August 17, 2007

blogging isn't dead, it's just a subset of something much larger and more important


It seems that my last post, "Why We're All Blogging Less", got a lot of pickup in the blogosphere. Some people inferred that I was down on blogging, or that I thought blogging was dead, or even that I was quitting blogging altogether. All untrue. So I thought I should clarify:

I remember Robert Hughes, the great art critic saying in his wonderful book, "The Shock Of The New" that the Conceptual Art scene that emerged in the 1960s-1970s was actually good for "Painting".

Why? Because with everybody else scattering bits of string around gallery floors and calling it “Art”, or covering themselves with butter, rolling themselves in the grass and calling it "Art", the only people left painting were those, as Hughes put it, "who still actually wanted to paint".

And paint they did. Hence the big painting revival in the early 1980s. Artists like Julian Schnabel, Francisco Clemente, Basquiat, Keith Haring etc.

I feel similarly about blogs. With new tools like Facebook and Twitter springing up, there's no need to have a blog unless you really want to, unless you really want to devote that kind of time and effort to it.

As I've said more than once before, "Blogging isn't for everybody, Web 2.0 is for everybody".

Blogging isn't dead. Far from it. It's just a subset of something much larger and more important. Time to quote Clay Shirky YET AGAIN. From 2004:

"So forget about blogs and bloggers and blogging and focus on this -- the cost and difficulty of publishing absolutely anything, by anyone, into a global medium, just got a whole lot lower. And the effects of that increased pool of potential producers is going to be vast."
Twitter. Facebook. Jaiku. Wordpress. Movable Type. Whatever. Vive la difference.

Hope that helps...

Posted by hugh macleod at August 17, 2007 9:23 AM | TrackBack

Great post, Hugh. I consider myself a hybrid - am I covered in butter and grass while I paint? - and by that, I avail of the tools that help me reach the humans, wherever they may be. So, I'll continue to blog, for love of the medium, but if you're unlucky enough to follow me on Twitter, you know I'm a storm over there as well.

Praise the Basquiats *and* the string sprinklers!

Posted by: Chris Brogan... at August 17, 2007 10:38 AM

Hugh, you miserably failed in keeping your blog in 'lame mode'. :D
great post indeed.

Posted by: marcel weiß at August 17, 2007 12:04 PM

You nailed it again.

Posted by: Warner Crocker at August 17, 2007 12:51 PM

Blogging isn't dead - but I do think there is an opportunity for it to evolve. As you said - Twitter, Facebook etc are now doing much of the heavy lifting in terms of publishing The Stuff. Blogs perhaps need to evolve more towards curating or mediating the stuff that is out there - particularly as the stuff is becoming more micro, fragmented and emphemeral. Anthony Mayfield posted about curating recently - I think he is on the right track.
Mediation in social media is an interesting and important area that the people currently or formerly known as A-List bloggers should turn their attention to

Posted by: Richard Stacy at August 17, 2007 1:17 PM

So many people schooled in traditional media are quick to dismiss blogs and Facebook.

I suspect a lot of it is because they are scared, and the reason for that is that they can't be bothered to look at the positives and the ways they can use for positives to their advantage.

I use blogs, Facebook and Twitter alongside my day job as a Web Producer, and they've all provided value for me. I wouldn't have known about this post without Twitter for example...

Posted by: Badger Gravling at August 17, 2007 1:31 PM

I said much the same with a post back on the 9th where I suggested that Facebook could be the best thing that has happened for blogging

Posted by: Steven Hodson at August 17, 2007 1:59 PM

Thanks for the follow up, Hugh. As a relatively new blogger the last post was rather depressing. But I think I came to the conclusion that even in the Web 2.0 era, an entire medium can't begun and end in less than a decade. I think there's still lots of unknown territory to be charted out in the world of blogging. In fact, I think it might benefit greatly from losing it's technological "novelty" aspect and becoming just another means of expression akin to what happend to film in the early days. In other words I don't think Ulysses has been blogged yet(Gee, I hope that sounds as profound as I wanted it to)!

Posted by: Seth at August 17, 2007 2:20 PM

Good post. Just because the internet changes and the medium shifts to some new device doesn't mean there is a shortage of demand for certain messages. There is a tremendous market out there for Hugh's message and the exact medium he uses is only of minor importance.

I follow Gapingvoid because it's cool and clever....not because it's a blog. (Duh.)

Posted by: skinnyninja at August 17, 2007 3:21 PM

..."the only people left painting were those, as Hughes put it, "who still actually wanted to paint"."

Absolutely right. But there are still lots of people painting stuff I wouldn't let within 100 yards of my sitting room wall - they might be passionate about it, but they're just not very good. I think it's the same with blogging.

Oh, and the other thing that's the same is that (to your point no.4 in the previous post) there'll always be some idiot who looks at a Hockney and says, "That's crap. My three year old could do better..."

Posted by: ...the world's leading... at August 17, 2007 4:01 PM

With such an appealing title, I was seriously disappointed that "something much larger and more important" than blogging was...wait for it...drumroll please...other forms of blogging.

Oh well, maybe there's nothing more important than blogging.

Posted by: Gabriel at August 17, 2007 4:20 PM

Oh yes, well put if only a part of the larger picture. ;) Sorry, couldn't resist.

But yeah, more seriously, it's all just different forms of self-expression and ways to expose those expressions to like-minded people.

