A blog by any other name

I’ve just been listening to an episode of The Digital Edge and a segment about blogging in South Africa specifically. The segment ties in with a post on Moral Fibre recently about the nature of blogging and further develops this apparent aversion to being called a “blogger” and having what bloggers do being called “blogging”. The issue is expressed in this extract from Vincent’s post on Moral Fibre:

I have never blogged. To have blogged would mean that I’ve waxed lyrical about my day to day activities, after all it is a biographical log, and I am meant to charitably steer it like a captain might his log of events – I have not done this. Perhaps this is not is not a dilemma, it is however mine and I shall now extol the virtues of questioning the questionable art form. Having started an online journal of sorts, Moral Fibre, in which I have always encouraged others to write about whatever they like, I’ve oft referred to what our writers do as blogging. Blogging with a difference, is perhaps a little more like it, but others have referred to me as a blogger, and our motley crew of writers as bloggers too – the name like a nickname conferred upon you by your peers has stuck. We apparently blog here at Moral Fibre. To which I say;

Fuck off get a new name!

I don’t understand this aversion to the term “blog” or this persistent notion that a blog is a diary written by some teenage girl online where she talks about her nails and boys she likes. I thought we got past this terrible stereotype years ago but it appears not. To pigeonhole blogs even further they are portrayed as being bad sources of news (along with the likes of Twitter). According to Vincent (fast becoming the poster boy for blog denialism), writing in another post on his personal blog about the likelihood that we will receive our news online once current media takes a swan dive into bankruptcy –

If your answer to that is microblogging, blogging and a network of open information you’re sorely mistaken. Twitter has been known to provide near immediate coverage of news worthy events, however more already visible to a global audience. I’m not convinced a twitter-reaction to a highly visible event can be compared to a journalist calling up reliable sources to uncover mismanagement in a corporate which employs thousands of individuals. I cannot imagine a blogger, or citizen journalist for that matter, with the demands of his/her day job taking time off of work to chase leads, adopt a moniker and infiltrate a state run department to uncover an arms deal gone awry. Can you?

I am still trying to get a handle on precisely what Vincent and like-minded “experts” believe blogs are (placing all blogs in that category of teenage-girl-writing-about-her-life is a gross oversimplification of what a blog is) but a blog, to me, is a publishing tool that can be used to a variety of things ranging from inane posts about boys at school to hard, earth-shattering news. To categorise a blog as an amateurish tool (this is certainly how it was portrayed on The Digital Edge) does a great many bloggers a disservice. In fact, that sort of portrayal is downright insulting.

Now I don’t profess to be a journalist (I was not trained as a journalist and have no ambitions to be a journalist) but when I write about something it is frequently news. It may not be the quality you would get from a professional journalist blogging somewhere (and yes, this notion that bloggers and journalists are necessarily exclusive is another misleading and inaccurate categorisation) but it has some value to my readers. Vincent may not believe he is a blogger and is searching for a suitable label to apply to his activities but, in my eyes, he is a blogger. He operates Moral Fibre using WordPress MU, a blogging tool. Whatever he calls it, Moral Fibre is a blog.

I don’t see what is wrong with calling a blog a blog either. It sounds a bit silly but being a blogger is potentially a very respectable occupation, regardless of whether you are a professional or amateur, paid or unpaid. Bloggers have been responsible for exposing hidden truths and doing great work to promote freedom of expression. Heck, the very act of blogging is an exercise of the right to freedom of expression. Maybe it is fashionable to refuse the “blogger” mantle (in which case you go right ahead and call yourself whatever floats your boat) but there is no shame in being one.

There is no denying that there are blogs of varying quality and value. There are a great many blogs that are just not subscribing to at all and, at the same time, there are some blogs that shape industries. They are few and far between but they exist and there is no doubt that they are a source of considerable news. While I am not a die hard Twitter fan, microblogging services like Twitter, FriendFeed and others can also be terrific sources of breaking news. At the same time, the micro format renders those services unsuitable for any in depth news coverage but they form a valuable part of the “newsy” ecosystem online.

The recent advances in realtime technologies have shifted the spotlight back to blogs as important sources of news and information, particularly with news of FriendFeed’s acquisition (which has both cast doubt on this terrific service’s future and oddly spawned a new batch of Google Reader fanatics) and the tr.im debacle. Despite all the hype about Twitter and a number of other services that have popped up from time to time, blogs remain one of the most effective ways to get a story out on to the Web and start conversations. Those realtime tools I mentioned earlier in this paragraph, like PubSubHubbub, mean that the flow of content from these blogs is now happening in realtime and that makes them pretty compelling.

