Monday, July 31, 2006

[living] the naked truth about blogging

In the red corner, ladies and gentlemen – Oliver Kamm, author, journalist and writer/blogger. In the blue corner – Clive Davis and Tim Worstall, unashamed bloggers.

Here I sit at ringside, one week after I started this blogging business and I’m wondering what to make of it. Bursting from the starting gate, I launched into the blogging with a vengeance. One week later and I’m somewhat more circumspect.

What on earth am I doing?

Inordinate amounts of time consumed, lost friends who can’t reach me on the phone, lack of sleep, almost nobody commenting on any of my pieces and giving that much needed feedback and yet … and yet …

My counter ticks over and tells me 187 people visited yesterday, [I'm not sure if that's good or bad], the James Bond Big Java Board lights up with pinpoints of prettily coloured lights, mainly centred on the UK, the US, Australia and a mysterious ‘unknown country’. I thought that unknown country was me until I checked addresses and it seems I’m not the only stateless person out there.

The language spread shows English, French, German and Portugese and one of the latter was inside for some minutes. Why? I put a French recipe in [hope you enjoyed the aubergine] and hoped to get some French traffic ... but no luck. I suppose I’ll try again tomorrow.

So I repeat the question – what on earth am I doing? Oliver Kamm knows. He says:

What blogs do effectively is provide a vehicle for instant comment and opinion. Some newspapers have established blogs for their journalists or other commentators. But the overwhelming majority of blogs — no one knows how many there are — are set up by amateurs using software that is easily available and almost free.

All right. But they’re still at the cutting edge of the new journalism, aren’t they?

These are not a new form of journalism, but new packaging for a venerable part of a newspaper. Even the best blogs are parasitic on what their practitioners contemptuously call the “mainstream media”. Without a story to comment on or an editorial to rubbish, they would have nothing to say.

Well yes, we’re all derivative in the end aren’t we? We all have to do our research and glean our material from somewhere, surely. And look at the vast mass of interesting material, the sheer dazzling variety of what’s on offer.

Most blogs have nothing to say even then. Without editorial control, they are unconstrained by sense, proportion or grammar. Almost by definition, they are the preserve of those with time on their hands.

I see. So I’m wasting my time, it seems. I’m writing pieces I can’t write, for a non-existent readership of fellow bloggers – a sort of worldwide club for the illiterate, perhaps. Oliver Kamm also added that he detests the term ‘blogosphere’. Oops. Clive Davis appears to agree with him:

Jean-Remy von Matt, the CEO of a German advertising agency … called blogs "the toilet walls of the internet". "What on earth", he asked, "gives every computer-owner the right to express his opinion, unasked for?"

But one moment – he heads this piece with ‘Another one who doesn’t get it’ and refers to von Matt as belonging to the ‘tribe that time forgot’. Ah, now there is hope indeed. Tim Worstall now weighs in to the debate and a review on his book 2005 Bloggers says:

But a new generation of diarists, satirists, polemicists and poets have made the idea work, precisely because they dispensed with paper.

And another thing. Since I began, I've been snubbed by one or two, vilified by e-mail by one or two but by and large, I now have a few new - dare I call them friends, some from this post. I think Oliver Kamm certainly has a point -
are we sad cases? I certainly feel myself one. Or are we fearless bloggers, bringing the latest news and views to an anxious and expectant public?
The referee is at the centre of the ring, the combatants either side, but so far he’s raised neither side’s hand in victory.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good article - it is okay to say article I take it, or does that imply something more than a blog? That professional writers have a vested interest in poo-pooing blogging is just the nature of things, that others actively support and encourage it is reassuring.

Personally I am disenchanted with the same stale, court-stenographer like reporting of the press. This wasn't so apparent when we were dependent on one flavour of newspaper or weekly, but with access to so many jottings globally, the repetitive, politically-correct filtered tales begin to look suspect.

We also seem to forget that professional writers do not necessarily have the most interesting insights and those with the most interesting insights do not necessarily have the most flamboyant writing style - (editorial business opportunity?)

Like all nascent things, blogging will morph into something more meaningful once business works out how to take its share. And quite frankly, with the insidious encroachment of institutional authority, people need this venue to sound the alarm.