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The blogosphere isn't poisonous--but the name may be


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July 05, 2006

The blogosphere isn't poisonous--but the name may be

Stephen Baker

I've been thinking about yesterday's post (which I inadvertently posted twice). It's easy to say that the presence of millions of bad bloggers doesn't weigh down the good ones. But a negative association of the word "blogger" could lead some bloggers to start calling themselves something else. Blogger is an ever evolving word. At some point, bloggers may opt to rebrand.

Plenty of labels are available. A blog could be called a journal, a bulletin, a pamphlet or a magazine, and the blogger could easily call him/herself--take your pick--a journalist, writer, pundit, editor or publisher. So if the words blog and blogger don't conjure up what we want to be, there's nothing binding us to them. I'm holding on, at least for the time being. But I'm reminded of the 40-year-old lyrics of Bob Dylan:

Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you.

Forget the dead you've left, they will not follow you.

The vagabond who's rapping at your door

Is standing in the clothes that you once wore.

Strike another match, go start anew...

08:28 AM

society

I agree, and in fact I'm not the first to suggest that "blog" may well be a relatively ephemeral title, Stephen. Eventually most web sites will have easy update capabilities at which point a blog will truly have evolved into yet another tool in the Web toolbox.

Then it'll get interesting because then it'll be truly about content, not presentation.

Posted by: Dave Taylor at July 5, 2006 09:17 AM

Agreed, Stephen. In the popular mind a blogger is a lone voice using new media to broadcast views, whether political or personal, to the world. As the world rarely listens, bloggers, it's thought, have to become "dangerous" and "way-out" to succeed.

It follows that if you are writing mainstream material, and other writers are involved, naming yourself a "blogger" actually harms your cause.

So, separating the practice of producing constantly-updated Web material from the term "blogging" would be a quantum leap forward. In my view.

Posted by: John Evans (Syntagma) at July 5, 2006 09:45 AM

Stephen:

I've begun using the term "newsfeed" with clients -- as opposed to saying "blog" -- because whenever I used the B-word people looked at me like I was crazy.

Nobody wants to be a blogger or have a blog these days. But if you tell them it's a newsfeed, they feel much more comfortable about the whole idea.

Posted by: John Wagner at July 5, 2006 09:54 AM

Bloggers, in general, do have a bad name. There are regular "attack of the blogosphere" stories that creep up in business magazines and newspapers. Of course, good news doesn't sell as well (if at all) compared to bad news. Such is media.

As you mentioned, blogs are evolving. For example, some don't consider DCX's media-only blog a blog. Plus, is a blog a blog if it doesn't allow comments (i.e., Seth Godin). Blogs are evolving.

There's been a lot of talk the past day or so about credibility. I just see blogs as the online version of talk radio programs/hosts. Mostly opinion; a little news value; listener call-in, but controlled by the host.

Mike

Posted by: Mike Driehorst at July 5, 2006 10:08 AM

In some situations, "blogger" may carry a very negative connotation (ignorant of basic journalism principles, overly "snarky," untrained, informal, etc.) ... but I think there are also times when it's seen as very positive to be a "blogger." For example, when I introduce myself to someone and they ask me what I do for a living, I may decide to say that I'm a blogger, or I might instead say that I'm a writer, Web content editor/publisher, etc.

I guess I do tend to smirk when I say I'm a blogger, though - probably because I expect the other person to go, "What? That's it?"

Posted by: Easton Ellsworth at July 5, 2006 02:25 PM

Steve, I launched a single-purpose blog here where I work. Committee members were asked to use it rather than email to keep informed and in touch, and to offer feedback on the project. No one used it. I was told this was because I'd called it a blog, and if I'd said, "Just go to the website at this URL," it would have worked better. Moral of the story: Lots of folks are still intimidated or leery of blogs. I support your strategy to come up with a different moniker for the dang things.

Posted by: Dan Cook at July 5, 2006 05:00 PM

I like that ugly little word, "blog".

I am proud to be a blogger and I'm glad the word inspires fear in CEOs who don't want to risk getting flamed or listening to complaints, suggestions, and questions.

Blanket statements like "nobody wants to be a blogger or have a blog these days" is totally ridiculous and untrue.

Closer to truth might be, "Thanks to Ken Lay and his ilk, nobody wants to be a CEO, or live next door to one, these days."

Posted by: V[[a=s/"p++Ers*t?H-gRate/!!#???? at July 5, 2006 11:42 PM

Well, I agree that some people might not choose to live next door to CEOs. (Security goons roaming the hood, those ice statues urinating champagne...) But if you're going to criticize blanket statements, how about "nobody wants to be a CEO?" Yeah, and I guess nobody likes money, either.

Posted by: steve baker at July 6, 2006 04:28 PM

If that champagne flowing from the fountains is paid for from raided pension funds, and devalued stock options, I hear it tastes a bit sour.

"news feed" sounds like a vampire, and perhaps, in some cases, it is.

anybody been a victim of RSS vampire blogs?

I have been.

these are non-human blogs that simply do Google searches or whatever and there will be like 30 to 100 posts PER DAY on a specific topic, like American politics, or innovative music, etc.

you do a Technorati search on "blogs that link here" and you'll see the little suckers FEEDING like leeches on your content.

Posted by: steven e. streight aka vaspers the grate at July 6, 2006 08:59 PM

I blogged about this post here - http://open.typepad.com/open/2006/07/network_journal.html - the following are the relvant excerpts:

"I wonder if we need new words or whether the phenomenon will grow into the ones we already have. Maybe pamphleteer was a dirty word 300 years ago, certainly in establishment circles it would have been. Novels were frothy things for weak minds and thrill-seekers, but that word managed to define an art-form. Libels (from the Latin "little books") certainly took on a very negative meaning as the name for this type of publication became synonymous with slander and eventually entered legal language....

"Blogs, though - I think it is a word we are likely to have to grow into."

Posted by: Antony Mayfield at July 8, 2006 01:12 AM


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