The Internet seems to have a fascination with publishing the premature obituaries of all manner of things. The latest group of things seems to be blogs. They’re dead because we’d rather send out 140 characters updates on what we had for dinner than write a few hundred angsty words on the state of our lives. They’re dead because our conversations would rather occur around our low-res pictures uploaded to Facebook rather than around our ruminations on the latest teen vampire novel. They’re dead because writers don’t write and readers don’t read. They’re dead because tl;dr has become the order of the day.
Blogging is dead you say. Good riddance I say.
You see, the rise of self-publishing has brought with it a curious dilemma. Now that everyone can publish, we have been hoping that everyone would publish. There was the hope that the World Wide Web would become humanity’s common forum. A living, evolving and simultaneously permanent record of billions of voices, all saying something worth listening to. But caught up in the euphoria of being able to give every person a voice we failed to stop and ask ourselves — who was going to sit and listen to all the voices? Who would pay attention to all the words? Was everything even worth giving an ear to?
And somewhere along the road we grew tired of all the voices. What was supposed to be a beautiful song sung by an enormous choir turned out to be just a raucous cacophony. Sure, there were some heart-wrenching diaries, some journals of hard-earned wisdom, some chronicles of advice worth listening to. But by and large, we didn’t get what we were looking for. Blogs became corporate mouthpieces. They became lists of pointers to other blogs. They become endless collections of bullet points as if there were always “5 ways” of doing something or “7 tips” that would make life better. As Twitter drove the upper limit for expression down to 140 characters and people lamented the death of print, we were ready to throw up our hands and say that humanity’s attention span (for both reading and writing) had been permanently truncated. The blog was dead, because what we wanted wasn’t to pour our heart out to the Internet. What we wanted was just brief banter with groups of “friends”. Along with print, blogs were the other great casualty of 21st century social media.
But like all sweeping generalizations, we know that isn’t quite true. As Brent Simmons asks, “If blogs are dead, what are we reading in Instapaper?” If blogs are dead, why does Jekyll exist? If blogs are dead, then why the hell am I spending 2-3 hours a day, 3 days a week typing at a keyboard when I could be reading in coffee shops and looking all erudite? (That last one was a rhetorical question, don’t answer it)
Blogs are dead. And they’ve already been reborn.
What died is the idea of all human voices singing together in a chorus. Because we don’t all sing well and even if we did, it would be terribly boring to sing the same song. Instead we’re now partaking in a million different conversations on a dozen different platforms — blogs, tumblelogs, linkrolls, Facebook, Twitter, Github. The blog is being redefined as just one of a myriad number and types of platforms. The blog is a becoming platform for longform text — for ideas and expressions that can’t (and shouldn’t) be compressed into 140 characters. They’re becoming thought platforms, not just voice platforms. Blogs are turning to good writing, good design, great ideas expressed in hundreds of long words rather than short bullet points.
Blogging is dead, because writing something worth reading is hard. Blogging is dead, but self-expression isn’t. So if you have something to say, by all means say it. Just remember that you’ll have to say it well and loud if you want to be heard. Good luck.