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The end of blogging’s golden age

Brian Solis has responded to Jeremy Owyang’s provocative post declaring the end of the golden age of blogging. Here’s the comment I posted on Brian’s site:

I think in a sense it’s true that the golden age of blogging is over, but that’s a good thing. And not because of anything bad about blogging. On the contrary…

Blogging began when your choices were (roughly) to dive into the never-ending, transient conversational streams of the Internet, or create a page with such great effort that you didn’t want to go back and change it, and few could bother to create a different page in order to comment on yours. Blogs let us post whenever we had something to say, and came with commenting built in. The Net was already conversational; blogs let us make static posts — articles, home pages — conversational.

Thanks to that, we now take for granted that posts will be conversational. The golden age ended because when a rare metal is everywhere, it’s no longer rare. And in this case, that’s a great thing.

Yes, that metaphor sucks. An ecosystem is a better one. Since the Web began, we’ve been filling in the environmental niches. We now have many more ways to talk with one another. Blogs continue to be an incredibly important player in this ecosystem; thank of how rapidly knowledge and ideas have become part of our new public thanks to blogs. But the point of an ecosystem metaphor is that the goodness comes from the complexity and diversity of participants and their relations. I therefore do not mourn the passing of the golden age of any particular modality of conversation, so long as that means other modalities have joined in the happy fray.

Blogging isn’t golden! Long live blogging! :)

10 Responses to “The end of blogging’s golden age”

  1. David –

    The richness and diversity of the web come from more ways to form groups, and more tools that those groups have to express themselves.

    If you think about blogs as group-forming entities, they are strong in some ways (easy to get search traffic, relatively easy to comment) but weak in others. Where they are weakest is in comparison with the facebook and the twitter, where you can in either case get 100s or 1000s of people to be exposed to your latest by default rather than having to hunt down traffic.

    There has been a long slow decline of news readers for blog posts – I remember a day when I would follow lots of blogs, now that time is absorbed by facebook and twitter. For my own blog, I know that the fastest route to traffic is to point a link from a social site. Otherwise no one sees it.

    Perhaps the best use for blogging is for writing things that hardly anyone sees now, but that you as author have full control of years after it’s written. Anyone who was writing back in the golden age (what year would that be?) is just happy they have something to show for it.

  2. The whole thing was very, very, cruel to the “little people” who were sold dreams for marketer’s profit.

    Nick Carr put it best in “The Great Unread”:

    “An innocent fraud is a lie, but it’s a lie that’s more white than black. It’s a lie that makes most everyone happy. It suits the purposes of the powerful because it masks the full extent of their power, and it suits the purposes of the powerless because it masks the full extent of their powerlessness.

    What we tell ourselves about the blogosphere – that it’s open and democratic and egalitarian, that it stands in contrast and in opposition to the controlled and controlling mass media – is an innocent fraud.”

    Edward Vielmetti, NO, I am NOT “just happy they have something to show for it.”. That’s the vanity press argument.

    And now a bunch of conference-clubbers are writing that this territory is exhausted, time to find some new area to run the old game. Beware.

  3. Edward, Seth,

    I dare to disagree with both of you.

    Edward — the richness and diversity comes BOTH from social (“more ways to form groups”) and from individual (still mostly expressed via blogs). It was always in history of culture that individual was less in number then group. Now, with social now slowly turning their backs on FB,Tw and similar (read “epic win for anonymous” by Cole Stryker) – should we abondon social? No. Should we abondon individual? Never.
    How many individuals we had in history that were “great unread” during their lifetimes and were more than important decades after they were gone ?
    Should we call their writing fruitless ?

    Here I come to you Seth — authors, including bloggers write for their writing’s own sake. I like Carr and I read his “Shallows” with great attention. But I disagree with the meaning of his blog-peasent sphere of flowless crystal metaphore. Even though there were billion times more “captains of the merchant ships”, the one single blog-peasent may be more important that all these captains.
    Who cares today what Parisian press wrote about ca eighties of XIX century? Who cares for poet Norwid who died there in oblivion? Milions (at least in my language). I, and I’m sure also you, could tell the same about tens of such cases in all languages of this world.

    To diminish value of blogs today only by the fact that internet mass culture tends to become a kind of hive where individual is lost, is like to diminish the value of books and poetry against the press in XIX century.

    The value of blogging is not measured merely by the audience and money and all that. It is measured by the value of thoughts there. And in this context its golden era is not over, and I believe will never be….

  4. Mirek – “authors, including bloggers write for their writing’s own sake” is only true of SOME. Not *ALL*. If you write for writing’s own sake, that’s great for you, since it works by definition. But not everyone does. Some people want to be heard, not just talk to themselves, or chat. And the common twisted perversion of the word “conversation” to describe a situation where a tiny elite thunders from the mountaintops, able to freely attack any of the masses below who barely squeak beneath the grass, shows there’s much more going on than thoughts.

    Bluntly, if a blogger has no audience and no money (and would like at least one, if not both!), it’s poor compensation to be told that there’s some sort of intrinsic value.

  5. Seth — that’s true, that for SOME (maybe they are even MANY) the immediate compensation is what matter most…

    The paradox is that such bloggers are least interesting to read.

    That is, however, also least important.
    What really matters is that, so far, blogs and blogosphere form the best mouthpiece (modality? as David wrote) for expression of deeper and genuine and not anonymous thoughts not limited to burps of tweets and posts addressed to limited circle of “friends”. tbp, that does not mean I diminish the value of twitter or any other “social” modalities.

    If you, or anybody, knows something better — just tell us !

  6. Mirek, there’s no accounting for taste, so if in this market economy you find writers who want more than the pure joy and happiness of having written itself to be “least interesting”, that is your right. But I must disagree with you that what “really matters” , as an objective statement, is mere expression. That’s just restating what you value, which is hardly universal. And comes back to the blog evangelism con-game of selling people on self-expression.

    Regarding the general problem of supporting writers, I”m not going to solve that in a comment box. But blogging is no solution itself.

  7. Seth,

    I’m aware of your stance against Wikipedia — you have publicized it widely. I’m not going to discuss it now, even though I do not share all of your worries.

    But I was not aware of your stance against blogosphere, expressed by “the blog evangelism con-game of selling people on self-expression”.

    True, there have always been a great number of blog’s common abusers. Not only by those “captains of the merchant ships”. I have recently discovered a trick used by many SEO guys — they create tens or hundreds of fake blogs, and as soon as Google is fooled to give them higher ranks, they point to the sites they want to rise up in search. Yes – it is abuse. Does it make genuine blogs unworthy? Well – hard to agree. It is like to put down the idea of newspaper because of gutter press…

    Maybe I just don’t quite get your argument about that con-game. These comments boxes are indeed not a place for full expression. If you could point me to a post or an article where you expressed it – will be glad to read and think.


  8. Mirek – Sigh. This is sort of my point – “But I was not aware of your stance against blogosphere”. I’ve blogged about this for many years, to utter futility (and yes, I know the obviously reply, bo-ring, who cares, take that!, etc). Here’s just a few (if I put in too many, this comment may be flagged as spam).

    If you want to change the world, a blog may not be the place to start

    Blogging Effects As Quack Medicine

    Similar sentiments of mine:
    “Twitter: sucker’s game that boosts elite”

  9. Thanks Seth, will read these posts after the New 2012 year’s eve, which comes here in about 1 hour and the bottles of champagne are fizzling to be opened :-)

  10. […] Had you heard that blogging is dead? I had. This Pew Internet report reported that fewer people were blogging, particularly among younger generations.  There’s some more talk about the death of blogging here. […]

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