My So-Called Blog
January 11, 2004 6:39 AM   Subscribe

Another take on blogs Emily Nussbaum dissects online journaling in the NY Times Magazine today, offering yet another mainstream media perspective on blogging. Did anyone ask for another?
posted by docjohn (18 comments total)
I would love a statistic as to how many active blogs exist, and how many unique authors post to these blogs. Then I would compare that number to the number of people on the web, and to the number of people in this country and world.

Mainstream media perspective on blogging? Maybe. But I think the truth may be that blogging hasn't actually become a force yet, if ever. It may be an unpopular opinion, but I still think that blogs are nothing more than diaries by young and old.
posted by BlueTrain at 7:39 AM on January 11, 2004


I get so sick of journalists always sticking with the blogging hosts like Xanga and all, ignoring any "real" blogging, as well as collaborative blogging. Of course that means they would actually need to do real research...

At least this one mentioned bloggers on more substantial topics, unlike our local paper, which lead the article with a one blogging about how a missed payment ended up with the repossession of his car...

I find it intriguing though that Ms. Nussbaum declines to make her NYT email address public though...

On the other hand, I could just be bitter...
posted by Samizdata at 7:55 AM on January 11, 2004

What I thought was amusing is that of the services she mentioned: LiveJournal, Blurty, Xanga, Diaryland, and DeadJournal, three of the five use the same code (i.e., LiveJournal's).

It seemed to me that she was more interested in exploring how teenagers use online blogging and journaling tools to talk about their lives and how it possibly makes the awfulness of adolescence a bit less lonely. Which, frankly, isn't something that I see too often in articles about blogs/journals. The articles are usually about how bloggers want to be journalists, the whole reliance on the link + commentary format, etc. It was nice to see someone talking about another way that people use these tools.

If you can't tell, that's the way I use blogging tools; I started out keeping a journal on Diaryland and moved to my own domain a bit later, and I still consider my site to be a journal, not a blog, despite the multiple entries on a page format I have. Most of the sites I read regularly are journals, not blogs, and it's very frustrating to see people who talk about more personal things to be treated like the redheaded stepchild of the personal publishing world when it comes to mainstream media articles.
posted by eilatan at 8:30 AM on January 11, 2004

"But the linked journals also form a community, an intriguing, unchecked experiment in silent group therapy -- a hive mind in which everyone commiserates about how it feels to be an outsider, in perfect choral unison." - journalism lite, it tastes grrreat, but it's less filling!

"It was early September, the start of the school year in an affluent high school in Westchester County, just north of New York City, where I was focusing my teen-blogging expedition. The halls were filled with students and the walls were covered with posters urging extracurricular activities. (''Instant popularity, minus the hazing,'' read one.) I had come looking for J., a boy I'd never seen, though I knew many of the details of his life." - Such the brave anthropologist, this Nussbaum, hacking her way with a machete through the dense tropical jungles which encircle NYC, to dare to meet the exotic, tribalistic young savages of the Westchester County suburbs!

She's lucky that these bone-in-the-nose primitives did not just throw her into a big kettle and boil her for dinner.
posted by troutfishing at 8:32 AM on January 11, 2004

BlueTrain - ("I still think that blogs are nothing more than diaries by young and old.") - I think you would be wrong
posted by troutfishing at 8:37 AM on January 11, 2004

"art is anything you can get away with"--blogs are even larger catchbasis. Diaries are kept by FEMALES; Journals are kept by MEN. (men sweat; women perspire). the Times pieces seems monstly about teenagers and their angst and unloading emotions...blogs are like any large ethnic grou: you can make a few generalizations but that hardly begins to account for the many differences in the larger grouping. If whacking off is good for the prostate, then blogging is good for unloading (fill in the blank spot here)__________. Ask simply: why would anyone spend effort and a bit of money and time and in return get nothing but Hits? yes; ads, paypal etc, but mostly Nada. WHY?
posted by Postroad at 8:44 AM on January 11, 2004

oh dear, 8 pages of what appears to be an article about diarists, not bloggers. i would like to see some sort of distinction being made between weblogs and diaries, they're just not the same thing, not to me at any rate. i read an online diary once that belonged to a whiny, self absorbed, 20 year old who was churning out babies faster than i eat chips. i've never read a diary since. i do read a few weblogs tho', for interesting links i'd never find myself, or for political perspectives different than my own. 2 incredibly different experiences, no...?
posted by t r a c y at 8:52 AM on January 11, 2004

Ask simply: why would anyone spend effort and a bit of money and time and in return get nothing but Hits? yes; ads, paypal etc, but mostly Nada. WHY?

Simple: vanity and the modicum of attention drawn from your peer group. Why else would anyone publish their private diary into a public viewing medium?

