Haven’t done this whole “blogging a reaction” thing in a while, feels so retro! So Anil Dash has an interesting post about an even more interesting branch discussion asking ‘How do blogs need to evolve?’ I couldn’t just post a comment with my thoughts on either of those so instead I’m blogging my thoughts about blogs here, on my own blog. That’s equal parts cute, awesome and annoying.
I have some thoughts on this topic in general and on the issues that were brought up in the conversation linked above as I’ve been blogging since before blogs were called weblogs, and doing so on this here domain since early 2001 – before that it was elsewhere on the web. Anyway, I won’t kick you off my lawn because I have opinions I’m about to unleash.
It’s kind of intimidating to reply to a discussion like that, packed with the “blog” elite, especially when I disagree. Unlike a lot of the people there I love comments. I think the addition of comments to blogs was one of the greatest evolutions ever. Sure that came with problems as well like comment spam (this is why we can’t have anything nice) and trolls (ignoring dumb people is easy) but I don’t want to debate that – I like conversations and having the conversation all in one place is nice. Seeing the spark of a conversation is nice. Having to follow links all over the web to try and figure out who said what when is a pain in the ass. Yes trackbacks were supposed to solve that but those have always been a billion times more spammy and useless than any comment thread I’ve had to deal with.
Though I completely agree that people who will spend all day on Facebook or Twitter talking to everyone and everyone are still hesitant to set up their own blog because “they don’t have anything to say” and so if conversations require people to have their own blogs there are a ton of people who will never be a part of that.
But I post things online because I want feedback on them. If I was just documenting things for myself I’d do it in a journal or on my own computer and not publish it. Or I’d just email it to the small circle of friends that I wanted to share it with. I post things publicly because I want that feedback from people I don’t know. I like the chance and surprise that comes with. Maybe it’s a bit of exhibitionism and I’ve talked before about how blogging has always been a bit of self therapy, but that public feedback has always been important to me.
I also don’t know if a framework or structure or backend technology change is really an evolution worth worrying about too much. This is the web, we make things better. That’s what we do. So if a technology isn’t good enough today and people like it then it’ll get better tomorrow one way or another. So blogging software, if people continue to care about blogs, will keep improving. I think that goes without saying.
But will be the real noticeable evolutions? I think the real shakeup with blogs was when people started writing things that more than their friends wanted to read. When people realized that “blogs” were just a tool for writing, and “Reporters” and “Writers” started freaking out because suddenly anyone could write something that everyone could read. Of course that panic was quelled when it was clear that quality was still important, and when those people became comfortable with having their own blogs. But when writer-to-editor-to-public became writer-to-public a lot of things changed and will never return to how they were. This is a good thing.
There was a similar change with twitter and news, but that’s another story.
So back to blogs, what’s the next big things that will shake things up? What do blogs need to do to stay relevant and interesting at all. Real time updating is a topic I see poking at the edges – that is functionality like PiratePad or Google Docs where viewers can see the writer typing out sentences in real time. I don’t think it’s going to be long until some blog software includes this functionality. Readers are voyeurs and bloggers are exhibitionists, so this makes sense. It’ll also freak out the reporters and writers again as they are more accustomed to writing and rewriting and crafting the complete piece before presenting it to the public and a great deal of bloggers find that to be too much effort and just vomit a bunch of words into a textfield and then hit publish. I think seeing how people put posts together would be fascinating and I can’t be the only one. It’ll also lead to some very entertaining ‘death of the finely crafted word’ arguments.
But I’m really more worried about if anyone even cares about blogs anymore. I guess that’s another topic all together but the popular “blogs” are all group sites with some kind of editorial. No longer individuals opinions. I think that’s a bummer. Yet more and more people are happily posting things online. I think if there’s some major upset where some service like Facebook or Tumblr loses all the content people have created there then it’ll be clear to a huge group of people the value of having your own website, but baring that it’s just too easy for people to get online and use someone else system.
In the end I don’t know that an evolution is really needed. I think blogs serve a purpose, and it’s just a matter of if people as a whole continue to think that purpose is needed or not. If not, something else will fill that hole. If so, blogs will keep on keeping on, just being blogs.