say, or you’re clinically depressed – and the blog falls several notches in your priority list. I cannot suggest that a blog is more important than career, or family, or personal matters, but in my opinion, a failure to put up a post saying that you’re taking hiatus for awhile is just bad blog maintenance. How long does that take? Five minutes or less. Ten minutes, if you type really slowly. If your internet connection suddenly fails and you don’t have it back within a week or two, can’t you go by the public library and put up the “hiatus” post, or get a friend to do it? It’s just laziness and disregard for readers.
It’s my estimation that any lazy or incompetent bloggers will either improve, or drop out of the game. And honestly, I don’t know of very many lazy or incompetent bloggers.
I have occasionally run across a blogger who seems to have no knowledge of proper written English, and I find the output lacking in content and extremely difficult to follow. I’m not talking here about someone such as Elena of Perfume Shrine, whose first language is Greek and whose English spelling or phrase construction is sometimes quirky. That’s not a detraction from a blog where the content is full of both hard knowledge and beautifully-expressed experience. I’m talking about a review that goes something like, “I so relly luv this prfume! The rosedosnt smell like roses in my flower garden but thats ok i love it anyway and it smellssooooo good. And my boifrend luvs it 2. U shold tri it.” And I’m not kidding, I did actually find a blog where all the writing looks like that, when searching for a review of a particular perfume. I clicked away ASAP after making sure it wasn’t a joke post. (No, don’t ask me for the link.)
Maybe that really is the kind of “crap blog” that Dane’s talking about in his cranky post, but it’s my impression that it’s not the only kind of perfume blog he finds to be fertilizer material, given that a few weeks ago he referred to Victoria of Bois de Jasmin as “a real perfume blogger.” (Victoria is indeed “a real perfume blogger,” combining industry experience, a basic knowledge of perfumery that she’s happy to share with her readers, good blog maintenance, and truly lyrical writing – but that’s not my point.) My beef is that if he considers himself a “real perfume blogger,” he’s got some strange standards.
It has particularly galled me that the person complaining about crap blogs is not and has never been, in my lowly humble inexpert crap opinion, a good blogger. As far as I can find out (because there is no “About me” page on his blog, though I have the impression that he’s well-known on the Basenotes forum), he is a perfume enthusiast like most of the rest of us, without industry experience, training himself by sniffing stuff. I don’t consider this background a bar to blogging, but if we are discussing what blog features I find important, his blog fails on several counts. The blog is updated irregularly, the reviews are often short and too flippant for me to take seriously, and responses to comments are inconsistent at best.
Look, I understand about having bad days, when everything seems like crap. I told you: I am the Queen of Pique. I get it. I’m well aware that I may have taken offense where none was intended. If I thought it would do any good, I’d contact the guy and demand to know exactly what he meant. He’s free to comment here and call me an irrational pique-y witch.
What I’d like to talk about now isn’t the issue of whether it is okay to write comments in a fit of pique, or even whether there are too many perfume blogs (the “too many” issue will be addressed next Wednesday, so save those comments for then, please). I want to know whether you have guidelines for “good blogs” versus “crap blogs,” and if you have ever stopped visiting certain blogs because of something you’ve read there, or a policy/format change.
The other thing I’d like to mention is that I’m going to be moving to a different blogroll format. The blogs I check regularly or find most informative will be listed in sidebar on the main page, with a separate page for “Other blogs I enjoy.” Some of the blogs in my blogroll today will disappear in the format change – for various reasons. Some of them are no longer regularly updated; some of them are focused on masculine fragrances (and this is fine – but I am not really interested in masculine fragrances, so I’m going to remove these links); some of them are not geared toward the blogger-reader interaction I like best; some are newer blogs that began promisingly but have fizzled like New Year’s resolutions in March. Am I justified in pruning my blogroll? I think so, but I’d love to hear what you think.