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My own thoughts--for me.
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Saturday, January 10, 2004

Meta-blog 

I'm not the most qualified person to reflect on what the point and value of blogs is, or could be. I've only posted 4 times so far. But my wife and I had an interesting discussion about it yesterday, and it's worth saying something about.

Some blogs require no explanation since they're so obviously useful to others. For example, Brian Weatherson's philosophy blog is widely read in the profession, since it's smart, and a useful source of information. There are political blogs that help organize opposition to George Bush, or to rally other causes. There are lots of patently useful blogs.

Then there are blogs on the other extreme (I'll tactfully refrain from linking any) that aren't worth defending, since they really are nothing but mindless self-indulgent rambling with no merit. These might well be a fun and useful exercise for their authors, so that's something, but it's not saying much. And there is everything in between. It's those in between that are worth thinking about. The two most common negative reactions to the idea of a blog are, first, that it is arrogant to set yourself up as some sort of pundit or columnist when no one has invited you to do so, and, second, it is vulgar to post your diary on a worldwide public medium.

I think the idea of a secret diary can strike a person as strange if they aren't already familiar with the idea. Who is the diarist writing to anyway? After a little thought, there's a lot that can be said for keeping a secret diary. You might record thoughts and experiences for your own future reference, or you might write simply to clarify your own thoughts and never read them again, and so on.

Blogs can seem arrogant or vulgar at first, but after a little thought there's a lot that can be said for them. Not all of them, but for the medium. The idea of a diary provides some useful analogies. Diaries are not always intended for oblivion. Sometimes the author expects them to become public. This isn't the most useful analogy since that can still seem arrogant or vulgar. But often a diary is neither expected to be public, nor expected to remain secret. The author might write as if someone might read it and find it worth reading, without any assumption that it deserves to be read or that it has some great intellectual or aesthetic merit.

My wife's grandmother kept a diary, in many volumes. There was no particular assumption that they were secret, and they didn't contain many private feelings or experiences, but thoughts of a more objective interest. Hardly anyone got to read them before they were thrown away after her death, but they might well have been written for whomever might happen to read them. I find that an excellent way to describe the modest value of the in-between blogs. They are written for whomever might happen to read them, whomever might be interested. Sometimes they are interesting, sometimes not, just like every other medium. I honestly find myself not caring if anyone reads my blog or not, but it stimulates my thinking to write as if it might be read, which is easier to do if it might be.

Anyway, time will settle this, and it will certainly prove that the medium of the blog has merit, though probably not this particular one. Here's a list of articles about blogging. Here's the Guardian's 2003 weblog awards. And the only interesting graphic I could find for this post links to an interesting article from Salon magazine about blogs.

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