[#] A parable about blogging

There once was a guy who wanted to own a christian bookstore. He wanted to build it from scratch, so in that he had to find some way to stock the place full of books -- because you can't open without any books. He puzzled over that problem for a few weeks, and he decided to bring the problem to the people who would be his #1 supplier for books.

"No problem!" they said rather enthusiastically. "We can give you a recommended model inventory which will tell you exactly what you need to know -- all you have to do is tell us how much money you want to spend on inventory!"

He asked them how they came up with this RMI, and they told him, "Oh that's easy: these are the best seller."

Now, the reason this fellow wanted to own a Christian bookstore was that he thought that Christian bookstores were a fantastic idea that, at many levels, were being executed in an extraordinarily-poor way. And in the back of his mind, he started thinking about what the best-seller list for Christian retail would reflect. For example, it would reflect the best sellers of a channel of retail that, primarily, he thought was not very retail. It would also reflect the best sellers of a channel that doesn't exercise any doctrinal fortitude. But, most importantly, it would reflect a channel of retail that -- as he knew, from his business plan research -- was shrinking.

However, he told his supplier to go ahead and send him the RMI and he would review it and get back to them. And he did: he reviewed every line, struck out the items he knew would be poison, struck out the stuff that he knew he would be unwilling to sell without some kind of intermediate explanation, and then added back enough stuff from authors on the list who were substantial to get his dollars back into the range he wanted to spend.

In short, he started from the best position he knew he could start from to make a statement to his customers.

The books came in, he put them on the shelf, and believe it or not, they started selling. He was somewhat excited about the fact that he was right about selling "the good stuff", but he noticed that his competition was selling the stuff from the RMI and doing pretty well. And over time, his customers started to request things he would rather not carry -- Your Best Purpose Now, The Life-Driven Life, A Divine Revelation of Pizza, whatever. And, if they wanted to order it, he would special order it.

One day he was reviewing his business, and he realized something: his automated reordering system was starting to stock the stuff he explicitly disqualified in the RMI. The RMI was creeping into his inventory in spite of his initial circumspection -- because of the volume of specials he was generating.

Another thing he noticed was that the complaints were starting to file in -- what did he have against this author? What's wrong with this book? You're not a "Calvinist", are you? And sadly, his employees were just employees, and they couldn't answer all the questions -- so some of the inventory creep was due to his employees being ill-equipped to respond to the questions.

And the bookstore owner realized something: unless he took stock of his bookstore frequently, he would wind up exactly like the kind of christian retail he got into the business to campaign against. While it was important to stay in business, it was far more important to first stand up for the truth for the sake of the body of Christ.