Can We Return to Blogging?

I was early to the blogging revolution. I was inspired by the dawn of Web 2.0 in the early 2000’s that empowered people to write and create in their own spaces. I’ve done the rounds — blogger.com, typepad, wordpress, drupal. I’ve explored, mastered, and published in all of them. I’ve launched enterprise blogging platforms at three different Universities that allowed and encouraged the open publishing of content by all members of those communities. I see blogs as personal content management systems, portfolios, connecting points as nodes on a global network, and as personal time machines.

I was also a very early adopter and promoter of social media tools. I sat in a conference room in a San Fransisco start up office called Odeo while one of its founders told me, as I was trying to negotiate a deal with Penn State, that they were pivoting away from podcasting to focus on the side project that would become twitter. I invited the first class of students at Penn State to join Facebook. I was all in on social media … all the while I remained enamored by the power of blogs.

I loved that blogs were personal and that people were using them to build strong communities … I would routinely write a post in the morning only to be engaged in long comment threads with people I cared about (but didn’t actually know in real life) all day long. It was authentic and it was powerful. Then the community, along with me, moved. People moved to Facebook and the length of posts and the associated attention spans dwindled until it was difficult to measure with meaning. I still wrote posts, but with less frequency. My community of bloggers still existed, but I had less time for their long form writing and I backed away from the blogosphere. I think I made a big mistake. Some of my friends were right, “likes” don’t really matter.

It isn’t just me noticing this. Our adopted communities, contained in social networks, have been exposed as a breeding ground for bots, fake accounts, and pushers of false information. “Social” has succeeded in demolishing the original promise of Web 2.0. I always said, “communities self correct” when questioned about the read/write web. Well, here we are and we need to self correct. We need to find a new path forward and I am committed to returning to the open web as a way to do my part. I think it is time for something new. Something that isn’t “free” in the way we have come to expect from Facebook. I think we need to all reinvest in journalism. I think we all need to reinvest in creating content that is published in our domains. I think it is time RSS is the glue that binds the Internet. I think it is time to reclaim our identity. I’d like to think we can do that.

I read a great piece at the Washington Post today about the death of the Mommy blog community. It made me think back to the amazing days of when we were all writing under domains we decided upon. We were writing the content that helped each of our communities. My wife’s community was the Mommy blogosphere, mine was educational technology. Both of us created deep connections and very real friendships. I read it today via a link on Facebook that my wife shared and the comments on her post were filled with names I recall her talking about daily. It was pretty awesome, but I wanted to so badly to go and visit those blogs and comment there. We need to figure this out, or the Internet and its promise will be further diminished. This quote pretty much sums it up for me …

The death of the mom blog has something to do with shifts in how people consume and create on the Internet. Blogging on the whole has fizzled as audiences and writers have moved to other platforms.

Those “other platforms” are ready for their swan song. They’ve done enough damage and they have no real reason to fix it. Their shareholders aren’t interested in them doing so. The greatness of the social movements spanned by twitter years ago have been overwritten. It might be time to just write a couple of blog posts.

24 thoughts on “Can We Return to Blogging?

  1. Is this thing still on? 😉 (old school *emoticon* too!) I’m commenting on a blog!

    You know I agree completely. Social media has turned meaningful content into a cesspool and I, for one, am ready for what’s next. Someone, please give me a social platform that focuses on meaningful connections and content, something that encourages both long form and quick posts, and something that builds a community rather than tearing people apart.

    I miss it all and I know I’m not the only one.

  2. Apparently it still works. For now. One of the problems of owning your own content is also running your own site. This space is under constant attack by spammers and (dare I say) hackers. It is hard to keep your own domain online, but I feel like it is so important. I want a bullet proof space, that I can trust to be here, that doesn’t sell me out, that doesn’t promote bullshit, and allows me to be me. I like the idea of private, but I also like the idea of public. It doesn’t seem like to much to ask for. Did I mention I would pay money to be a part of it?

    • This is precisely why I shut my blog down. Keeping up with the endless updates and explaining to my hosting provider that _I_ wasn’t spamming and I’ll fix the compromised plugin ASAP made it not worth the effort. On the flip-side, I never bought into putting my content on Facebook or some other platform that either forces ads or makes you pay to reach more than 10% of your followers. I do have content I’d like to post, but monthly updates aren’t worth the headache.

  3. Blogging is dead. Long live blogging! I’m hoping the pendulum has started to swing back away from monolithic corporate platforms and more to human-scale personal networks. Glad to see you’re still at it.

    • I am hoping too. This has been a long time coming. I recall reading your words so many years ago and thinking, “I want to do that too.” That was what made the Internet so amazing back then — it wasn’t easy to publish online, but it was at the same time. The masses weren’t there and we were all connecting to new communities of practice. I feel like I probably traded those communities for artificial groups formed around people I sort of knew, but had little in common with. What the blogosphere gave me were people I didn’t really know, but had everything in common with. I’d like t get back to that. The big social sites promised us the ability to have lots of people read our stuff, but who gives a shit? That fat that you commented made my day … and I am guessing you saw from your feed reader?

