I had a chat this afternoon with Om Malik. He’s one of the people on my list to interview for the book and we made a start on that today. One of the things that I asked him was how blogging has changed since the early days. As someone who has been there since the start, his was a perspective I was keen to get.
I was struck by his insight into how blogging has transformed from its early days when blogging was about being part of a conversation, and bloggers would write on their blogs to be part of that conversation. Now, there is less conversation and more chit-chat, less substance, more small talk. I feel that there must still be interesting conversations around, but there is so much chit-chat that they are hard to find. After all, when you’re in a huge room and everyone is talking, it’s hard to know which conversation is the one to get involved with.
Chit-chat is hyper-accentuated by social media. Many of the conversations that used to happen on blogs now happen in the quick back-and-forth of Twitter and Facebook. I hate getting into debates, arguments, or discussions about anything serious on Twitter. It always feels pointless – 140 characters is too short to have a real conversation. Everything has got to be short and pithy; in the crafting of 140 characters meaning is inevitably lost. Comment sections on blogs can get heated, for sure, but there feels less pressure to respond immediately. A comments box provides space for reflection and review that feels absent on social media.
Our conversation made me think this evening about my own (first) blog. I started a blog in 2003 and was active on it until 2007. I was studying philosophy at the time and there was a core group of UK philosophy bloggers. When I think about it, the posts that I wrote were often in response to other people. It felt easier then to enter into a conversation. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older, or because the rules of the game have changes, but every time I’ve tried to get back into blogging I’ve found it difficult to maintain. Maybe I’ve not found a conversation that I want to get involved in. Maybe I’m less interested in talking.
It can’t all be bad, though. I asked Om how we can resist the chit-chat, how we can be part of a conversation. His advice: listen more. I’d say that’s pretty good advice whether you’re blogging or just a person who has to live in a world with other people.