It's all getting easier and easier to do, and the pent-up demand for it from the times of the read-only web is starting to dissipate.

This must be the first time in modern history when serious media innovations *didn't* originate with the porn industry but real people. Consumers, as they say. ;)

Posted by: Juho at August 17, 2007 5:13 PM

There it is! This is exactly what I needed after your last post. I knew I had to continue on my blogging journey, I just couldn't figure out why. Thanks for the pick-me-up.

Posted by: jeremy at August 17, 2007 5:52 PM

It really *is* a matter of what we want to use, when we want to use it, as much as whom we may want to reach. Even two years ago, what we used was pretty limited....

That's why when some serious people have said "social media's dead!" (something of an extrapolation of the "blogging's dead" thing) I had to laugh--it's really only beginning.

Although all the social networking might put some of us way over the edge ;-)

Posted by: Tish Grier at August 17, 2007 7:22 PM

Mayhap blogging is just injured. Poor thing is limping along on a leg half chewed off by a hungry VC that jumped out at it from the last Techcrunch party; VC high on jello shots with "Love, Michael" scrawled across its head in indelible black ink.

Maybe blogging is stretched thin and hard to see; pulled tight by grasping hands, all desperate for a piece of the good times.

Perhaps weblogging has gone into hiding, and if we go over to and search on "rainbow unicorns", we can find shades of weblogs past hidden among the blinking stars and dancing ponies.

Then again, I heard a rumor blogging was bought by TripAdvisor for three million dollars. And change. We offered to throw in Dave Winer, too, but that made them scream and they ran away.

Oh, and Web 2.0 was yesterday--today's web is Web 9.75.

Posted by: Shelley at August 17, 2007 7:54 PM

I thought this would be another boring "blog about blogging" post when I saw it on TechMeme.

They also thought painting would die when photography came around. Great analogy. Painting will never die! I teach oil painting classes and love passing the torch. I think one thing you missed, blogging is about independence.

Where a string-dangler may depend more on the bureaucracy of the museum/gallery/academic, the painter can roll up a dozen creations under one arm and sail to Tahiti. Maybe not the best analogy, but the advantage the professional blogger has: domain "ownership" with total control of content, advertising, and even the ability to switch hosts, preserving inbound links, Google juice, etc.

Posted by: PJ at Knowing Art at August 17, 2007 8:19 PM

I find it amusing what an effect your words have on the masses. What was it like to realise you can sway minds at pen/keystroke?
I don't mean that in a bad way, most of the time it's nice to see the world from a different angle. A reason why I keep looking back here.
But I do like the cartoons too. :}

Posted by: Jen at August 17, 2007 8:52 PM

For me, the growth of the different services allows me to split my content a bit. 'real blog posts' go on my real blog - snippets of information/links/pictures go on my tumblog, pure bookmarks into my, and very little thoughts (along with what I'm doing, thinking, eating, drinking) go onto Jaiku.

This means that when (well, if) you go to my weblog, you get the content that's had real thought put into it - no link posts, no cute pictures, no random thoughts about breakfast.

My blog is benefiting from this, I think :)

Posted by: Andrew at August 17, 2007 9:19 PM

Blogging, currently is like Car's of 1970's, the best is yet to come.

Posted by: TechHairBall at August 17, 2007 10:00 PM

wise and sage thoughts as usual - it is the drive to communicate at the core - use whatever tools ya got anyway you want to - be it indie blogger or big corporation - otherwise, we all should just go back to "monkey speak"

Posted by: deb schultz at August 17, 2007 11:15 PM

I love posts like your previous one.
Anyone who gives up on blogging
'cause you said so
(yes, even you, being Hugh baby),
will give up when it gets "hard" anyway.
Might as well save them time.

Posted by: K at August 17, 2007 11:25 PM

Maybe true at the individual level. Not true in business.

Posted by: Dennis Howlett at August 18, 2007 12:38 AM

It's important to note that, on the technical side, blogging is is evolving as well. Content Management Systems and Blogs used to be different technologies; however, with the search engine advantages of blogging - Content Management systems are now adopting that technology mainstream.

It might be more accurate to state, "Everybody else is blogging more!".


Posted by: Douglas Karr at August 18, 2007 4:39 AM

"Blogging isn't dead. Far from it. It's just a subset of something much larger and more important."

Heheh! Right. That's almost word-for-word the same mantra we chanted about the Source's POST boards ('84), Delphi's SIGs ('88), GEnie's Roundtables ('92), CompuServe's Forums ('99), AOL's Communities ('02), etc.

Keep repeating it, Hugh. Ah, yes, that's right. You're feeling very, very relaxed. Your eyelids want to close. You're getting sleepy, droopy, drowsy. As I count backwards from ten to one....

Posted by: Dalingka Gruptwaff at August 20, 2007 12:43 PM


It's great to see that you made it home safely and that you are back on top blogging. As always a great post, i'll look forward to the next time your in the states for another geek dinner.



Posted by: Adam Kujacznski at August 20, 2007 11:21 PM

Gabriel, you "disappointed" comment proves my point... that we're already taking the concept of "Cheap & Easy Global Media" for granted. 20 years ago this would have been unheard of.

Posted by: hugh macleod at August 21, 2007 5:52 PM

Great post Hugh.Simple as that

Posted by: sezam at August 24, 2007 7:38 AM