I’ve been ‘blogging’ now for over two years (I wrote my first post on May 13th, 2006). Not all of that time has been on this web server, but what now constitutes the majority has been. I’ve started to wonder, since I realised last week that it had been that long, about why it is exactly that I blog.
When I started this wondering, I wasn’t really sure why it was. I couldn’t put my finger on it. So I turned the question around. Why do other people blog? And why do I read their blogs? I was sure, if I could answer those two questions, the answer to my original question would become much more apparent.
A ‘blog’, the now common shortening of web log, is basically a series of web pages arranged in reverse chronological order with an RSS feed attached. They are mostly personal, that is, written by a person rather than a group or corporation. We are now seeing group blogs, that is, blogs with multiple authors from a certain group, such as Debian or WordPress. But they are still written from an individual’s perspective
So why is it that blogs appeal to the person rather than to the group? A lot of people have speculated, and I agree with them, that it is because groups have other means of being heard. A large newspaper (a group, as it were) can have an amazing impact on how we see information. A news channel on TV, or a respected journal, can also have an impact on how we see information. Anybody who disagrees probably hasn’t read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. An individual has nowhere near this much sway on how people think. Barack Obama, president of the U.S., and that dude that runs the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke are arguably the two most powerful people on the face of the planet. And yet CNN has much more sway over people than them.
It’s not because people don’t want to be heard. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. I know quite a few people with huge egos who would love to have a sway on how people act. I’m probably one of them. It’s that they can’t be heard. One person funding, writing, editing, publishing, and distributing a major newspaper, every single day of their life? Unheard of! A blog allows people to have a say, even if their say is only a little drop in the blogging ocean. And they can be heard. Some of them have quite a bit of say. The technology has emerged in the last five years for people to claim back the popular media, and they have jumped at the chance.
As an aside, a blog isn’t the only way in which people are claiming back the media. Podcasts are another big way in which information is now being transmitted, all free of charge.
People (I think) also blog for different reasons. We aren’t all egotistical maniacs, after all. Sometimes it’s to help other people out. A website is a great way of distributing information, and a blog makes it really easy to do so. So easy, in fact, I could probably teach my grandmother to do it. Take, for instance, my own blog. Thousands of two people are reading my operating system development tutorials. They’re not brilliant, but they are helping people. Some people write about how to draw, or write, or even how to blog.
There’s one more reason why I think people blog. And that is that everybody else is. Like the iPod, the blog is now a fad, a trendy thing that makes you cool (I don’t have an iPod. I’m not cool. I rest my case). Over the last few years, numbers of blogs have exploded. I don’t remember seeing many at all back in the early part of this decade, but now they are here in the hundreds of thousands.
But it makes you wonder. Who else reads all these hundreds of thousands of blogs? Well, for a start, other bloggers. It creates networks of blogs. Blogrolls link together people from across the globe, all vaguely interested in the same thing. And there’s the other thing. There’s somebody interested in even the strangest things, because otherwise those strange things wouldn’t exist.
So there we have it, I think. Other people blog because they have something to say, want to say it, and want to be cool like everybody else. That sounds fair enough to me. I’m much the same.