My call to grow the number of active bloggers to 800 million has generated some excellent discussion over the past couple of days. Some on Twitter, some in email and lots in person.
Conversation is great. It helps you consider things in different ways, and the interaction helps grow ideas into something bigger. Something that belongs to all of us. Kind of like the open web itself.
Or is it vice-versa? ;)
The cultural obstacle.
Somehow, we’ve come to think of social media as trivial—good for posting lols, links and lomos. But a blog, well—
Erica is an intelligent and perceptive individual—especially when comes to this stuff. She’s expressing the general feeling that people have developed about blogging.
And this has come up again and again in the last couple of days. People find the idea of blogging intimidating when it should be empowering.
People have come to believe that blogging requires a lot of thought. And quite honestly, I feel it too, which is crazy — the reason blogs came to dominate the web is because of how simple they are. Type. Link. Press a button. We’re all publishers!
Blogging isn’t always branding.
I blame the marketers. Marketers ruin everything. They have successfully convinced us that blogs exist to further reputations, build businesses, and make us all money through affiliate links (usually to their own ebooks): If you don’t do it right, you will have embarrassed yourself in front of the whole world and ruined your chances for success. You need a strategy, dammit.
They are wrong. You don’t always need a strategy. Sure, if your blog is for business it goes without saying that you will usually (though not always) do better with some degree of planning (though not too much—I’ll explain that in another post). But not every blog has to be for business or a part of some pristine resumé.
Worried about your reputation? Keep an anonymous blog that you share with only your closest friends—real friends. Start a group blog. You can do whatever you want! It’s really incredible and refreshing once you start. And it’s really not that hard! If you are on Facebook, you’re already blogging—you just don’t know it yet.
I agree with Liz that there are a lot of ugly blogs out there. Thankfully I don’t have to look at them if I don’t want to. And if you’re not blogging for business or to grow a massive following, if you’re just blogging for fun or for your friends, you probably don’t care if I look at your blog or not. You can pretty it up later. :)
The big question.
I tried to tease out the practical reasons from the moral imperatives, but it turns out they are one and the same.
Centralizing the web is bad. It’s bad for technological reasons, it’s bad for innovation, it’s bad for competition and it’s bad for the web in general. And we’re at a point now that what’s bad for the web is bad for all of us.
Given the way that people use the web, we know that centralization cannot hold. If we have 800 million active bloggers in the wild instead of on Facebook, we’ll have a much healthier ecosystem—because it’s not if Facebook will collapse—it’s when. Unlike the current global economy, the web is built to resist that kind of failure by being decentralized.
Centralization is a potentially dangerous thing too. It’s about control. Who determines the algorithm that presents you with your news feed? What do you see? What’s hidden? And I’m not talking about conspiracies or politics here, I’m being practical. What kinds of things are you permitted to “share?” How is your sharing shaped?
Why should you blog for free to help a huge company make scads of money from selling your human interactions to advertisers? Why should anyone own your content but you? Who’s controlling your relationships and interactions? Especially if you’re a business. That’s just dangerous. Practically and morally.
And then there’s that all important data. Where is it? What happens when Facebook goes *poof* as it most definitely will?
On the practical side, blogging keeps that safe and intact. The moral imperative is for those of us who work on/with/through the web. We should have an interest in keeping our clients’, friends’ and family’s data safe. We know the danger, and we know the fix is to keep your stuff elsewhere. On a blog!
Finally, when you blog, you control the environment. You get to make it however you want and use it for whatever you want to in a million different possible ways.
If you’re a business, it means you get to keep your brand distinct. If you’re a photographer, it means you can display your photos in the way you want. If you’re a teenager, you can write angsty poems under an alias and theme the crap out of your blog. That’s both a practical consideration and a moral imperative.
There’s no need to go cold turkey.
By all means, use Facebook. Use Twitter. Use Google+ but blog first and then share later. This is one of the big obstacles that the open blogging platforms will need to address soon. They need to get way better at sharing and discovery. As Matt Wiebe points out:
I’ve already written about what’s missing from the existing blog platforms to become viable alternatives to the closed ones.
Even without those changes, the leap isn’t really all that big. Moving from Facebook to WordPress.com or to Tumblr is a relatively easy transition—especially with a little help and encouragement from a friend.
The more we discuss this, the more I’m convinced that the Next Big Thing—the thing that’s eventually going to replace “social media”—will be the resurgence of open blogging. It’s about to come back. Big.
Facebook’s recent changes have make that the most likely outcome. It has become more of a blogging platform with each round of changes. A blog that Zuk controls and people increasingly dislike that control. It reminds them that they don’t own the space.
Let’s Occupy the Web. Let’s grow to 800 million.