The New Clarion

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Is Blogging Passe?

December 9th, 2008 by Myrhaf · 7 Comments · Metasite

According to Paul Boutin we just made a mistake starting this blog:

Thinking about launching your own blog? Here’s some friendly advice: Don’t. And if you’ve already got one, pull the plug.

Writing a weblog today isn’t the bright idea it was four years ago. The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge. Cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths. It’s almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers. And why bother? The time it takes to craft sharp, witty blog prose is better spent expressing yourself on Flickr, Facebook, or Twitter.

I have no idea what Flickr or Twitter are. I’m so 2007! I don’t like being told, just after we got this blog going, that we made a mistake.

Boutin makes another point:

Scroll down Technorati’s list of the top 100 blogs and you’ll find personal sites have been shoved aside by professional ones. Most are essentially online magazines: The Huffington Post. Engadget. TreeHugger. A stand-alone commentator can’t keep up with a team of pro writers cranking out up to 30 posts a day.

Although this blog will never have pro writers cranking out 30 posts a day, it is a group blog. Maybe we would get Boutin’s seal of approval for that. So far we have Bill Brown, Dismuke and me; we intend to get many more bloggers. The idea is to create lots of content that will increase traffic more than an individual blogger could do. We’d like to get enough participants so that no one blogger feels pressure to produce content. Over at Myrhaf I  was getting over 200 hits a day; this blog should blow past that number pretty fast. I hope.

Boutin seems to think that blogging puts one in competition with huge blogs like Huffington Post. I don’t think of this blog as being in competition with anyone. It’s a place for a group of Objectivists to sound off on politics and culture. As Dr. Peikoff said about his radio show, it’s nice to have to platform from which to speak out on current events. No one has to read this blog, but if people do, then great.

I’m old enough to be still astonished by the internet. My greatest traffic day over at Myrhaf was when I was linked to by Michelle Malkin and I drew around 1,000 visits. Before the internet I had not expressed my ideas to 1,000 people in my life. You had to be a professional to communicate to that many people. The internet has opened up possibilities for the non-professional.

I was surprised to hear Yaron Brook in “Cultural Movements: Creating Change” be less than enthusiastic about the internet. He notes that people are not reading Atlas Shrugged on the internet. While this is true, I would blame short attention spans on modern education more than anything.

Objectivists have criticized online forums as a bad place to learn Objectivism. This is true, and the same can be said for blogs. The only way to learn any philosophy is to read the philosopher’s works, and that will certainly be more demanding than posts fired off on a blog. The internet in its forms must be kept in its place. Sturgeon’s Law says that 90% of everything is crap, and as blogs have no professional editors weeding out the awful, that number is probably higher for them.

I must also point out that as we live more and more of our lives before a computer screen, we should remember to get away from the computer. Go outside and take a walk. Breathe some fresh air.

Boutin ends his not-entirely-serious piece with an example of the prose people use at Twitter, whatever that is:

@WiredReader: Kill yr blog. 2004 over. Google won’t find you. Too much cruft from HuffPo, NYT. Commenters are tards. C u on Facebook?

If that is the future, count me out. I promise you, we will write the old-fashioned way here at The New Clarion. We might make mistakes, but we will strive to write prose that would make Strunk and White happy.

7 Comments so far ↓

  • Rachel

    (Nit Pick: Atlas Shrugged isn’t available as an eBook so it can’t be read on the internet. And with ebook readers in their ascendancy, this is somewhat unfortunate. However,, an internet-only company sells the audio version quite inexpensively (with a membership).)

    As for blogging, I’ve always seen it as more or less a modernized combination of two ancient phenomena: the press and the private journal.

    Sure, the line blurs somewhat, but “Dear Diary” is still the watchword for most blogs. And the really popular ones are, per force, journalism.

    Blogs emerged as nothing more complicated than frequently updated web pages. And given that the brilliance of the web is its being a decentralized interconnection of private computers, a widespread agreement on how to connect our glorified calculators, I don’t think blogs are going away anytime soon. At the extreme, they’ll simply morph as the utility of computers continues to evolve. The inter-connectivity of the computer age isn’t going to change human nature, i.e. the need for news, gossip, and recording our thoughts for posterity. It’ll just give us more options for modifying our environment to suit us. e.g. mash-ups, connections with friends, feed aggregators, ebook readers, podcasts, vlogs, etc.

    And if you want to be a journalist, blogging will accommodate that, too. Though you’ll still have to keep up with the times, vis-a-vis technological advances, such as increased bandwidth that permits a more robust presentation; greater complexity of connectivity that permits aggregation, interaction, and mobility – tools for increasing the convenience and availability to the audience; more power and hardware capabilities that permit more versatile uses of the terminals themselves, a la touch screens, voice activation, and multitasking facilities.

    I’m not one to argue with the contention that each generation’s attention span seems to shrink, but I would argue that it also changes in quality. You yourself, I’m sure, cannot easily commit dozens of items to memory – not unless you’ve taken some specialized courses for such a skill. But in the days before the printing press, people had to remember what was vital or get by without it. We in the age of the written word have much less need to carry long, memorized lists in our heads because of the wide abundance of reference materials, from the dictionary to the simple laundry list.

    And the children of the age of recorded sound have a similarly altered learning and thinking style because sound grants additional dimensions of reference. One example that springs to mind is the answering machine (or in the twenty-first century, voicemail). Likewise with the introduction of visual records into common availability.

