Blogging has long been an effective way to share ideas and information, but it hasn’t always been something that the cool kids embrace. Should that worry us?
Last week someone kidded with me by saying that “…only idiots blog, so don’t do it”.
Don’t worry, they were joking and I had a good laugh! But it did get me thinking about all the positive things that blogs can do, and how they’re really not just for selfies and re-sharing memes.
A good blog can change the world. Maybe not everyone knows about that.
Today I want to show you some of the most inspiring and effective blogs on the net (like, way better than Blog Tyrant) and why I think this medium is still one of the most powerful forms of communication around.
My own feelings about blogging
Blogging has quite literally changed my life.
It’s allowed me to build a career where I can work from home, travel with my partner, and even donate a little bit of money to some charities that I really love. And while I honestly don’t think Blog Tyrant is anything special, I feel so lucky to be able to work on a website with such a great community of friends and fellow web entrepreneurs.
I don’t say any of this to make myself seem good, I just feel it’s important to show examples of how blogging can really impact both the blogger and the reader. For me it has been an absolutely fantastic process, and something that I will always evangelize in the hope that it will spread little chunks of goodness around the web.
Blogging isn’t for idiots, it’s actually very important
As the world becomes more deeply digitized, websites and blogs are going to play an extraordinarily important role in education, modern thinking, culture and, as we saw last year, how effectively our political systems work.
I’m also convinced that blogging will play an bigger role in our economy as artificial intelligence and robotics steps in and takes over more and more traditional job roles. Millions will turn to the Internet to look for supplementary income opportunities.
So, what I thought I would do now is go above and beyond this little blog and show you some examples that have had a significant impact on their community, the Internet itself, and maybe even the whole world.
1. GiveWell – Charity reviews and research
GiveWell describes themselves as “…a nonprofit dedicated to finding outstanding giving opportunities through in-depth analysis. Thousands of hours of research have gone into finding our top-rated charities. They’re evidence-backed, thoroughly vetted, and underfunded.” The idea is basically that they help you donate to charities in the most financially effective way. You know that every dollar that you donate is having an impact.
But the interesting thing is how much their blog shaped my own ideas about charity. Their articles are brilliantly researched and really help to open your eyes to new ideas. This article on whether to give now or later is a good example.
This is one blog/website that is read by thousands of people and organizations around the world and is having a very direct impact on things like getting kids healthy through de-worming, and by making charities more effective and transparent.
2. Gates Notes – The blog of Bill Gates
We all know Bill Gates as the man behind Microsoft. But, for me, the more important thing is that Bill has used his wealth to make the world a better place through extensive and effective charity and things like The Giving Pledge where he, Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffet have encouraged dozens of billionaires to donate their wealth to philanthropy.
This particular blog is important because it shows Mr. Gates leading by example. It is exciting to see a billionaire technology giant writing about topics like How Foreign Aid Helps Americans and How You Can Be a More Effective Donor, and so on.
These articles are shared and read by millions, including policy-makers, those with money to burn, and, perhaps most importantly, the younger generation who will one day take the reigns
3. Wait But Why – A new post every sometimes
Wait But Why is one of the only blogs where I have sat quite literally for the whole day and read. That is such a rare feeling and something that I really value.
This is the type of long-form content blog that makes you think about things in an entirely different way. The posts are meticulously researched and, best of all, it’s written in a way that is so approachable and warm that you just want to keep going deeper and deeper. I can’t help but imagine how many people have had breakthrough moments reading this stuff.
Articles like this one (where he interviewed Elon Musk!) must have inspired so many people to study science, and this one to make people read more books because, actually, you only have about 300 books left before you stop reading for the rest of eternity. I’d avoid the article on A.I. though, it actually caused me to lose sleep!
4. I Used to Be a Human Being – New York Magazine
This one is not a whole blog but a single article that originally appeared in a print publication and then was syndicated online. The article I Used to Be a Human Being is one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever read online, and made me genuinely re-think the way I work, live and interact with the world around me.
