A Simple Guideline for Blogging

There is a marvelous quote that is often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, which goes as follows:

Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.

I find these insightful words to be a guiding light when it comes to blogging (and life in general). When choosing a topic for a new post, one should take Mrs. Roosevelt’s advice to heart and focus on ideas. Events that tie into the greater scope of those ideas may also be worth sharing and commenting on; however discussing people per se is probably best left to gossip blogs.


  1. Tony Cecala says:

    Nice. I remember using the Arpanet in college, and the very idea that business and spam (let alone gossip blogs!) would pollute the tubes was abhorrent to us. How far we have fallen!PS– WWEW: What Would Eleanor Write?

  2. Scott says:

    I definitely agree that there is a hierarchy of categories that people talk about (ideas > things > people) but I’m going to have to disagree with the title of your post. Unfortunately, web traffic is highest to sites (and blogs) about people and things. In a perfect world, we would all be discussing ideas more often, but the reality is if you want to attract visitors to your blog/product/biz you have to discuss the other two categories.

  3. Giles Bowkett says:

    Let me give you an example of why blogging about people is a good idea.Imagine hypothetically that there’s somebody in a certain programming community who I want to blog about, and further, that this person is a programmer, and I want to blog about them because they have a terrible history of ripping off newbie entrepreneurs. Imagine further, for the sake of argument, that if I already had blogged about them, many entrepreneurs would have avoided getting ripped off for thousands of dollars apiece.The person who blogs about this hypothetical person’s bad business practices – and does so dispassionately, impersonally, and with conclusive evidence – does a public service for every tech entrepreneur on the planet. (Literally on the planet, given that we operate in a globalized economy, and you can do programming work remote.) But the person who blogs about this hypothetical person’s bad business practices, thereby doing a public service for all these tech entrepreneurs, does so at personal risk. The risks include inconvenience, embarassment, personal hostility, legal retaliation, and, if the hypothetical bad programmer’s crazy enough, physical violence.Somehow, taking on personal risk to do a public service is the act of a small person?Your quote (attributed to Roosevelt but never actually proven to have come from her in the first place, and also attributed to Hyman Rickover and Laurence Mouat) attacks journalism. It isn’t even an argument against journalism – it provides no actual reasons – but simply a condemnation of it. I disagree with it absolutely, not only in its content, but in its methods. An honest person who seeks to dissuade you from doing something does so by giving you reasons, not by heaping scorn on those who do it, while providing neither explanation nor justification.Another example of why blogging about people is a good idea: I want to understand Facebook’s success. Is it going to be an irrelevant coincidence that Mark Zuckerberg studied the classics and did fencing in college? Not to me – I also studied the classics and did fencing in college. A lot of people don’t realize this, but a huge percentage of early writing was writing about military strategy and military history. Fencing, meanwhile, is an immensely strategic martial art; people frequently describe it as full-contact chess. Do you think Mark Zuckerberg’s immersion in strategy at an early age had anything to do with Facebook’s success as a business? Obviously it wasn’t the only ingredient, but I think it makes a difference.There is no doubt that many people who discuss other people do so in an uninspiring way, but as a guideline for blogging, no way, dude. Apart from anything else, most people who discuss other people in uninspiring ways discuss pretty much everything else in uninspiring ways also. I wouldn’t want to have a conversation about ideas with Perez Hilton, for example. Your rule only breaks even there, and insofar as it prohibits journalistic uses of blogging, it loses everywhere else.

  4. Scott, I agree with you that the noble road impacts a blog’s popularity. However, it depends on what a person’s goals are. I personally find little appeal in having a widely popular blog that doesn’t share worthwhile and challenging ideas with its audience. I’d rather be worth knowing, than simply known.

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