Bottom line here is that blogs are not just personal diaries anymore. Anyone who still believes that has had his or her head in a 20th century hole in the ground. They are very much a part of the current information/news/social Web and, yes, they really are called blogs.

Oh, contrary to Vincent’s comment about blogs being “biographical logs” (convenient if you are arguing that blogs are just inane personal diaries), the word “blog” is a contraction of “web log”. There is a difference.

Paul
Enthusiast, marketing strategist, writer, and photographer. Passionate about my wife, Gina and #proudDad. Allergic to stupid

  1. Wow where do I start.

    First off, please don’t refer to me as a social media expert. To say such would be to liken me to a dreaded “guru”, or “social media scientist” for that matter. It would be like me saying you’re a legal-web-guru – doesn’t feel good now does it? We don’t call ourselves such and it would imply that we know everything about the fields we are in.

    Now to clear up a few things.

    Paul I replied to you taking umbrage to me somehow creating a hierarchical structure to writing. I in fact made it very clear that my post was about classification, and a set of conditions which had to be met in order for a particular action to be classified as, for instance writing. The fact that the comment didn’t pop up as a quotable-quote in your piece might reflect why when I read your post I feel your case might be very strong against me.

    Onwards and upwards.

    You’ve quoted a piece I wrote about the nature of citizen journalism and the production of news. When applied to this argument my quote might imply that blogging and tweeting hasn’t got the capacity to enact change, nor would it for instance allow individuals to cover injustice etc. I have made that clear, so many times in fact, that I find it pointless to feed the echo chamber any more echos. Journalists don’t have to tell us the merits of their profession, why should we do so for twitter and blogging? Now twitter is used by the likes of Oprah and the world ‘blog’ addded to the dictionary have to tell then world why we use it?

    About the term blogging, Eve has quoted wikipedia on Moral Fbre – which is getting like a spiritual person quoting their religious text – and you have likened your blog to a weekly paper’s column. I, made it clear in my piece, that the dilemma I have with blogging, was because people assumed when they get to Moral Fibre that they’d receive witty anecdotes from ‘bloggers’ about their exciting lives. I feel very passionately that Moral Fibre, and to some extent your blog, exemplifies just the opposite. We want desperately to be noticed for writing what we like, and ensuring that we hold ourselves up to a set of standards we feel others might appreciate. Were you to be faced with allegations that what you did was simply whine about yourself and others, you’d be suitably pissed too. I was when I wrote that piece.

    On the nature of classification.

    As I said, were you writing for the New York Times and being paid to do so, would I call you a blogger? No. However what makes writers for the NYT different to you, and other bloggers? What makes what they do writing, and what we do blogging? I posed that question in my piece, because it’s something I encounter daily. Maybe you haven’t been to a meeting which separates the press into digital and traditional and then ranks them accordingly. Maybe you haven’t encountered the severe lack of understanding from the general web user about what constitutes journalism and what does not. I’m not being condescending here, or suggesting the “layman” doesn’t understand the value of going digital, rather I’m saying that there are some individuals who haven’t quite got it yet.

    So let’s get really controversial and I’ll hand you some cannon fodder.

    I wrote a piece which challenges citizen journalism:

    http://moralfibre.co.za/blog/2008/10/never-trust-what-you-read-online-moral-fibre-questions-citizen-journalism/

    another on the death of print media and the rise of new media:

    http://moralfibre.co.za/blog/2009/05/the-death-of-print-media-and-the-rise-of-an-impersonal-new-media/

    They were all blogs, they were my opportunities to clear my thoughts using the best method I know, writing because I like you am a blogger, and that’s why I started blogging.

    Thanks for the commenting on my piece Paul, maybe next time we can chat in depth about the nature of writing online before you make bold claims about what I do and do not think about a field I love with all of my fibrous being, because if I didn’t I’d have tossed Moral Fibre’s money-guzzling ass into the bin a long time ago.

  2. Wow where do I start.

    First off, please don’t refer to me as a social media expert. To say such would be to liken me to a dreaded “guru”, or “social media scientist” for that matter. It would be like me saying you’re a legal-web-guru – doesn’t feel good now does it? We don’t call ourselves such and it would imply that we know everything about the fields we are in.

    Now to clear up a few things.

