What Blogs Are Good For

My colleague Suresh (of Geomblog) likes to say that blogging is passé. The first time I heard this it annoyed me because — dammit — I’ve been blogging for only about six months. It took me a while to figure out that blogs are irrelevant and I could care less if they’re passé. The important thing is reading and writing essays, and blogs are a perfectly good way to do this. This realization also explains my gut reaction that Twitter is stupid; you can’t write much of an essay in 140 characters. (I realize that my gut reaction is probably wrong… it’s just going to take me a while to come to terms with Twitter.)

Most of us, when we hear “essay,” experience flashbacks to those awful essay-writing exercises from secondary school where teachers forced us to use note cards and all that nonsense. I’d argue that it’s best to get over these feelings and embrace the essay. I was forced to do this around 1997 when I started my (no longer maintained) book pages, and realized that any piece of writing that doesn’t fulfill the requirements for being an essay also is not a real book review. On a blog, pretty much any kind of essay — persuasive, narrative, photo, etc. — can make a good post. When reading others’ blogs, I usually skip any entry that isn’t at least roughly in the form of an essay.

4 Replies to “What Blogs Are Good For”

  1. Twitter is an interesting phenomenon unleashing a very different communication style: brief, fragmented, and (hopefully) specific. It fulfills a different purpose than the essay or the blog. It is also interesting, that while it is an apples-to-wheelbarrows comparison, the younger the crowd, the more Twitterized the communication seems to be. The media and communication technology we are surrounded by is moving us more toward a multi-tasking, text-messaging, say-it-in-as-few-characters-as-possible society.

    Good? Bad? It depends. It’s just different.

    Essays and blogs will still be around. There will always still be a need for a left-brain organized medium to make a point, throw down the supporting arguments, and wrap it all together. Perhaps, as a whole, it will even be more polished of an art by then.

    I could be wrong. Twenty years from now, you and I may be blogging at each other about the good ole days of blogging, books printed on paper, and curious antiques known as magazines. Of course, we will probably be putting hash-marks in front of every fifth word so it shows up on the proper Twitter feeds.

    Blog on, brother.

  2. Twitter is pretty good for potted aphorisms, and the choice between the aphorism and the essay is both personal and false (you can have both). I’m loving aphorisms recently; they’re sharp, surprising, and bolt-from-the-blue compared with the usual essay. It would rock if every CS blogger could reduce their mandatory long-form post on how to improve the program committee to an aphorism.

    “The aphorism is a BRIEF waste of time. The poem is a COMPLETE waste of time. The novel is a MONUMENTAL waste of time.” (Don Paterson)

  3. Eddie I’ve seen very few bolts from the blue– probably not following the right people! But yeah, profs could certainly use some practice in saying things briefly.

    Good to see you here John!

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