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Introspective Perspective on Blogging

From time to time, there are circumstances that arise in my life that make me sit back and look at the bigger picture. Being quite often a detail oriented person (to a fault at times), these moments tend to lend itself a significance that deserves some attention.

Well, at least in my mind.

In this particular case, a number of circumstances have arisen recently that has me evaluating not only why I blog but also the process in which I conduct such practices. A frank and informative chat with a restaurateur. An online chat with fellow food bloggers. A recent episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations.

Before I get into this any further, if it isn’t obvious by now, this is not your typical the heart of food post. For those of you that only stop by to view pictures of food and care little about the details, this is your time to bail as there won’t be any images for this post.

I guess this whole pensive episode began with a candid discussion with Josh and Ai, the owners & operators of Cafe Ish, as well as a few fellow food bloggers. I found it to be a quite an informative chat, getting a first hand account of how food bloggers are perceived going about our business.

For instance, if you’re taking photos with an SLR camera, you get noticed, no matter how discreet you think you are. Yes, even if the flash isn’t being used. That taking photos of food in a restaurant, as we food bloggers often do, can come off as being rather abrupt, intrusive and rude. It was said to be akin to your customers or clients of your respective workplaces coming in and without warning go about taking photos.

Given that such attention is drawn, I wonder whether the whole issue of not drawing attention to ourselves as bloggers as it would influence the service received from the restaurant is one based on fallacy and not on fact. Would just asking for permission to take photos without shining a spotlight onto the reasons for taking such photos (at least up front) sufficiently deal with the understandable apprehension that some restaurateurs may have towards bloggers whilst addressing our own concerns of better than average service? Unfortunately, it’s a question I don’t have an adequate answer for but it is one I’m mulling over in the back of my mind.

During this same session, a question was raised as to why we blog. “The satisfaction of our own egos” came one rather frank answer. Not untrue in what I see to be all but a very few cases. I know for myself that it’s rather satisfying putting together a post that clicks. The photos are mouth watering. The copy is reflective of the situation & food, and entertaining. The interaction through comments received. However, for me, the satisfaction of ego is only a part of the story. Honing my craft as a photographer and a writer whilst having the opportunity to expand my knowledge and experiences of food and the food industry. Being a part of a community of like minded, passionate (if not occasionally obsessive) individuals. Actually, that’s probably the best part, and one that cannot be satisfied by other means as ego and skills can be.

Before I move on from the discussions at Cafe Ish, as a side note, Ai makes a killer coffee and there is no nutmeg used in any of her coffees, despite what you may think or what other food blogger may have told you.

During a recent live chat amongst food bloggers had raised the question of motive with regards to starting a blog, more specifically and rather cynically, that more bloggers are getting on the bandwagon for the fringe benefits, namely freebies items or free PR events. Though much could be discussed in this regard, it did raise a question within me of how much such things influenced what I post.

I do know that it has no influence for the reasons for why I post. The only influence that I can see it having for me is that it draws attention to things that i may have not otherwise have noticed. Though, this is no different in my mind to a friend talking about a food experience or recommending a restaurant that they’d gone to, or even a restaurant review article in some publication. If it’s not of personal interest, it doesn’t go up as a post. That includes financially compensated advertorials, of which I’ve yet to participate in one to completion.

Is there a problem with accepting freebies or financial compensation for a post? For me, that depends on the individual’s motives. Is it driven by the need to seem PR friendly to increase the likelihood of more freebies? Is it to meet the conditions to obtain the freebie? Is it for financial gain? Is it just a serendipitous alignment of your own passion for that free/financially compensated item or dining experience? Is it something worthy of discussion? Regardless of the motives, and quite often those motives come out in the post as clear as day, so long as there is full disclosure of the fact, I personally don’t see it as being a problem. Give the reader as much opportunity to make up their own minds.

Lastly, a recent episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations covered the subject of obsession, in this particular case, the obsession of food bloggers and why they do what they do. One question that I found interesting was whether the obsession over food and blogging of such food was derived from something lacking in one’s life.  It was actually rather sad to hear the answers that the food bloggers on the show. Issues of loneliness, depression, lack of a girl friend or the inability to obtain one. Using food and the discussion of food as an escape from the harshness of reality.

