End of An Era?
December 29, 2011 1:19 PM   Subscribe

A couple of commentators present conflicting arguments about whether the golden age of tech blogging is over.
posted by reenum (38 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
One of the reasons I hate Facebook is the demise of the blog.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 1:33 PM on December 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

No, because as anyone on the Internet can tell us, things have never, ever been better and anybody who thinks maybe something might not be as good as it used to be is an old fart who should go back to their shuffleboard and have you heard that Socrates quote about "youth today?"
posted by entropicamericana at 1:45 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Based on the answers in here, I'd say any golden age is long gone.
All the "real" blogs worth reading out there are ancient. It all probably peaked in '98 or so, before all the macho nerd bullshit.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:46 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

yep, just like there are no more good video games being made since the most visible ones are boring AAA titles
posted by p3on at 1:51 PM on December 29, 2011

One of the reasons I hate Facebook is the demise of the blog.
Yeah. It used to be people would create new blogs, now they just post stuff on facebook, or google+.

That said i was always too lazy to start a blog, whereas have been posting stuff on G+. I'm actually kind of frustrated by the format limitations, and it seems like Tumbler might give me more creative control -- but tumbler seems to be 90% 13 year olds at this point...
posted by delmoi at 1:57 PM on December 29, 2011

That entirely invented Kindle Fire backlash story that swept over just about every tech blog witrh every bugger parroting the same set of lame links was not exactly inspiring...
posted by Artw at 1:58 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Suck.com stopped posting over ten years ago, Shift magazine died in 2003, those are examples of the Golden Age of Blogging, what the BoingBoing article refers to is the golden age of generating clicks.
posted by furtive at 2:10 PM on December 29, 2011 [7 favorites]

I was under the impression that "golden age," like "industrial age" and "Age of Sail," was a name applied by historians in order to more easily refer to broad trends. But it's apparently considered a reasonable position to believe that we are currently in the Golden Age of Blogging. I'm not sure how that works.
posted by LogicalDash at 2:12 PM on December 29, 2011

TBH these days I'm pining for the golden age of six months ago, before Reddit/r/Technology was utterly flooded with whiny posts from torrentfreak.com - yes, you like pirating shit, well done, shut up.
posted by Artw at 2:18 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

There was a golden age of tech blogging?
posted by MartinWisse at 2:26 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

There was a golden age of tech blogging?
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:31 PM on December 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, actually i think I'm going to have to see example links of some quality golden age stuff here...
posted by Artw at 2:33 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh no! Friends! We have entered the "Silver Age of Blogging!" Bottle Cities! Radioactive Web-Spiders! 6 Kinds of Krypto-journalism! "Google: Threat or Menace!" The Internet Revenge Squad!

TrueType Font, True Believers!
posted by SPrintF at 2:43 PM on December 29, 2011 [8 favorites]

I cannot tell you why, but I must post to a different color Metafilter site each day of the week OR I WILL DIE!
posted by Artw at 2:45 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you post to each in the correct order you unlock the admin panel.
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:46 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

But... there are more blogs than ever, on most topics.

Good blogs, even.

And there are still niches to fill.

Maybe the golden age of personal blogs is over?
posted by zennie at 2:52 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

The golden age died for me a while back. Now its just fun to sit back and read the self-congratulatory circle jerking and reach-arounds. I read a story today where a respected tech blogger was quoted as saying "Microsoft has to reinvent the tablet space" with regard to Windows 8 and the iPad. Not only was it a stupid over-thinking statement, it was dead wrong.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:54 PM on December 29, 2011

But... there are more blogs than ever, on most topics.
Maybe the golden age of personal blogs is over?

But this isn't about personal blogs, or even just blogs. This is about "Tech Blogging."
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:56 PM on December 29, 2011

Remember that form of cultural expression that was way better before the commoners git hold of it?
posted by seanyboy at 3:03 PM on December 29, 2011

There is a "taxonomy of tech bloggers" linked from the first post. It includes "the rumored blog Sarah Lacy may be planning." Talk about covering your bases.
posted by simen at 3:06 PM on December 29, 2011

So, really, what this is about is that we have lost the simple dream of each being a relevant pundit?
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:34 PM on December 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

For me, the Golden Age of Blogging ended in 2012, when Matt sold MetaFilter to AOL.
posted by gwint at 3:54 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Good Lord. I've said too much.
posted by gwint at 3:55 PM on December 29, 2011

Good riddance.
posted by mr.marx at 4:21 PM on December 29, 2011

So, really, what this is about is that we have lost the simple dream of each being a relevant pundit?

