Sunday, August 29, 2010

Musings on the changing world of blogging

I hadn't intended to post today, but this morning I did my usual blog round-up.

Looking back over the blogs plus Facebook and Twitter feeds left me with a feeling of fragmentation: it's partly that I have more blogs on my list; more that so many of the blogs that I used to read have become irregular or even vanished; more still that Facebook and Twitter have developed as alternative mechanisms; most, my feeling that the little village that I used to talk about a lot has somehow morphed into a more anonymous urban sprawl.

I think that this is partly my own fault. Writing on a daily basis is quite hard, harder still when blogging is one part of a spreading writing load. I spend less time interacting with other bloggers, more time just writing. The pleasure drops. However, it's also a symptom of genuine fragmentation.

The best independent blogs combined thought with a dash of the personal. Some of these blogs have become Facebooked or Twittered to the detriment of the blogs. Sure, I read the Facebook or Twitter streams, but they don't compensate. Further, I often see the same short form material repeated. The length of time it takes me to scan Facebook or Twitter is actually falling despite the increase in the number of items. To make matters worse, some favourite blogs have simply vanished.

I have told this story before.

I long time ago local retailer Joe Hanna complained that Armidale was getting smaller. I blinked, because the city had been going through a growth phase. When I asked what he meant, he said that whereas it used to take him all morning to get the mail, it now took half an hour. The difference lay in the conversation along the half block from the store to the post office and back. He used to spend lots of time seeing people and yarning, now there were very few people to talk too.

More people, fewer conversations. That's what's happened to blogging. As one symptom of this, links to this blog from other blogs have really collapsed. Whereas I used to get several links a month, I haven't been able to get to an average of one link per month over the last eight months. Further, this includes a small number of blogs with multiple links.

Of course, and I accept this, it may be just that I have just become a boring old fart! However, I think that it is really more than this.

I write quite a bit about the decline of country Australia because it is important to me. One feature of that decline is the movement of people to new centres. To my mind, this is what is happening to blogging. We have gone to the latest big city lights.

But what to do? I can only respond at a personal level.

I do want to continue to write about the things that are important to me, to continue to use my writing and reading to clarify my own thinking.   However, I also really want to rebuild the sense of the village. A village is not bound by the presence of dissenting views. Villages just have to deal with that. Rather, a village focuses on conversation and even gossip, as well as ideas.

As part of this process, I spent multiple hours checking, re-sorting and, in some cases, deleting blogs. This was a bit like an archaeological excavation into my own past. It was both strange and a bit sad.

So many things have changed! What do I do with my old favourites that no longer exist?  In some cases, they are writing in new guises. In others, they are people that I liked who have left the village. Then there are some blogs that mark old interests now swamped by the present.

One pleasure in all this was moving blogs from, say, weekly checks into current. I had almost 30 blogs in my current category, 100 in the weekly check list. Now I have 12 in current, 31 in weekly. Of course, this is a little misleading in that I have more subject categories that are in fact daily or weekly checks. Still, it is much easier to control.

So what, in all this, is my personal response to rebuilding the village? I suppose, simply, that I want to spend more time responding and interacting, refocused on those who take the time to write or to respond.

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