Last Friday was the 12th anniversary of day when I posted my first blog post on Gigaom.com, and starting what would later (in June 2006) become a company. (Up until Dec. 13, 2001, GigaOM was nothing more than a repository for my previously published articles and résumé.) These have been an interesting dozen years, where we have seen blogging go from a niche curiosity to a mainstream activity to becoming a catch-all phrase for news — casual news, if you are being nit picky. The concept of blogging as we knew it has lost some of its meaning and even a bit of meaningfulness.
When I started blogging, it was to share a point of view — mixing news with musings, with pictures, links, and later videos. It started and ended with that point of view, one that was open to adaption and adjustment, but always informed.
I told the same thing to Peter Rojas and Nick Denton when they were talking about starting Gizmodo; it is what I emphasized to Brian and Lisa Sugar when they were launching PopSugar, and I have repeated that to anyone who has gone into blogging –if you don’t have a point of view, then you’ve got nothing. I learned that from Doc Searls and David Winer and it has held me in good stead.
For me, that has been a guiding principle, even though today sharing of that point of view has evolved from just one location (gigaom.com) to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and whatever new platform of expression comes to fore. I am not the only one who has had to adapt to these changes. But in the end, all those new tools of expression are essentially an offshoot of blogging itself. We shared ourselves — but we did it on our blogs.
If you look carefully, as broadband penetration boomed we saw a sharp increase in need for new social services that occupied our online attention, especially the new comers, who were in varying degrees, less early adopters and more mainstream. The more bandwidth we found, the more we found ways to use it. Plus, add to the mix the emergence of the social graph as a “turbocharger” and we have seen more behaviors that used to find a home on blogs turn into independent companies with hundreds of millions of members.
Blogging used to have blogrolls, link blogs, photo sharing, videos and even status updates. Status updates and link sharing are two behaviors crucial to Twitter, and photo sharing is as commonplace today as Starbucks cafes. We formed relationships, we followed people on blogs, now we do that on Instagram, Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook and every other service.
Evan Williams’ new service, Medium, takes the last important part of a blog — the very blog post itself — and frees it from the blog platform, optimizing it for a social world where people exchange “atomic” components of content on Twitter and Facebook. If you look at the graphic below, you know these “blogging behaviors” were siphoned off into new social services. My theory is that ability to create social graphs more easily, along with radical simplification, has led to creation of these popular services.
And despite my embrace of these new tools, I find solace in the act of blogging and my blog. I have been wondering about how do I evolve as an observer of the world (the technology industry being big part of that world) and then share my observations. And strangely, the answer came to me when visiting Paris earlier this week.
Midnight in Paris
Paris is a sensual addiction; it finds its way into your heart and soul. Food, wine, history, art and high fashion might be what most celebrate, but when I come to this city, I spend my time roaming around the small streets and flitting in and out of its many stores. This trip was no different. Of nearly three dozen stores I visited, there were two that stood out.
Even though I have come to Paris about half a dozen times, I haven’t had the time or opportunity to visit Le Bon Marché, a deluxe department store. The price tags might give one a cardiac shock, but the selections were spectacular. As I walked across floors, from the basement cave (The Wine Shop) to the men’s department to the accessories department, the store showcased brands and products that spoke one language — elegance, good taste and refined luxury.
Later, I ended up at L’éclaireur, an eclectic store which brings together avant-garde and cool in a unique blend. It is so unique that every element on display (for sale obviously) was in perfect harmony — edited to tell a story. If on one hand Le Bon Marché literally had millions of things curated, then on the other hand, L’éclaireur had a just few hundred items on display and yet, both delivered a strong message: their specialness.
It wasn’t these high-end stores: fromageries (like Fromagerie Barthélemy), pen stores (such as Mora Stylos), shoe stores and perfume stores (like Noze), every memorable store has a clear story and point of view. Their uniqueness is what makes you remember in the world of sameness. Their curation is an essential part of their uniqueness, their story.
So what’s next for blogging?
Let’s face it — in the past 12 years or so, the idea of blogging has been bastardized by one and all. We continue to confuse blogging as using “WordPress” or using phrases like “told me” or “I asked.” It is news releases repackaged and republished, and it is a vast sea of editorial sameness. What started as a way to break away from the tyranny of the established order — formats and rules — has been brought to its knees. Blogging is much more than that.
And while I embrace every new social platform with gusto, I find it frustrating that my point of view is spliced across various networks. I think the blog is the one that ties it all together — a central location where you fit together all the Lego pieces. In many ways it is no different than what blogs used to be in the beginning. Instead of them being a starting point of the journey, they are now the final stop, a digital home in our social media meanderings. Marc Canter,came up with a concept called “digital life aggregators.” And he was right — blogs are just that, digital life aggregators.
The Parisian stores that I have so come to admire are essentially a good role model for anyone including someone like me who has spent over a decade on blogging. I don’t really need to change anything — just continue to have a point of view (an informed one), to curate things — photos, videos, links that amplify that point of view — and tie everything together on my blog.
If you look around the media landscape, the media darlings of the moment — BuzzFeed and Upworthy — are doing essentially that, curating a world overrun with information and content and packaging it up for fast-food like consumption. Using the social web to share these content equivalent of McNuggets at massive scale is sheer genius and that is why they are worthy of all the adulation they are getting.
That doesn’t mean you and I can’t do the same. We’ll just do it at a different scale, at a different tempo and with a different lens — our own.
Here is a collection of some of my previous posts pertaining to blogging and writing
- My 10 years of blogging: Reflections, lessons and some stats too. [November 2011]
- The evolution of blogging [August 2009]
- How Internet content & discovery are changing. [May 2009]
- Why blogs need to be social. [August 2008]
- The immediate media age: of broadband and blogs. [July 2007]