Key Blog Redux

Nov. 28, 2010

I’ve been planning today’s blog for almost six months. Today is the anniversary of the Thornapple Blog. One year ago, I wrote an entry that “snuck in right after Thanksgiving,” and that promised to tide Thornapple CSA members over the long winter months when there would be no weekly delivery of fresh vegetables. The blog was my contribution to an effort to upgrade the Thornapple website by providing more content, more reasons to check it out. I made a commitment to write once every Sunday between Thanksgiving and the first pick-up of fresh vegetables in the Spring.

The theme of the first entry was “key blog” which is a pun on “key log”. As that entry explains, the “key log” is a term that lumbermen used. Freshly cut logs would be floated downstream to the sawmill. Sometimes the mass of logs would become jumbled, forming an effective dam and creating a huge backlog. I’d be willing to bet that the word ‘backlog’ comes from the logs caught upstream behind a logjam. The “key log” is the one that lumberjacks had to dislodge in order to break the logjam, allowing the backlog to flow downstream to the mill.

I used this pun to write a short reflective piece, a “key blog” that was intended to explain what I was going for with the Thornapple blog. I also quoted Aldo Leopold, who used the term ‘key log’ to describe the aphorism that is the central theme of his environmental philosophy:

A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.

Or at least I think he did. Actually, I’m too lazy to haul my copy of A Sand County Almanac and check to be sure. In last year’s key blog, I referred to Leopold in exploring the environmental dimension of community as it applies in community-supported agriculture. I expected the Thornapple blog to explore a number of ideas behind the community-supported agriculture experiment. I also wanted to keep the overall tone of the blog light in keeping with the idea that Thornapple members might make a weekly visit and would not relish being preached at (the fact that it’s Sunday notwithstanding).

Privately, I thought I would try to keep it up for a year and then evaluate the whole thing. Which explains why I’ve been thinking about today’s blog for about six months. Looking back, I have pretty much kept up my commitment to blog every Sunday, with the exception of one “oops!” moment that occurred earlier this month. The rest of the Thornapple website has not, however, improved very much. Other Thornapple CSA members who discussed additional kinds of content improvement have been distracted by other priorities.

Being distracted by other priorities is pretty much the story of the Internet, I think. Once hailed as a great democratizing force in global culture and communication, it turns out that the vast majority of Internet content is generated by pros who are paid by big companies or other deep-pocketed organizations who have a deep interest in controlling what you see when you browse the web. Most real people start out with good intentions and then get caught up with other things before any content gets posted. For every up-to date blog I’ve encountered on the web I think I’ve found twenty where the author or authors (some of them friends of mine) have posted six or seven entries, then gotten bored or busy and seemingly forgotten all about it. And of course, those bloggers who were primarily just using a public space to keep up with friends and family have mostly migrated to Facebook. Blogging, it turns out, is so 2006.

The idea that people would use the comment function to initiate meaningful exchanges has not panned out (and this not just for my blog, but even for high profile exercises). For the blogger, the evidence of any real human contact is pretty thin. Hundreds of comments by robots, only a handful by real people. This is not incidental to the whole “community” theme. There have been a few people to e-mail me privately, (including the North American sales-rep for Nordic Naturals, who was quite pleasant and offered to send me a sample of fish oil). Thanks to all of you who took the trouble.

I’m not quitting the blog. There were a few topics relating to the general philosophy of community-supported agriculture that I kind of forgot about as the blog became something of a travelogue (that “log” thing again). Maybe I can get around to them over the next year. And every now and then I have this inspired moment of sarcasm. But I am relaxing my commitment to do it every week.

We’ll see how long it takes before I get distracted.

Paul B. Thompson holds the W.K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University

4 comments to Key Blog Redux

  • Very nice post! I love coming to your blog for the reason that you often write well written articles. Thanks for sharing once again. I plan to adding to favorites this website. I believe I shall subscribe to this feed also. Until Next Time! ..

  • For the record, there are real people reading your blog … have you ever thought of opening it up to other members? -jg.

  • For the record, there are real people reading your blog … have you ever thought of opening it up to other members? -jg. (Re-posted with the correct web link.) 8-)

  • paul

    Hi Jason-

    Having other people contribute to the blog is a great idea. I’ll suggest that to the core group and see what would be involved in making that happen.