Has blogging reach its peak?
This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on February 20, 2004
It was in 2002 that the blare of blog hype reached a deafening crescendo. Media accounts and the blogs themselves all proclaimed that blogging was an unstoppable forced, one that would transform society itself.
Clearly that hasn't happened. In fact, there are undoubtedly folks out there who have blessedly been spared exposure to the blogging phenomenon, who have no idea what I'm going on about here. "Blog" is shorthand for "web logging," which is a type of Web site in which the site owner updates the site throughout the day in a sort of ongoing conversation with her/his visitors. Some blogs allow for reader feedback, others are merely monologues.
But what blogs clearly are not, at least not anymore, are the Next Big Thing.
At one point during the summer of 2002, it was reported that there were about 400,000 blogs. With the ebb of the hype, the number tracking has become less prevalent. In fact, there may be more blogs today than then.
And some of the blogs remain a very informative read. Virginia Postrel's blog has interesting links almost every day.
What's important, though, is that the missionary zeal of 2002 that presumed we should all be writing blogs seems to have abated.
In fact, one of the earliest and most zealous of the bloggers has abandoned blogging in favor of rock 'n' roll.
Ken Layne, one-time editor of ComputorEdge (and former lead singer for San Diego roots bands The Outriders and The Road Hogs), was a noted blogging expert just two short years ago. His Web site at kenlayne.com was considered a must-read in blogging circles, and he gave talks about blogging at the Los Angeles Press Club and at university journalism programs.
Go to kenlayne.com today, and you'll find it's the official site of his new band, The Corvids.
Nothing wrong with that quite nice to have Layne back in the music biz, frankly.
It's just curious how quickly the hype bubble burst.
The future of blogging
One of the first people to turn me on to the possibilities of online communication was SDSU English and lit professor Harry Polkinhorn (who runs the SDSU Press). Harry predicted in the mid-'80s that online communication would end up being far more radical a development than the then-ascendant desktop publishing that was taking the world by storm. While desktop publishing had driven down the price of mass communication greatly, Harry still felt that dial-up bulletin board systems and other online formats would prove to be a greater revolution than Guttenberg's press.
That was a bold statement 20 years ago, but Harry's prescience has been vindicated.
Blogging certainly is a highly democratized form of mass communication, and one that has helped fulfill Harry's prediction. It is a format, however, that is not particularly open to parallel communication. While it is more personalized than the old BBSs or the Web-based forums that replaced them, or even the Usenet newsgroups, blogs still seem a bit clunky for the Age of the Internet.
My guess is that the blog will turn out to be a transitory format. Nobody predicted the development of the web blog format; it is likely that somebody out there will think of yet another way for us to use computers to communicate with one another and that this new format will be more elegant, graceful and geared to multidirectional communication than the blog.
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