August and September have been months in which I have questioned my commitment to blogging, again. The trend which I wrote about over a year ago in "the halcyon days of blogging are over” seems to have accelerated. The news that Bloglines and Vox are closing - two services I have used and liked - was depressing. There seems to be a definite contraction in the blogosphere. Then last week was the announcement of Six Apart merging with Video Egg. I currently publish this blog on Six Apart’s TypePad product.
Six Apart customers have been assured that TypePad will continue in the new company, Say Media. It may continue, or it may be quietly discontinued after a year. I have learned that reassurances made on mergers are best taken with a grain of salt. If I don’t like what I see in the new company, I’ll be moving this blog to Blogger or WordPress - but I’m prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt.
There was a time when having a blog and reading other blogs via RSS was the main way of participating in web 2.0 conversations. There is no denying that this time is over, thanks primarily to Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, Flickr and others. Given this change, what is the purpose of blogging?
I am someone who has a tendency to write infrequently when online, but when I do write online, I usually want to write more than 140 characters or 1000 characters. I don’t write all that often, so when I do write, I want it to matter more.
Maybe this is egotistical, but I feel that when I am blogging, I am creating something unique which wouldn’t be there but for my work. It may or may not be good or read by large numbers of people, but it is mine.
It’s different with updating Facebook, which ranges from interacting positively with a community (best) to interacting with software which is designed to exploit me and the push the envelope as far as possible when it comes to privacy safeguards (worst).
I don’t have the same privacy concerns with Twitter, but Twitter seems so ephemeral - it is all about the present and it is not good at looking back or reflection. For example, in July I tweeted some of the sessions of the KM & Collaboration conference in Sydney (#kmaus10). If I needed to do a write up of the conference and wanted to refer to my tweets and everyone else’s tweets on that hashtag, it is not very easy to track them down two months later. Or am I wrong and there’s a really good way of searching old tweets by hashtag which I don’t know about?
This week I’m attending the 2010 ALLA / NZLLA joint conference in Melbourne (#crs2010). I’ve decided that I’m going to attempt to both tweet and blog the conference. Tweeting will be my initial notes and will be a way of interacting with other people at the conference. But I need to synthesize these tweets into something more meaningful, such as a blog post, or that information will just dissipate.
I don’t want this to be seen as an anti-Twitter and Facebook rant. I don’t think that any blogger can ignore or hate these applications. For one thing, as RSS loses its prominence, engagement with social media is increasingly important as a way of informing readers about new blog posts. But I remain dubious of the services which promise “post once, distribute everywhere.” I prefer to do this manually and keep control over what happens.
I would much rather adapt to change than resist change. On the other hand, who knows what is really going to happen? It is extremely easy to parrot something like “blogging is out, twitter and facebook are the way of the future, you better get used to this” - but it’s more complicated than this. For one thing, it depends on what sort of writing and interaction you want. I can imagine a world where my twitter account is my primary window onto the world, so long as I have a blog or something like it to supplement that.
Update (1 October 2010): As much as blogging and tweeting are great ways of sharing information, it's hard to beat face to face. I've just returned from the ALLA/NZLAA conference in Melbourne, and from conversations at this conference, I found an answer to one of the questions I asked in this post. The US Library of Congress will be archiving tweets. It was announced in April 2010, and now that I've been reminded of this, I vaguely remember it. The downside is that the Twitter archive is not yet available to be searched by the public, as mentioned in the Library of Congress' FAQ on the topic. So in the mean time, I've just copied all the tweets on #crs2010, just in case they go away before I write a post about this conference.