Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Blogging is Dead. Long Live Blogging.

Is it just me or does blogging these days seem tragically onerous? It's a little bit like living in a cabin in the woods, all by yourself. Your cabin may have been built with your own hands, and may be a cabin you're really very proud of, but ultimately it's a cabin that no one ever sees. It's just so far out in the woods, you know? No one sees the brick path you laid, the planters you filled with geraniums, the really neat pot hangers. No one sees your blog either.

It's lonely in the cabin. A person starts to feel like the only person in the woods. So we all come out to the lodge or the campfire, and we start chatting with the other mountain dwellers. Of course, when you're sitting around the campfire, you can't pontificate for hours on the state of your geranium planters. You have to keep it brief, keep it entertaining. That's Twitter. That's Facebook. That's Tumblr. Meet me at the campfire. I'll listen to what you have to say for thirty seconds at a time.

Here's the reality: I'm no longer visiting your blog. Well, that's not entirely true. I'm no longer visiting your blog just to visit. I will read your blog posts if one of these three conditions is met:

1. You tweet or Facebook a link to it that attracts my attention.
2. It appears in my reader, in which case I read it there, in my reader.
3. It turns up in a google search for something specific I want to know.

I don't care about your awesome page layout.
I don't care about your 18 inch blogroll.
I don't even care about your tag cloud.

No, not at all.

I do care, deeply, about your ability to write 140 words at a time in Twitter. I care about your ability to post funny or interesting Facebook updates. I care about your blog posts too, insofar as they fit into my reader, uniformly formatted with all the other posts by bloggers with which I've categorized you. I care about the words you write, but I no longer care about the context in which you write them. And really, I want to say to you, and to myself -- enough blogging. If you can say it in 140 words, you should. No more "What we did today." No more "Here's a funny anecdote." No more "Have you ever wondered about this question?" None of those things merit a blog post any more, and I'm not traipsing all the way out to your cabin to read that! Say it in 140 characters, right here at the campfire, or don't say it. Sorry!

It sounds extreme, and obviously, I'm not entirely done with blogging myself. So what kinds of things can I *not* say in 140 words? What topics do I actually feel justified blogging about, and what blog posts will I still trudge out to your blog to read?

1. Something that's long and funny.
2. Something that's long and useful.
3. Something that's long and contentious.

I might also blog something that's full of pictures, but it must also be either funny, useful, or contentious. Otherwise I can just Tweet or Facebook a link to the Flickr set.

That's really it.

Does this mean that we no longer have the attention span for blogs? Am I now supposed to say something wan and dire about the decay of this or that, or the disintegration of blah blah blah?

No. Because the writing isn't gone. The text isn't even really shorter. It's just that the internet has become more modular. Instead of the context of your layout, your blogroll, your About Me, your profile, your color scheme and the rest of it, you now exist in a larger context. You are now in the context of whatever feed that brings you to my screen. You are adjacent to everyone else. You are without context.

This isn't the decay of anything. It is a literary evolution. Now more than ever, content is king. The blog posts that people do write and pay attention to are less like journals, less like casual diaries, and more like articles -- meaty and complex. The blogs that survive Twitter and Tumblr and will be the ones with actual content that's accummulated into a body of work with merit. For the rest of the blogging population, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Flickr, and Friendfeed will more than suffice. This is a good thing, people. While "Blogging" may be alive and well, "blogging" is dead. Face(book) it: It's just not worth posting the small stuff anymore.

Tweeting this post? Here's a short URL: http://bit.ly/ry1o8


  1. One possible Tweet response: So you're really not reading my blog anymore? Bummer.

  2. Reading. But not visiting. You're in my reader, so you're coming through whenever you post. And, btw, I didn't know you were on Twitter! So, now I'm following you there too. See, it's a *good* thing. :)

  3. Great post. I've been pondering if I need a web site and blog, but it seems so 2006.

  4. I enjoyed reading your post and like the way you framed your argument. Digital media will always been in a state of transition and transformation as long as we have the freedom to access the Web and create new applications, new tools.