      • RSS forever. You nailed it about the community. Twitterbookspace gives the illusion of a massive community, but it’s half bots, half trolls, half banality, and half delusion. Look at me! I’m engaging with a community! Like+1. Sigh.

        I much prefer this. Artisanal communities. Slow communities. Decentralized. Individual. Human-scale. Is it more work? Debatable. Certainly, worth it.

  4. We’ve kept the porch light on for you.

    It’s not quite fair to compare to the paleolithic blogging era, a time when the population of the internet was orders of magnitude smaller, and frankly there were really not many other ways to connect (newsgroups? listservs?).

    It seems almost an everybody nods along in ascent at the assertion that “blogging is fizzling” or “everyone moved away to _____”. What exactly is that based on? Usually it’s one person’s own experience. To be able to make that sweeping conclusion, one would need deity like power to see everything published on the internet.

    Try some numbers-

    * 84 million blog posts a month at WordPress,com https://wordpress.com/activity/
    * ~400 million tumbr blogs https://www.statista.com/statistics/256235/total-cumulative-number-of-tumblr-blogs/
    * 4 million blogs in edublogs https://edublogs.org/
    * Shops like VCU’s Rampages running over 30,000 blogs (estimating, I know Tom Woodward said last yea

    Those hardly look like fizzling graphs to me. Ot depends where you sit. On a daily basis I come across personal blogs, new voices with as much energy as in the 2000s.

    So I disagree that blogging has fizzled. It’s that all the other crap has exploded.

    • I don’t think blogging has fizzled. I don’t think I said that. The numbers are still strong, it is that the conversation has fizzled. Social has taken the energy out of so many people … and Alan, I was referring to your assertion that likes don’t mean anything. It isn’t like I wasn’t listening to you over all those Growlers, it is that this got harder for some reason. Yes, the crap exploded and now it is really exploding. I do think there is a time and a place for a social network (of some sort), but what we have now isn’t working for me anymore.

      • Could it also be that we are getting older, with more responsibilities, and we don’t have as much play/learn time as before? I know my digital footprint went way down when my wife got pregnant.

  5. As long as there are still social media, I say ‘use them’. They can be a nice way to get ‘here’s a thing I wrote’ with link to blog/article to a large group of people. Also, there’s (for me) new ways in which Twitter is used for input and recommendations on professional questions. And then I fire up Feedly during lunch and read my favorite blogs. Need clean up my RSS feed though, because there’s quite a load of crap in there …

    • I do think the social sites are like amplifiers. I always loved twitter for the professional network I had there — still so much better than linked for my dollar. RSS was always “too hard” for the masses, but man did I love it. I still love opening Feedly every single morning. It is my attention that has changed, I think. I used to read a lot of people’s work, now I don’t. I am trying to actively change that though. The reaction to this post and the comments are inspiring.

  6. “I’ve done the rounds — blogger.com, typepad, wordpress, drupal. I’ve explored, mastered, and published in all of them. I’ve launched enterprise blogging platforms at three different Universities that allowed and encouraged the open publishing of content by all members of those communities” …

    … And a community-based newsmagazine.

    • Built entirely on WordPress. These platforms are powerful and people will come and read if the work is good. The trick is to not care if people come. I was happy back in the day when I knew the 5-10 people I cared about read my words … the social networks made scale a thing that mattered to people. Now it matters to bots.

  7. I hear this loud and clear. I have completely dropped out of all of the low quality/high bandwidth tools in the twitterbookspace (thanks for that D’Arcy). One of my good colleagues suggested that I write one thing a quarter and just share it will a small group of curated friends, a private newsletter of shorts, which I think is somewhat in the same spirit of what you are talking about here. Getting back to slower and more contemplative interactions with each other. And I recognize the mild irony of thinking of blogs as slow and contemplative. I am excited you are back to this (and that you started on my birthday).

  8. Hi Scott … I like the “one smart thing” a quarter idea. It might interesting to try that with a very small number of people and see what could happen. It is so disappointing to me that I have these feelings of doom and gloom for the social web. You and I spent a lot of time thinking deeply about the possibilities … it feels more like the worst possible set of outcomes came true. Yes, blogs as a slow medium is an odd construct, but somehow it feels right to say that these days … remember what our old friend, Marshall McLuhan, had to say about the medium and the message (or was it the massage?).

    • Yes, there was so much promise in some of these tools in the beginning. Twitter was powerful when the community was small and curated. I do think that is the thing I like about blogs and newsletters, is that they can be curated by the creator, both in terms of content and in terms of audience (especially the newsletter). That kind of medium can’t be spoofed or botted. Long form and thoughtful prose can’t be memed into valuless dreck. I just think that we could use a bit more craftsmanship out there in our discourse, and I think blogs and newsletters might be a path forward. The blog is dead. Long live the blog.

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