Pondering Doc Searls’ Thoughts about blogging

John shared a post by Doc Searls from back in February that I had missed - Doc blogs in a couple of different places and this was one I didn't have in my feed reader.

In it Doc shares his thoughts about blogging now in contrast with how it used to be at the "dawn of blogging's golden age."

A couple of points really connected with me.

Firstly, he remarks that this "age" "seems to have come and gone: not away, but... somewhere."

I'm not sure if that's wishful thinking or an allusion to a recent rekindling in old school blogging, people trying to get back to how they used to write and interact, having got temporarily lost in the social age.

This leads to the next point which struck home:

"We lost something big when Twitter and Facebook replaced blogging for many bloggers. The biggest loss was readership."

He goes on:

"I had a very strong sense of connection with those readers, and that's gone now."

This is exactly how I feel the landscape has changed, and as I've mentioned before. The chances were that much of our readership also used to be bloggers so the author/reader relationship was widely reciprocated.

Even those that weren't bloggers used to be heavily engaged, regular commenters who would leave substantial replies to posts. It was common to say that the comment sections on blogs were just as, if not more, valuable than the posts themselves.

Such was the care, thought and consideration put into them.

You felt like you knew your readers and those bloggers, in turn, that you were a reader of.

But social killed much of that.

Social platforms claim to be powered by engagement but it's the wrong kind of engagement, the minimum social actions which are more advertisements for presence and "me too" curation fodder showing off the supposed breadth of someone's reading.

It's ironic that the more we are supposedly connected the more distant we become. Perhaps we are widening the circles of acquaintanceship too far.

We used to focus on our comment sections and those of a select number of blogs we subscribed to, and the intimacy we experienced with our core contributors gave a real sense of community.

That feeling is often replicated in the early days of new platforms and services when user numbers are low and you would see the same names and avatars all the time. Think Twitter, FriendFeed, Buzz, Google+ - even though it was called a wasteland the initial sense of community was amazing.

Each had that "new frontier" aesthetic for their devotees; the untamed badlands to be shaped in our image until they, the great unwashed, discovered it and suddenly the quaint little settlement, where everybody knew everyone else, became full of noise and traffic and strangers.

You can't argue when Doc says that it's "harder to blog when there is very little sense of connection anywhere outside of tweets and retweets, which all have the permanence of snow falling on water."

Such a powerful statement.

But I keep coming back to the notion that the golden age has not gone away, but... somewhere!

Where exactly? Doc says he's "not sure yet" but I think he's got an inkling which is why he phrases it in such a way.

Here's what I think:

The where is with those like himself who, despite it all, kept posting to their blogs even if the engagement wasn't there because it was what they understood and believed in.

It's with the backlash against the new tribalism of social networks, the desire to return to proper conversations rather than playground name calling and increasingly dangerous rhetoric.

It's with those who strive for an open, connected web allowing people to express themselves outside the walls and control of silos and corporate control.

There are pockets of "where" spread across the web - we just need to find them.

  1. canion says: #
    @colinwalker A great post, and mirrors my own sentiment. I used to love blogging, and I’m in the process of rediscovery myself after a long period in absentia.
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  2. colinwalker says: #
    @canion Thanks. It seems to be increasingly common now which is why I feel Doc kind of knows where “where” is but it’s not quite ready.
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  3. eli says: #
    @colinwalker.blog and others are posting interesting thoughts on the state of blogging. I’ve read and re-read this particular post. Working out something. Still not 100% certain where I’m headed with this, but something that I keep thinking about is analytics and how it relates to readership.
    I don’t use Google Analytics, but I’m able to get a rough idea of visits by watching traffic hit my server. I use webalizer to handle that. You can find 2 months worth of those states at eli.li/navel-gazing. The bulk of my traffic seems to be RSS. I imagine that is because that is how my site posts to Micro.blog.
    In his post, Colin Walker notes that “Social platforms claim to be powered by engagement but it’s the wrong kind of engagement,” and, if I can step in, the wrong kind of engagement in that social networks are predicated on devouring attention. Attention equals time spent on that social network during which you can be served adds.
    The indieweb and blogging is also vying for folks attention, but not for the sake of advertising. Blogging is sort of like doing semaphore into a crowd and hoping someone knows how to answer. You flail your wordy-arms, hopping to get someones attention. Why?
    Leaning existential
    I’d say to participate in a community. I’d say to build breadcrumbs of one’s daily life. I like the idea of a blog as a personal timeline. A timeline of the significant, and the mundane.
    Anyways…analytics. I thought it interesting that one way social networks keep folks engaged is through showing folks how their posts are doing, either through likes your easily digestible analytics. Does knowing how many page hits your blog is getting help? Does it make you feel heard?
    I think bona fide responses. Someone taking the time to work out a reply. Conversation is the ticket for blogging and the indieweb. I know I get warm fuzzies when I see a webmention come in that is a reply, not just a like. I think micro.blog is a good layer to the blogging ecosystem because it empowers conversation. Reduces the friction.
    …of course, replies are usually contingent on worthwhile content.
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    1. Colin Walker says: #
      Spot on Eli. While we all like and respond to the quick hit, dopamine feed of likes and retweets etc. it is often empty and unsustainable. As bloggers we thrive on words and the conversation so this more meaningful interaction is what really interests us. While blogging is a largely personal endeavour our words are also intended to make people think. The evidence of this is far more gratifying than a few clicks of an icon.
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