One of bloggers’ favorite things to do is to discuss whether blogging is dead. Venkatesh Rao was the latest person to catch my attention with a variant of the “blogging is dead” idea, saying “If blogging is a cat with nine lives, this is probably the eighth death.” C’est la vie.
These claims often include or are challenged by encomia for blogging. Robin Sloan is the latest to praise the form, saying, “The thing about blogging is, you can just write about the things you love.” Long live blogging!
I think Rao and Sloan are both right about blogging, because they aren’t discussing the same thing. Rao is looking at blogging as a professional publishing outlet–a prominent 2003-2010 model of blogging. He’s not wrong to think that professional publishing outlet blogging is a weary beast at this point. Sloan is talking about blogging as enthusiast participant, which has been a part of blogging since blogging first existed. Enthusiast participant blogging is basically immortal. There’s no reason it would cease to be, technically or socially. Both of them are accurately representing the type of blogging they know and are interested in. But the type of blog that they know and are interested in1at least in these posts; they could be interested in lots of other types of blogs that aren’t discussed in these two posts do not encompass the whole of what blogging is and does.
In fact, there are many other types of blog. My podcast co-host and friend Chris Krycho‘s blog is neither professional publishing outlet blogging or enthusiast participant blogging; it is expert-dispatch blogging. He’s not trying to monetize it and he is far more than an enthusiast on the technical and theological topics he writes about; he is primarily doing intellectual work and contributing his expertise to the conversation with his blog.
My music blog Independent Clauses could be considered a form of an expert-dispatch blog, as I’m not trying to monetize it and I am more than an enthusiast. But it has a specific type of purpose: it is a cog-in-the-machinery blog. There are many blogs (not just my own) that are “a functioning cog in some great machinery / serving something beyond me“. IC is a minor part of the process that musicians go through so that they can get up from nothing to stadiums2I have seen Sufjan Stevens in a stadium, even weird folky/indie/composerly types can every now and then do it! through increasing levels of audience size for publications (which corresponds to increasing levels of audience size in venues / digital streams). Blogs that distribute information for specific purposes to specific audiences (like popularizing academic work blogs, or curated news blogs, stuff like that) are also this–neither enthusiast nor professional, not contributing to an intellectual conversation directly, but serving a real cog-in-the-machinery purpose.
I think it’s helpful to remember that my description is only four of the many types of blogs that exist. “Blogging” is too hard to explain with just a term. Some types of blogging may indeed be dead. (Is anyone still interested in LiveJournal-style diary blogs?) Some may be growing! But blogging as a whole cannot be described by the term blogging anymore, if it ever could.