The Blog is Dead, Long Live the (micro)Blog

"I'm giving up blogging because twitter has more energy and satisfies my online media needs these days." I here yet another person say, as they give up the blog that they've been working on sporadically for the last 4 or five years for a twitter account.

I'm certainly not giving up blogging any time soon, but I hear people say these things. Not always so explicitly, and less often now that twitter has become more established, and less of a novelty. Nevertheless I think its high time to take a step back and take an account of "the state of blogging."

While I think we need to consider the impact of twitter on the current state of blogging, I think the past five years and maybe the past seven or eight years (most of which have been without twitter) have had an even larger impact on the forum.

I'm not sure, exactly, what the state of things are, but the following are the questions I'm asking myself.

  • Are blogs simply the default way of publishing serialized/periodical content and updates to websites?
  • Blogging, at least in my mind, grew out of online-journal communities, and while there's a lot of division between "bloggers" and "journalers" there's a lot of connection. Blogs can be self-referential, and first-person, and they can drift between multiple threads of the author(s) life. What's the state of blogging/journaling?
  • Are blogs things that people grow, develop, and build over a long time, or are blogs commodities that serve a specific purpose attached to some other purpose. In other words, do people say, I want to create a blog, and they have a blog which meanders and continues for years, or have blogs become something that people start on a whim in response to communities or current events, and then discard when the mood passes?
  • Do people read blogs? I have a good excuse for being more than a thousand post behind on my feed reader (moving across the country, starting a new job) but I'm pretty sure that blog reading isn't exactly flourishing. There are some really well read blogs, of course, but I don't know if people are really reading.

My answers, if not obvious are: yes, strained and under-appreciated, more commodity and ephemeral than they used to be as a result of software development, and readership hasn't grown with the growth of the web.

And then we introduce twitter.

I've always seen twitter as an evolution of the "chat room" of "IRC" and phenomena like that, rather than an evolution of the blog, though it makes sense to think about twitter and related formats as being "microbiology." At the same time, I think microblogging becomes a viable format because it makes it "OK" for folks to post lots of little ephemeral thoughts, which is hard in conventional blogging, both in terms of time/energy, but also in terms of what the software and social convention will allow.

In order for a blog post--just one--to be "successful," in today's world, it needs to be clever and well written, and it needs to hang around for long enough for people to notice it. It might also need to provide a useful analysis in combination with some useful information.

In order for a post to twitter to be successful, it needs to be and timely (so that people see it), it probably needs to include some sort of link, and other people need to "Retweet" it a lot (which has got to be the most annoying thing in the short history of the medium).

I don't think the "short form" is going to kill the long form, or that that has even begun to happen, but might twitter kill off some of the cruft that that's built up around commodity blogging? Does twitter reintegrate the journal-form with the more-objective form?

Maybe. We'll see in a little while.

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