The last post and chorus

(picture adapted from original by Annie Mole).

What happens to a blog when it turns seven? Well, if it belongs to Lawrence Lessig it is retired. The legal scholar doesn’t actually use the r-word. He called it hibernation and a sabbatical but said it was “the last post in this frame”. Lessig’s departure is the latest in a line of events giving the impression blogging is passé.

Lessig named three factors: the impending birth of his third child, a five year directorship at Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard and the workload involved maintaining a blog. He needed two friends’ admin help to cull 10,000 spam comments polluting 20,000 genuine ones. Lessig said he was not abandoning web2.0. He was continuing at Twitter, Blip.tv and podcasting.

In Australia, Kate Carruthers picked up the theme saying social networks have made blogs look so 2004. Carruthers accepted there was still a need for longer-form communication platforms but suggested there may be a move away from Blogger and WordPress. Carruthers said replacements include Tumblr and Posterous which are half-way houses between blogs and shorter forms. “They seem to sit between a short message sharing medium and a traditional blog,” she said. “They also easily incorporate multimedia content.”

Carruthers linked to an article Paul Bautin wrote in Wired a year ago. Boutin’s advice to anyone wanting to start a blog was “don’t”. He also suggested current bloggers should down tools. “Writing a weblog today isn’t the bright idea it was four years ago,” he argued. “The blogosphere, once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge.” Like Lessig, Boutin believes blogging has been polluted and lacks the intimacy it used to have. As well as spammers and trolls, Boutin says big media have taken over. The buzz was now at social multimedia sites like YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook which “made publishing pics and video as easy as typing text”. His message condensed to 140 characters was: “@WiredReader: Kill yr blog. 2004 over. Google won’t find you. Too much cruft from HuffPo, NYT. Commenters are tards. C u on Facebook?”

Boutin linked to another high profile blogger who called it quits. Weblogs network owner Jason Calacanis aannounced his retirement from blogging in 2008 despite professing to love the craft. He said blogging had gotten too big, too impersonal and too lacking in intimacy. Unlike Boudin, Calacanis was heading towards a more primitive form: a 600 member mail-list he was going to have a conversation with “I’m looking for something more acoustic, something more authentic and something more private,” he said.

Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere 2008 suggests blogs are pervasive and part of our lives. 184 million people worldwide have started one and 346 million people read them. There are almost a million new posts every day written in 80 languages. Blogs are part of the daily traffic of 77 percent of active Internet users. Twice as many people go to a blog as those who visit Facebook. Blogging is in rude health, but Technorati does acknowledge one issue: the lines are blurring about what is a blog and what is not. Technorati says mainstream media sites are packaging content as “blogs”. There is also blurring at the micro-end of the spectrum at the Facebooks, Twitters and Tumblrs of the world. It defines the blogosphere as “the ecosystem of interconnected communities of bloggers and readers at the convergence of journalism and conversation.”

The blogosphere is a massive ecosystem with enormous diversity and engagement. Blogging evolved from early listings of websites people liked to personal journals and communities of interest that encouraged conversation. Peter Merholz coined the term in 1999 when he decided to pronounce “weblog” as “we-blog”. Or blog for shot. Merholz enjoyed the word’s crudeness and dissonance. “I like that it’s roughly onomatopoeic”, he recalled. “These sites – mine included – tend to be a kind of information upchucking”.

That need to upchuck has not dissipated. In his response to Technorati’s 2008 report, Chris Pirillo said the idea of blogging would not disappear. “But the process by content is created, will continue to undergo radical upheavals,” he said.

The death of the blog is exaggerated.

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