No, I just can't not say it.
Here are my thoughts on blogs. I don't pretend that this is a coherant argument. It tends toward the reactionary, in as much as it is my gut reaction to the endless fucking stream of blether and pondering...
And since much of that endless stream comes from people who I rather like as people, this is not pointed at anyone in particular.
The basis of my... objection is that the continuing tidal wave of blah, of meandering nonsense talked on and on and on about Social Software (ie: 90% of the time an excuse to talk about blogs) is not producing *anything* of substance as far as I can see. Here are the main points:
1) Social software is not new. What we're actually talking about here is communications software. if you strip away all the bullshit regarding the applications, what we're actually talking about is probably a large number of internet friendly non-web email based communication mechanisms which make their portability to other harware much easier (phones, pda's etc) or a tool for making online diaries.
2) Look up the definiton of diary. A blog is a diary. I was quite amazed one day to be having a Haddock discussion on this subject with a bunch of boys who all do blogs and absolutely refused to accept that what they are doing is publishing a diary! I strongly argue that the term "blog" moves the concept of publishing a daily update as far away from the word "diary" as possible because these guys would *loathe* to become associated with something so... so *personal* and dare I say it - feminine? Like - egh! We're geeks! We talk endlessly about geeky things, we don't talk about our actual lives - good god no! What we do is spend time making lists. Ahhh a boy pursuit. How comfortable for us to accept this new definition.Therefore it must be perceived differently to a diary. It cannot be the same thing, oooh no.
Because, you see - if it's a "blog" then it affords a multiplicity of conversations. Rather than an email list purely being an email list what you can update from any-old device because it's so lo-fi it now becomes a "Mo-blog". Rather than a blog being a handy CMS so you can do your personal publishing (note -and *that* is the bit that's actually important) it becomes a plethora of plug ins and tweaks and twiddles and god-knows-what one can endlessly investigate and spend time on.
The question I have is - there is such a mini-industry of pontificating going on here - who is it actually for? It apears that it is actually for a bunch of people who all vaguely know each other, scratching chins together and pouring out mile after mile of "stuff" - as opposed to meaningful and worthwhile ideas or content. I was thinking about the guys who created "Hiptop Nation". I fucking love it. I go down on my knees and worship at the feet of the guy who just thought - hold on, if we do X then we can.... cool!
And they just did it.
Scratching chins just don't do it for me.
Clay Shirky, who is a charming and lovely person, described the feeling of amazement he had when Phil did his Pepys project. He realised that blogs were going to be here for the next ten years.
I was amazed he felt so revelatory about it. Producing a diary interface / cms to allow people to publish their personal blether is a killer app. It is an online easy way of producing the same bumf people having been doing for millenia at home in their notebooks piled up under the bed; their lockable pink quilted hardback books with "My diary" written on the front in which future embarrassing horrors can be scribbled. Obviously publishing a diary online is a completely different proposition to writing in detail "My fantasy snog with Jamie in class G4" but that goes with the territory. Once it had been organised, it ain't never going to go away. It may not publish in exactly the samw way in ten years but the concept will be with us in electronic publishing ad infinitum.
Anyway. to recap. The main points again:
-Blogs are the masculinisation of a form which has traditionally been created offline by generations of women - and obviously politicians (of course men have written diaries, but the general overview would tend toward seeing it as a female form of personal communication, I would argue. hence the phrase "Dear diary" for example - try saying that and not thinking of it in a female voice)
-Can't we just accept that it's not that revelatory and concentrate on the content or more importantly: what happens next
-There's more to bloody social software than blogs - they are a just one form of it! If you counted how many email groups there are on Yahoo Groups, Smartgroups, MSN communities and not even to mention majordomo, mailman and the rest then christ, can we not accept that communal communication has made more of an impact on our lives?
And lastly, I just wish we could stop being so fucking smug about it by accident. The tech community does this, and in some cases - particularly with back end scripting languages or the like I can accept that a degree of "in-the-club"ness is almost inevitable. But the "blogosphere"??? Who came up with that fucking phrase. Whom does that represent? Not me, I can tell you that now. Not the tens of thousands of Live Journal users; not the many, many individuals who have maintained their own personal experience sites for years. Even saying the word repulses me slightly. Look up bleedin' blogosphere on Beeb news or the Guardian site. You will find endless references to this ludicrous phrase which actually is referrring to a group of people - the aforementioned chin scratchers who inhabit a very small but reasonably vocal part of the personal publishing fraternity.
As a last thing about sites like this and why I think the content is way, way more important than the application used to actually post, is the sadness I felt when I saw that Justin Hall had given up the mad, anarchic sprawl of Links.net and had resorted to MT. What we should look at with MT and the like is the ability to *easily* munge the front end to make it look as individual as it possibly fucking can. Even on a daily basis - or a mood basis... anything you want to do as an end user. I was genuinely sad to see it - but then it's inevitable, because it's convenient. I'd created myself a reasonably handy diary site in... whenever it was, 1997 or whatever but it just became too much hassle to twiddle all the links and make sure the whole thing kept clunking along. FTR it never did completely. Anyway, so that's where if there *is* a discussion to be had about blogs, we should be saying - ok, so how can we make this so fucking easy my 63 year old Dad could pick it up from scratch and not have to put up with me arranging to have it made for him.
If you had a few buttons that could move things around, change colours, upload backgrounds etc on a daily basis - now that would rock. It's the utter uniformity that frustrates me.
Or... we leave the broadening of the form to baton grabbers - people who will business-ise those great initial ideas, whose job it is to do that, and then look for something *new*. Something that actually makes sense to spend brain time pondering, instead of the aforementioned hours, and days of pointless musing about 1 medium sized application type that only constitutes 1 part of a massive variety of different communication new media.
Gawd, I'm completely spent! Now I've said it and I won't say it agin, like. Because it's far too dull to keep reiterating.