A danger zone called blogging

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Blog Zone! My apologies to Rod Serling’s memory for stealing one of the openings to his classic TV show The Twilight Zone but it seems, at times, like we’ve entered just that when it comes to the subject of blogging.

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Blog Zone!

My apologies to Rod Serling’s memory for stealing one of the openings to his classic TV show The Twilight Zone but it seems, at times, like we’ve entered just that when it comes to the subject of blogging.

We are awash in bloggers. Even worse, we’re drowning in news and views about the world of blogging. Google “blog” and you get 2.1 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “b”) results. Newspapers add blogs to their online sites. Journalism professors talk about the impact of blogs on the news biz. Last week, I got an invite to sit on a panel to talk about blogs at a journalism conference this summer in Boston.

David St. Lawrence over at Ripples is on his fourth straight day of writing about the joys of blogging on his, of course, blog.

Blogs are not only big news but more and more are trying to find ways to turn blogs into big business. Web hosting companies offer one-click blog setup as part of their hosting packages. Ad agencies offer packages for blogs. The rush to commercialize blogs, of course, runs counter to the original premise of blogging but it is the same kind of crass commercialization that ruined the Internet for many people.

I’ve been puttering around on the ‘Net since 1994, publishing the Web’s oldest political news site (Capitol Hill Blue) as well as owning one of the original surviving independent web hosting companies.

But I waited a while before jumping into the blog frenzy because I wasn’t sure it was a long-termer on a web where fads and “the next big thing” come and go. Even after writing Muse for two years, I’m still not sure blogs are something that will last or even if they should last.

Most blogs are exercises in self-gratification (or self-abuse) read by friends and family of the blogger. Others exist as shameless self-promotion of one’s products. Still others exist as a crass corporate attempt to cash in on the craze. Too many promote hate, intolerance and bigotry. Some pass on rumor as fact and publish misinformation in a deliberate attempt to mislead.

Blogs allow anyone with a modem and mouth to become a publisher. While this can lead to the growth of “citizen journalism,” it can also lead to confusion, misstatement and the rampant spread of damaging information.

In the end, too many blogs are just opinions — and mostly uninformed ones at that.

The jury is still out on whether or not blogs serve any real or perceived public need or stand as just another part of a society of information overload where speculation replaces fact, hype stands in for truth and opinions masquerade as news.

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7 Responses

  1. Doug, Much of what you have to say is true. In my experience of reviewing and rating blogs, I usually view hundreds of blogs each day. It is sad to see how many new blogs load up on AdSense and other forms of advertising before even getting two posts on record. It seems that the basic premise for, and ideals of, blogging is being subverted more each day. What also gets my ‘shorts in a bind’ recently is the incredible number of ‘professional’ bloggers that blog on the merits of blogging, and emphasize how to increase revenue from blogs. In addition, most of the online tools available today, are also designed to help bloggers make MORE MONEY from their blogs… We seem to be losing more and more quality of content on the net, to quantity dictated by skewed priorities and greed.

  2. Like any other communications channel, the value is in differentiating between signal and noise.

    The evolution of television is a good analogy – in the early days, when there were few channels, people could share in common experience, or learn something important to their daily lives. Now, with hundreds of channels, there are more interesting and informative things to see, but also far, far more that are self-serving or simply adding to the noise.

    Write well, tell a good story, speak the truth. The level of noise is quite high, but there is plenty of signal shared through relationships and reference. Sure, those who want to spin in their own little hells can collect others of similar mind, but so can anyone else.

    Thanks for helping to reduce the amount of noise in air, just a bit.

  3. Blogging is here to stay. What you’re witnessing is the intellectual “averaging out” of an artistic medium that has become quite accessible and also very popular in the mainstream. This process has played out in so many other mediums it should really go without saying.

    To me, the only thing more disturbing than how dumb the average person is…. is that half of us are even dumber than that! Give both the dumber and smarter halves their own blogs, and you end up with good blogs, bad blogs, funny blogs, depressing blogs, overly introspective blogs, hilarious self deprecating blogs, annoyingly idealistic forward-looking blogs, insightful retrospectic blogs, overly self-absorbed blogs, overly…. well, you get the picture.

    Sean

  4. Doug, I’m less – AND LESS interested in reading the (mostly) dribble that bloggers spew. Overall, these sites have been used to let off steam – as opposed to lending a differing view – or providing additional information. Ah, if only I could control the lives of others! The best time to read CHB’s blogging sites seems to be immediately following one of your news breaking stories! Generally, however, I find bloggers comments quite boring (as my comments here may well be for others)! elgee

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