In an opinion piece for Wired, Valleywag’s Paul Boutin makes the rather tenuous assertion that blogging is dead. He writes,
“Thinking about launching your own blog? Here’s some friendly advice: Don’t. And if you’ve already got one, pull the plug.
Writing a weblog today isn’t the bright idea it was four years ago.The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression andclever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge. Cut-ratejournalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out theauthentic voices of amateur wordsmiths. It’s almost impossible to getnoticed, except by hecklers. And why bother? The time it takes to craftsharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr,Facebook, or Twitter.“
His argument is that back in 2004, the vast majority of blogs were web diaries – places where people disclosed and discussed their personal lives. That, Boutin says, has been ruined by professionally operated blogs that crowd out the little guy by stealing their google juice. Because of this, some high profile bloggers are closing up shop in favour of posting short updates on twitter and social networking sites.
As Boutin correctly points out, these services are very good at enabling people to very quickly and easily share, often from a mobile phone, the mundane details of their lives. So as people wait for their dinner partner to return from the loo, or find themselves sitting on a train going nowhere, or waiting for the newspaper to arrive, they can share that moment with the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I regularly post short, off-the-cuff updates on twitter, facebook and elsewhere. It serves a purpose – keeping people I know, and quite a few I don’t know, abreast of where I’m at, who I’m with and what I’m doing. But I also continue to blog.
As I’ve argued elsewhere, there are at least three different types of blogs – personal diaries, information conduits and nodes of a conversation. Twitter and social networking sites probably do a better job, for most people most of the time, of enabling them to tell the sort of stories and personal minutae found on many personal blogs. But when it comes to the other types of blogs, the flexibility and control now offered by most major blogging platforms makes it possible to do much more than compose and publish a personal diary online – they enable users to create and pull together a rich, distributed web presence.
Blogs work best when they focus on a particular niche, and where the author is authentically interested in the topics they blog about, but it’s a mistake to think they all must be personal to be of value. The rise of Twitter and social networking services may very well be hastening the decline of diarist blogging, but by no means does this signal the death knell for blogging as a platform and technique for publishing and participating meaningfully in the exchange of ideas, information and opinions online.