This month Wired magazine advises everyone to pull the plug on blogging. Last month, Technorati released the State of the Blogosphere 2008. Next month in the Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan will publish Why I Blog (well, it’s October right now, and Sullivan’s piece is clearly labeled “November”). Me, I blog less these days.
Wired · They like death notices; remember Kiss your browser goodbye!, announcing, in 1997, that “The Web browser itself is about to croak.” To be replaced by ...wait for it... PointCast. Which, for the vast majority who don’t remember it, was a screen-saver. The strength of Wired has always been engaged reportage, not prognostication. But really, Paul Boutin is a smart guy and he should know better.
Paul says blogging has been superseded by Facebook and Twitter. Just like painting has been superseded by photography, radio by television, and telephony by email. This is the great thing, and lots of us have written about it: the Net doesn’t supersede much, mostly it accretes stratum upon stratum of human communication, each of them alive, the whole growing richer and noisier and stinkier and, on the whole, better.
Technorati · Gosh, there sure are lots of bloggers; I remember when Dave Sifry was doing the Technorati survey and the number was doubling every few months. This latest one surprised me though. How many blogs are actually active? (As in, how recently have they been posted to?) Technorati knows about 7.4 million blogs active in the last 120 days, 1.5 million in the last week, and 900,000 in the last day.
On the one hand, I find those numbers shockingly low; clearly, blogging isn’t as widespread as we thought. On the other hand, this is a couple of million voices that have joined the world’s conversation, and I’m so glad they’re here.
Sullivan · For those who don’t know, Andrew Sullivan is a gay Christian self-proclaimed conservative who has, over the course of the new millennium, swung publicly and entertainingly from loathsome extremism (denouncing, in the aftermath of 9/11, liberals as members of bin Laden’s “fifth column”), to anguished rejection of the corrupt bumbling thuggery of the Bush administration, to strident Obama evangelism. He has an insanely huge audience, gets millions of visits a month.
His Atlantic piece is beautifully written and wholly worth reading. But you have to get past the opening’s absurd misstatements of the realities of the medium, for instance:
This form of instant and global self-publishing, made possible by technology widely available only for the past decade or so, allows for no retroactive editing (apart from fixing minor typos or small glitches) and removes from the act of writing any considered or lengthy review.
What the fuck!?!? Blogging, compared to any previous medium, is uniquely capable of in-place self-correction; this is one of its chief virtues. And as for that bit about removing “considered or lengthy review”, well speak for yourself, boyo.
Still, he paints an intensely intimate picture of what blogging feels like. You can’t see this, but when I’ve been working hard on a piece, and polishing and cutting and fixing and smoothing, wrestling with commas and semicolons, and eventually I’m ready to go, then if I’m particularly happy with it I type the magic “publish-it” incantation, hesitate (always) one last time, press Return, then bounce my hand up in the air like Yundi Li telegraphing a big Chopin flourish. Of course nobody’s watching, thank goodness.
Anyhow, I disagree with plenty of Sullivan’s essay but it’s still great.
Me · The numbers don’t lie, I’ve been blogging less. Twitter is part of the reason; in the Internet era, word-count doesn’t just measure column inches, it’s a qualitative differentiator that partitions the forms of prose. I now recognize three: Book, essay, and remark. I’d use the word “Tweet” for the latter but that’s proprietary, and the form will clearly outlive Twitter or any other company.
Books retain their essential nature and will do so even if they’re being delivered on a Kindle one of its successors. Blogs can be used for essays or remarks, except for the latter are migrating to Twitter.
Anyhow, having to stop writing would hurt me terribly, and if the other contributors of essayists and remarks were to fall silent, that of course would hurt me infinitely more.
It would greatly impoverish the world. Fortunately, it won’t happen.