I've been thinking about this post from Brandon for almost a month now, about the notion of permanent writing as opposed to temporary writing.
One of the big issues/complaints with social media is its inherent temporality, how the streams flow so fast that everything gets washed away, forgotten, then we're on to the next thing. And the next. Ad infinitum.
Brandon notes that before social, before even blogs:
the writing on these websites seemed to be written as a permanent record. Every page was carefully planned, written out, and appropriately linked. Each page served a purpose (to pass along a specific set of information) and when put altogether the sum of those parts created this interlocking website
As blogs took over as the personal website style of choice, with the list of posts as the homepage, the emphasis on more permanent aspects of online writing was increasingly relegated to supporting cast at best, or forgotten altogether at worst.
Have we lost something by not writing pages and instead focusing on just simple posts?
But blogs and sites serve very different purposes. Blogs are much easier to write - truly personal blogs that is - and CMS's remove a lot of the legwork involved in online publishing. Blogs are an outpouring of thought, feeling, emotion, reaction, as much (or more) for the author than for the audience. They are slices of life that give an insight into the person creating them rather than being based on any specific topic.
Blogs definitely arent the place for more permanent writing. Yes, the posts are always there but discoverability is an issue once they disappear from the front page. In many cases they might as well not exist at all. We can create "featured posts" pages or a "required reading" list, we can be self-referential to the nth degree or create blog chains but the problem is as much one of distribution and consumption. We have to be realistic and accept that people don't follow links anymore.
We could argue that not posting to a blog, and so not having them distributed by RSS, or not sharing via social networks would change where and how people consume our writing but the web is a far larger place than it used to be and the likelihood of being read at all is infinitesimally small.
Sites, rather than blogs, still exist; in many instances blogs are just one link on a site's menu, but are sites the best way to present certain types of information? Did we create sites because that was the only thing we knew, the only thing that existed? The web evolved, technologies improved and new paradigms manifested; is it for the better? That depends on your point of view.
Billions can have a voice without knowing how to code but those same billions can fight, spread misinformation, harrass and abuse. Online anonymity can enable those in danger of persecution to speak up but it also removes accountability. Convenience trumps all but it leaves us with an unmanageable glut of information.
Perhaps we have lost something that made the web special in one particular way, we can lament that all we like but it was unsustainable. The nature of the web itself is temporal, a product of its time, an ever evolving tool whose purpose changes as often as its technologies. There is nothing that precludes us from using it in any way we see fit yet have to accept that things have changed.
From my own perspective I have totally embraced the temporality and ephemerality, the blog's design itself takes that almost to the extreme. Yet I constantly feel the need to create something more permanent, something more meaningful. I don't know what it will be (if it ever happens) but I know that it would be in a different format. In the meantime, the blog helps me express myself and connect with others, and for that I am eternally grateful.