Happy Birthday, us

The 10th year of blogging.

I has no idea that blogs have been around for 10 years (Blogs mark the first 10 years).

Technorati’s figures suggest that the medium is dominated by Japanese and English-speaking people, who contribute around two-thirds of all posts on the web.

I wouldn’t have suspected that Japanese accounted for so much of the blogosphere.[1] I know that on random trawls through blogspot I would often encounter a lot of blogs written in Spanish or Portuguese. I suspect that Chinese accounts for far fewer blogs than might be expected.

Most sites are read by a tiny group of friends and family, acting like public noticeboards, but some have grabbed headlines and helped build careers for their authors.

I’m neither one nor the other. The number of people I know who know the URL for Green Bamboo is slight. In spite of signing up for a couple of blog lists, most of the hits I get are probably hit-and-run – someone on Spaces checking new posts or I’m returned as an unhelpful search result – and the unfortunate visitor flees.

Many writers – some of them anonymous – have signed lucrative book deals on the back of their blog’s success, and others have become minor celebrities.

Perhaps I’m a minor celeb. [Looks like we need to redefine ‘celeb’. –ed.]

Businesses are using the medium to reach out to customers…

Just the sort of blogs I like to read, said Mr Bamboo sarcastically.

There are also significant minorities blogging in politically repressive countries such as Iran and China, which has led many to hail blogs as a powerful force for challenging the establishment.

Heard it before. Didn’t really believe it then; don’t really believe it now.

Not everyone believes the influence of blogging will be long lasting. Andrew Keen, a former dotcom entrepreneur and the author of the forthcoming book Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture, says that though it is enticing to believe that online diaries are empowering, the hype is dangerous.
“It’s seductive in the sense that it convinces people to think they have more to say and are more interesting than they really are,” he said. “The real issue is whether it adds any more to our culture. Most of it is just so transient and ephemeral.”

I agree to some extent. This is why I think the notion of bloggers chal­leng­ing the establishment is self-deluding. At best, bloggers might give a government some idea of the general mood of a country; but even then, so many different shades of opinion are likely to be expressed that it wouldn’t be possible to arrive at any firm conclusions. Besides, think of the time that’d be needed to go through a sufficiently large sample of blogs, read entries and analyse them.

I already know that most of what I’m writing is ephemeral, although a small part of it is more enduring.

“Not every blogger is a narcissist who has nothing to say. In particular there are people in China and Iraq who are blogging – and that is very brave,” he said.

No it’s not. It’s only those few who express dissenting views. This makes it sound like every Chinese blogger is a dissident. Most of them never get further than trivia and  ephemera, and never will.[2]

“But generally I don’t see a social benefit. It’s just a great vehicle for next-generation media personalities. Why do I want to know what some guy sitting on the west coast of America thinks about Iraq? Would you pay to listen to this person?”

I don’t like this statement. It’s arrogant and depreciates the value of individual people. It doesn’t matter what I say, nor what my neighbours might blog about (which they almost certainly don’t do); we’re free to say it even if no one’s listening or cares. You may as well say the same of old-fashioned pen-and-paper diaries.

Anyway, happy 10th, blogosphere.

PS. I should mention Bobbie Johnson’s Blogs turn 10 from The Guardian’s newsblog.

1. From Japundit, I learn that posts in Japanese top the blogosphere at 37%, followed a smidge behind by English at 36%. Everything else comes in a distant third.
2. I should point out that I still can’t access Peking Duck even although, as far as I’m aware, it’s still accessible elsewhere.

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