The Fracturing Of Content

Last modified on November 11th, 2008

I sat down right now to write a blog entry, and this is the one I came up with. There have been numerous entries on various websites over the last few weeks that have hinted that blogging is dead. While I don’t necessarily believe them, I can’t help but see some truth in a few of their statements.

First, let it not be forgotten that the *ability* to blog is at an all time maximum. Thanks to the work of Automattic and WordPress, it’s relatively painless to start a blog, either on WordPress.com or on your own hosted server. That being said, I have to question just how many people are listening these days, and of those, how many really care to participate in genuine discussions.

With regards to my own blog, traffic has stayed fairly constant over the last year or so. The proportion of traffic has changed, moving slowly from direct traffic to organic traffic (from search engines). Unfortunately for me, there are a lot more people looking at my photographs via my site these days then there are people reading my actual content. Given that I spend a great deal of time writing some of my entries, part of that is obviously a bit alarming.

Whenever I have encountered a new technology or a new phenomenon, I have always attempted to evaluate its viability by imagining the extremes. An example of that is advertising. In my head, the advertising revenue model has always faltered simply because it cannot exist at the extreme. That is, we cannot and would not live in a world where advertising was dominant. First, people would become desensitized to it and probably stop clicking or buying. Second, advertising revenue has to ultimately come from somewhere — if you’re not building, making, or selling something tangible, then the whole system breaks down. That’s why I think the advertising revenue model will ultimately fail (despite people telling me I have been wrong for years).

With regards to microblogging, I see the same sort of problem. Yes, it is awesome to get relatively instantaneous feedback from your peers. But can the world exist with only microblogs? I would like to think no, since they ultimately don’t represent intelligent thought or discourse. Yes, they entertain. And yes, they are useful. But I think they can only exist in a world where they are augmented by intelligent discussion, either in the real world, or in the blogosphere.

Services like Google reader have only resulted in the further fracturing of the blog community. Many people who used to comment on blogs now seem to reserve their comments solely for use on Google reader’s “Shared Items” functionality. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the comments I’ve encountered have usually been intelligent, and would have probably sparked intelligent discussion should they be posted next to the source material. Why they were not posted on the original website is sort of beyond me. I have seen, more times that I would like, people commenting on shared items that originated from my blog. And yet, those people have not posted comments on my blog.

If Google reader provided an API to extract comments from blog entries, I would have long ago written a plugin to automatically post comments on blogs from their service. But unfortunately they do not. And since Twitter doesn’t really provide any kind of threading ability with regards to messages, there’s really no context to the information there. So today, we live in a world where it somehow seems easier to fracture content than to create it, which is dangerous and disadvantageous in my mind.

In my head, my blog has always been paramount to the world of Duane Storey. Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook should all be secondary. The content that ends up there, in my mind, should somehow originate from here, and likewise, comments and meta data should end up back here. The internet representation of Duane Storey is, and always will be, duanestorey.com. It will be my goal, as long as I have the ability to write PHP and boot a computer up, to try and bring all this information together instead of letting it all drift apart. And while I don’t mind these services using the data (there’s nothing wrong with filtering data or representing it a different way), I always want my site to represent all the content I generate, and likewise, want the discussions to end up here. Maybe that’s a pipe dream, but I really don’t think it is.