What blogging meant


David Weinberger has published a short personal memoir of what blogging meant to him in the early years, and how it contrasted with the media of the day. And he documents the moment at which he started to feel like blogging might not be all that he'd hoped, and where it's ended up now. I've been blogging for 14 years now, and reading David's piece prompted me to reflect as well, and I find myself agreeing with his account of things.

So, were we fools living in a dream world during the early days of blogging? I’d be happy to say yes and be done with it. But it’s not that simple. The expectations around engagement, transparency, and immediacy for mainstream writing have changed in part because of blogs. We have changed where we turn for analysis, if not for news. We expect the Web to be easy to post to. We expect conversation. We are more comfortable with informal, personal writing. We get more pissed off when people write in corporate or safely political voices. We want everyone to be human and to be willing to talk with us in public.

So, from my point of view, it’s not simply that the blogosphere got so big that it burst. First, the overall media landscape does look more like the old landscape than the early blogosphere did, but at the more local level – where local refers to interests – the shape and values of the old blogosphere are often maintained. Second, the characteristics and values of the blogosphere have spread beyond bloggers, shaping our expectations of the online world and even some of the offline world.

What blogging was (via Dan Hon)

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  1. My favorite bits...

    "Everyone was going to have a home page. I wish that had worked out."

    "We expect conversation. We are more comfortable with informal, personal writing. We get more pissed off when people write in corporate or safely political voices. We want everyone to be human and to be willing to talk with us in public."

    I loved the article but... I don't know how to put it delicately, did it feel like an obituary for the web we once knew? It made me feel a little sad and dusty.

  2. Nostalgia is a bittersweet, double-edged sword that way.

  3. Everyone does have a web page... on AOL. Sorry I meant Facebook.

  4. tlwest says:

    A community of thousands has its character permanently changed when it becomes a community of millions. People are often attracted by the aspirational (I want to be part of this), but don't end up as interested in the original concept of the community as they thought. (An example: we all like the idea of "Mom & Pop" stores, but our buying habits don't match our aspirations.) The community changes to accommodate the new majority. The original members may all still be there, but the dynamic of being thousands lost among millions changes everything.

    Still the OP is right. Many of the original concepts around the blogging community have migrated outside the community. But certainly not the somewhat more egalitarian nature of the original blogging community.

    On the other hand, the same change occurs even on a micro scale. Many small communities fold once they grow large enough to attract their first truly malevolent (or simply emotionally disturbed) member and have to take action to protect themselves. What works for hundreds doesn't work for thousands.

    Such is growth.

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