Doc Searls is the co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, one of the first books to discuss the Internet’s subversive de-centralizing powers. Recently, he began lamenting the demise of blogging, saying this: “I want something new. Something for which the making of money is at most a secondary or lower priority.” He references Blogfather Dave Winer (who recently proclaimed “it’s time to decentralize again. Head for the hills”) as being sympathetic with this view .
I understand that people are using blogs in the same way as traditional media: i.e. crass appeal to people’s love of gossip and conflict. This isn’t something new, however; this was embedded into blogging’s DNA from the beginning. Or it’s been in the DNA of some of our ‘blogging forefathers.’
Robert Scoble was one of the first bloggers I followed when I started out. Today he has thousands of ‘followers’ and has tremendous access to new products and technologies. When the Amazon Kindle came out he got one and used it for a week and then offered up a surprisingly puerile review (i.e. “Usability sucks…, UI sucks, Did they hire some out of work Microsoft employees?”). Scoble’s assessment of the Kindle’s value was based on what he wanted the product to do, not what Amazon’s target market would want. And yet his blog post was captioned “Dear Jeff Bezos” as though his thoughts were points that Jeff Bezos (the CEO of Amazon) should have considered in creating the product.
The Amazon Kindle, user-interface aside, is by some accounts a breakthrough product. The task of making ‘digital books’ appealing has been daunting, and Amazon spent 3 years developing this product. Go to the Amazon product page and watch the video review given by author Michael Lewis. Mr. Lewis is a very successful author, but not someone who’s particularly ‘tech savvy.’ He was not compensated for his review. He believes that the Kindle is a truly revolutionary product, and offers some interesting observations about why the Kindle is revolutionary.
Robert Scoble has many followers principally because he puts out information quickly. Michael Lewis offers his observations less frequently, and doesn’t even have a blog. Scoble offers his thoughts for free, but Lewis generally requires remuneration. I don’t follow Scoble anymore. But I still buy Michael Lewis’ books. Is that observation something that portends any kind of trend? Almost certainly not.
From what I can tell blogging has always had two strong trends, one that was not-so-good and that was one more promising: 1) people making provocative, outlandish statements to attract or hold attention, and 2) people providing quick analysis based on specialized knowledge. So why are the old-time bloggers so disappointed now? If anything it seems there are now more bloggers in the second category. If I were going to be disappointed with blogging, I’d be disappointed that some of the early pioneers have turned to path #1.
Doc Searls says he is hoping that “this thing that will come after blogging” will be “more like what he valued when blogging first began.” He says he’s “not sure what that should be, but [is] sure, if it ever happens, it won’t be called blogging.”
I don’t know either, but I know it won’t be called thoughtfulness—something that’s been around for a very long time, but for whatever reason never seems to catch on.
(Oh, and for what it’s worth, after watching Michael Lewis’ review of the Kindle, I went ahead and ordered one.)