Bloggocks

Complete and utter bloggocks

It’s a while since I have delved into the world of ‘bloggocks’, the hype and nonsense that appears online in relation to blogging. But given that blogs in Britain do seem to be getting a bigger readership and more media attention, it seems like the moment to revisit the topic.

Artsjournal.com attempts some of those dramatic, definitive statements about blogging that Americans online seem to enjoy so much. It is, needless to say, full of bloggocks.

Here it is with my brief, but considered, responses.

1. It’s almost impossible to explain what a blog is to someone who’s never seen one. That’s the mark of a true innovation.

Since when was the inability of someone to describe a very simple concept a measure of its originality? In any case, I have found that “It’s a sort of online journal with links to news and opinion with some of our own comments thrown in” works fine with almost everyone.

2. I know very few people over fifty, and scarcely any over sixty, who “get” blogging.

What is there to “get” about blogging? You read it. If you like it, you come back again and you might try some other blogs. I can see why the technology might put some over-50’s off creating their own weblogs but what about blogging is hard to understand for the reader? My dad, who is over-60, spends hours posting to online football forums and I know plenty of other over-50’s who spend a lot of time online. Some even have blogs. In short a rather weak attempt to present blogs as something ‘young’ and ‘revolutionary’.

3. Blogs without links aren’t blogs. Blogs without blogrolls aren’t blogs. Blogs without mailboxes aren’t blogs.

Bloggocks. A weblog consisting solely of the posts of the author could work perfectly well. You need neither links to media or links to other blogs to create an interesting site.

4. The blogosphere is a pure market—but one in which no money changes hands. If you can afford the bandwidth and your ego is strong enough, it doesn’t matter whether anybody wants to read what you have to say. But the more you care about how many people are reading your blog, the more your blogging will be shaped by their approval, whether you get paid or not.

If you are a sad case then yes, you might write for your ‘readers approval’. But I suspect that would make for a rather dull blog. This blog rarely seems to meet with much approval from its regular readers – many of the comments are critical and are from people who have a vastly different political outlook from the authors here. If there is a ‘market’ it is for argument. People like the discussion raised online and a series of dittoheads muttering “what Chuck said” does not make for lively debate.

5. Politicians and celebrities rarely make good bloggers. They’re not interested enough in what other people are thinking.

On the contrary. I think if any criticism were to be made of politicians blogs in Britain it would be that they are overly concerned with what other people are thinking and too reluctant to put forward their own views.

6. Blogging puts professionals and amateurs on an even footing. That’s why so many professional writers dislike and distrust it.

Again bloggocks. I’ve spoken to a number of journalists about blogging and I have yet to meet one who truly dislikes the medium. Rather they seem to be flattered to have their articles discussed in public forums and they like to find out what kind of debates are going on across the blogs. If the old style Fleet Street boys used to get their story ideas from standing at the bar, these days there are some who take inspiration and ideas from what they find online. There is no point trying to invent some rivalry that doesn’t exist.

However blogging does have the power to let people express themselves without needing to go through the formal barriers to the ‘profession’ of journalism. As one journalist put it to me “journalism used to be a trade not a profession and you can learn a trade while you have to enter a profession”.

Blogging does have the power to remove that entry barrier and allow people to learn the trade and win an audience for their writing on merit.

7. The whole point of a blog is that its author controls its content. That’s why no major newspaper will ever be successful at running in-house blogs: the editors won’t allow it. The smart ones will encourage their best writers to blog on their own time—and at their own risk. The dumb ones will refuse to let any of their writers blog, on or off the job.

Well here’s a prediction. Within the next two years most of the newspapers with an online presence will have some sort of blog element to their websites. Its just a very easy way of getting people to revisit a site to follow the regular updates and it is a handy way to exchange links and attract readers. It won’t be the top staff reporters writing the stuff of course but rather the people from the online sections of the companies.

8. For now, blogs presuppose the existence of the print media. That will probably always be the case—but over time, the print media will become increasingly less important to the blogosphere.

I doubt it. Look at the debates over Iraq which often focused around discussions of op-ed pages in the major newspapers. And what would all those right-wing bloggers do if they weren’t spending hours searching for ‘liberal bias’ in the media? If anything the ‘blogosphere’ is made up of people who are unusually interested in the contents of newspapers.

9. Within a decade, blogs will replace op-ed pages.

Utter bloggocks. With more and more people taking their news from 24 hour tv channels or online, it is widely acknowledged that newspapers strongest points in the future are likely to be the good writing and analysis that can stand back from breaking news and look at the bigger picture. If anything op-ed pages are going to get more, not less, important. As for blogs, they thrive on those pages and the items raised in op-eds often form the start-off point for blog discussions.

10. Blogs will be to the 21st century what little magazines were to the 20th century. Their influence will be disproportionate to their circulation.

In a British context perhaps I could go along with the first half of the statement if it referred to fanzines. Blogs take advantage of online technology and create DIY publishing in the same way that photocopiers and later desktop publishing allowed music and football fans to create their own publications. As for influence though? I see no difference between blogs and any other media – blogs with little circulation will have little influence unless they have an elite readership of decision-makers/opinion formers. I see no evidence of that being the case. I believe this blog has one of the higher readership levels among British sites but influence? Don’t make me laugh.

11. Blogs are what online magazines were supposed to be.

I’ll give him a point for this one. Most online magazines failed because they didn’t have good enough content. Blogs get round that problem by linking to or stealing from other people’s good content.

12. Art blogging will never be as popular as war blogging. More people care about politics than the arts.

Probably. Whatever.

13. Blogging is inherently undemocratic in one important way: it privileges literacy. Like e-mail, it is dividing the world into two unequal classes: people who feel comfortable expressing themselves through the written word and people who don’t.

What about people who can read? 95% of the people who visit this site don’t leave a comment and most don’t have blogs yet they clearly get something out of the site. Maybe they discuss the issues offline. Don’t assume that a lack of interest in online publishing means that individuals aren’t involved in some form of democratic activity or discussion that may or may not be influenced by blogs.

14. If you want to be noticed, you have to blog every day.

Nah. Oliver Kamm produces just one or two posts a week and is considered a ‘must read’ among British bloggers. In contrast there are many blogs updated several times a day that get few readers and little attention. Its the overall quality of the site that gets you noticed not the frequency of the posts.

15. An impersonal blog is a contradiction in terms.

More bloggocks. Who is British Spin? Who are Socialism in an Age of Waiting?

Readers don’t need to know what bloggers had for breakfast or whether they have split up with their girlfriend or not (although no doubt some would like to know in some cases). Overall people are looking for some interesting links and/or commentary.

It really is as simple as that. No need for all this bloggocks.

(Link via Jeff Jarvis)

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