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.

%d bloggers like this: