Is blogging per se a dying art?

Used to be, not so very long ago, that I’d get back from a trip and garner feedback on whatever presentation I’d given by checking Technorati. Friends, seeing me do this, would invariably mock me for my ego-surfing, but I found it a useful and effective tool: it’s vital for me to know when I’m selling my argument and when I’m not (more on that soon), and people tend to be so much less shy about sharing their opinions of a speaker as bloggers than they are as identifiable members of an audience. You go to the blogs, and you get the unvarnished take, whether that take is “genius” or “windbag.” This can be – has been – invaluable.

Not so much anymore. It’s undeniable that Technorati – seemingly unclear that it is not, in fact, Digg – is drowning beneath clumsy non-“features” that not merely do nothing for me, but frequently crash my browser. But that’s not why this tactic no longer seems to bear much in the way of fruit.

No, my guess is this: in order for Technorati to retrieve content, content must be created in the first place. We’re into a period where the longer-form online writing that typefied the time that, it now seems clear, was High Blogging’s Golden Age is being eclipsed by the kind of microblogging afforded by Tumblr and Twittr and Shittr, to say nothing of del.icio.usness or the various social-networking platforms. And what people microblog is links to YouTubery, not dissections of talks they’ve just seen. At best you’ll get somebody noting that they’re “At a talk by Firstname Lastname.”

Sure, it’s good to know that people, variously, think my talk “HAS JUST ROCKED” or “is t3h suck.” But, let’s face it, from the speaker’s perspective, there’s just not so much actionable feedback you can unpack from 140 characters.

The weirder thing is that nobody seems to Flickr anymore, either, at least not in the circles I seem to be running in. Of everyone who attended DUX in Chicago last week, four, maybe five people used “dux” as a Flickr tag. Five! Out of hundreds in the audience!

On one level, I can understand this – I used to snap and upload every last coffee date, midnight doner and quirky street sign, and now I can hardly be bothered. I’m tempted, pace Eye-Fi, to try and generalize from this that all of the pop-sociology projections of an era of infinite panopticism are off – that the instinct to digitally document everything was merely the spiking infatuation of a jaded roué for an exciting new lover…but that too is a story for a different day. Point is, four or five people Flickring a big-ass conference like DUX strikes me as a shockingly low number.

Whatever’s happening, it’s making it more difficult (for me, anyway) to get a sense of how an audience is responding to a given talk. Did it contain any particularly revelatory moments, or conversely, were there passages that simply did not wash? Concise or clumsy phrasing? Were the pivotal issues usefully framed? Harder and harder to get a sense of this, without putting people on the spot right then and there…and that just looks needy.

As well, thinking about this over the last six months or so has provided me with something that looks an awful lot like the proverbial canary. If nothing else, it’s made me strikingly aware how the sense of individual voice I cherish really only seems to emerge over longer excursions, and of the absence of that from so much of the writing I see online these days.

40 responses to “Is blogging per se a dying art?”

  1. Abe Burmeister says :

    1- there are too many blogs and thus not enough audience to make long pieces worth the effort…

    2- facebook

  2. Andrew says :

    There’s definitely a network (anti) effect: when people whose blogs you read more or less stop writing, you yourself feel less compelled to write. Which suggests that if I want to read more interesting stuff more often, I ought to start writing more interesting stuff more often. :-)

    Abe’s (19-word!) answer is definitely part of the picture, but speaking for myself, it’s not just that blogging’s Rococo Age tools like Twitter or Facebook have provided lower friction, lower risk, lower commitment ways to be present online. It’s also that the popularity of those tools has also coincided with my many of my friends and peers having graduated to new levels of professional maturity; people who a few years ago wanted to write books, found companies, get advanced degrees, or lead big projects are now doing those things, but find themselves in positions where they can no longer write at length online about the most interesting stuff they’re doing; now it’s Twitter or nothing.

    Indeed, I think that for more than a few people, High Blogging’s Golden Age let them literally write the future they wanted for themselves. That’s not meant to be pejorative in any way, on the contrary I think it’s wonderful.

  3. Michal Migurski says :

    Aggregators like Technorati have kinda ruined response blogging by making it too observable. It’s near-impossible to do an unvarnished take on a site connected to your professional life and trolled hourly for all to search by the likes of Technorati and Google. I certainly hold back from saying what I think 2/3’s of the time because I have made a choice to lay off my natural-born snarkiness in my writing. I save it up for Twitter and the times when you & I get to hang out in person! ;)

    Maybe you’ll see better feedback when the two-point-ohpocalypse comes and tech-inclined people lose the jobs that make it politic for them to hold their tongues. Perhaps you’ll be forced to fall back on the old stand-by of reading emotional reactions from the room directly?

  4. speedbird says :

    Both of you know well that I’m all but incapable of censoring myself, so it’s interesting to see the notion floated that perhaps people have too much at stake now, personally, to blog every last thought that enters their head.

