I frequently hear from coordinators of citizen media outreach projects who are disappointed by the fact that so many of their participants stop blogging two or three months after their first post. This is a common problem, but in my opinion, it is a problem of expectations rather than results.
Most of us have spent at least a few hours of our lives learning how to play the piano, guitar, or some other instrument. But only a select few have continued playing that instrument throughout our adult lives. In fact, most of us probably stopped playing just a couple months after our first lesson. This doesn’t mean, however, that piano teachers should feel demoralized by their supposed “low success rate”. After all, we are only able to find the best musicians by teaching the fundamentals to as many people as possible. Imagine how many Mozarts, Fela Kutis, and Gil Gilbertos have passed silently through history because they were never given the opportunity to express their musical talent.
Blogging is much the same way. Just as everyone can press the keys of a piano, so too can we all start and maintain a blog. But that doesn’t mean that everyone will keep at it. In my experience, only about 10% of the participants of the blogging workshops I have facilitated continue blogging six months later.
Important Tools for Important Times
The other 90% of workshop participants will write only occasionally, or not at all. But, significantly, most do still remember how to publish to a blog even months or years later. This is significant because during times of emergency they have the means to share information.
For example, many of the participants of workshops organized by Foko Madagascar stopped blogging for weeks after they first opened their blogs. But when a political crisis hit their country, which led to last week’s coup, many of those same new bloggers realized the importance of being able to share local information to an international audience in real time. In fact, those same individuals became the go-to sources of information for everyone wanting to stay informed about Madagascar’s political crisis. Lova Rakotomalala, one of Foko’s four founders, has explained in detail how Madagascar’s bloggers and Twitter users were able to influence international coverage of the crisis.
What This Means for Project Facilitators
Above all else, it is important to set realistic expectations and to feel satisfied if only a few of the workshop participants become passionate bloggers. Heather Ford, a well known South African blogger, recently gave a workshop in Durban, South Africa, which left her feeling frustrated. Heather suggests charging a small fee for workshops to ensure that participants really have a strong desire to learn and apply the skills. Those who lack the money could write a letter requesting a scholarship.
Some psychologists have even suggested that there are certain personality traits common to most bloggers. As a project coordinator you could specifically seek out individuals who share those personality traits.
In my experience, however, it is impossible to accurately predict who will keep blogging and who will not. Blogging, like playing a musical instrument or learning how to draw, is a worthy skill to learn as a simple means of expression. Besides, you never know who will be the next Ravi Shankar, Michaelangelo, or the next great blogger until (s)he has a chance to learn the skills and tools.
New Rising Voices Projects – Stay Tuned
Over the next few weeks we’ll be getting to know each of the newest six Rising Voices grantee projects. For those of you who just can’t wait, please check out Maryna Reshetnyak’s feature on Public Fund Mental Health based in Almaty, Kazakhstan and an introductory video about Project Ceasefire Liberia. Also, keep your eyes on the Rising Voices website for updates from all 20 projects, links to relevant resources and grants, and new pictures and videos.
All the best,