Yeah, basically. For all the snakeration up in this dancery, I think the guy kind of has a point. There was a time --- 2003, maybe? When all of a sudden any schmuck with DSL and a decent writing style could, it seemed, become someone the muckety-mucks in one's chosen field of expertise would have to pay attention to. This prompted about a bajillion underwear, cheetos, and basement related sneers from newspapers and magazines, but especially in the tech world, which prides itself on being cutting edge, someone like Arrington could report on something and not only have people involved in that thing hear about it and comment on it but also help shape the fate of companies. That was a new thing, a thing that had not been before, when about the only way to acquire such tastemaking influence was to work your way up from cub reporter to big shot columnist. Is such a thing possible any longer? Well, I wouldn't quite say it's impossible. But the form is now well-established, there are tons of competitors our there for most broadly popular topics --- if you wanted to be guaranteed a shot for your site to become well known I think you'd need to start with backing, just in order to get your name out there. Or perhaps, for a single individual, you'd want to write for one of the big blog sites in order to develop a name for yourself that way. There's now a hierarchy in place.
posted by Diablevert at 4:25 PM on December 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

But this isn't about personal blogs, or even just blogs. This is about "Tech Blogging."

Yeah, it's about tech blogging. But it's also about blogging no longer standing out from the pack as a web communication platform. It's not like there's less interest in tech... it's just that it's not as easy for individuals to stand out and be leaders. Maybe I have an issue with the use of "Golden Age." Was there an age in which tech blogging by individuals was truly central to... something? The growth of the web? The blogosphere?
posted by zennie at 4:30 PM on December 29, 2011

Gah. Posted too soon. *sigh*

It's just that when a village grows into a metropolis, I don't call that the end of the Golden Age of the people living there.
posted by zennie at 4:32 PM on December 29, 2011

As I consider it further, the death of the 'profit blogger' is good for the web. During the blog-rush, there was very little room for works of enjoyment. Sure, yes, you could just do it out of love, but the problem was: there was a fantastical possibility that your labor of love could also pay the bills. What a wonderful dream that was! But no dreams are without cost.

Imagine starting a blog during the blog rush which documented every recipe utilizing udon noodles. You are mad about udon noodles. You decide to start a blog. But your friends remind you: there isn't much of an audience out there for udon noodle recipes. Who cares about udon, they ask? You don't care, what you care about is udon. This is just a blog about udon noodles, it is just to be helpful, to just be what it is. But your friends remind you that you could be big if you focused more widely. You could be somebody, the somebody who knows all about all noodles. But yet, you aren't so fond of all noodles-- just udon. You keep on. There isn't much traffic. You get an email a few weeks in. They tell you about how great you are, that it is just the recipe their mother made back home. Maybe you could be somebody with this. The temptation to fantasize about a castle in the clouds, a castle that noodles built, the temptation grows incredible. You are getting some traffic about udon noodles. The mind draws a magnificent image on the horizon. You could get even more if you just gave up your fascination and specific love of udon noodles. Your friends tell you to think of the audience. Your family reminds you that you are spending ten hours a week on this project documenting udon noodles. Look at all these other blogs that are making money. You could do this too! Just because it is your favorite topic, just because you fancy yourself an expert on this specific field, you are just being an idealist, they all say. Give it up, expand, be a pragmatist. Think of who you could be! Think of your audience! The back of your mind a question raises: who is your audience? Who is this for? But no matter, whoever they are: if you make it they will come. You tie up your boots and read about blogging. You clock twenty hours in a week. This is work, this will work. You are gonna make the best good damn banner eye trap ever.

Writing grows to be a chore. What is there to talk about? That week everyone is talking about rice noodles on all the competitive blogs. You read them every day. Your finger is on the pulse of cooking blogs. You post a story about rice noodles. Much of the thoughts are borrowed, and the recipe is a little modified, and you don't really care for rice noodles, but the traffic rolls in. This week they talk about lasagna, and wow, the SEO is amazing. You link to smaller blogs, they link back to you. Maybe you notice, maybe you don't, but the blog you linked to isn't exactly about noodles, and lasagna is more pasta than noodle per se. It doesn't matter. You are going to be somebody. This is your way out of the workaday, you can focus on things you care about later. A few dozen dollars in adsense. This isn't enough. You rebrand. You relaunch. No longer 'Udon & Friends', now it is 'Hasta La Pasta' it is catchy, it runs on drupal, it cost a few hundred dollars of textbooks and service charges but you got it running. You just know it. This time it'll be big. You'll get that traffic now for sure. But no one is coming. They aren't even mentioning you. The adsense is paying even less now. How can you compete against epicurus, and about.com, those corporate fuckers are ruining you. Where's the money? What are you doing wasting thirty hours a week on this, it isn't making you a nickle. You were too late to the party. Blogging is dead!