It’s a question that I’ve only started to ponder. Whether there is something lacking in my life that blogging is acting as a crutch to support. If the vacuum was filled, whether there would still be the passion to continue blogging. From a big picture view, I don’t see this blogging thing going away for me any time soon, regardless of those circumstances. I’m far too interested in food and food culture to see myself not doing so.

However, as you know, the devil is always in the details…

Feel free to leave a comment to express your thoughts on the matter. Would love to hear what you have to say about either your perspective on bloggers or, for the bloggers out there, why you blog.

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{ 7 comments… add one }
  • kristy @ ksayerphotography May 6, 2010, 10:10 am

    You raise a very good point.
    I know I started blogging completely clueless. After losing 20, 000 + images when my computer was sent to technology heaven, I decided I needed a way to make sure my photos were safe. I also wanted a way to share my photos with my family and friends across the world.
    I had zero idea bloggers got freebies or perks – Clueless, I know. I thought my little blog would be lost in the world of cyberspace and only my family and friends would see it.
    When PR people started contacting me I was shocked, I wondered why they’d want a seventeen year old to write about their products. Now I use my reviews as a way of testing out products for my own benefit as well as the benefit of my readers (still shocks me to think people read my blog). It’s a way of not only trying new things, but getting to know small business owners like Deb from Dello Mano and supporting them as I’m a big fan of family owned companies as I was raised as apart of one.
    Needless to say, I’m now not as clueless as I once was, and I’m working on my photography and people skills at the same time.

  • Mark @ Cafe Campana May 6, 2010, 6:42 pm

    Simon, very interesting post. I guess everybody has their own reasons for blogging and even reading food blogs. I also think these reasons can change with time. Personally I think if people are honest with their views, any freebies received and have a passion for food I think this emerging craft is safe.

    I personally love the variety and great ideas and food people are sharing. I personally feel honoured to contribute to the community.

  • mademoiselle délicieuse May 7, 2010, 12:01 am

    It is a real matter of your original blogging motives, I suppose. If you start off with the pure intention of sharing your experiences a bit like an open journal, and stick to that intention then all opinions should be fairly open. Like you said, you may come across soemthing interesting your daily travels and wish to share it with friends or they might draw your attention to something they feel you might like. As soon as you feel obligate to say something nice because of an incentive is when it gets dangerous.

  • The Ninja May 7, 2010, 11:40 am

    I lack humanising traits…

    From my humble perspective, all art is an ego trip. Doesn’t stop it from changing our lives.

  • Krista May 8, 2010, 9:09 am

    Thank you for being so honest and upfront about what you are working through as a blogger. I started my little blog simply as a way to chronicle what is beautiful and delicious in my life. I was sent to a religious cult as a child and went through some devastating things for many years. Escaping from a place like that makes you either go crazy or fight like mad for what is meaningful, happy, free, the things that build a beautiful life. Maybe there’s ego in there, I don’t know and I don’t worry about it. This venture makes me happy and a few others happy along the way. I think your blog does the same, and I hope you continue sharing your passions with us for a long time. :-)

  • Simon June 2, 2010, 11:03 pm

    Hi kristy! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I think in the end, as with other areas of life, we are judged most significantly by our actions. So how and why you deal with PR, and how you may or may not choose to disclose that information will be the means by which your readership will make judgements on you and your blog.

    Readers are often far more insightful that they are often given credit for.

    Hi Mark! I agree that honesty is the best policy. People will find out anyhow, due to the small, tight-knit community of food bloggers that we’re a part of, so I can’t see why you’d bother.

    Hi mademoiselle delicieuse! I very much agree, and I believe people will be able to pick up on that quickly if you do.

    Hi The Ninja! Either I’ve had an issue with miscommunicating what I was trying to say or you’ve misunderstood. However, when I refer to the satisfaction of ego, that’s not to be equated with being egotistical or having an ego trip, as you’ve stated. Far from it actually.

    More that we, like anyone else really, have egos that we seek to satisfy within this craft of food blogging, at least in this specific case. My examples were stated in the post, though I’m sure individual motives will differ from person to person.

    Unless you’re being paid to do it as a job (the “very few cases” I was referring to in the post), why else would we spend so much time and effort?

    Hi Krista! I’m sorry to hear about your past but I’m glad that you can find happiness with such persuits, as I do (though for entirely different reasons, I’d imagine).

    I don’t think that my passion will wane for some time but I appreciate your comments all the same :)

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