Bruce Sterling writes an obituary for blogs

Write faster, everyone, you don’t have much time. Bruce Sterling gives blogs only ten more years.

“There are 55 million blogs and some of them have got to be good,” Sterling said, during a speech here at the SXSW conference in reference to the slogan on blog search site “Well, no, actually. They don’t.”

“I don’t think there will be that many of them around in 10 years. I think they are a passing thing.”

I think he’s right, and he’s wrong. This idea of self-publishing and babbling on the net isn’t going to go away—I expect it’ll be going on in some form or another as long as we’ve got a network to play on.

Otherwise, though, sure, something is going to change, it always does. I wouldn’t mind some radical new change that would allow us to jettison the ugly term “blog”, but I think Sterling is being a poor judge of human nature if he thinks us primates will stop chattering at each other, even if the quality of our communications never rise to his standards of “good”.


  1. Azkyroth says

    Right. And in other news, “groups with guitars are on their way out…” *snickers*

  2. says

    I’ve always wonder whether P. V. Glob, author of “The Bog People”, has a blog. Yes, it’s an ugly word.

    Sterling sounds like as a fatheaded idiot who felt that he had to say something. He seems to have confused a medium (internet publishing) with the particular way in which it is being used at this moment (blogosphere 2007), and then stirred in the resentment that second-rate print writers feel when they see their product slipping on the market.

    The blogosphere of today is vastly different than it was five years ago when I started up. The top-level political blogs are professional-quality and are playing a major role inside and outside the Democratic party. Most of the top new political journalists run combined blog/print operations. The great majority of newspaper opinion columnists have become laughingstocks. And newspapers are no longer able to bury stories on page 16B and expect them to disappear. Those are big positive changes, and I expect them to be permanent unless the media companies succeed in gaining content control of the internet.

    These aren’t the kinds of things that Sterling notices, I guess.

  3. says

    After all, talking pictures, television, and rock ‘n roll were just passing fads too.

    Yeah, the nature of blogging (or whatever it will be called) will change, but not the fact that it happens. Too many people have too little to say, after all…

  4. says

    In 10 years, all I want is my freakin’ jetpack. The sci-fi writers and talking heads have been promising me one since I was a kid, but it seems the glorious future never arrives. I’m also still looking forward to “meals in a pill,” 3-D television, and human-size pneumatic tube transports. So far, these 2000’s have sucked. :(

  5. Ian H Spedding FCD says

    “I don’t think there will be that many of them around in 10 years. I think they are a passing thing.”

    “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement” – Lord Kelvin

    Yeah, right…

  6. CalGeorge says

    A closet Republican, perhaps?

    Does he like the more narcissistic, advertising-driven, Murdoch-owned MySpace, perchance?

    I’m very suspicious of people who write off blogs and blogging.

  7. Chris says

    It’s one thing to observe that 90% of blogs are crap – that’s just rediscoverng Sturgeon’s Law – but to say that 100% are crap is an overgeneralization.

    Some blogs actually serve an important societal role – for example, the political blogs that have taken up the role of exposing political lies and corruption, which the print and broadcast media now generally prefer to help cover up.

  8. says


    I’m also still looking forward to “meals in a pill,”

    No, that won’t happen ’til the year 3535 (or maybe 4545).

    Chris, I’m glad to hear you cite Sturgeon’s Law. I know it sounds like a glib bumpersticker, but I find its implications heartening:

    –> Just because you look around yourself and see nothing but crap doesn’t imply that everything is crap.

    –> There’s not especially more crap now than in previous times, because 90% of everything has always been crap.

    Sturgeon’s Law has helped me call bullshit on lots of folks who’ve given me the “[X] used to be great in the Good Old Days, but now we’re going to Hell in a handbasket” line.

    History serves as a great sieve, filtering out the crap from earlier eras, so that we have Shakespeare and Marlowe, but the 90% of their colleagues whose work was crap are mercifully forgotten.

    And so it will go with blogs. My own personal blog is probably in the 90%, but I don’t feel too bad about that, because nobody reads it anyway. ;^)

  9. says

    Even if most of today’s blogs will be defunct in ten years, it would surprise me greatly if new ones won’t step in to take their share of the page views. From 1989 to 2005 I spent an hour every day on BBSs and web forums. Then I switched to blogging. I find it highly unlikely that I would one day voluntarily switch from blogging to doing nothing on-line.