    Paul I replied to you taking umbrage to me somehow creating a hierarchical structure to writing. I in fact made it very clear that my post was about classification, and a set of conditions which had to be met in order for a particular action to be classified as, for instance writing. The fact that the comment didn’t pop up as a quotable-quote in your piece might reflect why when I read your post I feel your case might be very strong against me.

    Onwards and upwards.

    You’ve quoted a piece I wrote about the nature of citizen journalism and the production of news. When applied to this argument my quote might imply that blogging and tweeting hasn’t got the capacity to enact change, nor would it for instance allow individuals to cover injustice etc. I have made that clear, so many times in fact, that I find it pointless to feed the echo chamber any more echos. Journalists don’t have to tell us the merits of their profession, why should we do so for twitter and blogging? Now twitter is used by the likes of Oprah and the world ‘blog’ addded to the dictionary have to tell then world why we use it?

    About the term blogging, Eve has quoted wikipedia on Moral Fbre – which is getting like a spiritual person quoting their religious text – and you have likened your blog to a weekly paper’s column. I, made it clear in my piece, that the dilemma I have with blogging, was because people assumed when they get to Moral Fibre that they’d receive witty anecdotes from ‘bloggers’ about their exciting lives. I feel very passionately that Moral Fibre, and to some extent your blog, exemplifies just the opposite. We want desperately to be noticed for writing what we like, and ensuring that we hold ourselves up to a set of standards we feel others might appreciate. Were you to be faced with allegations that what you did was simply whine about yourself and others, you’d be suitably pissed too. I was when I wrote that piece.

    On the nature of classification.

    As I said, were you writing for the New York Times and being paid to do so, would I call you a blogger? No. However what makes writers for the NYT different to you, and other bloggers? What makes what they do writing, and what we do blogging? I posed that question in my piece, because it’s something I encounter daily. Maybe you haven’t been to a meeting which separates the press into digital and traditional and then ranks them accordingly. Maybe you haven’t encountered the severe lack of understanding from the general web user about what constitutes journalism and what does not. I’m not being condescending here, or suggesting the “layman” doesn’t understand the value of going digital, rather I’m saying that there are some individuals who haven’t quite got it yet.

    So let’s get really controversial and I’ll hand you some cannon fodder.

    I wrote a piece which challenges citizen journalism:

    http://moralfibre.co.za/blog/2008/10/never-trust-what-you-read-online-moral-fibre-questions-citizen-journalism/

    another on the death of print media and the rise of new media:

    http://moralfibre.co.za/blog/2009/05/the-death-of-print-media-and-the-rise-of-an-impersonal-new-media/

    They were all blogs, they were my opportunities to clear my thoughts using the best method I know, writing because I like you am a blogger, and that’s why I started blogging.

    Thanks for the commenting on my piece Paul, maybe next time we can chat in depth about the nature of writing online before you make bold claims about what I do and do not think about a field I love with all of my fibrous being, because if I didn’t I’d have tossed Moral Fibre’s money-guzzling ass into the bin a long time ago.

  3. Oh one last comment, I had to include that bit about wikipedia. It’s tongue in cheek julle, don’t go attacking me over the use of Wikipedia.

  4. Oh one last comment, I had to include that bit about wikipedia. It’s tongue in cheek julle, don’t go attacking me over the use of Wikipedia.

  5. Hmm I quote another man who had a similar dilemma with blogging, a young lawyer, Paul Jacobson on his blog

    “Perhaps bloggers should follow some baseline set of guidelines. Authenticity would be one of those guidelines but there may well be more guidelines dealing with degrees of detachment from the subject matter of a post and other measures designed to ensure more objectivity and a more balanced approach. I tend to think of bloggers being a little like Romulans to journalists’ Vulcans – influenced more strongly by emotions and willing to follow them in a post. Should bloggers be more detached? Is there a line to be crossed at which point a blogger goes too far? If there is, where is that line?”

  6. Hmm I quote another man who had a similar dilemma with blogging, a young lawyer, Paul Jacobson on his blog

    “Perhaps bloggers should follow some baseline set of guidelines. Authenticity would be one of those guidelines but there may well be more guidelines dealing with degrees of detachment from the subject matter of a post and other measures designed to ensure more objectivity and a more balanced approach. I tend to think of bloggers being a little like Romulans to journalists’ Vulcans – influenced more strongly by emotions and willing to follow them in a post. Should bloggers be more detached? Is there a line to be crossed at which point a blogger goes too far? If there is, where is that line?”

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