The state of blogs today

I spent considerable time this week mulling over what this blog means and what blogging means in general. Specifically, I refer to the increasingly valid concern about the state of blogs today. They are so vastly different from what they were a few years ago, and almost nothing like they were back when weblogging started, that I ended up with two conclusions: one, blogging in the form that it started is either evolving or dying, depending on how you look at it; two, the spirit behind blogs, the core interests they brought to the table are being resurrected, albeit painfully slowly.

These two statements may at first seem counterintuitive, but they are not. In any case they demand further explanation. Luckily enough, over the course of this week I came across two interesting writings on this issue. One is a short post published on Seth Godin’s blog, and the other is an article by Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic, published earlier this year, titled What blogging has become. (On a side note, I have found articles in The Atlantic to be increasingly more interesting than The New Yorker of late.)

Mr Meyer writes about blogging as a victim to corporate consolidation:

Open up an old blog and it was a list of posts in “reverse-chronological order”… Meanwhile, in the right rail, there was a list of other blogs read by this one. Things were generally chummy… Very, very few people do that anymore… For a couple years now, it was clear we were going to lose the reverse-chron, single-URL game… in return, we got Twitter and Facebook… They adopted the chatty tone of blogs, and they unified the hundreds of streams of content in reverse-chronological order into just one big one… a writer didn’t have to attract and maintain a consistent audience in the same way anymore.

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A glimpse of the infinite — an interview with Martins Kai

Martins Kai will begin writing a column here on starting this month. Called “Glimpse of the infinite”, this will be a monthly — or occasionally a fortnightly — column. In this tête-à-tête with Mr Kai we talk about writing, his interests and passions, about himself, and then take a look at what his new column will be all about, as well as what plans he has for it down the road. “This”, he says, pointing to stretches of green lawn around us, “is a luxury in my country.” Dressed in a simple red T-shirt and black trousers, his eyes scanning the landscape around, he talks to me enthusiastically about his upcoming article. He is working on a piece about Foreign Direct Investment in Kenya and how development has been slow there and corruption blatantly on the rise. “We’re one of the largest economies in East Africa”, he says, and believes that Kenya needs to steal the development model of countries like India which are developing faster than most African countries. He promises to address this and more in his next article, which will also be one of the first write-ups in his upcoming column on this website.

About himself —

I’m Martin, I studied computer science and I love art. Oh, I love art. Like drawing… the whole of art, I love art so much. And sometimes reading novels, and also (television) series. I’m a fanatic for series. Crime, suspense, and sci-fi.

On his interests in writing —

The sort of things I like to write are things that people ignore, like the truth about something. Continue reading

A new blogging manifesto

About three years ago, shortly after I joined the slow blogging movement for the first time, I wrote down a massive list of fifty points to which this website would conform. It was a blogging manifesto and at that time everyone needed one because blogging spiked in popularity and most of us were looking at why we blog, what it means for us, and how best we could define our style. It was not so much about carving out a niche as it was about setting a standard for ourselves.

Three years later I find the time has come to renew the manifesto, to amend and improve it. And, above all, shorten it and make it more practical so that understanding and following it would be easier. The original still exists and I will leave it untouched if only as a witness to the brief history of this website.

1. Be mindful of the audience

In an excellent article on the OUP blog, Kansas University’s David Perlmutter makes several thoughtful points about content in the 21st century. There used to be a time when limited access to a public audience meant few people could afford to be heard and almost all content was, in some form, curated, being rich in information and carrying little noise. “The voices are many, loud, and raucous”, says Prof Perlmutter, “what many people are asking is, ‘how do I get good information?… Where can I discover people who are coherent and responsible, intelligent and precise?’ We don’t have the time to sift through all the voices in the crowd.” This is truer today than ever, when the race is on to write many articles, often on the most trivial and unnecessary issues, in a bid for popularity and advertising revenue. Continue reading

Slow blogging reinitiated

Three years ago I wrote about joining the slow blogging movement. Slow blogging is a practise that aims to take blogs back to yesteryears, where a group of people wrote thoughtful articles and the web, by and large, read them. These people were not journalists, but regular folk who had worthwhile comments to make and their blog was their platform. And there was no competition.

Like everything else this soon turned into a business: someone thought of ways to make money, someone else thought of ways to appease Google, still others thought of banding and writing hordes of articles with a frequency individual writers could never dream of matching and we got to a point where people started comparing blogging to journalism. And there came with it unhealthy competition.

In three–years’ time I have most certainly deviated from my original intentions of “slow blogging”. But I think the fact that I took three years is appreciable; I for one expected to deviate within three weeks. But it is important not to take the term “slow blogging” too literally. In fact, it means blogging intentionally or purposefully rather than slowly, and pace itself comes merely as a footnote. The idea is that we bloggers will do well to leave marketing and strenuous schedules of writing to magazines and journalists and embrace something media houses cannot offer — individuality. And that when you blog only when you have something worthwhile to say, your frequency of writing tends to drop.

“You don’t work for your blog — your blog works for you and your goals, and the most important thing we can do is let it,” says Jen Carrington. Continue reading

You should start a blog

For as long as I can remember, I have been recommending to people that they start blog; to write as frequently as possible, no oftener, no rarer. And to have the patience to let blogging become your hobby more than your habit because that is when the many dimensions of the craft become clearer, and that is when it starts to have a profound and lasting impact on your life. Blogging, once nurtured as a hobby, has the potential to have an impact as deep as reading itself and all this is simply because blogging is not entirely different from journaling or essay– or diary–writing and the like: a common art that have been around since mankind itself in different manifestations.

There are two ways to look at this: the first takes a mechanical outlook where you realise blogging can help you to publish books eventually and so on, to grow a community, to gain subscribers and, at the end of the day, ears to listen to what you have to say. These are what some call niche blogs. The second perspective looks at it from an entirely selfish angle, but one that I, myself, would recommend: blogging makes the writer (or blogger if you will) a better person.

It helps you grow and opens you up to several ways of looking at something and as a result makes you a better person. From its humble start as little more than a way to make daily logs on the web (hence web log, hence blog), to its eventual growth into a journal, an essay book, even a personal diary, and at the height of it all, a form of journalism, the root of blogging has remained intact in spirit, but has otherwise been largely forgotten. Continue reading

On writing quirks

We all have quirks. Some subtle, some obvious, others comical. In writing too, like in everyone’s fingerprint, I think there is a considerable degree of uniqueness. One might be able to mimic another’s writing, but never to perfection. Call these writing quirks, but we all have them — one might even be prompted to call them worn floorboards on which we trip, but I take a jauntier approach: they’re my signatures. And I am aware overuse may trip some, but I have, myself, become so accustomed that I do not believe I will let them go anytime soon.

I almost use the tironian et, or what some call the grandfather of the ampersand — but not quite. To anyone familiar with me, it comes as no surprise that I write the ampersand (&) symbol unlike others. What I do write is a more basic, possibly even crude, form of the ampersand consisting of an e and a t stuck suffocatingly close to each other. This is not strictily the tironian et, but is related to it. In related news, it was not this old symbol, even though it rather looked like a seven, that led to the modern ampersand being placed above the digit seven in a standard QWERTY keyboard. The English language and usage forum on Stack Exchange solved this swiftly last year.

I also use the diaeresis extensively. Propping a hyphen halfway through a word looks stupid to me, so it is always coöperate and not cooperate (Cooper ate?) or co-operate. Continue reading