  10. says

    Dave X said: “In 10 years, all I want is my freakin’ jetpack.”

    Yeah, I had the same thought – just when IS the stupid future going to come, anyway? We were promised high, sparkling cities and shiny one-piece outfits and what do we get – global bloody warming and bird flu, that’s what! Just goes to show that the “futurists” of the last 30 years actually knew nothing.

    And – oh! – at least the flying cars have at last made it. Take a look here:

  11. a lemur says

    and those bubble cities on the moon, don’t forget those…

    …but the ACME disintegrator gun you can keep.

  12. Dunc says

    If text-based MUDs survived this long, I’m sure blogs will too.

    Yeah, but MUDers aren’t exactly mainstream. When was the last time anybody here used a BBS?

  13. says

    Right… I figure there is no connection at all between Sark or anyone else’s concept of “quality” and the life span of the blogosphere.

    We bloggers are doing what we do and always will. The blogosphere itself is merely a technical feature. If you take the blogosphere away we’ll just start talking to ourselves again.

    But there will be the post-blogosphere “Blogger Rehabilitation Society” (BRS). This organization will pair up bloggers who can then hang around with each other. That way when we are talking to ourselves, it will look to others like we are talking to someone, and we’ll get fewer funny stares than we used to get in the pre-blogosphere world.

    (Credit to Lilly Tomlin for that…)

  14. says

    You’re all just “PZ sycophants” anyway, so it doesn’t matter, just go with the flow, say “yes” and “hallelujah” and “amen”, and we’ll all be OK.

  15. Craig H says

    I predict the dumb word is destined to end up as an arcane adjective, as in, “Jeez, don’t make a bloggery out of the issue.”

  16. Ignotus says

    Sterling has been blogging for years, and I read his blog, so I was a little surprised to see him condemn a group including himself.

    Unsurprisingly, this is more complicated then it first appears. Sterling explicates on his blog here:

    [quote]I see that commentators on my latest SXSW speech, in which I boldly predict that “blogs” won’t last long, are not quite taking my point. I don’t mean that blogs themselves are a mere fad which will go away. I mean that the original online practice of Jorn Barger style “web-logs,” logging one’s web-surfing for the edification of others, is bound to go away. We still use the word “blog” but it no longer fits important developments on the Web.


    Technorati rankings and Digg buttons and Reddit buttons, those aren’t for1997-style “logs” of the “web.” DeviantArt, Talking Points Memo cafe’, wingnut dittohead sites, those aren’t “logs” of the “web.”

    We’re seeing individuals and groups and peer-production networks moving into 2.0 platforms that get a lot done socially, politically, industrially, whatever — we haven’t named those enterprises yet. If you showed that stuff to weblog pioneers in 1998, do you think they would have said: oh look ,another weblog? No way. [/quote]

    I suspect that the “true” meaning of Sterling’s rant simply isn’t all that bold or exciting, but that isn’t the same thing as short-sighted or stupid.

  17. says

    Blogs, photo sites, social networking sites, video sharing sites – People have found a way to talk to each other without mediation from publishers, broadcasters or aggregators. There is no way that genie will go back in the bottle. Already the networks, movie producers, record labels and publishers are having to find a way to deal with us, not the other way around. Nope, innovation and maturity will bring changes, but just as the telephone is radically different from the old bakelite rotary dial phones of the forties, the telephone is also used many times more, for many times more things, and the web will continue to provide people with access to each other, and to the tools to communicate in more and different ways. Including run-on sentences…


  18. says

    Even if he happens to be right about the fate of blogs, I suspect that his motive for saying this boils down to taking a leak on the spot where another dog took a leak recently. He just sounds like that sort.

  19. False Prophet says

    Sterling’s always been self-deprecating. I remember an interview with him about 10 years ago where he said science fiction authors should never go into politics (this was in response to the release of Newt Gingrich’s alternate-history novel “1945”). I also remember the joint interview with him and William Gibson regarding the two detectives from “The Difference Engine” that they had patterned on themselves.

    I might be wrong, but I think that in one of those interviews, Sterling noted that the predictions of science fiction authors tend to be wrong more often than right.

  20. melior says

    I once met Bruce Sterling in person, and he impressed me as insufferably self-centered, albeit with some good ideas.

    He reminded me of that guitar player who everyone agrees is pretty good, but not nearly as good as he thinks he is.