I’ve always wanted a reason to have a blog. My friends and colleagues will tell you I’m always ready with an opinion, often backed more by force of conviction than actual knowledge. I will always insist I’m an introvert, but you wouldn’t know it once you get me started on something.
But until now, I haven’t had a reason to have a blog.
I’ve been reading blogs since 1997, and I still yearn for the days of optimism for the internet, for the Cluetrain Manifesto, for the promise of putting power into the hands of every individual—to make their voices heard; to hold the powerful to account; to spread information and to save the world.
Of course, things haven’t quite panned out that way. Somehow we have turned the internet into a centralised medium of content consumption, where attention is commoditised and monetised, and where real conversation is euthanised. Creating our own stuff and putting it on platforms that use it to drive their own revenue is now something most of us freely accept—the attention that powers online platforms is the attention we too crave. We’ve lost control of the means of production.
In this world, blogs are primarily used as tools to generate attention, to “drive traffic” somewhere or to “create engagement” or “build community”. They are tied to a product, or a team, or a project, and their content is carefully planned, discussed, optimised and sanitised before being published.
Despite everything, though—despite the platform wars, despite the unrelenting pursuit of an ever-smaller slice of ever-diminishing ad revenue, despite the narrowing of the cone of our collective vision for the internet—there is plenty of hope. Some constructs are strong enough to withstand the general movement towards inclosure, and still take root in the hedgerows and waste land of the internet.
The old internet, and the values and standards it was built on, never went away, and neither did the needs it satisfied. HTTP, HTML, RSS—open standards built without regard for monetisation—still thrive. So do the people. There are plenty of people around today who still “just” blog for the purpose of thinking out loud, in public.
The thing is, of course, that blogs qua blogs are usually more interesting than their manufactured counterparts (“extrinsic” blogs, if you will), and so are probably on the whole more successful, even by the standards “extrinsic” blogs set themselves.
And so, finally, I have accepted that there’s no good reason to have a blog. Which is why I now have one.