2019 is shaping up to be the “Year Of ‘Hey Remember Blogs’ (Navel Gazing Edition)” and I like it.
Sure, maybe it’s just me, considering that the only times I seem to make myself blog is when talking about blogging (see Writing In The Age Of Silos, on replacing Facebook with personal websites, and if blogging social media’s savior to name a few) but more people are pointing people back to blogs and saying, hey, here’s a home for you.
This week’s take comes from Marc Weidenbaum who notes that 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the coining of the term “blog” and reflected on the state of things today:
If this year marks the 20th anniversary of the word blog, next month marks the sixth anniversary of Google killing off Google Reader, despite it having been the most-used RSS tool. Around the time I read several tweets conspiratorially tracing the decline of the internet as a safe place for self-expression to that turning point, Reynolds penned a mea culpa about the lost act of “inter-blog conviviality,” as subsequently mentioned by Warren Ellis in his excellent weekly newsletter. I thought, in turn, about why I link less to other blogs than I used to, and I recognized it’s in part because there are fewer other blogs, leading to me being reminded it’s 20 years since the birth of the word blog, if not of the act. In any case, thanks to all them for the brain nudge and habit nudge.
“Inter-blog conviviality” is a great term and really highlights what made blogging great back in the day – blogs sharing other blogs. They fed off of one another in a way traditional media didn’t at the time, and allowed the building of conversation through platforms and soapboxes that could allow ideas to spread and take shape beyond just catching headlines and memes. It helped feed great blogrolls where you could tell a lot about someone just by who they highlighted among their daily reads. It was a true social network.
Somewhere along the way blogging became something else. A pejorative. Then the “savior” of things like traditional media. As more people paid attention to blogs, blogging became serious, and a serious business. Instead of springboarding off of the mainstream media, blogs were starting to break the news. Then make the news. Then dictate the news.
Now, just about everything is blog.
One of the things that made blogging fun was that it wasn’t publishing – it was essentially journaling. It was rough. It was a quick take. It was a way to get thoughts out to a larger audience who then helped you flesh it out if you didn’t want to let it go.
Weidenbaum captures a little bit of this when he advises the reader to not worry about whether or not you can “write”:
And don’t concern yourself with whether or not you “write.” Don’t leave writing to writers. Don’t delegate your area of interest and knowledge to people with stronger rhetorical resources. You’ll find your voice as you make your way. There is, however, one thing to learn from writers that non-writers don’t always understand. Most writers don’t write to express what they think. They write to figure out what they think. Writing is a process of discovery. Blogging is an essential tool toward meditating over an extended period of time on a subject you consider to be important.
Wiedenbaum nails it here. Previously, writing was an end. Today writing is a pleasurable end that — quite frankly — I tend to reserve for myself. Do I mind opining on current events and the things that interest me? Most certainly. Does it make me any money? Never has… at least, I don’t see myself becoming an editor at National Review or First Things anytime soon. Yet writing-as-meditation has nearly always been my style… to work out what I might think so that I can express what I actually think, or better still to express the parameters for what I might believe.
As I said above, blogging isn’t publishing. It’s a public scratchpad for folks with ideas larger than a tweet or an emoticon. It’s at its best when it’s not pretending to be the New York Times or Gizmodo or FOXNews. It’s great when it’s responding to challenges like #1000wordsofsummer where you’re just looking to get the words out and you can figure out what you meant to say later. (If I count other people’s words, this post is around 850 words, nearly there!)
I like this renaissance in blogging. And I hope it brings more people back into the fold – and some fresh blood while it’s at it.
Speaking of fresh blood: Keep an eye on Blusterhouse. Jericho Vilar and I have partnered up for a new blog that’ll be about more serious stuff than “hey, I should blog more.” If you like good writing, watch for Jericho’s stuff (dude’s a mean writer). If you like OK writing, I’ll have some stuff there, too.