    I wouldn’t even limit myself to thinking purely in terms of knowledge and communication. Transportation is another example of how each generation lives and functions differently. Just to name a single example: The automobile has made us so mobile that people who grew up with their widespread availability simply organize their lives differently, in terms of time management, geographical options, and even actual transit conditions (e.g. Rain doesn’t have nearly the effect on people who drive on stone roads and within sealed carriages as it does on those who ride horses.) I don’t attend to the weather because I don’t have to. I apply my attention elsewhere.

    I’m perhaps not quite as old as you, though surely within half a generation or so. So I have many similar sensibilities. I avoid Twitter and Flickr, etc. mainly because I can’t fit their utility into my lifestyle. Typing in “text speak”, or whatever they call that quick-typing stuff they use, doesn’t appeal to me and I won’t learn it. But consider that our children have been growing up with cell phones that have relatively limited input capabilities (i.e. the phone’s keypad). They’ve had to learn how to quickly communicate with their friends using that medium because that’s how they live their lives. To be outside, active, bouncing around the town, or even between classes (gods forbid!), the way to stay in touch is to use abbreviations and synonyms. And I wouldn’t suggest to them that they not stay in touch. Gossiping with friends is part and parcel of being a child.

    And the habits of childhood become the lifestyles of adults. I’m not advocating the application of Twitter-speak to more formal forums. I’m just pointing out that how we function in our childhoods conditions our comfort-zones as adults. And back to the point: Attentiveness depends on the objects of our attention. In an age of magical computer networks and ever deepening skill specialization, no one suggests that children become proficient at the abucus or slide-rule, nor learn how to navigate by the stars. But we do expect them to use calculators, computers, and GPS devices, and to understand a modicum of their contexts (like how the GPS system works in general).

    Likewise with blogging. I agree with you that we should not abandon the great utility of formal language for the more convenient, compressed colloquialisms. But blogs are just records of thoughts; fancy, interlinked, virtually self-updating pages of communication. And even if the content must remain what it is (that’s a big “duh!”), the medium you employ to convey it needn’t remain static. Some children, or young adults, or middle-aged adults… (gawd, I feel old) Some may choose to surf the web only, or primarily, via quickie systems like Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. But even among those there will be some who are curious about ideas, about philosophy, about how we live our lives. You could reach those and keep your prose (and please do – I like your prose!). One way to do it would be to post links on a Twitter account. Another would be to set up a Facebook Group and cross-post. Savvy users will figure out a way to read that which appeals to them and fits into their lifestyles. For my part, I figure out how to get everything into Google Reader because that’s the most convenient place I’ve found to gather my online interests. I label and bookmark to put aside that I want to follow when I have greater leisure. (I have a system. 😉

    If communicating ideas, challenging us to think, and generally promoting rational, selfish thought is your goal, there is no need to limit yourself strictly to a blog. You can capitalize on the new-fangled tools that are “all the rage” (That expression just dated me, didn’t it?) and still write thoughtful, fully articulate pieces. It’s only that there is so much more than blogging, now.

  • Richard

    Psshaw. Don’t listen to the guy. There is definitely a saturation of blogs, but that doesn’t mean people have lost interest in them. It just means there are more variety’s. And when it comes to Objectivist blogs, comparatively I’d say that’s obviously not true.

    In regards to Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter. I consider myself relatively young and internet savvy but I don’t use or enjoy any of them. Flickr is for photographs, so I don’t even see the relevance. Facebook is like the Myspace for more adult users (basically all that amounts to is they ditched the glittery images of Tweety that say “Happy Birthday”). Twitter, like you pointed out, is for fast paced info or opinions that usually amounts to shallow chatter. If you watch CNN they will often plead for your opinion via Twitter to seem hip and happening.

    Blogs are still a good place for well reasoned, personal writing.

  • Rachel

    P.S. I cross posted that comment into my own blog.

  • Chuck

    To me blogging is a throwback to Colonial America, when there was a deluge of pamphleteering. For so many years in America news and political discussion was the province of the Big Three — CBS, ABC, and NBC. Talk radio finally broke their stranglehold on political discussion, and the internet has opened the floodgates.

    Of course there is a lot of flotsam and jetsam floating through the floodgates, but it’s a free market.

    May the best ideas win.

  • Bill Brown

    As an avid and longtime user of Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr, I have to defend their utility. They are just alternate avenues of expression and socializing—they don’t replace blogs so much as augment them.

    Just as Boutin doesn’t seem to get that “blog” describes a multitude of uses that don’t fall under the Technorati 100, he also doesn’t understand that Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr users aren’t just nattering nitwits who couldn’t hack longer format writing. For example, I use Twitter to capture quick thoughts that don’t merit a full blog entry—avoiding gasbaggery, I suppose. But I follow several people who use it to post links to interesting sites they find in their surfing but don’t fit in with their blogs’ foci. Twitter then becomes an adjunct to their blogs, a way to see into the bloggers interests that you otherwise would not.

    I have found blogs to be an invaluable way to keep up with current events with commentary that was terrifically absent prior to blogging. In the early 90s, for example, there wasn’t an effective means of hearing an Objectivist perspective on political issues. The Intellectual Activist under Stubblefield was explicitly uninterested in politics and had a publishing schedule that emphasized the timelessness of its content. There was nothing wrong with that, but it would have been nice to have had the insights we can readily get now.

  • Bill Brown

    On a somewhat related note, Tim O’Reilly just wrote a blog entry about why he likes Twitter so much. That might help some of you understand the appeal a little more.

  • Arnab Das

    Well it does create confusion in our minds. But I still think blogs have a long way to go. its not yet the right time to pull the plug on blogs.