    I'm not sure I ever understood blogging, per se. A weblog as a space to write personal observations, i.e., the blog as personal journal, seemed a rather limited and solipsistic enterprise. I know only a handful of people who have kept a personal journal online over 2 years. I think the novelty has worn off and, as you suggest, that's a good thing.

    I think weblogs can provide a tremendous platform for meaty, complex articles. Or as a space to develop meaty, substantive writings. I ask my students to create a personal learning journal for my classes so they can at least experience what a weblog can be and think about ways to use them to support learning and teaching. In this sense, I see weblogs as a sandbox, a place to play with formats, ideas, etc. I have even hosted online courses on a weblog because I couldn't stand the learning management systems that my uni asked us to use.

    Ultimately, I think blogging as you describe it is, indeed, dead. Weblogs as a medium are not dead and have a variety of applications that were probably unimagined by their creators. As Clay Shirky notes, an application like a weblog doesn't offer much room for innovation until it becomes ubiquitous and commonplace. In other words, once we take it for granted, that's when the innovation starts.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    BTW, I found your article in a tweet.

  5. Thank you for channeling my thoughts. I've discovered FB and Twitter and now my blog is.... abandoned. I'm not really happy about that. I keep saying I'm gonna find a happy medium between the two... mediums. I just wrote a lot more here and realized it was turning into a blog post of my own so, I'll leave it at this and play with the rest of my thoughts over on my blog - if I ever get to posting again. Sigh.

  6. Wow, this is harsh. You mean you don't want to see my photos of sea otters? or just that I should have posted them on facebook without the STORY behind them. I am sorry - I exist in context!

    Seriously, though... I've been thinking a lot about this. And I wouldn't have half as many facebook friends if it weren't for my xanga blog - that was my community, that is where people read and talked me through various crises, got to see the real me, deep down inside, got invested in my story. Or so I like to think, haha ;) Facebook just seems so shallow by comparison. Or maybe it's just different.

  7. Christopher, I agree. I like how it's evolving and especially the new stuff like Twitter and FB -- how completely open it all is, and how it changes constantly. Like CNN getting its breaking news from Twitter! Who would have thought?

    Laume, I look forward to reading it -- make sure you FB a link. ;)

    Tiff, Xanga is different I think, than regular blogging... it's like a cross between a blog and a social network, and it lends itself more to forming a strong community. With the subscriptions and the groups, etc. you tend to form bonds more easily. I still read my Xanga digests via email btw. To keep up with those stories. :)

  8. Well, I'm still building my cottage, and I like redecorating. so there! Besides, campfires can get smoky. ;)
    great post!

  9. WOW! I can't really keep track of all the places you are on the web. I think you must be an avatar for someone. An avatar that learned to channel your creator's thoughts and then went off on her own - A. I. for social media.

    Loved your post. I really like your writing. I agree blogs that feature blathering on about personal trials and tribulations. I really like the craft blogs where people show and tell about their projects. I try and keep my blog very focused on projects, creativity and design. Ultimately, it is a bonus if people read it, because I really write it for myself - to collect my thoughts, get them on paper and practice writing. Take a look at: http://artquiltmaker.com/blog

  10. I am actually thinking of deleting my facebook stuff and sticking to my blog which is an artist blog, not a personal infomerical-about-my-life blog.
    Facebook feels very intrusive, though I do like the instant feedback on project ponderings.

    I sometimes feel bad if I don't keep checking out blogs that I have commented on in the past too. How silly is THAT!???

    Speaking of running into folks in all kinds of places Jaye, here YOU are too! lol

  11. I've been thinking along these lines too, and considering gleaning the meatier bits of my blog and trying to make something out of them. There are some fantastic blogs out there that I read--mimi smartypants is one who manages to take the small and turn it into something with substance.
    On the other hand, I feel like I'm drowning in facebook updates. I appreciate the witty ones, but some people need to stop announcing to the world every time they change their shoes or drink a cup of coffee.

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