Has blogging had it’s day, or does it still have a place in the world of social networking?
Yesterday was not a typical day for this blog. I posted an opinionated and provocative rant that aimed a broadside at the cynicism of the record industry and the conservatism of some so-called progressive rock fans. It got picked up by a couple of very high-profile people on Facebook and Twitter, and my hit counter went through the roof.
But normally, when I’ve spent hours writing something like a detailed album review, the sort of readership I get is a fraction the number of people who’d read a pithy one-line status update on Facebook. Given my annual hosting bill for this site, sometimes I wonder if it’s an effective use of my time and money any more.
Social networking has already killed off all but the highest traffic web forums just as web forums killed most internet mailing lists before them. Is it now killing blogging as well?
Twitter has certainly killed off link blogging. There is no point maintaining a real-time stream of topical links using a blogging platform any more; Twitter just does that so much better. But for longer opinion pieces?
One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m often getting little in the way of discussion in the comments section, although I often get a lot of intelligent and civilised discussion on my Facebook page when I link to a blog post here. That might be down to my curating of an intelligent and civilised friends list, when I only accept requests from people I know and trust, and am not shy of defriending someone who turns out to be disruptive or offensive on a regular basis. Meanwhile my blog gets a disproportionate number of drive-by trolls like the “You are a moron” guy on my Wishbone Ash review. Maybe my Facebook friends are unwilling to expose their opinions outside Facebook’s walled garden. Maybe they find the drive-by trolls make the atmosphere too unpleasant. I don’t know.
The big weakness of blog comments is a lack of identity management, which is one thing social networks do well. I’ve often heard it said that anonymity is one of the causes of bad behaviour on the internet, and trolls will go away if only you force everyone to use their real names all the time. This is only half right; what’s actually needed is some form of trusted identity, for which your public posts across multiple sites are searchable. On high-traffic sites which allow that sort of thing it’s surprising how few of someone’s posts you need to read before you get quite a good picture of where they’re coming from. You can usually tell if they’re drive-by troublemakers, or people with a passion who occasionally let their enthusiasm get the better of them. Whether you use a real name or not, a strong online reputation does take a lot of effort to built.
I wonder if it’s possible to create some sort of decentralised equivalent of social network built around the RSS feeds of existing blogs with some kind of trusted identity management for commenters? Or is the march of the social networks unstoppable, and blogs need to find a way to exist in the cracks between then?