Blogs and blogging serve many different purposes. As a soapbox, a personal magazine, a public diary, an art gallery, an outlet for creative writing, a place to post neat things that you've found online - sometimes all of these at once, and many more. And unless they are specifically restricted in their readership, most blogs serve as a one-to-many (and potentially one-to-all) form of communication.
Years ago blogging took a lot of work. You had to go through the trouble of securing yourself a place to post, and then most likely do the coding and layout yourself. The effort required was daunting to many, and kept the number of bloggers down to a manageable few.
But then something happened. Hosting sites like Blogger got into the game and made blogs so easy to create and manage that any idiot could have one. Not coincidentally, it was shortly after this that I decided to dive in and create the blog that I had been thinking about for many months.
I had a lot of company then. The established bloggers who I had been reading for years, established bloggers who I just discovered, sometimes through comments left on my site, newbie bloggers like myself, even newer bloggers who were just taking their tentative first steps into the blogosphere in the months and years that followed.
For a while it felt like a big, global conversation. People from all over interacting, commenting, linking. Letting each other know big ideas and mundane details, things that might have been kept in private once upon a time laid out for all the world to see, scrutinize, dissect, and criticize.
For a while.
Then other options became available. Twitter. Facebook. What these are, you already know, or can easily find out about. But the important point is: in most cases these are one-to-some forms of communication.* Unless you have signed up for Twitter and Facebook, and unless you are specifically allowed to see updates from the individual person posting them, you're cut off from the conversation.
I've written about this before. But in a conversation with a friend last night, I had something of an epiphany.
DataBoy Echo (8:15:51 PM): Facebook and Twitter have killed blogging. Sort of.So do Twitter and Facebook correspond to the personal letters written by the writers of yore? The stuff that they were saying to their personal friends when they weren't writing tracts and stories for general consumption? And is anyone archiving them? Honestly, I don't know.
DataBoy Echo (8:17:18 PM): It's kinda like if all the writers of the 19th century stopped writing and just did private correspondence. In some cases this actually happened, more or less, and the collected letters have given insights into the personal thoughts of the writes.**
DataBoy Echo (8:18:29 PM): But it's not like anyone's really archiving Twitter or Facebook, as far as I know, except maybe the FBI and Secret Service. And eventually Twitter and Facebook will be gone, and all those records will be gone too.
What I do know is that some of the best bloggers I have ever read, some of whom were in the game long before I had even heard the term, have left the blogosphere. And many of those who remain post only sporadically.
But they're not gone. Not entirely. Many of them still have a presence on Facebook or Twitter. Instead of writing deep, thought-out posts, or even quick from-the-hip posts, they are expressing themselves one status update or one tweet at a time. And the global conversation is poorer for the loss of their voices.
Some days I feel like the blogosphere was a big party, but gradually many of the people in attendance have left to go Somewhere Else. I feel sometimes like I'm the last one left at the party, though I know I'm not.
But even if I were, I think I would stick around. Keep the ice machine running. Keep the bowls of chips filled. Keep the music playing.
Because someday, I think the fads will pass. The people who want to express themselves and their creativity to the world will remember how they used to do it. And I'll be waiting there, to welcome everyone else back.
*MySpace is like that, too. But I think MySpace is already dwindling towards irrelevancy. I could be wrong about that.
**sic. I so want to correct this to say "writers."