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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Tuesday January 22 2008

Posting here in recent days has become somewhat more perfunctory, even than usual.

There are two reasons for this, both rooted in one bigger reason.

The big reason is that blogging has, I now believe, become part of the furniture.  I sense that it has settled down into being just one of those things that some people do, either as readers and writers, or as readers only, but which most do not, like disco dancing or watching rugby league or surfing of the other sort that you do on actual waves, on top of the sea.  I don’t know how to look at the relevant graphs, but I assume that they have now plateau-ed.

Lots of people tried it, but then discovered that it was not for them.  They got bored with orating to no obvious effect, the world remaining obstinately unchanged.  They found that it was a lot harder work than they were expecting.  Those small postings which look like they are dashed off in under a minute actually take all but the blogging geniuses twenty minutes to write minimum, and those bigger earth-shaker pieces can take ... days.  (Months, actually.) Plus, when our blogger-with-a-life sits down to do a quicky, it turns profound, and there goes three hours he absolutely didn’t have that were absolutely promised for something else.  He finds that he just can’t fit it in on the scale he aspires to, and given the impact that it isn’t having.

Blogging has, I think, lost a lot of any cool it ever had.  Facebook, MySpace, those are the cool ways to use the Internet these days.  (What will be next?) The “blogosphere” (i.e. quantity of bloggage) may still be expanding, maybe hugely, rather as premarital sex expanded hugely after the sixties (when as we all know it was first invented), but it has lost its air of threat to the established order of things.  This is because it now is the established order of things.  As old-school media hacks and the more thoughtful opposition politicians take to it, like mangy old ducks to a new pond that someone has mysteriously dug, and are discovering that they are often really rather good at it, blogging turns out to be business pretty much as usual, except a bit different because the more maniacal readers can now print their own letters to the editor, or, if they can keep it civil, add comments, and don’t have to beg.

Blogging has only begun to work its magic in commerce, but there again, I suspect, only certain types of people will turn out to have the time and the talent for it.  Hyper-energetic CEOs will do it before everyone else wakes up.  And the bloke who used to run the company newspaper or the factory noticeboard (i.e. cash strapped versions of me) will do it.  But regular people?  For most of them, it just won’t be the answer.  Most people could probably read a few blogs regularly to their great advantage, and many do, and will.  Occasionally they’ll comment.  But for most, that will be the limit of their involvement in the thing.

The impact of blogging, plus all the other things that the internet can do, is only just beginning to be felt.  The two big negative impacts of instantaneous electronic communication on the world as it is (or was) are, I believe: that it rearranges the boundaries (a) between geographically separated areas, and (b) between the public and the private.  The positive creations that will arise to replace the private/public divide we used to have and the old divisions into separate nation states (political parties as now understood spring to mind as examples of both divisions) are only beginning to be glimpsed (in the form of things like the green movement, the libertarian movement, and Islamo-fascism – all global, all “making no secret” of their aims and methods, even as they spring constant tactical surprises).  So the “impact of blogging” (the inverted commas being because so many other things are also involved) will be huge and has scarcely begun.  But the impact of gunpowder was huge as well.  That didn’t mean that everyone dropped everything and became small arms manufacturers or infantry soldiers.  (Although (contradictory qualifier tangent) the young male majority would eventually do the latter, for a few brief historical moments, centuries later.)

Blogging has, in short, settled down.

What this means for someone like me, for whom blogging is profoundly congenial, is ... well, I’ve said enough to be getting on with in this posting.  It started as a twenty minute quicky but is getting profound.  I’ll explain all about how the above is affecting my own bloggage ... some other time.

Summarising heroically, what the above is now doing to my own blogging is that I now seem to be doing more of it here (again) and here (also again), and rather less of it here.

> What this means for someone like me,
> for whom blogging is profoundly
> congenial, is ...

There are many communications paradigms that are facilitated by the Internet.

Blogging clearly isn’t going to go away but an older paradigm, that of many-to-many conferencing-style communications, could enliven it. One of the limits of blog comments in most blogging software is that it’s single-threaded and a bit clunky for anything except rather brief comments. Also, only one person, the blogger, can begin new discussion threads.

A conferencing style environment where longer comments are more feasible (and optionally where anyone can start a new thread or post a new article) may offer new possibilities compared to a ‘conventional’ blog.

Of course such conferencing environments are nothing new. Web forums have taken off in recent years, although they suffer from some of the same ‘clunkiness’ as blog comments often do.

Bringing the best features of blogs, of old-fashioned email lists, of Usenet, of web forums, of wikis, of proprietary (but often very capable) text conferencing systems, all under one roof might offer some interesting possibilities if someone can get it right.

Is there a point to this ramble? Ah yes, this is very much the kind of thing we’re working on with Signal100 Conferencing. ;-) We’ll see how it pans out and what it has to offer in terms of something different.

Posted by markr on 03 February 2008
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