Blogs are back baby

Campaign to start calling them weblogs again begins here

There’s an adage that goes something like if you stay still long enough, you’ll come back into fashion. I think that time is coming for blogs. And if it isn’t I’m going to pretend it is anyway. My rather vague reasoning for this is based on the following thoughts. These are not researched, just my impressions and I’m very aware that in social media impressions can vary wildly.

Twitter is a mess. The trolls are back in, it’s run by a temperamental man-baby, they are talking about changing the free nature, there are technical issues and doubts about its long term viability. Even if all this pans out, a certain amount of damage has been done – people have migrated elsewhere, but perhaps more significantly, my sense is that a lot of people have just started engaging with it less.

There is a social media rethink occurring. I think precipitated by the above, but something that has been growing for years is a reframing of our relationship to social media. Is it a healthy or useful relationship? Is it a good return on investment in terms of time? Is it fun anymore? The danger for social media sites like Twitter and Facebook is not so much the deliberate rejection, but rather just the slow fade of enthusiasm. And once people start asking these types of questions more regularly, that fade gains momentum.

A recognition of the value of online identity. When I used to write about digital scholarship around 2010, it was often in the context of ‘why won’t those suits recognise the impact of us blogging kids?” Sort of Footloose with RSS. Now the impact of online identity is widely valued, recognised, utilised, exploited by all sorts of institutions then investing in some reliable online identity is not something that is frowned upon.

Blogging always suited education. There have been fantastically inventive uses of Twitter, podcasts, YouTube etc for education, but I always felt that blogging was the closest cousin to standard academic practice. It gives time to expand on thoughts as much as needed, to break free from the confines of formal academic publishing and engage in thoughtful dialogue.

Everyday work is often a bit rubbish. I’m not sure this has changed much, but the sense is that (in higher ed anyway) that work has often become more constrained, less creative, more precarious and less rewarding. A place to call your own is a welcome refuge in such a context.

The conclusion I take from all this (which I carefully assembled so I could draw the conclusion I want), is that there is a desire to have a core place on the net, that is not subject to the whims of billionaires, institutions or markets, where you can engage in a range of dialogue, from personal to professional, and that you enjoy revisiting. Ladies and gentleman, I give you, the blog.

(Look, even Brian has said he’s going to start blogging more frequently, that’s the sign we’ve been waiting for, assemble your blogging hordes now).


    • mweller

      Hi Euan – it was a such a shame that Twitter effectively became everyone’s RSS and we stopped subscribing to blogs (mainly). Bring back the blog roll I say

  • Paul Walk

    I enjoyed this one 🙂

    I agree with all of your reasons for why we might see a resurgence of blogging. And, like Mulder, I want to believe!

    But, I think we can’t ignore an even older medium which has had a bit of a resurgence and may have gazumped the role of blogging (at least for a while). I refer, of course, to the emailed newsletter (boo!).

    I was very struck by your argument:

    > Everyday work is often a bit rubbish. I’m not sure this has changed much, but the sense is that (in higher ed anyway) that work has often become more constrained, less creative, more precarious and less rewarding. A place to call your own is a welcome refuge in such a context.

    I note from my own experience that where I was once a fairly steady blogger (while employed), I have more or less stopped since I became self-employed. I guess I just don’t need that refuge any more. However, I *really* miss the discussions that would sometimes happen as a result (at least partly) of a post I had written.

    • mweller

      Hi Paul – newsletters are hot, you’re right. In fact, I’ve created one of my blog posts to be done monthly. MySpace is due for its comeback any day now

  • Anne-Marie Scott

    Just to add more data to your analysis, I spent yesterday fixing up a badly neglected personal blogging space, wrote two (as yet unpublished) blog posts for my public blog, and drafted a third – which could go into either of those spaces.

    I agree with Paul too about the resurgence of the email newsletter and I’ve been increasingly enjoying those more than doomscrolling.

    And I’ve had cause to think about RSS twice recently. Once when someone used it as a workaround to direct me to some content, and once when I read this article: https://clivethompson.medium.com/how-i-use-rss-to-rewild-my-attention-7731267a40d8 (I seem to remember some other dude using rewilding as a metaphor once…)

    And of course, Brian is writing blog posts about blogging more, and we all know that’s an archetypal blog post genre right there. So yeah, I think blogs might be back.

