Whither the blogosphere?

A few prominent bloggers have, of late, been talking about the move away from the blogosphere. For instance, Stowe Boyd says that:

Basically, conversation is moving from a very static and slow form of
conversation — the comments thread on blog posts — to a more dynamic
and fast form of conversation: into the flow in Twitter, Friendfeed,
and others. I think this directionality may be like a law of the
universe: conversation moves to where is is most social.

So, what are blogs going to be when the conversation moves away? They
will be the place where we archive our posts, so that people can find
them when they need to search, which still is a necessity.

And Scoble  argues that our digital lives are spreading out:

When I started this blog in 2000 there wasn’t Twitter. Wasn’t
Upcoming.org. Wasn’t Google Reader. Wasn’t Flickr. Wasn’t YouTube.
Wasn’t Seesmic.

And Hugh MacLeod tweeted this the other day:

Sorry, Gang, I just don’t think I can do the "Blogosphere" thing any
more. Gonna do something else. Already doing it, actually.

So what’s going on here? Firstly, it’s interesting to note that these are all active bloggers who have been doing this for years. And they’re all self-employed, with lots of contacts. In other words, maybe the blog has done its thing for them. At this stage, it is more about the social networking than establishing a profile around ideas. The relative importance of a blog may depend on who you are and where you are in your career.

Scoble is right though – the blog used to have a monopoly on establishing your online identity. Even when the first wave of web 2.0 apps came along, they were usually to feed into your blog, e.g. YouTube. But now there this very central position of the blog is challenged. You have Twitter, FriendFeed, Flickr, SecondLife, Facebook, etc where you can establish an identity.

Having said that though, I think the blog is more than the archive that Stowe suggests. It is the place where you have more detailed discussions, where you set out coherent (or incoherent) arguments, where you publish work in progress, and where you explore ideas. The need to do this may depend on what you do – for instance in education, I’m struggling to get academics to accept that the blog is a valid form of scholarly activity. I don’t think they’d go for the idea of everything being expressed in 140 character Tweets. But that’s not to say that the more flow based tools won’t augment the type of discussion happening in blogs (and tools such as cocomment could be seen as bridging the gap between the two worlds).

What I think is happening is another example of technology succession. The blog was the primary colonizer for the barren landscape of online identity. The presence of this colonizer changed the environment, which made it more amenable to secondary colonizers, e.g. YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare, etc which relied on the blog to spread. This in turn made the environment even more  friendly towards the social flow apps, which started out linking to blogs, but have gradually taken on their own life. This resulting ecosystem will vary for each of us – for the people above the third wave of colonization has taken over the dominance of the blog and forced it into a smaller ecological niche. For others, the blog is still dominant, but these other tools flourish around it.

There is a hint in some of the comments above that this marginalisation of the blog is inevitable for all of us. I don’t think this is so, we help determine that ecosystem, and for many of us the blog still fulfills a very central function, because of the type of communication we engage in.

But if it is inevitable, this shouldn’t be taken by those who have resisted my call to blog as proof that it was a waste of time. The truth is that you can only get to the next wave of succession if you’ve been through the preceding ones.

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