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Blogs and a missionary's zeal

Hot on the Web

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on October 18, 2002
(Issue 2042, Prying Eyes)

A few months back, I wrote a column about web logging — or "blogging" as it's popularly known.

In the column, I made the rather modest statement that while blogging was undoubtedly here to stay, it was incredibly overhyped in the media — which at the time (late spring) was basically predicting its own doom at the hands of bloggers, who would make newspapers and TV obsolete.

You'd think I'd called for a government ban on blogs from the reaction to that column in blogdom.

One blogger called me a "Fidonet dinosaur" — I kind of liked that one, seeing as I really did cut my teeth on bulletin board systems that networked via Fidonet back before the Internet was opened to the public in the early 1990s.

But what I found most curious was that most of the bloggers who referred to my column on their blogs suggested that I start my own blog.

True believers

Actually, "suggested" is probably too weak a word.

They're more insistent than that — the folks who run their own blogs seem to take offense at the notion that we don't all join in and start our own blogs right now. Eight billion people on the planet somehow ought to add up to 8 billion blogs — meaning we're about 7,999,600,000 shy.

For instance: Former ComputorEdge editor Ken Layne has a blog at Good writing on the site — I like it and visit fairly regularly. Layne recently quoted a Newsweek story written by San Diegan Jamie Reno. Reno's article had been about the fact that some of the 9/11 terrorists may have been roommates with an FBI informant. Okay, that's all fine and dandy.

But then Layne closes this particular little posting with the following: "Jamie, if you're out there, please start a Web log and tell the rest of this shameful story."

Must we all start blogs? It's like hanging out with religious nuts who get all bent out of shape when they find out you're not one of them.

Or worse — the health fanatics who demand we all give up meat, tobacco and alcohol and live their puritan lifestyle.

To blog or not to blog

But let's be honest about this blogging thing for a second: If nothing else, it's incredibly time-consuming to update a Web site throughout the day. I don't know about the rest of you, but I have a job and a family.

Besides, I work on a computer all day long — and then come home and write on one evenings. Frankly, I'd like a little time away from my computer — maybe sitting on the front porch swirling some whiskey and stealing a quick smoke between burgers.

Anyone who's ever visited my site at knows I already spend too much time pounding on a keyboard. Getting out of the house and losing my pallor in the sunshine is undoubtedly better for me than spewing yet more opinions onto the 'Net.

I like blogs, okay?

Still, as I mentioned in my last column, blogging is here for the long haul.

At the same time, I still think that when the newspapers run articles raving about blogging in a breathless tone — well, that alone is reason enough to question the hype about blogs. The media is notoriously wrong at predicting the Next Great Thing, and is almost always as surprised as the rest of us at how things actually turn out.

Yes, having folks run web logs is a good thing — and if I didn't make that clear last time, I'm saying so now.

But despite the above statement regarding the media's inability to predict the future, I still stand by my earlier assertion that web logs are not going to replace newspapers and TV stations. Most web logs still simply opine on the news reports that the mainstream press has dug up. Web logs may replace newspaper opinion pages, but as long as the rest of us are too busy to attend city council and school board meetings, there will be an important role for journalists to fulfill.

And so, no, I won't be starting a web log any time soon. Nor am I inclined to teach blogging in the Electronic Journalism course I teach at the local university. There may be a place on campus for a course on blogging, but for the life of me I can't see what it has to do with journalism.