    It literally had not occured to me, despite the fact that this…

    High Blogging’s Golden Age let them literally write the future they wanted for themselves.

    …is 1000% true of my own personal experience. It sure seems like most of the folks I know have more skin in the game now than in ’01 or so, when we were on the outside looking in.

  5. Enrique Ramirez says :

    A similar topic was brought up at the Postopolis! event at Storefront this past June. There was this general sense of giddiness, of “let’s invite anyone who writes about design culture” out there and let them have the pedestal. It was thus interesting how an event that was ostensibly about blogging ended up being too much like a blog — too much self-involved rumination at the expense of content. At one panel, William Drenttel, Michael Bierut, and Tom Vanderbilt were espousing the notion of carefully-crafted online content (something that Design Observer does fairly well) … I posted a similar concern/response onto Archinect’s discussion boards, and got some fairly negative feedback. As in, “quick, loose, dirty” content is better than edited content. That idea is entirely suspect, as I think everyone who has responded to Adam’s elegant post will agree.

    Although the editorial criteria I use for my own website are much lower than those I use for my academic writing, I always endeavor to make a distinction between the two. I try to stray away from a “blog everything” operation in favor of a “mini essay” approach. And this is not to be taken as a response to some of the apps others have been referencing. I never use Twitter, nor Digg, nor any of these real-time network barometers. My computer is too slow and too awful for me to effectively use those things.

    Luddite as I may seem, my app of choice is the Tristero System.

  6. sevensixfive says :

    It’s cool to see a post like this bring some of my favorite long-form bloggers out of the woodwork. Get Cityofsound and Owen Hatherly up in here, stat, and let’s have a party.

    I dig the rhythm that starts to build when when people settle into a once-or-twice a month pace with real ideas behind the posts, it’s a spot I’m trying to hit myself. I’m interested if some of you could speak from experience about what happens after that, though. Does the steady attempt to dredge critical thought out on a regular, nonpaying basis leave you empty when it comes time to be critical for money? Or does it help you come up with new ideas? I’m thinking of the way William Gibson regularly goes on a hiatus from blogging when he’s writing, but then his novels start sounding more and more like they’re written online …

    Abe, are you still in semi-retirement, or are you writing somewhere else on the stealth these days?

  7. speedbird says :

    I dig the rhythm that starts to build when when people settle into a once-or-twice a month pace with real ideas behind the posts…I’m interested if some of you could speak from experience about what happens after that, though. Does the steady attempt to dredge critical thought out on a regular, nonpaying basis leave you empty when it comes time to be critical for money?

    No, it’s more pernicious than that still, at least in my experience: the global hustle and bodily commitment late-late capitalism requires of me leaves me absolutely drained of anything interesting to say. And even that is assuming I have time to encounter and reflect upon the primary texts that make for good blog glosses in the first place – books, films, installations, exhibitions, openings, etc.

    I’m acutely aware that Speedbird, over the last six months particularly, has sounded more like a calendar than a salon. And every time I think, dag, I really need to do something about that…I have to get back on a plane and go somewhere. It hasn’t escaped me that I’m part of the thing I’m saddened by.

  8. Non name says :


  9. Dan Hill says :

    As requested by sevensixfive, hello everybody. (C’mon Hatherley, your turn next.)

    I think the idea of epochs is a little daft, in a medium which is barely a decade old, as much as I like the idea of a ‘golden age’ (Are we rococo, though? I suspect some of us may be more arts and crafts, with the odd tired and emotional abstract expressionist moment, others yet a bit pre-raphaelite, and maybe one or two fauvists). It’s like people getting ‘lifetime-achievement awards’ for any work on the internet. Ludicrous. A little wider perspective would help as ever.

    I posted an extract from Orwell’s 1943 essay on pamphlets a couple of weeks ago, somewhat for a bit of this perspective. I didn’t join the dots for people, but what I was getting at was that short-form, widely distributed content, from the streets if you like, is nothing new as such. I think those of us writing longer form stuff in blogs now would’ve been writing or drawing or whatever if we’d been born a few decades earlier, just for magazines, zines, pamphlets or books (and kudos to Adam for getting one of those out; Adam, mate, don’t worry about the long form posts here as long as your new book emerges!). So blogs provides a convenient platform, and I absolutely appreciate what the platform has done for me, but is it that ‘revolutionary’ as such?

    As to the short form versus long form, I long ago decided to (mostly) eschew the former (using delicious for that) in favour of the latter, where I felt something like ‘original contributions to the internet, rather than just pointing’, would be more welcome. I completely agree with Enrique about longer form – and that was why Geoff and I wanted Design Observer at Postopolis; as well as for the content, the form was interesting. They end up being more valued as a result. I think there’s little value in un-thought-through, un-edited, non-contextualised rapid fire thought-bursts, even when aggregated and filtered via Bayesian algorithms or whatever we throw at it. It makes for an interesting technical or design problem, but is it a problem that needed solving?