As a non-blogger reading the article and this thread it appears non-diary-bloggers have a basic marketing problem: they stomp about every time one of these articles appears, insisting "blog" means something other than LiveJournal, et al, - and yet to date no one seems to be listening. I don't mean to offend anybody, but it certainly appears that the vast majority of "bloggers" are, in fact, the LiveJournalists and DiaryLanders, regardless of what technology they're using in the back end. The self-publishers of interesting political content or links to the otherwise unseen corners of the Web, to use t r a c y's example, are few and far between in comparison.

Why not just accept that "blog" is a hideously ugly word anyway, one that even the briefest of second thoughts would have discarded as garbage and leave it to the LiveJournal kiddies. Now, go figure out a way to differentiate what you do from what they do. Rebrand the type of writing you advocate and get the word out. Nobody in the media's going to do it for you, that seems clear. As long as you are the only ones who can see there's a difference, then in the eyes of the media, there is no difference.
posted by JollyWanker at 10:27 AM on January 11, 2004

It is certainly different. But it's difficult to draw a distinction when the two groups often use the same tools to do what it is they do. Seems to me that what both groups of people are doing is legitimate and the net is certainly large enough to accomodate both groups.

The fact that many so-called bloggers seek to delegitimize diarists/journallers really bothers me--even if it's not something that bloggers aren't interested in reading, it's obviously something that works for the diarists/journallers.
posted by eilatan at 10:27 AM on January 11, 2004

blogging is awful when you realize you have put too much detail on your site.
Blogging is fantastic when the blog with too much detail is your daughter's..
Having her older brother clue you in before you think of snooping....priceless.

I don't give a rip about what journalists write or don't write. None of it affects those who blog-from the sublime (BWG for instance) to the ridiculous (we won't go there.)
This is one area media can neither contain or restrain.
posted by konolia at 11:12 AM on January 11, 2004

I think this is one of the best articles I've read about "blogging," or whatever you want to call it. As someone with two teenage brothers with livejournals, the story seems an accurate portrayal of how their web logs enter into their lives. This is a mass phenomenon altering how people of a certain age interact -- ordinary people who don't know or care a thing about html are communicating with one another in new ways.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:41 AM on January 11, 2004

So what are we doing here? Blogging, or something else?
posted by troutfishing at 11:49 AM on January 11, 2004

tf, It's blogging if you want to get in some goth teen girls pants. To the rest it's just a message board with links.
posted by HTuttle at 3:30 PM on January 11, 2004

I liked Nussbaum's article -- it didn't pretend to be about weblogs in general, just about the role that LiveJournal and similar sites play in the life of some contemporary adolescents.

I've been interested in LiveJournal since I started seeing it a few months ago in the referrer URLs for visitors to Language Log. LiveJournal allows its users to select arbitrary RSS feeds as "friends", and the result is that lots of serious weblogs get mixed in with commentary as well as entirely personal diary entries on these "friends" sequences, which wind up looking strangely like conversations even though some of the participants have no idea that they're participating.

Anyhow, LiveJournal users do follow these links. Our blog is not on all that many "friends" lists, but 10-15% of our readers come from there. I wrote a couple of notes about one of the words in Nussbaum's article, and got dozens of interesting emails from LiveJournal readers, some of which I added to the posts.

Some of the commenters here seem to be looking down their noses at the LiveJournal users. I think this would be as big a mistake as the one that conventional journalists sometimes make in sniffing at all bloggers.
posted by myl at 6:19 PM on January 11, 2004

Bluetrain asked "I would love a statistic as to how many active blogs exist, and how many unique authors post to these blogs."

You can find some statistics at the NITLE blog census.

There is some other information at technorati among other places. The LiveJournal site will give you some statistics, as well as an intesting histogram of blogger ages (median 19 last I looked).

Here is the Perseus weblog survey that Nussbaum refers to. It has been widely discussed. As I read the results, the fact seems to be that the number of active blogs is in the low millions, with roughly an equal number that are dead (i.e. no longer being updated). However, the most important number is the rate at which new weblogs are being created, and this seems to be high enough that the number of active bloggers (in the broad sense) is still increasing rapidly.

As a fraction of the world's population, it's pretty small. As an influence on world culture, it's already significant, and seems likely to grow for a while.
posted by myl at 6:33 PM on January 11, 2004

The Perseus weblog survey was very informative. Thanks.
posted by BlueTrain at 6:53 PM on January 11, 2004

Thank you, sir! May I have another!

(Well, someone had to ask...)
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:24 AM on January 12, 2004

This morning on the Today show (US morning news), they interviewed Nussbaum about her article. Later they did a 'oh no, danger' story with a child psychologist answering the question, 'are blogs safe for your teens?'. These were Today's first stories on blogs.
posted by yonderboy at 12:30 PM on January 13, 2004

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