blogs of days past

A few weeks ago I wrote a silly piece of satire about the early days of blogging. It was one of those things that had been my "things-to-write" list for years, and one morning it just dribbled out of my fingers and on to my computer screen.

Writing it, and seeing it published at The Morning News, was fun. But it was only after the event, when a few people commented on it to me at work and online, that I started to think about what it meant, and wonder what my subconscious was really trying to say.

Blogging, as we knew it back in those early days, died a while ago. Blogging it still alive, of course. But it's not the same blogging that it was back then.

The main difference, of course, is that in those days there was a clearly defined group - a clique, some might have called it - of writers who knew each other and got to know each other through the medium. As time went on and the community grew, the group just became a bunch of friends, like any other. Blogging was no longer the thing that united them - it was simply the thing that brought them together in the first place.

And blogging itself drifted. It was no longer necessary to blog about your life or your opinions, because Twitter came a long and made it easy to do that constantly, from your phone. No template-twiddling necessary. Those bloggers stopped blogging, by and large, while a million more signed up for their Wordpress accounts and carried on. The scene subdivided into sub-scenes and sub-sub-scenes. Now you can still find groups like that original one, groups with shared interests outside blogging: a TV show, a knitting technique, a genre of music.

That original group? Those old-timers? Their shared interest was blogging in and of itself.

That's why they - we - I - look back on those days and wonder what happened, where all the energy went. I doubt that any of us still consider blogging itself to be a thing worth discussing. It's so simple, so commonplace, so easy, (so 10-years-ago), that no-one pays any attention to anyone else with a blog. You've got a blog. So what? Even governments have them now.

The thing I miss most from those days, and I have a feeling I won't be the only one, is the voices.

If there's one thing that's not changed a bit since then, it's the fact that a blog is a person's voice on the web. It's not just a diary or a journal, it's a digital persona. A representation of self. A means of self-expression, but also of self-definition.

I remember those voices. I remember always finding something interesting or funny or infuriating or inspiring in my RSS reader, because most of those people had used their voice to express something every day. I remember thinking about those people - even the ones I never met in person - and liking what their blogs gave me. In many cases, those people used their voices to give away an awful lot. In others, they were guarded and secretive and careful. Either way, every voice was unique. Every post something to welcome and enjoy.

People will say "Twitter accounts do the same job now," and yes I can see their point. But I don't feel the same about feeds on Twitter. A Twitter feed is a voice of sorts, but often feels like a projected, calculated one. The voice that the feed owner feels is the right one to share with the world on Twitter. Not necessarily their own, real, raw voice.

So I say: bring back the voices. It doesn't matter that the blogging community has grown a billion-fold, it doesn't matter that our voices will just be a tiny handful among the throng, drowned out by the global conversation. It doesn't matter that most people won't have heard of us and never will. It doesn't matter whether you use your real name or a fake one. It doesn't matter whether you use Wordpress or Jekyll or Blogger or Tinyletter or whatever.

What matters is your voice, and letting the people who loved hearing it before, hear it again.

Filed under: computers
(12th September 2012)