Who saw him die?
I, said the Fly
With my little eye,
I saw him die.
The Fly was lucky. My little eye isn’t doing too well. How come? Apparently the blogosphere has died and gone somewhere over the past few years, and I missed it. Completely. I did not see it die.
So what did I miss? Nicholas Carr gives a reasoned view of the demise of the blog in this post. Even though I don’t always agree with him, his is a must-read blog. Let me try and summarise what he says in the post:
- Blogs are about two things, a style of writing and a set of tools.
- If we concentrate on the style of writing, there’s been considerable change over the past few years.
- The top blogs are now indistinguishable from mainstream news sites, down to landing page bloat and authorship by collections of professional writers.
- Even if we include these collective pro-blogs, the actual number of blogs updated regularly is low, 7.4 million in the last 120 days and 1.5 million in the last week.
- Different in style. Dominated by professionals. Indistinguishable from mainstream. High dormant rate.
Doesn’t sound too alive, does it?
I’m not so sure, I guess I see things differently.
Why do I say that? There are a number of reasons.
Growing irrelevance of the Technorati Top 100
I used to read a lot of people who were in the Technorati top 100. I don’t any more. Not because I’ve stopped reading them. But because they aren’t in the top 100 any more. Let’s look at what changed here. The people I used to read are still blogging. They haven’t stopped. So what has changed? What changed is that they stopped caring about their Technorati ranking. They were relaxed about changing their blog addresses, they blogged in more than one place, they blogged in more than one way. Rankings fell away.
Move towards aggregation
As the blogosphere was infiltrated by the mainstream, one of the tendencies I noticed was that a number of people that I used to read as individuals began to blog as groups. My guess is that it was a way to counter the attack of the mainstream. Many of the blogs in the top 100 are actually mainstream pseudoblogs; those that are authentic blogs are often multi-author blogs. The number of authentic blogs in the top 100 reduced as a result.
Reaction to trolls
As the blogosphere grew, so did the misuse of links. There were more and more instances of self-publicity through self-linking, trolling became more common, the ranking systems started getting gamed. One of the common reactions was to move away from “link love” and blogrolls and suchlike. That in turn affected rankings.
Growth in microblogging
As the blogosphere grew and began to get to Main Street, it started spawning other ways of blogging. Principal amongst this was Twitter, which some people see as microblogging. One thing’s for sure: Twitter sucked away a lot of the mini-posts people did in their blogs, which had two consequences. The average length of the blog post grew as a result; and the frequency of update of blogs fell away. That affected some of the statistics we are seeing.
People stopping blogging?
I’ve tried to think hard about all the people I read at the turn of the century, those I read when Technorati started ranking them (late 2002? early 2003?) , and those I read now. And you know something? I think I can come up with two names of people who aren’t posting as much now. Kathy Sierra. Clay Shirky. [And I am privileged to be able to say that in both cases, the conversation has continued. In person. And it probably wouldn’t have continued if I hadn’t continued to blog. Both of them have their reasons for changing their style and frequency of blogging, both of them have every right to those reasons. But their actions do not represent the death of blogging. Clay continues to do so via Here Comes Everybody. Kathy continues to be quiet, and has her reasons. We should respect them].
Maybe Nicholas Carr is right. Maybe all those who claim blogging is dead are right. I don’t know about that. But here’s what I think:
Most of the people who started blogging continue to blog, and that number is growing. It’s growing slowly as the blogosphere matures. There are a large number of dormant blogs, but that has always been the case. Always. There has been a change in the blogosphere when viewed through the lens of the Technorati 100, but that is because the ranking is irrelevant, not because people have stopped blogging. There has been an impact on size of post and frequency of update as a result of the growth of microblogging, but that should be seen as an extension of the blogosphere and not in competition with it. Twitter is part of the blogosphere.
I, said the Fly? I think not. The death of the blogosphere has more to do with the death of Mark Twain than that of Cock Robin.