David Weinberger
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Bring back blogging

06 September 2019

I have decided that once every 15 years, I will lift my old-man fists to the sky and yell at a cloud (not The Cloud) that it’s time to bring back blogging.

Perhaps you think blogging doesn’t need bringing back because it’s still here. You would be at least somewhat right. There are plenty of sites that are blogs whether they call them that or not. And some do even call themselves that. They are blogs because they are places where someone writes about what matters to her, on a schedule that ranges from rigid to inspired. But many of those blogs occupy a middle range between columns and true blogs.

True blogs

Ah, “true blogs”! There’s a topic that’s likely to generate an argument as pointless as it is endless! But I’m not trying to reclaim the term “blog.” I’m trying to remember and promote what blogs were when they started out: places where anyone could talk about what mattered to them without asking permission and without waiting for an audience to gather.

They were written by non-professionals, often quite non-professionally. It was better to get the blog out onto the web than to wait for proofreaders and editors to make sure none of the i’s were crossed and none of the t’s were dotted.

Yes, blogs were posted on the web. You did not need to log in to (and trust) a social network or download an app to read them.

Blogs linked to other blogs—generously. You didn’t worry about losing your readers by enabling them to find something interesting to read on another site. In fact, you counted on readers coming back to your blog because you linked out to interesting posts, and commented on what you linked to.

Blogs, thus architecturally, constituted a network on top of the network, and from this often arose a bloggy sort of community: people you read, linked to, commented on, and became blog friends with. I still have many of those friends from the early 2000s.

Blogs back then generally encouraged comments from readers, some of whom became visible parts of the blog community. Yes, there were some flame wars and nastiness in the comments, but at least they came from humans who usually would reply if you responded on your own blog. Note that this behavior was all-too-often different—far worse—for women than for men.

The initial blogosphere

In fact, the initial blogosphere (as we called it back then) was largely enabled by privilege: You had to have a computer, an internet connection, lots of free time, a confidence that what you said should be read, and a security that you would not be attacked in words or deeds. The blogosphere was not as homogeneous as this makes it sound, but it was more homogeneous than it should have been.

So, why bring back blogging now? Some of the hurdles have fallen, while the risks have increased: Between the proliferation of bots and the normalization of hatred, it can be more dangerous now to poke your head above the ground than it was 15 years ago.

But we could use more people on the open web speaking in their own voices. We could use more networks and communities kicking around ideas, while studiously not kicking one another.

And within a corporate environment, the case for internal blogging is still strong—very strong. The risk is far lower because the participants are vetted and known. At the same time, the benefits are amplified.

For one thing, internal blogs develop a wealth of information and ideas.

They encourage the development of ideas that are off-track and possibly irrelevant, thus creating a repository of ideas that can suddenly become relevant as the track itself shifts under our feet.