This is the time of year when I choose someone to be my Blogger of the Year. It's never been easy, because while there are a lot of people who blog, only a few meet two important criteria:
I read them.
Granted, there are many more people in the the first class than in the second. Who I pick depends a lot on what I'm doing the year before.
This seems to have been another breakout year for podcasting.
For me podcast listening is fairly seasonal. I don't drive, and in the summer I bike to get around and for exercise, and I don't listen to podcasts while riding. It's already dangerous to ride where I live, and I think that listening to a podcast while riding is over the top. I don't want to die in a horrible accident because I was listening the latest episode of Here's The Thing.
I hope that someday bike helmet makers will figure out that they could build-in Bluetooth speakers. I bet it would even sound good, and most important it would be designed to be ambient, not to dominate. I'd like to be able to hear the person yelling about the bus that's about to hit me.
Anyway, for me this is walking season, so I'm listening to a lot of podcasts.
My favorite is Planet Money. They ask interesting questions and tell stories in a natural and curiosity-evoking way. But they aren't bloggers, they're news people. I love what they do, and I thought for a moment this might be where I go with BOTY this year. But Planet Money doesn't fit criteria #1.
I know there are many people who podcast as they blog, I do that -- for example, but sporadically. I probably did no more than five podcasts this year. And the podcasts I listen to are all produced by professional news people. It just worked out that way.
Every choice for BOTY is unusual. Look at who I've chosen. Joel, Jay, Jen. Whoa a lot of J's there Dave. Then there was Philip and Seth. Each of these people have attitudes. Lots of white males, I know. I guess we read what we know. Jen is a hippie. These are all great people, and each is different. But this year I'm going to do something really different.
Ever notice how sometimes Time's Person of the Year isn't a person at all, rather a group of people? The Hungarian Freedom Fighter, The Inheritor, The Apollo 8 Astronauts, The Middle Americans, American Women, The Computer, The Endangered Earth, The Peacemakers, The Whistleblowers, The American Soldier, The Good Samaritans, The Protestor, and this year's Ebola Fighters.
So in that spirit, this year's Blogger of the Year is the first that is not a person, but a group of people.
For me this has been the Year of Facebook. Until now, like a lot of other people I respect, I've been a holdout. I've written a lot about that here on my blog, why I held out, why I gave up, and why I am so enthusiastic about the blogging that happens on Facebook.
There's a lot to like about it. Unlike Twitter, which because of its 140-character limit, reduces communication to what I call Grunts and Snorts, and people to caricatures. Twitter is for slogans, tribal communication, mis-directed anger. Twitter has a cultural problem, and because the people who run it aren't actual users, they aren't likely to find their way through it. It's going to get worse.
Facebook is different. There's room to express an idea. And a culture that's highly supportive. On both Twitter and Facebook I've gone from being master of my domain to a face in the crowd. But sometimes it's cool to be part of a group. I loved Twitter in the early years, but now most of that lives on Facebook. At least in 2014.
The best thing about Facebook are the new friends I've made over the last year. People who I knew well enough to want to friend them (which is a relatively low bar), who turned out to be gems hiding in plain sight. For example, I've become friends with Scott Knaster, after knowing him since 1984, when were were both part of the early Mac community (he worked at Apple, doing docs for developers, I was a developer). We bonded around this year's baseball playoffs. And btw, today's his birthday, something I only know because of Facebook.
There have been a dozen such new friendships that came from Facebook. Why? Because some people have the impulse to put themselves into their online expressions, and their humanity comes through in the form of vulnerability expressed with feeling. Because Facebook is so supportive, vulnerability comes more easily. I have a friend who went through serious surgery this year, and came out okay. Without Facebook, I might have heard about it through a friend, but I wouldn't have felt the story. I have another friend who lives for beauty, and it comes through in every expression.
So, in 2014, Facebook has picked up the ball for blogging. It's definitely not what I imagined, and I'm not comfortable with where it might be going. But for now, in 2014, the bloggers this year, that made a difference to me, came to me through Facebook.
PS: A hat-tip to Robert Scoble who insisted that I get on Facebook earlier this year.