A Wee Bit of Metablogging

It’s inevitable that fledgling bloggers like me end up doing a lot of thinking about What Blogging Is and What It Means. To the old guard these are probably boring questions by now. So it’s with apologies to them that I turn attention toward Ed Heil, who is ambivalent about blogging:

More and more it seems to me that “having a blog” is to the early zeros what “having a web page” was to the mid nineties and “having an email address” was to the early nineties . . .

You know how a fad invades one subculture after another, including different segments of mainstream society? You can watch blogging do that, like “having a web page” did once before. The phenomenon mutates as it moves.

I’m feeling like rebelling against bloggitude by creating a Web Page. Yes! A web page! I haven’t had a web page that I actually maintain or care about for about five years, seriously. I have a blog but I have no regular web page . . .

It’d be kinda like a blog but more flexible, with more stability and structure, but it wouldn’t have that breathless up to the minute “this is NEWS!” feeling that blogs thrive on, that differentiates them from commonplace plebeian Web Pages.

First of all, I want to make a distinction between blogging-as-fad and the ideal of blogging, wherever it may exist. Just as, in the old days, there were perhaps five well-designed, interesting personal web pages for every hundred gaudy, unupdated, animated-gif monstrosities, only a tiny fraction of the blogs that are out there are really worth your time. These are the ones that are the smartest and best written, as inevitably influenced by your own hobbies, interests, political leanings, and which bloggers you actually know. Regardless of how faddish blogging becomes, a core number of weblogs are going to exemplify what’s best about the blogosphere — superlative writing and commentary channeled directly to readers, bypassing the normal gatekeepers of publishing.

Ed suggests that a “This Is News” quality is what distinguishes blogs from web pages. I’m not sure that’s the case; it’s at least more complicated than that. Certainly one strand of blogging seems to be the whole Newshound/Link Monkey approach. But at least a couple other blog models, The Columnist/Commentator and the Personal Diarist, aren’t necessarily tied up with the news cycle or with providing a url to the very latest thing. Most bloggers wear all three of those hats at different times, anyway. What distinguishes a weblog from even a regularly-updated web page is the implicit demand for a constant stream of verbiage. Accomplishing that in a way that is actually worth reading and not mere egoism is very hard, and requires skills that have nothing to do with coding Web pages or participating in the latest Internet tweak, but rather ones that deal with something more ancient and elusive – artful communication. As long as that doesn’t go out of style, blogs – the best of them, at least – won’t either.