But it never was what it was. The profit blogs, minus the exceptions, were failures. Such a fantasy as the profit blog was the epitome of cruel optimism. To run a blog today will necessarily, as before, start as a labor of love, but now they will continue, as before the blog-rush, they will continue only as works of love. We can once again give our gift of thought without fear of it being at cost. And the internet will be richer and more diverse for it. As the door swings closed, it is the same door opening.
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:11 PM on December 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

The profit blogs, minus the exceptions, were failures.

Because "profit blogs", to give them a proper term, are "magazines". I mean, even before arguments about profit, and insiders, and people being given free shit so they can say nice things about it, these sorts of "blogs" have long since abandoned simple stream of stories, latest to oldest, and have adopted a CMS-based, top-down run style that makes them no different from your standard "mainstream" news site.

"Blogging" was an amazing thing when it first happened, essentially because it came about because of the sudden availability of web hosts that rather than just serving up static pages, gave you the ability to use ASP or PHP or CGI scripts, and to host a database. This was extremely cool at the time, as millions of dreary Geocities pages gave way for fast-paced daily updates that anyone could set up. Then, some planes hit the World Trade Center, and "blogger" was redefined to mean "political pundit". Then, at some point, "blogger" was changed again to mean "someone trying to make money from posting shit to the internet". We are all so way beyond that even now. I'd call Slashdot and BoingBoing blogs, just about. Metafilter clearly is. Techcrunch? Gizmodo? Please. Blogging is still a cool thing, but it's just another service, like Twitter is a service, and it can mean most anything, because the basic technological leap from static HTML sites to dynamic sites is old news, and the only static sites you find on the internet are some guy's personal research page at MIT. I kept a blog from about 2000 until 2005, I believe, then I just found it more convenient to post things to Delicious, or Flickr, or Tumblr, or Facebook, or whatever else came along. Wrote my own blogging software, because it was an easy way to keep track of the cool sites I found, and my thoughts, and my stories - now those opportunities are open to everyone.

I don't know what my point is with this rant, except to say the information is still out there, and that, yes, "Tech Blogs" are (a) compromised and (b) not blogs at all, and that this sudden revelation about the demise of "Tech Blogs" might have been more relevant about 5 years ago, before "bloggers" started getting sent free iPhones and XBox's.
posted by Jimbob at 5:26 PM on December 29, 2011

ReadWriteWeb is an amazing blog, and the first example I went to when thinking about good tech blogs. They have amazing insight into advanced computing topics that are going to impact our lives in the near future. Natural Language Processing, the Internet of Things, location-based services, ubiquitous computing, they cover it all.

Then I read the article and saw they were explicitly mentioned and also that they were purchased by Say Media.

Oh well, I guess the public demands MOAR IPHONE POSTS!
posted by formless at 5:36 PM on December 29, 2011

Everything sucks. More than it used to. Less than it will in the future.
posted by tommasz at 6:24 PM on December 29, 2011

Up until the middle of this year I was an editor in online tech publishing. I started out in online publishing running Linux sites then I moved over to other verticals (enterprise networking, instant messaging, Wi-Fi networking). A number of my coworkers were old tech publishing hands from the print era. My boss's name sounded familiar to me when I first met him because it turned out he'd been writing for RUN magazine when I was a teenager with a Commodore 64. The racket was pretty much "do what we did back in the print days, but on the Web."

Most of us were writers first, "technologists" second (or third). I don't think anyone I worked with had ever done any time in enterprise IT. The lack of real-world experience showed in a number of ways: I had one coworker whose writers would come and complain to me because he had a habit of editing step-by-step command line instructions or configuration file directives to make them "more grammatically correct" to the detriment of the instructions' ability to actually, you know, work for the readers. Less dramatically, it meant a lot of mediocre reporting (if the reporters don't understand what a router is good for, how can they explain whether Cisco's new one is any good?) and rotten punditry: If the columnist doesn't understand what IT workers have to deal with, what good is his opinion about any of it? If all the columnist understands is how to get a pair of Linux boxes to talk to each other over a four-port switch, what on earth does he have to say to anybody trying to engineer a network with 10,000+ endpoints?

Our most successful site in terms of traffic pretty much dropped all pretense of providing useful information (Rob Enderle was a regular contributor, for fuck's sake) and just settled into a nice routine of trolling people with strong opinions about "GNOME vs. KDE" for a weekly traffic bump.

So, early this year, before I quit, we got this directive that we were to become "the Edmunds of IT." Management had us conduct audience interviews where we'd offer Starbucks gift certificates to actual "IT decision makers" if they'd sit through a questionnaire where we asked them what could make our sites more useful to them. The two answers we got the most were:

"Be more like Stack Overflow so I can get questions answered."


