Blogs Blogs and more Blogs

One more perspective on the new world of blogs from Kevin Maney, writer on technology for USA Today since 1985. The following appeared in USA Today on May 24, 2005:

Once blogs ‘change everything,’ fascination with them will chill
A 2005 version of Monty Python’s famous “Spam” skit:

Man: Well, what’ve you got?

Waitress: Well, there’s egg and blogs; egg, bacon and blogs; blogs, blogs, egg, blogs, blogs, bacon and blogs; blogs, sausage, blogs, blogs, bacon, blogs, tomato and blogs …

Wife: Have you got anything without blogs?

These days, the hype about blogs is off the charts.

And you know what that usually means: Run for cover, because a bubble is going to burst and make a big mess.

Just about everybody is either celebrating blogs or worrying about blogs, which are essentially online journals.

A couple of weeks ago, BusinessWeek ran a cover story titled, “Blogs will change your business,” in which the magazine likened blogs to the invention of the printing press.

About the same time, Europeans flocked to a conference called Les Blogs, which took place in Paris, where the people who write blogs are known as blogeurs.

We’ve got books such as Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That’s Changing Your World. We’ve got Wall Street’s Mary Meeker, who used to cover overheated dot-com stocks, showing investors PowerPoints about blog trends.

Pamela Anderson has a blog!

Blogs have come on like a cloud of locusts. The blog search engine Technorati says it now tracks more than 10 million blogs. By the time you finish this column, about 300 more will be started.

A recent Pew Internet & American Life Project study found that 16% of the U.S. population reads blogs and that 6% of adults have created a blog.

(According to “Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General,” 6% of U.S. adults use specialty mental health services each year. Do you think it’s the same 6%?)

Don’t get me wrong – I like blogs. Because I write this column, I get to read about my work in blogs.

In fact, let’s create an Alice in Wonderland moment: I’m writing about reading about my columns in blogs, which bloggers will inevitably post. So now, I’ll be able to read a blog about my writing about me reading about my writing in blogs.

Blogs can be wholesome surprising fun. Last winter, I got to judge the New Zealand NetGuide Web Awards for best New Zealand blog of 2004. The winner was Bizgirl, who billed herself as a twentysomething librarian from Wellington. At the awards dinner, Bizgirl turned out to be a middle-aged fat guy.

Wife: I don’t want ANY blogs!

Man: Why can’t she have blogs, bacon, blogs and sausage?

“Blogging is to the 2000s what Web sites were to the 1990s and desktop publishing was to the 1980s,” says Guy Kawasaki, managing director of Garage Technology Ventures.

In other words, we’ve seen this movie before. A new technology makes it easier for individuals to create and share information, which gives people an intoxicating sense of power they’d never before experienced.

Next thing you know, this new technology is a “revolution” that “changes everything” and “makes dogs and cats love each other”and other such claims.

Certainly each new technology is significant and alters the dynamics of society and business. Blogs are doing just that.

But in the past, each technology has also gone through a cycle of superhype, followed by a hype-o-glycemic crash. After that, the technology reaches equilibrium and steadily evolves into a crucial piece of the global fabric.

“For the moment, blogs are on the ascent to the detriment of other media activities,” says Larry Downes, professor of information economics at the University of California-Berkeley. “But newer and more interesting communications technologies will unthrone blogs soon enough.”

The novelty of blogs will wear off, Downes says, just as it did with Web sites a handful of years ago. “How much time do you spend anymore just surfing the Web – you know, for fun?” he asks.

Besides, how far can blogging spread? That same Pew survey found that the growth of creating and reading blogs is slowing. Maybe that’s a good thing.

“If everyone had a blog, no one would blog,” Downes says.

“Because no one would ever find what they were looking for, and therefore no one would get any feedback or validation of their blog, and, ultimately, no one would bother.”

So, yeah, blogs are cool. Anything that gives people a voice benefits society and makes us all better and smarter – and, as bloggers have proved, makes established information outlets more accountable. But blogs don’t seem to be the second coming of the printing press. They’re just another turn of the wheel in communications technology.

More likely, a few years from now, after the blog bubble has normalized, we’ll look back and say that this technology made a difference and that our total fascination with it seems quaint.

But the blog bubble might still expand for a while longer, helped by new versions of blogs.

We’re starting to see video blogs, known as vlogs. Now Yahoo and Google are pushing mobile blogging – typing out blogs from handheld devices or cell phones. Its name is shortened to moblogging. Maybe the next, improved iteration will be called mobetterblogging.

Man: Shh, dear, don’t cause a fuss. I’ll have your blogs. I love them. I’m having blogs blogs blogs blogs blogs blogs blogs baked beans blogs blogs blogs and blogs!

Vikings (singing): Blogs blogs blogs blogs. Lovely blogs! Wonderful blogs!


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