To me, this is a fantastic example of how a blog format can take an amazing piece of writing and spread it to the masses. While the New York Magazine print edition has decent circulation numbers, it’s online presence reaches far more people and allows articles like this to be shared with people who might otherwise have never purchased or subscribed.
One has to wonder whether Andrew Sullivan would have had the opportunity to publish articles in magazines like this one without an already exceptional and popular blog of his own.
5. Dooce – I like babies but I couldn’t eat a whole one
A genuine cultural icon. Dooce, written by Heather Armstrong, was one of the first and arguably the most successful in the niche of personal bloggers (and that awful term “mommy bloggers”). She started back in 2001 and was even fired from her job for blogging about a bad experience – that lead to the term “Dooced” which has been used by people all over the world. For a long time Heather was considered one of the most influential women in online media.
The thing that really stood out to me about Heather’s blog was how openly she wrote about depression and the difficult sides of parenting. These articles were read by millions of people around the world and, as you can see on this post, the comment threads fill up with people sharing stories and opening up about their own struggles.
Heather really inspired a whole generation of bloggers who started writing and sharing their stories. While I know not all of them went on to Dooce’s level of fame and fortune, I have no doubts that this genre has helped a lot of people deal with day-to-day existence.
6. Tree Hugger – Sustainability with Sass
Tree Hugger is a well-established blog that is aiming to make sustainability and green-technology more mainstream. To me, this is a perfect blog as it combines approacability with a very strong brand and ethos. You know exactly what it’s about and it can be something that you bookmark and read regularly to discover new ways to be a contributing human being.
For example, this article on whether our own personal lifestyle choices help the environment in a meaningful way is a really good method for introducing people to more political thoughts about green technology changes. It’s a warning but also quite hopeful. With the current climate emergency, this type of blog is essential.
7. Students for a Free Tibet – Transformation through non-violence
I sit here and write this article from a comfortable office. Many of the bloggers behind Students for a Free Tibet, however, are often quite literally risking their freedom in order to share information that tells the world about what is going on inside a Chinese occupied Tibet.
Social media has played an increasingly important role in modern times. During the Arab Spring, for example, we saw how risky it could be to be a blogger, but also how important it was to get truthful information out to the world when a dictatorship might be blocking news access. I can’t imagine how terrifying this must be, and I feel really quite inspired at this very brave use of the blogging format.
8. LGBTQ Nation – World’s most followed LGBTQ news source
The Internet has probably done a lot for making LGBTQ issues more mainstream. For example, it’s provided forums and private chat rooms where sexually confused teenagers can get support and seek advice.
Sites like LGBTQ Nation go a long way to ensuring that issues like sexism, homophobia, LGBTQ suicide and depression, etc. don’t go unnoticed. It also shines a light on news that specifically affects a large but often under-represented portion of our population. Here’s a recent example.
9. Medium – Share stories that matter
I was pretty skeptical about Medium when it first came out. And while I still don’t think it’s the best choice for a blog host when you want to build a business or a long term career, the quality and power of this blogging platform is undeniable. They have truly created a place on the net where people come to write good stuff.
For example, there’s the article where the CEO of GoDaddy stopped by to talk about how A.I. will replace jobs, or this article with 12k shares about how quitting a corporate job ruined a life, or this wonderful story with advice from a 30-year-old to his younger self.
So many bloggers are now using Medium to share ideas or get feedback on topics they aren’t sure about. I regularly find myself clicking through to links containing the medium.com URL because I have come to associate much of the work their with quality research, progressive thinking, and helpful communities.
How does your blog affect the world around it?
If you are thinking about starting a blog soon, or already have one in operation, it’s important to think about the impact that you’ll have on those that read your stuff. I often think about this quote when it comes to the Internet:
Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. – the Dalai Lama
I’m not saying that everyone needs to be perfect (I’m certainly not), and we can’t all have blogs that change the world, but in a global society where your writing can reach all countries, and kids have near unlimited access to everything, our blogs play a bigger role than ever.
So that just leaves us to wonder: what impact are we having?