This post was written while stuck in a train tunnel between Sydney International Airport and Wolli Creek stations on Saturday. I had Arthur’s Theme in my head the whole time.
Kottke.org fills me with optimism for this medium. Aside from having as inscrutable a name as my own, he also still writes in his own personal space after all these years, long after others gave up and moved to the current social network hotness.
I had assumed those abandoned blogs were a failure of decentralisation; blogs could be written by anyone, anywhere as opposed to being in a silo like Facebook or Medium. But guest writer Tim Carmody makes a point at the end of this post I hadn’t considered:
… what was it that we wanted from the blogosphere in the first place? Was it a career? Was it just a place to write and be read by somebody, anybody? Was it a community? Maybe it began as one thing and turned into another. That’s OK! But I don’t think we can treat the blogosphere as a settled thing, when it was in fact never settled at all. Just as social media remains unsettled. Its fate has not been written yet. We’re the ones who’ll have to write it.
Blogging was an evolution of the personal home page, but it revolutionised it by lending structure and consistent nomenclature. We arranged discrete ideas into posts, sorted them by date, and added metadata like categories and tags. No matter what blog you read, you could grok it. I don’t think that change gets near enough recognition, save for narrow discussions on RSS.
This idea today has generally been expanded to mean a network site with dozens of writers and a ton of nasty tracking. But to Tim’s point, blogging doesn’t mean that to everyone.
Blogging to me was always a deeply personal thing: a way to express thoughts in short to medium form writing I find so much fun. I can’t honestly say people reading it was an ancillary concern; if it was I’d have a private diary. And I’ve had jobs directly because of what I write.
To others though, blogging was about community and engaging in discussion. So it’s understandable why they jumped ship to social networks; the very name for that type of service shows it’s a better fit. But there’s no reason blogs can’t capture this back; in some ways the rigid structure of sites like Facebook and Twitter are their biggest weakness as well as strength.
As Tim says, blogging’s fate hasn’t been written yet. I personally hope for a return to a federated approach to writing, linked together by metadata and ideas. I’m just not sure what it would look like yet.
Update: This post originally attributed the quoted article to Jason Kottke, not Tim Carmody. The one thing I have over Jason’s site is I’ve written all my own posts, consarnit!