The headline quote belongs to Ida Jackson, aka Virrvarr, who told Oslo’s first Twestival last fall that this is a question she’s often met with when she talks to senior high school students in Norway about blogging.
Whereas, at least according to the last blog rankings I’ve seen, the most read UK blogs are political blogs (please correct me if I’m wrong here), in Scandinavia, the most read blogs, by far, are "glamour blogs". Mostly written by girls in their late teens and early twenties, these blogs all have a diary-like form with lots of photos – especially of shoes, make-up, clothes, accessories and/or the blogger trying out new shoes, clothes, make-up and hairstyles.
Among Norwegian teenagers this photo-based blog style is so pervasive that it is the text-based blogs that come across as weird, unusual and simply not adhering to common blogging practice.
Even among text-based blogs, I’ve seen the conception of what blogging is change with new ”generations” taking to blogging, so here’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:
I’m fascinated by how the blogosphere grows and evolves and how new voices emerge and then establish themselves as thought leaders or trendsetters to new generations of bloggers. While thinking about how the blogosphere has evolved and is evolving, I’ve come to think that it makes sense to talk about generations of bloggers, as different generations often have different ideals, myths, heroes, ideas of what value blogging has.
These values are often summed up in who they see as thought leaders or trendsetters: who are the bloggers they look up to and are inspired by, who are they trying to emulate, who do they consider their peers, who do they hang out with. For the sake of clarity: I’m not saying that you should try to emulate other bloggers, but in some parts of the blogosphere it’s an accurate description of what’s going on.
For my own part, I discovered blogging in 2002 via friends who were early, and passionate bloggers. That discovery got me reading blogs and even books about blogging, but, blaming my deadlines and general lack of time, I didn’t start blogging myself until a friend set up a blog for me in September 2005, and it took me until January 2006 to really get going (my loss).
The bloggers I really admire are folks like Doc Searls, David Weinberger, Confused of Calcutta, Dave Winer, Jeff Jarvis - all thinking bloggers with a knack for making complex ideas sound simple, for capturing the zeitgeist in powerful and sometimes though-provoking metaphors. Not that I always agree with what they say, but I’m a big fan of the ease with which they discuss sometimes complex trends, ideas and technology and how reading them often gives me plenty of food for thought.
My friend Adriana, who kicked me into the blogosphere in the first place, can also be trusted to always give me something to chew on when she finds time to blog. But the bloggers I read most frequently are those who blog about the issues closest to my own field of interest, such as Kevin and Suw, Adam Tinworth, Robin Hamman, Paul Bradshaw, Richard Sambrook, Martin Stabe, Alan Mutter, Robert Picard, Hans Kullin, Undercurrent, Roy Greenslade, Joanna Geary etc.
The great thing is that there is also a steady new inflow of bloggers writing well on editorial development, on media economy, on the intersection between journalism and social media, on free speech etc. – and I do of course read and find pleasure in lots of other blogs as well - including scores of Norwegian blogs and some Swedish, Danish, German and… oh well, blogs from many parts of the world. But my references are very far from everyone’s references.
To some it’s Seth Godin , Brian Solis, Chris Brogan and other leading bloggers they look to, but often those who started blogging in 2009 will refer to blogs who emerged in 2008 or 2007, fashion blogs will have a whole different set of references, as will of course political bloggers.
I’ve always thought age is a state of mind, and with bloggers I think who they identify with, who they hang out with online, and what they’re trying to achieve is more indicative of what ”generation of bloggers” they belong to than the age of the blog or blogger. Among other things, this leads to the very obvious conclusion that how you measure if a blog is successful depends on what you set out to achieve – for instance, I would have thought I’d done something seriously wrong if I had been invited to a glam party on the basis of my blog, though to a glam blogger it would understandably be very gratifying – but there’s something much more important at work here.
What will blogging be in the future? A blog is of course only a platform, but in the part of the blogosphere I grew up there are strong implicit ethical guidelines, very clear ideas about what blogging is and isn’t, what good blogging is and isn’t.
Where do these ideas stem from? I found myself at loss when I tried to pinpoint it (in Norwegian). I could think of books and bloggers and discussions that helped shape my own ideas about this, but no one source. There’s a whole industry that’s grown up around teaching good and/or effective blogging strategies, around advising companies on social media strategy and issues, but as new practitioners enter the arena they also bring their own, or their thought leaders’, ideas to bear on what social media and blogging is.
My point? Only that blogging, and the conception of what it is, is changing and I’m trying to find a good vocabulary to describe that change while also being fascinated by what shapes the change; what effect it has now and will have long term. What is your take on all this? Who are your thought leaders? What are your daily fixes? I’d be grateful for any input as these are questions I’ve found myself thinking a lot about recently.
More links to follow