Recreating Community

When it comes to food blogging, I miss 2005.

There. I’ve said it. I feel a whole lot better.

This has been on my mind for quite some time, partially exasperated by the fact that Epicurious, was voted 2nd best food blog this year in the Weblog awards. We’ve come a long way from all of the press the food blogs received in 2004/2005. In two years time we’ve gone from individuals and private citizens getting acknowledged and read for their writing and their passion for food to that bastion of individuality Condé Nast getting kudos.

This isn’t to knock the fine folks over at Epicurious, but I’ve always felt that food blogging was the anti-Condé Nast – the place where you went to when you wanted to get an individual’s opinion on food, not an institution’s.

But this is only part of the problem. In 2004, there were hundreds of food blogs, and it was easy to pick out the dozen or so that fit your taste and perspective. Now, at last count, there were something like 40,000 food blogs out there. If you are just starting a food blog today, it’s far more difficult to get noticed simply because there are more voices out there vying for attention.

We’ve also lost a fair amount of the sense of community that was around two to three years ago. My perception of this may be jaded by the fact that I pulled myself back from the community back in June of 2006 after I gave up the Well Fed Network, but I also noticed less community events, such as “Is my blog burning?“. Thank goodness for Pim’s Menu for Hope which has it’s roots in the food blogging community of 2004.

Then there are the PR folk, who seemingly treat larger food blogs as their own special outlet for free publicity. I’ve kept track of all of the press releases, “post ideas”, and free sample offers I get for the past three months. I average ten a day. The worst day was just before Thanksgiving where I received twenty seven e-mails from PR companies, extolling the virtues of whatever shitty products they were commissioned to peddle. I haven’t answered an e-mail of theirs in 18 months, and I haven’t posted anything received from a PR company in twenty. Now they simply go into the SPAM filter. The lack of respect these folks show to food blogs is nauseating to me.

So yeah, I miss 2005. This isn’t meant to denigrate anyone who just started food blogging, or anyone who helped the medium of food blogging evolve into whatever it is today (and yes, the Food Blog Awards did play a part in this evolution…I’m aware of my own culpability).

Because of all of the issues I’ve raised above, I want to change the direction of Accidental Hedonist. It’ll still be a food blog, but instead of me talking at the readers (something else that has been bugging me), I want to develop a community on this site. Over the next few weeks, Tara and I are going to introduce new options here, the primary one being that individuals can sign up for an account and have their own “food diaries” hosted here at Accidental Hedonist.

Right now, I could use some help. I need five people to help test out some of the new functionality. You’ll get an account on Accidental Hedonist, with your own URL (for example http://www.accidentalhedonist.com/johndoe) and an RSS feed. Some posts will be promoted to the front page, others will not. Soon we should have links to the most recent posts on the front page. I have other longer term goals here, including hiring more writers and paying folks for any post that goes to the front page, but these are still in the development phase. Right now, I need to see if there is any interest in this, and if it’s an idea that can be expanded upon. If you are interested in being one of the five, e-mail me at Kate AT accidentalhedonist DOT com.

(For those of you who pay attention to such things, yes, this is the change to Accidental Hedonist that I alluded to all the way back in July.)

I have no idea how viable of an idea this is. What I do know is that I miss the energy that the food blogging community had in 2005. My hope is that I can recreate some of that here.

UPDATE: I’ve got my 5 guinea pi…er…volunteers. Thanks to all for their interest!