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Greatly exaggerated

The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
Mark Twain

It seems everyone and everyone is quick to shovel the dirt over the grave of blogs.  WIRED magazine calls blogs “so 2004.”  Performancing.com writes about Life After Blogs (HT: Matthew K. Tabor).  I’m not buying it.

I suppose much of the argument depends on how you define what a blog is.  A discussion about that very topic recently came across my Twitter radar screen.  In response to an inquiry about defining blogs, the ever thoughtful Bud Hunt (aka budtheteacher) wrote the following:

Defined that way, especially in the education “sector,” I see great continued value in blogs.  We might quibble over the name, but online publishing in many of its current forms is an important part of connectivism or networked learning.  If each of us is to remain a viable node on a dynamic online learning network, I believe blogging is reasonably essential.  The blog is a space where we reflect on and share our learning, and in more than 140 characters (NOTE: I think Twittering and blogging are not mutually exclusive; I often get ideas for blog posts when there’s something I can’t express in 140 characters. See e.g. this post).

I think there are also different reasons why people blog.  If the goal is to build a readership, then, in my opinion, if you build a site/space with content that’s of high quality, that’s relevant and that engages readers, the site/space will have staying power (i.e. if you build that, they will come).  For example, if you missed reading fivethirtyeight.com during the presidential election, I think you missed some awesome blogging.  I don’t know how the authors intend to proceed post-election, but they built a blog-based site that was really high quality, really timely and really engaging (their maps and graphs were so simple, yet so effective).

However, if your goal is, as Bud Hunt wrote, to “write to understand, to know,” then metrics such as Technorati rankings are much less relevant.  Such a blog only dies when the author no longer finds value in the process.

That all said, I do have a couple of thoughts/reflections/concerns about the blogosphere in general:

  1. I’m mostly familiar with education-related blogs; probably 80% of the feeds in my Google Reader account are from education-related blogs.  In that “sector,” I’ve noticed a certain seasonality to blogging.  Over the summer, the blog posts were flowing in.  Now that we’re well into academic year 2008-09, they are not as frequent.  Like me, I think many edubloggers really got into the flow of publishing when time allowed over the summer.  However, it is harder to find time for blogging during the academic year.  I may just be projecting here, but I wonder what others think about this.
  2. I continue to believe that too many good conversations get away from us.  I think there are too many folks out there who read an interesting or provocative blog post, and instead of commenting there, write their own blog post which references (and links back to) the original post.  I know that if the linkbacks work properly, there will be a connection between the posts.  But, in my opinion, that’s like trying to take the conversation over to your space, your network.  I think it would be OK to write such a post, but to then direct your readers over to the original post and encourage them to comment and add to that conversation.

I will certainly watch the state of the blogosphere with great interest.  But, I refuse to believe that I’m watching the end of a valuable form of writing and publishing.