When the Thrill of Blogging Is Gone …

Judging from conversations with retired bloggers, many of the orphans were
cast aside by people who had assumed that once they started blogging, the world
would beat a path to their digital door.

“I was always hoping more people would read it, and it would get a lot of
comments,” Mrs. Nichols said recently by telephone, sounding a little betrayed.
“Every once in a while I would see this thing on TV about some mommy blogger
making $4,000 a month, and thought, ‘I would like that.’ “

Not all fallow blogs die from lack of reader interest. Some bloggers find
themselves too busy — what with, say, homework and swim practice, or perhaps
even housework and parenting. Others graduate to more immediate formats, like Twitter
and Facebook.
And a few — gasp — actually decide to reclaim some smidgen of personal privacy. —Douglas Quenqua, New York Times

I think Harlan Ellison said becoming a writer is easy, but staying a writer is much harder.  When the availability of free blogging software meant that writers didn’t first have to learn HTML in order to publish their thoughts online, we saw lots of word-oriented people add their voices to the tech-oriented people who were already online.  Now that Twitter and Facebook have lowered the barrier even more, social networking tools give an online presence to people who aren’t interested in writing more than 140 characters at a time, or who are content with expressing their personal identity by joining groups.

Another phenomenon that the author doesn’t mention is the effect of the group blog.  Super blog sites like Huffington Post, or smaller groups of five or ten experts in a specific subject matter, capture much of the buzz that used to be created by lone bloggers.

It’s not uncommon for me to assign an essay or textbook to my students, and have the author find out about the blogging assignment, and either e-mail me privately or post comments directly on student websites.  Simply knowing that the words they write *might* be read by an audience much wider than the class does affect the parameters of the assignment.

I don’t promise that my students will find fame and fortune through
their blogs, but those of my students who are interested in a career in
writing often report that their academic blogs, stuffed with academic
content from several years of courses with blogging requirements, are a
useful component in a professional portfolio, demonstrating the ability
to produce quality work, over time, on a deadline, and in public.  

Weblogs have already changed the nature of journalism, giving readers a platform from which to challenge the mainstream media construction of the news.  And the social networks wouldn’t exist in their present form if bloggers hadn’t demonstrated the power of linking user-generated content.  Blogs are a textual medium, but now that the average internet user has the bandwidth to do plenty with audio and video, the primacy of text will fade.