Friday, June 03, 2005

Blogging: Part One - Has Blogging Plateaud?

The Fat Kid decided to stop his musings and Bosh decided to blog about it. Now I'm blogging about Bosh's musings. That's the way most internet memes are passed: Idea sparking idea. The idea at hand is whether blogging has reached a plateau or not on its way from cutting edge to mainstream.

Let's look at some events in the blogosphere in the past week. In the Wall Street Journal we have an article about job openings for bloggers to earn big money blogging for corporations. Wil Wheaton, Mr. Wesley Crusher himself, blogged about having mono and feeling pretty lousy, and a brand new site opened up heralding the arrival of blogging into the mainstream with its own A lists, B lists, and C lists of Blogebrities. The WSJ article lists salaries of $40,000 to $70,000 blogging about yogurt and popcorn. I suppose some would say that blogs geared at helping people feel good about dairy products or snacks are a far cry from blogging's edgy roots in personal expression and experiences. Then again, only celebrities could get people to be interested in whether they are feeling well that day or not. You can't get much more personal than that, and Wil had 143 well-wishers respond. Then speaking of celebrities, Blogebrities is such a buzzworthy concept that the latest issue of Time magazine gives it coverage. Too bad the entire site is a spoof aimed at winning a contest over at Contagious Media. Whoops. But we don't expect well researched facts in our news anymore, do we? At any rate, blogging has become mainstream. Even my own father called me a few months back all excited for me to get in on this blogging thing since people were making money at it. He didn't know I already had one, but I appreciated his excitement. I was finally doing something on the web my dad could identify with - something he had heard about from the financial sector. (Not that I'm making much money at it. Do my dad a favor and click on those Google ads, will ya? They really do help.)

So, blogging has crossed over into the mainstream. For some that takes all the fun out of it. Once muggles get involved the air is let out of the Cool balloon. Others look at it as a plateau that has been reached with no other directions left but down. I propose that the blogosphere isn't plateauing as much as it is evolving. Although it was once a close knit community of either tech heads or tortured souls, blogging was bound to transform and mature as different voices saw blogging as a tool. Then blogging reached critical mass during the last American election when political blogs became a powerful force instead of a ragtag bunch of crackpots - so powerful now that the FEC wants to regulate them.

For those bloggers who have been blogging for years all this evolution can be distasteful. Blogs about yogurt don't have any teeth to them. Some might even question what is the point of blogging for yogurt or popcorn. You want to eat the stuff, not read about it. And as seemingly banal as a celebrity blog on mono might be, you can't blame Wil Wheaton for being popular. He could blog about a ratty hangnail and he'd have hundreds of concerned posters. If he and his readers want to commiserate together about mono, sniffles, and what brand of kleenex is best, that's their business.

Perhaps some bloggers are running out of things to say, becoming bored with the process like the Fat Kid, or just craving the next thing like Bosh, but I don't see that endemic of the entire blogosphere. I like Bosh's blog and I hope he feels the urge to continue to post his opinions. There's still room for new ideas. Some, obviously, are better than others, but the same freedom that gave the early bloggers a voice exists for everybody else, too. I'm OK with that. Blogs, like iPods, are on their way to becoming ubiquitous. When everyone is blogging it won't have the same cachet. However, I still have plenty of things to say and blogging's popularity doesn't change that. Perhaps I'll find a larger audience one day that is actually interested in reading what I have to say (more on that next time). A blog about overcoming neurological disabilities is a tough sell, but if people are going to read blogs on yogurt, insurance, car sales, the latest wonder drug, somebody's hangnail, and who knows what else, then I can make room for my voice out there. And when the current wave of popularity washes out to sea, the blogosphere will change again with the times and discover new relevance. People like Bosh and I may be off doing the next thing then (I love podcasting), but I believe there will still be blogs in some form or other as long as people have the urge to express themselves in writing.