After spending a few hours actually getting real work done I turned back to finish the last little bit of the “Backblog”…
This was the last post in my reader. I started reading Russel’s blog a few months ago after I followed another blog’s cross-linking “rabbit hole” and ended up there. Each month he does a poll of his readers looking for what they consider to be the best post of the month, anywhere. This month’s winner was “The Amateur Gourmet ” and his post entitles “Chutzpa, Truffles and Alain Ducasse” – It truly is a brilliant post and worth a read – I actually laughed out loud as I read it.
It also sent me off on a completely different thought tangent though. After scrolling through several hundred, and varied, blog posts over the past couple of days it really reinforced just how at the end of the day the reality is everyone just wants to be heard and, if possible, considered “relevant” once in a while.
Before the web the extent of your ability to have a “voice” depended on how deep your pockets were or who you knew at the local paper etc. These days sharing your voice takes only 5 minutes at a site like Blogger, a few clicks of the mouse and you’re online, listed in their directory, and putting your thoughts out into the world for any or all to read. Message boards/forums are a great example of this kind of transformation starting to take place.
As odd as it sounds I think one day blogs will almost be considered theraputic by many people. Personal case in point recently I’ve had a handful of truly frustrating customer service experiences – in the past I would fume about it, probably complain to my wife about it and then it would hang over me for a few days. Now I can blog about it, (usually) share how I think they can fix their issues and know (thanks to stats) that at least a handful of people from that organization see it. Five minutes of typing and I’m cooler, calmer and it’s out of my system.
On a side note: The scary reality ‘business’ in general needs to realize that the stats of how many people happy people tell vs. how many people disgruntled people tell are getting much, much bigger. Before the stats were somewhere around a person sharing good experiences with 8-10 other people and bad experiences with 18-25. The last two “customer rant” posts I did both received north of 100 views and still get traffic to this day. (Here’s the kicker though, the happy experiences also tend to get a higher portion of hits initially but anecdotally I don’t see them getting as much follow-on traffic down the road – people don’t tend to search for other folks having good experiences….)
Blogging is still very much for the early adopters but as the months go by I have to admit I find more and more people who I’m surprised to see they have a blog. A major challenge right now though is it takes some know-how and even technical ability to get your site properly indexed by the right sites (i.e. Technorati, Google Blogsearch, etc. etc.) as such it is also harder for people to build traffic which I think makes a huge difference in people keeping up with posting on their blog. It’s one thing to have a voice, it’s something else to have Sitemeter or Feedburner tell you no one is listening.
As we see these systems become more tightly integrated and turnkey (There’s no reason why Blogger shouldn’t have a screen during setup that sets you up in Technorati etc.) I think the medium as a whole will become a lot more approachable. At the end of the day I fully expect that by the time my two-year old gets to high school age Blogs (or whatever they morph into) will be an important part of their English & Communication classes (Creative Writing, Current Events etc.). I do believe we’ll hit a point where having a blog is just something you do.
One thing I’ll be really curious to see, and I hope the Freakonomics guys look at one day in the future, is how certain things like violent crime (especially school related and serial killers etc.) relate to the rise of the blog culture. many of these types of crime are people lashing out at something, essentially a cry for help when all of their other venues of having a “voice” have broken down. I’ve seen several cases personally where people on a message board or blog have rallied around someone in a moment of crisis. In many school shootings it’s later discovered that the person had notes, art or even webpages that would have been massive indicators that something wasn’t right. Will things like blogs start to help people identify problematic situations before they happen rather than provide hindsight clues to why someone did what they did?
Just imagine how things might have been different if some people in history had blogs, both good & bad. Off the top of my head: Martin Luther King? Hitler? Jeffery Dahmer? Anne Frank? How would blogs have changed how their life, and their impact on the world/society? How much faster and easier would King’s words have spread? Would Hitler have continued to grow as a successful artist and sold his works through his PhotoBlog/PaintingBlog & PayPal instead? Would someone have recognized that Dahmer needed help? Can you imagine if rather then emerging years later as a book Anne’s story was told through her blog?
Her first diary entry:
“I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.”
During the recent skirmish between Israel and Hezzbollah I read the daily updates (when he had power/internet) of a young artist who was living in Lebannon when fighting broke out. His daily illustrations and comments provided a unique, and very different perspective of what was happening (I’ll try and find the link again) compared to the traditional media. He wrote it for no one in particular yet intended it for everyone. It really was one man putting his voice out there for all to hear – I wonder too, did his blog become a new alternative for him to doing what was likely the only other option available to young, angry Muslim men for so long (joining Hezbolah and taking up arms)?
At the end of the day we’re still very much in the infancy of this medium, sure it’s old hat for the Tech crowd but I think it’s only just beginning to enter the mainstream from a readership point of view, let alone the stage of active contribution.
Blogs aren’t going anywhere. And whoever is trying to claim it’s peaked is just linkbaiting.