    • mweller

      Hi Anne-Marie – your data makes it irrefutable, thank you! I’m not sure we’ll ever get people back into the RSS feed way of life (such a shame, RSS is magic), but newsletters, it’s funny you should mention that…

  • Alan Levine

    Yo Bloghican! You never left https://cogdogblog.com/2016/08/looking-back-forward/

    Not everyone outsourced their ideas or attention to the streams. You of anyone know the value of having your own archive.

    I’m not sure there will be a mass move back. Folks don’t want to do the long work to write and they’ve been tainted by the candy sweet quick hit of the like or re-****. If you are writing to receive attention the blog experience may leave you hungry.

    It has to serve your internal purposes of shaping ideas. Any outcomes happen much later than 5 minutes after clicking a button.

    Nice new blog header by the way

    • mweller

      Hi OG blogger! I think “if you are writing to receive attention the blog experience may leave you hungry” is spot on, but maybe that’s why it suits higher ed. I was being lazy and really had higher ed related blogging in mind – and that operates over longer time scales (generally) so the immediate push for daily content and hits isn’t as strong

  • David Harrison

    Bravo! I’ve never stopped, and my problem is I have too many blogs!!

    I mourned the passing of Google+, ditched tumblr, drifted away from twitter and facebook, switched from WhatsApp to Signal, inspected mastodon, but all that time WordPress kept me truckin’.

    Your observations on social identity are spot-on, and I muse also whether the pandemic might have driven a lot of folk to review priorities and seek more in-person connections, and certainly more meaningful ones.

    The blog is a relatively safe place where you can throw ideas out, engage with like-minded folks in a timely, not time-driven, manner, moderate trolls, and generally express yourself – even if it’s only to an audience of one.

    My wife, Jenny, asked me the other day … “who reads your stuff?”. My reply … “l do”. That’s so true when memories fade, or when you want to reflect; your blog(s) can be your saviour(s).

  • David Longman

    Yes. The ‘writing space’ online has become uber-crowded with options. Although blogs are nowawdays pretty much part of the bedrock of online chatter for the same reason they havce become less visible (less cool?) and hidden among the thickets of newsletters, writing colonies (e.g. Medium), tweets, toots, and tinkles.

    Twitter has lost its charm too. There is no doubt that one’s timeline (is it still called that?) is increasingy full of nasty/stupid/incoherent voices less easy to manage) and ads of course.

    What to do? Mastodon too is rather a quiet place – I have yet to find the chatter that I want to follow. It seems to lack two twitterish qualities – the torrent of content and the the stimulaton of discovery – new sources, people, ideas etc. Mastodon is not yet dull … the principle of the fediverse is ‘ideologically dound’, as we used to say, but it’s dynamo is a little harder to energise (?)

    One way forward muight be to explore an interesting feature of Mastodon that enables a blog owner to link their blog to Mastodon so that WP posts are automatically posted into Mastodon. Replies to such posts are fed back to your blog as post comments as well as Mastodon. Your website can act like a mastodon server.

    There’s info about this in Mastodon’s help pages – the basics are that you need two WP plugins, ActivityPub and WebFinger, and a link in the page header like this (buit two different ways to add it: Mastodon

    I am pretty sure you need a Mastodon account on a server before you can do this (these plugins don’t provide Mastodon validation, only signal to Mastodon that your websire is pukka).

    So, interested parties could use Mastodon as a sort of ‘blog hub’, a federation of blog authors

    See here for more: https://fedi.tips/wordpress-turning-your-blog-into-a-fediverse-server/

    • mweller

      Thanks David – I must admit I didn’t know about feeding replies back to the blog, that sounds a good way to curate the conversation. Will explore, thanks!

  • David Longman

    Interesting. It reminded me that Mastodon enables the federation of individual blogs wich can be published into Mastodon. There are a few advantages to linking a blog to mastodon – automated posting; access to an audience and followers who might/will read the post; comments on posts are linked back to the post comments on your blog.

    Here’s the write-up on my experimental blog:


    This wouldn’t create a revival but it might do something for dialogue and visibility, and perhaps the formation of cognate communities …

    Anyway: I wrote a ‘how to set it up’ page that started small and grew a bit.

    Caution: if you have no desire to join Mastodon then TL:DR!

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