"Get writers more like the bloggers I read, who actually do this stuff for a living, because what you've got isn't helping anybody."

They weren't referring to ReadWriteWeb or TechCrunch or fucking Mashable. They were referring to obscure little Blogger blogs run as an afterthought by self-documenters, the occasional gem in the corporate blog subdomain (Sun had a few), and the "here's my crappy blosxom blog with the ugly default theme I run from a 486 Linux box under my desk" types.

That stuff was tremendously aggravating to the "editorial professionals" I worked with because, you know, we're trying to make money over here! I asked one coworker what need she thought we were fulfilling when bloggers who actually did what we only wrote about were getting more and better information out to our readers more quickly, and the best she could offer was "better editorial standards." Even, I guess, when it meant making a line of sed or a Samba configuration stanza "read better" by mangling its syntax and breaking it. That's just not an argument that's working on any of the big IT companies that would consider paying much to reach the audience those sites are frustrating and underserving, so the money has gone away or stays around only on the condition that the ads become more gigantic, intrusive and obnoxious.

And now Mashable can't make a lot of money because nobody who wants to reach an audience that's serious about anything will pay enough to make display revenue meaningful? Some other tech blog can't make a go of it selling ridiculous "sponsored studies" and bullshit whitepapers about "the future of the gamified network of things?" Whatevs. The only difference between them and the people trying to recreate the best years of BYTE with a decrepit copy of StoryServer and overworked, inexperienced staff seems to be an emphasis on bloggy-looking templates and slightly better response times when a new social network comes along with its tacky little sharing widget.

It's just a stupid idea to think there's going to be a lot of money to go around trying to broker information about things any schmuck can use for free (social networking sites, free apps) or super-cheap ($0.99 apps or $5/month web services). People who throw around display money went chasing after sites that did that stuff because people who throw around display money are sort of dumb that way and still mostly understand eyeballs even if they say they're more sophisticated than that. But they're beginning to learn, and the money is going places like content marketing and other corporate-controlled efforts where you don't even have to waste time puffing up a gullible amateurs' sense of self-importance with early access to betas or "evaluation units" you never ask be returned.
posted by mph at 9:30 PM on December 29, 2011 [7 favorites]

What's that old troll John Dvorak up to these days anyway?
posted by usonian at 9:33 PM on December 29, 2011

You'd think that more news sources would improve the quality as they all try to out-do each other, but in fact they often just seem to out-do each other in the number of stories they write each day, the number of 'list' articles they can write (good for seo) or how extreme their opinions can be.
posted by DanCall at 1:06 AM on December 30, 2011

You'd think that more news sources would improve the quality as they all try to out-do each other, but in fact they often just seem to out-do each other in the number of stories they write each day, the number of 'list' articles they can write (good for seo) or how extreme their opinions can be.

No, you wouldn't. I'm not trying to be sarcastic. It's just straight capitalism. You can increase page views with quality articles, and you can increase page views with quantity articles. The former is expensive and difficult, the latter cheap and easy. You could probably quantify it with work process studies, even, but I think any reporter would tell you that pretty much any quality, innovative story that's uncovering genuinely new info takes a lot of time --- you hear about something, you've got to confirm it with multiple sources, possibly do a bunch of background research or expert interviews, fact check --- several hours at minimum, more likely days, and that's not counting the months and weeks you put in developing sources do they're willing to tell you stuff in the first place. In that same amount of time pretty much anyone can rewrite several press releases, slap up a couple photo galleries and spout off an uninformed rant about a hot button topic, and even if any single one of those pieces has only 20% of the clicks of a quality pieces, together they'll be more and there will be five times as much ad real estate to sell onto.
posted by Diablevert at 7:39 AM on December 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

mph hits the nail on the head. Tech blogging is alive and well as far as I'm concerned because most times I have a specific technical issue google/bing/yahoo readily have indexed the answer on somebody's hobby blog or a message forum. Once in a while I'm the first person to deal with the problem and when I fix it I write my own blog or forum entry to leave a bread crumb for others.

Making money at tech blogging, on the other hand...
posted by dgran at 8:22 AM on December 30, 2011


now you have reached enlightenment
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 1:43 PM on December 30, 2011

About a year ago I deleted all tech blogs (except for a couple of Objective-C self-documenters) from my RSS reader. My reading signal-to-noise ratio (and overall quality of life) improved tremendously.
posted by quartzcity at 6:14 PM on December 31, 2011

« Older Women on Bikes!   |   "... And hopefully, you don't raise a serial... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments