Blogs, Blogging, Networks, Genre

Yesterday Alan Jacobs quoted Robin Sloan’s recent post about blogs and social media and so on. Jacobs’s post mostly applauds Sloan’s (for good reason); I was struck by a couple of the points Sloan makes, that Jacobs likes.

First, Sloan observes that ‘Publishing on the internet is a solved problem; finding each other on the internet, in a way that’s healthy and sustainable… that’s the piece that has never quite fallen into place.’ I’m not sure that’s quite true. In the early days of blogging, one could rely on one’s readership network to bring links to one’s attention, and their blogrolls; then in the middle age days, there were a number of mediators (Daypop, Technorati, and I vaguely recall there being at least one other — along with the venerable and still-functioning Metafilter) to call attention to Moreover, back in those pre-privacy days, one could see the sources of incoming clicks and links; these, in turn, provided earnest signs of interest from furth of one’s known circle of readers. Those days won’t come back, the state of surveillance capitalism being what it is, leaving us with few if any sources for bringing new items to our attention, so Sloan has a sound diagnosis even if I quibble about his retrospective history.

Second, Sloan obsrves that ‘Back in the 2000s, a lot of blogs were about blogs, about blogging.’ That sounds like a skewed perspective to me — even though my friends and I used to talk about blogging a lot, we talked about everything. In one observation that got shared around a lot, thanks to a reblog (those were like quote-tweets) from Gideon Strauss, I compared our blog circles to a vast non-spatial coffeeshop. I can’t find the quotation any more, but it concerned blogging being like a cafe, with different regulars at different tables vigorously discussing different topics. Of course sometimes we talk about the cafe, and about coffeeshops in general, and probably more than is their due proportion (given the importance of politics, ethics, films, novels, photography, and so on), but that’s fairly predictable, isn’t it?
Anyway, I like the sound of renewing, reviving, breathing fresh air into blogging — and I think that resuscitating discovery, and encouraging linking, would go a long way toward that end.

1 comment / Add your comment below

  1. you’re still here and blogging, which makes you my hero. Agree about the coffee shop aspects of early blogging – yes we talked about the neighborhood, but the friend of a friend aspects and certain gravitic personalities or publications, like cluetrain or wired mag made the local chat broader than it might otherwise be.

    I bought your What Is Postmodern Biblical Criticism because I was doing a lot of reading in christian apologetics and religious history, etc and we’d had some interesting exchanges in post comments or whatever. I’ve since passed that on to a ThD student friend who quite liked it. I don’t know that he’s the first southern baptist seminary alum to read your book, but those conversations and weird connections are what made early blogging interesting. The switch to branding and self-promotion and building influence… well that sucked.

    Maybe going back to old school blogging, using mastodon / fediverse for discovery and comments is what we should be going after. there are almost too many half-baked projects in the space to figure out what is worth investing time in. (then again, some of the biggest gravity pulls back in the blogging day was platform – MT vs. blogger vs. wordpress, etc. so maybe it’s all good and just early days yet.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *