Journalism Personal Publishing

Stop bitching. Make it better…

The main problem I have with the weblog-related positions of professional writers like Bill Thompson and professional trolls like Andrew Orlowski is that we’ve had all these debates so many times before. Debate around A-list cliques has existed for years – as have comments that weblogs are ultimately trivial. It was over three years ago now that A List Apart published Fame Fatale – and that wasn’t the first article along those lines. Some of the pieces had more justification than others. Some had little or no justification at all. Mostly, in time, people just changed their minds. We’ve walked around these particular avenues and alleyways several times now, each time accompanied by a new group of people who consider themselves slightly higher up the food chain.

It would be different if they accomplished anything. If Orlowski was working to improve weblog culture or pull it in a positive direction, then there would be value in that. If Bill’s work was trying to rectify inappropriate imbalances in the social system that has emerged, then we might actually be getting somewhere. I don’t think there’s a single weblogger who thinks that there’s absolutely no scope for improvement. But instead what happens is that legitimate concerns get pushed aside by florid rhetoric and high dudgeon, debate gets polarised, until eventually everyone gets bored and weblogging continues pretty much as it did before. Only this time with permalinks! Or comments! Or automated blog-rolling!

And the steady take-up of weblogging seems undeterred by these debates. People still continue to start weblogs faster than people stop writing them – there are now (by conservative estimates) hundreds of thousands of regularly updated sites. And with AOL and Microsoft rumoured to be getting in on the act, along with new ventures by Blogger, Movable Type, 20six (etc.) it looks like there’s going to be a hell of a lot more weblogs started in the next few years.

I think it’s now time that people started to face this fact. That whether or not they like it (whether or not any of us like it), weblogging is not something that’s going away in the next couple of years. Having an ‘anti-weblogging position’ is no longer even vaguely a ‘real-world antidote’ to unfathomable and unwarranted ‘weblog hysteria’. It’s just really unhelpful. It doesn’t accomplish anything. So you want my advice? Work to make it better or sod off. If you think there’s really a legitimate problem in the way that weblogs operate between each other then try and suggest a solution, try and suggest some things that are likely to be taken up and worked with by the extended community. Or think of something better than weblogs! That’s got to be a more creative, positive and useful way of interacting with the world than sitting on the sidelines and bitching… Surely?

This piece was grumpily forged in the comments of the iSociety‘s weblog.