The advent of the bog turned ten this week! The Wall Street Journal headlined the event with the caption: Happy Blogiversary! The Journal invited various commentators to weigh in on this new medium for writing. Most liked it. A few were strongly opposed, even derisive, such as the infamous social critic Tom Wolfe. My mind is not made up entirely, though I confess there are several things that I have found to be true about blogging that both thrill me and trouble me. I have been blogging for a little over two years now and at times I love it and at other times I just endure it or even hate it.
The first blogger was apparently Jorn Barger who began his business of hunting and gathering links to items that tickled his fancy with comments of his own added. On his site he wrote, in December of 1997, “I decided to start my own webpage logging the best stuff I find as I surf, on a daily basis.” The Oxford English Dictionary regards this as the root meaning of blogging, thus the word “weblog.”
First, blogging appears to simply be another creative way to publish one’s ideas, albeit one which is less subject to any kind of review or criticism by peers or editors. It allows for the free exchange of information. While some of it is awful some of it is downright useful. I read several blogs, though I limit myself to a certain amount of time reading blogs, and I benefit by these bloggers and the respondents to their work.
Second, the medium is not costly and thus it invites writers and readers to make their own choices, thus we all become the ultimate consumers and marketers. This is why New Gingrich compares, in the July 14-15 The Wall Street Journal article, blogging to a “Do it Yourself” movement, something like a Home Depot which allows you to become a fix-it-up person and thus to bypass the handyman. Alvin Toffler suggested that we can blur the lines between professional producers, who give us news, and amateur consumers (citizens). By this emphasis he coined the phrase “prosumers.” The idea suggests that people want to play an active role in various decisions and issues that interest them directly. They do not trust mainstream news and print production the way they once did and thus the appeal to bloggers and readers both. I welcome this revolution but I also see several major downsides here. Having just watched the 1997 movie, Wag the Dog, I am even more suspicious of the professionals who feed us information in order to get us to believe something on their word alone so I believe there is an even bigger role for bloggers in the future, even though they too must be held to critical scrutiny. Ignorance, in this case, is not bliss. Most people still do not know how to make a decent argument or to follow one if it is made. They much prefer to hear themselves speak or read their own words in print on a screen.
Third, blogging is what one has called “intellectual skin contact.” It offers the immediacy of direct communication with those who want to respond to a person’s ideas. This is why I do it, perhaps more than any other single reason. I have been given an audience, gained through my writing and speaking, and that audience is made up of people ranging from casual readers as well as dear friends who I want to speak with as personally and quickly as possible. There is a line here but I believe this medium allows something to happen that is both valuable and humanizing. It is not a passive medium, as in television, since you can respond and interact. I value that profoundly.
As with all such new technologies bloggers and blog readers need to find suitable ways to manage this medium. There are various technologies that will help you manage your blog reading and find what you are looking for. If you haven’t discovered these it would be worth your time to make the effort. I have in mind tools such as Google Reader (www.google.com/reader), Bloglines (www.bloglines.com) and Netvibes (www.netvibes.com). With these and other links you can find what you are truly interested in and thus save time and profit more from blog reading.