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“This blog is 12 years old. The reason it’s still here will surprise you.”

I have a section in my feeds called “Friends”. This folder includes RSS feeds for virtually all my friend’s personal blogs, and for about a year there’s something interesting about it: there’s virtually nothing new in it.

Oh sure, there are updates. But they’re the virtual equivalent of an alarm set on a phone you no longer use. They’re things like “My tweets for Thursday”, “Links I liked”, and other automatic posts created by other services. They’re the kind of thing which, a few years ago, would have been the filler between interesting comments, essays, and more. Now, they’re all my friends are producing.

Except that they’re not. Some of my friends have moved away from creating things online and sharing them, mostly due to the ever-evolving pressures on their time: increasing families, work that becomes more time consuming. Houses. Even more kids.

But mostly, they’re sharing smaller and smaller snippets, on social networks. Or they’ve abandoned writing on their own blogs in favour of other platforms like Medium.

This makes me a little sad. There’s a lot of friends out there who I initially discovered through their blogging. Back in the late 90’s and early noughties, having a blog was an essential way of expressing yourself and your thoughts. It was also, truth be told, a place to show off a bit.

But there was also a genuinely political element to it, in the sense that for the first time in history, publishing was something anyone could do. You would write, post your pictures, do what the heck you wanted without having to rely on a third party. If you put in the effort, you could own everything bar the connection your server had to the wider Internet. It brought to life the slogan The Well used: “You own your own words”.

All things pass, and it feels like the time of the blog has in some sense passed too. Who has time to write, when you can pump out status updates which let your friends and family know exactly what you’re thinking and doing at any moment? And why bother to think through what you’re going to say and express in in a few hundred words, when really all anyone cares about is the pithy headline, the punchy hook. “This blog is 12 years old. The reason it’s still here will surprise you.”

Keeping writing a blog is hard work, and takes commitment, and it’s very easy to drift out of that commitment. One of the reasons that I decided to start trying to write 500 words a day is because I believed that making this kind of commitment was good for me. But it was also an attempt to avoid pouring too much of a my energy into things like Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks which – while fun, and generally positive – don’t feel like they have the permanence of my own space. This blog is older than Facebook, and I like that.

 

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  • http://www.snell-pym.org.uk/alaric/ Alaric Snell-Pym

    And it’s sad that it has (at the time of writing) 14 facebook “like”s and zero comments…

    I have similar feelings about blogs. I like having mine, hosted on my own platform, because it means there’s an archive of my (and my wife’s) thoughts and ideas that we actually own, not at the mercy of some third party. We can search and republish and slice and dice the content, as it’s sat in an SQL database.

    Commercial social networks face economic pressure to make us exchange smaller, more ephemeral, messages so they can get more (and more finely-targetted) ad impressions; but that’s what they want, and not what *I* want.

    But when we write blog posts, nobody sees them unless we mention them on the social networks (as RSS is now a niche activity); and much of the commenting happens on those social networks, rather than feeding back into the blog post.

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  • Robyn Gallagher

    My blog is 18 years old in June this year. I’ve gone through periods of not updating it, but a few months ago I thought, nah, that’s rubbish – I can make the effort of updating it at least once a week, and that’s what I’ve been doing. Blogs might not be as popular as they were 10 years ago, but there’s no reason why they can’t still be as enjoyable as they were back then.