It seems ironic that one should write a blog about blogging being on the wane, but it is. History will put the start of the blog-downturn when Robert Scoble left Microsoft, as (perhaps) he found it impossible to square his corporate and blogging existences. He’s now a PodTech blogger, and spends as much time promoting his multimedia show as he does talking tech. Which is fine. Similar examples can be found here and there – a journalist leaves a publication because he says something out of line, implying that those who remain will be expected not to; links to blogs indicate that the blog is no longer kept up to date, as the blogger now works for XYZ-insights.com, the Web-based publication. The number of blogs may still be on the increase, but this is more a factor of the simplicity of the mechanism than the betterment of the blogosphere as a whole. Up at the top, the club of elite bloggers in each sphere is now saturated, or if not it shortly will be. Bloggers of all persuasions are talking about cutting down the numbers on their blogrolls, implying that the number of relationships they can maintain is arriving at a sustainable level. From that point on the growth is organic, not exponential.
Which is fine. I have never had any problem with blogging, as a mechanism – in the same way that I don’t have a problem with knives and forks, lathes and printing presses. The problem was never the pamphlet, nor the pamphleteer, it was the idea that pamphleteering was in some way going to replace what had gone before and lead us to some greater thing, previously undiscovered. The greatest of greater things was, inevitably, the collective consciousness – this, too, is on the wane as neither Wikipedia nor any loose-knit community of like-minded individuals have proved that they will ever be able to agree on anything. The most hardened bloggers take offence at each others’ interpretations of their own remarks, pointing more to the downsides of collective anarchy than its upsides. If blogging were an island tale, William Golding would be writing the script. Or perhaps George Orwell – for as we all know, some bloggers are more equal than others – by humbly suggesting they are not as bright as their readers, they are nonetheless illustrating the divide.
Which is fine. The point is not to say it is bad, or it is good: it is neither, and it is no different from what went before or what will come after. Humans interact following ancient models and customs that have been documented to the n’th degree by anthropologists, sociologists and various other types; no doubt they are at it right now, drawing up the table of personality types and comparing them to (or should we say, “mashing them up with” the blogiarchies.) No doubt they did it too with open source, and I am sure they will do the same with whatever comes next – for in this very human existence we have, there will always be a “next”. Put it this way – teenagers are not blogging, or at least they don’t see it as such, more as an extension of Myspace, Bebo and MSN. Nor will they ever – something else will build upon the foundations they are already creating, and they will have their own version of the road to Nirvana. Its as old as the tower of Babel, though admittedly a lot more sexy.
So, blogging is doomed then? Of course not, the mechanism will achieve its rightful place on the workshop wall, next to all the other tools that have failed to be rendered obsolete. Cries that the media was in some way doomed become laughable as soon as the more savvy media chose to add blogging tools to their own sites; similar debate still rages over other outspoken types such as columnists and IT analysts, but it won’t last much longer. (Of course there were gaps opened up, new success stories, and there were casualties made of older hacks that were unprepared to move with the times.)The best way to knock the wheels off a new bandwagon is to integrate it with everything else, and that’s as true for masses-hype as it is for corporate-hype. Blogging in its current form cannot survive – not because it is in any way inadequate in itself but rather because, as a single mechanism, it is constraining. One blog cannot cope with multiple personalities with multiple things to say – and much as I enjoy reading about the day to day activities of my friends and family, I confess to not giving a monkey’s grunt about Irving Wladawsky-Berger’s baseball habit or Bob Sutor’s porch. The mechanism as defined is not capable of filtering out what I would consider noise, just as I cannot share information discriminately with my family and friends, my musical friends, my gaming other friends, my work colleagues and my customers and prospects: instead, I use multiple blogs, channels, columns and I am delighted to be a part of all of them. No doubt I will one day be able to manage everything from a single point, perhaps the resulting mechanism will be called something to do with blogging (though hopefully with a nicer name), but there’s just as good a chance it will be called something new.
At which point, of course, we can start all over again, convincing the cynics (as I was, about blogging) that that there was more to it than they thought, then riding the wave for a while before realising (as I am, now) it is starting to peter out and scanning the horizon for the next one. Enjoy the ride, but lets not get too hung up about the shape of the board.