Wednesday, February 23, 2005


(clear sign the popular collapse of blogging is at hand: these are Post-Its I found and bought from the dollar bins at Target)

Sad news: Enthusiastic Claire has announced the end of her blog. Swing low, sweet Claire-iot. You will be missed. Especially given your being one of those bloggers whose principal raison-de-post was excitement, as opposed to being driven by, e.g., rage, malcontent, boredom, punditly-zeal, logorrhea, or, seemingly in my own case, a weird self-enamored proclivity for public displays of would-be-preciousness.

So, to ponder the loss of Claire in its most crucial terms, i.e., its psychological implications for me, consider: someone with a blog titled The Enthusiast has lost her enthusiasm for blogging, the way one loses their enthusiasm for a piece of gum once the flavor is gone. Meanwhile, here in the Social Science building, the flurry of enthusiasm for graduate student blogging has ebbed dramatically (see, e.g., rates of recent posting here and here and here and here and, as ever, here). Over at Pub Sociology, meanwhile, there has been musing about the degree to which one's blogging is just a phase and whether the lonesome character of academia is what has driven some of the blogging from the ivory tower in the first place.

My expectation is that, when 2005 turns into 2006 and the various annual round of lists of what's IN and OUT are circulated, "blogs" will be a favorite selection near the top of many OUT columns. Nonetheless, my December hiatus nonwithstanding, I have no plans on leaving, even it ends up meaning that I'm Wisconsin sociology's Last Blogger Standing. Still, I started JFW in July 2003, which puts me on the early side of arrivals at this giant online party, and I wonder if eventually I'm going to start feeling like the creepy guy who doesn't get that it's time to leave.


Goesh said...

Given the plethora of Blogs out there, I think it becomes more than challenging to continue on when so few contribute and support most Blogs. I applaud those that do Blog because it must take considerable work to keep them going. You at least have people responding and commenting. Aside from not having a whole lot to say, I would find it irksome never knowing what people are thinking about the subject matter at hand. Like the actor or singer who never gets any applause, it would become discouraging. I suppose some simply keep a journal and don't care who reads it or what they think about it. In ways, I am reminded of the hoola hoop of so many years ago. It was a fad that was fun but lost its massive, popular appeal. Esther

Anonymous said...

Most blogs like alot of food are real bland. Speaking of which, I see over at MSN that in the 10 best food colleges, UW is not named. Is anyone surprised?

Brayden said...

As someone who has too much ecological theory in him for his own good, I'm skeptical of the idea that blogs are just dwindling in popularity. From all reports it looks as though more people are blogging now than ever before. The problem is that just as many people may be abandoning their blogs at the same time. The overall result may be some sort of equilibrium in the total number of active blogs (although I bet the founding rate is still slightly higher than the mortality rate).

For those of us who have been around blogs for a while though, it looks like the total amount of interest in blogging is declining because we tend to see blog failure more than we see blog foundings. Our horizons are limited by the same blogs that we've been reading for the last year or so and we tend not to quickly add new blogs to our blogrolls or to our RSS feeds. From our perspective it may actually look like blogging is on its way out, even if its popularity is still on the rise.

Aster said...

I think Esther and Brayden both make some good points. In terms of starting blogs, I think the fad model is a good way to look at it: when the first weblogs were beginning to evolve from their static predecessors, most people didn't know about them and/or didn't care. The appeal of blogging was also not very well understood (as if we understand it now, but I digress). Many people thought it sounded weird and too self-revelatory. But then as more and more people got internet access and webspace, the fad took off.

Blogs have been around for about a decade now, but they really only started to attract mainstream attention in 1999. That's also when the first automated weblog hosting systems opened for business (Open Diary, Livejournal, Blogger, etc). The mainstream opinion then was generally one of confusion ("Why would anyone want to do that?"), and there are a lot of people who still feel that way. I think we're still on an upward trend in terms of blog creation.

As Esther points out, maintaining a blog is work. My blog's certainly experienced more than its fair share of neglect; if there were a blog welfare board, they probably would have removed it from my care by now. Restlessness and boredom figures in there, as does "real life" (what's that?). I don't know that most of the inactive blogs have "failed" so much as their authors have moved on to other things. Feedback is definitely another factor, though. Some people will stop writing if they don't receive any sort of acknowledgement of their efforts. There are also always the people who jump on the bandwagon when it looks like the trendy thing to be doing, only to disappear along with the fad's coolness quotient. The recent flurry of stories about people getting "Dooced" probably aren't helping, either.

That's my not-as-brief-as-I-intended take on the general subject. Now individual subgenres of blogging - academic blogging, for instance - could have other things going on within them that affect participation. I could also be completely off my rocker, but that's a topic for another day.