Mena Trott is the co-founder of Six Apart, one of the leading blogging companies in the world. Her talk is focused on making blogs a bit more understandable to the TED audience.
As sheexplain, most people found out about blogs via scandals like Rathergate or the Kryptonite Bike Lock scandal. This means that people are “scared shitless about blogs”. Mena’s interested in different kinds of blogs – the highly personal ones, the “life record” of a blog.
She points to Interplast, an organization that provides plastic surgery to people in the developing world, and uses a blog to promote its work. As she puts it, “I am not that caring”. She’s an expert on one thing – herself – and therefore that’s what she began blogging about on dollarshort.org.
Any early post she shows us is a cartoon of her being miserable in Bible camp and hiding from other campers, and overhearing the fellow campers wish her dead. As the blog became more popular, winning her a blogging award from South by Southwest. With a larger audience, she wrote a post about how her husband, Ben, wouldn’t let her buy a banjo. She called Ben a “tyrant” – a joke, as he’s a lovely guy – and her readers didn’t get it. They told her to get a separate bank account, to leave Ben… and she realized she didn’t know who she was writing for and decided to slowly kill her blog.
She shows us some Norman Rockwell paintings. They’re not high art. But they resonate to us as humans. “The blogs that interest me are people who tell stories.”
She tells us about “baby odin”, a baby born at 25 weeks weighing only one pound. The father, a blogger, documented his survival, every day, and continues today, now that Odin is a healthy young child.
Inspired by an Argentinian man who’s been taking photos of his family every day for the last 29 years. Mena’s now doing the same thing – “I’m incredibly narcissistic, I’m a blogger.”
She closes with a story about an early beta user of Typepad – Candygirl – who used a her blog to document her fight with cancer, until her eventual death. She printed out the blog and gave it to the young woman’s family, who told her that “being able to blog as she died of cancer was one of the most important parts of her life.”
Mena’s ultimate point: we don’t always have to be scary, and don’t always have to be on the attack with blogs.
(Editorializing: It’s a nice reminder from Mena that blogs are so often a personal statement and about daily life, not about bigger political or social issues. I wish, though, that she’d showed some blogs from outside North America and Europe – I think the sort of story sharing she’s talking about is critical, but is even more important across international borders.)