You don’t have to bring back blogging

“blah blah blah”? I think I am offended.

Hey! What are you talking about, “Bring back personal blogging”? We never went away. But OK, I agree with the general sentiment.

In the beginning, there were blogs, and they were the original social web. We built community. We found our people. We wrote personally. We wrote frequently. We self-policed, and we linked to each other so that newbies could discover new and good blogs.

I want to go back there.

You’re all still here! You didn’t go away, neither did we.

People were way more connected to each other. There wasn’t a whole lot of anonymity because anyone could look up your WHOIS information and see who a blog actually belonged to. Trolls were simply banned from your comment section, never to be heard from again.

When Twitter came along, it started as a “microblogging” platform where people would go to put out short, frequent missives as opposed to the longer, personal pieces we put on our blogs. It, too, evolved, as these things do, and now it is the hellscape we at once loathe but can’t leave alone.

There’s some fancy rose-colored glasses there. People may have been way more connected, but there were far fewer people involved. Just the fact that the author is taking it for granted that users would know about WHOIS is revealing — there’s an assumption that everyone knew how to use a command-line tool.

Twitter was an improvement for the majority. You didn’t need to know anything, you were required to keep everything short and pithy, so you didn’t even need to really know how to write. You just had to blurt. Blogs require a bit more engagement and a longer attention span.

The best blogs gave us a glimpse into the life of someone we “knew” online. Good storytelling, coupled with a lively discussion afterward, kept us coming back for more day after day.

Twitter threads just don’t do the trick — and neither will Elon’s alleged plan for allowing 4,000-character tweets (I swear, if I see anyone tweeting out 4,000 characters, that is an immediate block).

Personal stories on personal blogs are historical documents when you think about it. They are primary sources in the annals of history, and when people look back to see what happened during this time in our lives, do you want The New York Times or Washington Post telling your story, or do you want the story told in your own words?

The optimistic perspective might be that as Twitter fades, all those people who had grown accustomed to communicating online will shift back, to some degree, to blogs. Which are still here and have been here all along.


  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    One thing has changed: blogs no longer have a Contact button. So if you want to suggest a topic, make a correction, etc., your only recourse may be to drop a comment. And some bloggers (I will not name names until later and with pretended reluctance) do not read the comments on their own articles.

  2. wzrd1 says

    Ah, but blogs ceased to exist when Google+++ath shut down. It’s not as if WordPress or other platforms ever existed.
    Or something.

    Odd opinion though, given the writer knows what whois is, but not about domain privacy services or the handful of non-chocolate factory based blogging platforms that were around from the beginning of blogging.

  3. Akira MacKenzie says

    I had… or rather, have… an old school gaming blog under my real name. I haven’t posted to it in years mainly because no one pays any attention to it. Also, I can’t think of a damn thing I want to right anymore. :(

  4. acroyear says

    “there’s an assumption that everyone knew how to use a command-line tool”

    There’s also an assumption that every blogger bought their own domain. Reality was the opposite. The vast majority of bloggers were on blogger, blogspot, livejournal, or merged into thematic hosting services like scienceblogs, pathos, and PZ’s freethoughtblogs right here.

    Having your own domain was an expensive luxury for a long time, in money for hosting, or in time managing it yourself. Maybe less than 1% bothered, when you really figure in how large a site like LiveJournal was before Facebook sucked most away (and the Russians scared off the rest).

    whois didn’t do much for that type of blog site.

    But it wasn’t twitter that killed the social blogs (blogs where your audience were your friends and family with some post level security). It was Facebook. People don’t want to share everything. They want to share stuff among those they trust only.

    And THIS is what the federverse can’t give, and was never why people were on Twitter.

    It IS, however, why people can’t give up Facebook.

  5. says

    Blogs should be about honest, complete communication. Pharyngula is mostly that. There are many forms of internet communication that serve that purpose. BBS, blogs, forums, etc. However, the trend for commercialized, sound-bite, sensationalist driven sites has captured the emotions of the ‘drooling masses’. I don’t say the ‘minds of’ because so many (the majority of?!) people live lives of superficial emotion and don’t think critically or bother to research and analyze. There is nothing wrong with social sharing communication as long as it is not hateful or dishonest. I value all the constructive thoughtful posts and comments here. PZ provides us with a very intellectually nurturing framework. In that spirit, as always, I welcome constructive thoughtful feedback.

  6. chrislawson says

    Adding to PZ and wzrd1 and acroyear–

    whois (1) was easy to use but not familiar to most blog readers, (2) it wasn’t long before you could set your whois to “private” which basically meant you needed a warrant/subpoena to get an answer, (3) most bloggers used platform-based hosting rather than set up their own site, which means a whois check would point to the owner of the platform (e.g. WordPress, Blogger), not the individual blogger, and (4) some of the cheaper domain name providers did not put a lot of effort into verifying details, so the whois could point to an entirely fictitious person/company.

    There is nothing magic about why early blogging was so much better, nor does it have much to do with online anonymity (anonymised bad behaviour has been a regrettable part of the internet since it went public). The essential problem is that blogging was only minorly profitable when the business model was a free service to most bloggers with income coming from (1) premium services to a small number of bloggers wanting special design features or high bandwidth and (2) advertising and its flipside, ad blocking. But a handful of companies figured out how to monetise user data and unethical marketing tools, and these companies would rather host trolls, misinformation sources, and hate groups than miss out on one cent of revenue.

  7. says

    I know I’m late to this party. But, this whole discussion touches on so many topics that should be honestly discussed. One VERY basic topic that is almost always overlooked my organization has discussed and that has been featured on ‘tech won’t save us’ is: everyone involved in all aspects of the internet must examine their motivation and decide: communicate furthering open idealism or Monetize the crap out of it and become a corrupt crapitallist or use it for propagandizing. Many of us, PZ included, have invested (time, thought and money) in creating a rather open and often idealistic community of discussion. We support that. All the power/money hungry heavily monetized entities on the internet are like an open sewer: best to avoided them. (I’m looking at you Bezeroes, Musk Melon, fukerberg, t.RUMP, etc.). I Thank PZ and everyone here for not turning freethoughtblogs into another sewer.

  8. says

    Just for fun, Penn Jilette (Penn & Teller) who is an avowed atheist, created a very early BBS called “mofo ex machina” It was a ‘dial-up’ design. It’s gone now but may be available on some archive.

  9. says

    I’m reading Ed Yong’s I Contain Multitudes. This (p. 30) made me laugh:

    In October 1676, Leeuwenhoek told the Royal Society about what he’d seen. All of his missives were utterly unlike the stuffy scientific discourse of academic journals. They were full of local gossip and reports about Leeuwenhoek’s health. (“The man needed a blog,” observed [historian Douglas] Anderson.)