The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

In comments that I'm sure are causing a snit among devout bloggers, John Dvorak declares that the blogging phenomenon is doomed to failure, about to be snuffed out by blogger boredom and big media manipulation.

This is the type of critique that will prompt many regular bloggers to insist that it doesn't apply to them, because the audience they may (or may not) attract is secondary to the personal satisfaction of putting their thoughts out there. Of course, that Dvorak's opinion would prompt that kind of self-defense only betrays the lack of conviction in that belief.

This argument builds upon survey results released over the last couple of months that suggest the much-hyped blogging revolution is much less than the sum of its parts: The preponderance of dead blogs, and infrequently-updated blog sites; and the relatively small impact blogs really have in the larger population, contrary to assumptions among hardcore bloggers.

I don't think Dvorak is saying anything that's not apparent: Yes, the majority of blogs out there are crap, not worth the time it takes to locate and visit them. But you can make the same argument about just about anything, in media and other areas. The most frustrating aspect of Internet media, professional and amateur, is being able to separate the wheat from the chaffe--probably 10 percent wheat and 90 percent chaffe (I'm probably being generous there). That's why established brands have a leg up, and always will.

I think it's a mistake to view all blogs as true news sources. I've always said, blogs work best as punditry, not as breaking news sources. My approach here, for the most part, is to present my thoughts on some topic, usually a news story, and include any insight or comment I think is pertinent. I'm not expecting to blow the lid off any story, but if someone stopping by finds some value in it, then great.

That leads into what remains my main purpose for this blog: To serve as my "outsourced memory", approximating Vannevar Bush's Memex model. For me, that function overrides any other considerations.

As far as the prospect of big media co-opting the blog world... I definitely see the possibilities. Business has been experimenting with the blog format for a while, with mixed results. Also (personal plug coming up!), I made the potential use of blogging as a marketing vehicle one of my top ten media trends to watch this year; I'm not sure anything will be resolved in that area soon.

Part of the issue remains finding a basic definition of blogging. Is it an inherently amateur presentation? Is it a genre at all, or just a streamlined method of creating Web content regardless of format? Does the general perception attract certain types of audiences, who expect a level of amateurism that they interpret as a "keeping it real" filter? Without settling on this, it's hard to dope out the related issues.

One thing I found unsettling from Dvorak: His take on writing in general:

Writing is tiresome. Why anyone would do it voluntarily on a blog mystifies a lot of professional writers.

Obviously, this is more his bias. Writing sure can be tiresome, but as someone who does it for a living (most of the time), I've found that blogging is a good daily workout that helps keep me in practice. I'm conscious of not including my best material here, but what I present is usually satisfying for me.