    It’s partly why books, magazines, academia, broadcast etc. aren’t dead (they just smell funny, to paraphrase FZ) and won’t die. These things will continue circle each other warily for a while, and occasionally morph into new hybrid forms, but also each continues to exist.

    (Incidentally, Postopolis wasn’t about blogs; it happened to have been organised by bloggers – and Joseph Grima – but that wasn’t the point. Only on the last day, which I confess didn’t work as well, did blogging come to the fore. The rest of it, which worked far better, was, for me anyway, about a peripheral, skewed and deliberately unfocused perspective on architecture and urbanism, after Juhani Pallasmaa’s notion, perhaps as a reaction to the mono-focus of the architectural press (focus deliberately used there) and the insularity of some elements of academia. It was by non-architects, essentially. Formally, I eschewed live blogging in terms of a more one-day-delayed ‘review’ of the speakers instead, which both means that a) most people seem to have valued more than the results of live blogging, and that b) I haven’t finished it yet, months later.)

    Flickr may well be on a gradual decline (save for those of us who have uploaded so much over the years that the logistical shift of moving on is so great) but it’s not at all unusual in that. It’s a good thing, but did it, and others of its creed, have genuinely widespread usage in the first place? Genuinely? All of these platforms only have a fleeting pull on the public imagination, and are extremely limited in terms of actual numbers. Equally, Another will be along in a minute, a sensibility that also lessens public involvement and commitment. It comes with the territory – again, a bit of perspective would effortlessly puncture the hubris around much of this industry and culture – and perhaps it’s also partly due to their lack of physicality? There is meaning there, but it’s not lasting, and the meaning is really in the way the entire medium moves forward over time, rather than any particular branded platform. It’s why Google’s OpenSocial and Android moves appear smarter than Microsoft’s Facebook grab, even though all will remain largely without genuine meaning until a more hybrid tangible form emerges. Blah blah phenomenology, but I think that’s right. That’s why embodied interaction is more interesting, why architecture and urbanism still resonates, why books still do, and Mike’s point about “reading emotional reactions from the room directly” is important.

    I personally think that until products engage both physically and informationally, thoroughly and smartly, they’ll never achieve the resonance that, say, you see in Jasper Morrison’s and Naoto Fukasawa’s collection of mundane yet valued everyday objects in ‘Super Normal’. Whether that’s a Bialetti coffee pot or a nice simple dustbin. Watch how people covet those things – or just use them everyday for years. Sterling’s right to pick up on the increasingly important informational shadow cast by objects, but it’s the object that is still the most interesting interface, and sensory design the richest possible way of engaging. Perhaps Flickr should’ve co-developed a branded camera (as per Leica:Panasonic) but with one-click upload or something. (Only partly kidding.)

    As for Twitter, there is little point, really, isn’t there? It’s interesting technically, but that’s it. I suppose if you’re of a science-fiction/sociology frame of mind, you might find it an interesting metaphor for people’s ongoing desire to communicate their streams of everyday micro-events, but really, what useful meaning emerges, and to what end? I decided to try and subvert it by only using it to announce life-changing announcements – birth of my son etc. – rather than the stream of ephemeral intimate and ultimately worthless . As a result, my Twitter ‘stream’ is more of a drought-hit trickle; and yet people still ‘friend’ me via it every few days. Ridiculous.

    Personally, I find longer-form blogging to be immensely valuable, as a form of indexed sketchbook or notebook for my thoughts, which happens to have a public engagement of sorts. I don’t find any problem with writing or ideas for it at all; except lack of time. I suspect I’d happily do it full time for a while, but I’m also aware that it feeds off, and provides a counterpoint to, my various other projects, public, personal or otherwise. I think Andrew is right when it’s about commitment, but frankly, there’s always time for it, no matter how senior or busy you are. Take out the incessant Twittering, Flickring and Shittring (I made the last one up, but is nice, after Alfred Jarry) for a couple of weeks and I think you’d find time for a decent blog post, no? Anything that is created without commitment may well be a bit lacking in lasting resonance. I’d say only Jonathan Bell’s Things, in the pointing-school of blogging, is worthwhile, and that’s because it’s a form of thoughtful, structured, referenced and occasionally themed mini-essay made of links. The other stuff I value – whether it’s Enrique Ramirez, Geoff Manaugh, Owen Hatherley, Adams Greenfield and Richardson, Fred Scharman, Sam Jacob, Anne Galloway, Lebbeus Woods!, Bryans Finoki and Boyer, Design Observer, and many others – is the longer form, as it shows that commitment to seeing through an idea, referencing things, researching it, even sub-editing and spell-checking.

    But then I come back to the city itself most of all (alongside books mainly, magazines like The Economist and the London Review of Books, films, music and the other list of ‘primary texts’ Adam talks about) – that’s where the real value is for me. With books, whether that reflects someone growing up in the first generation of people with personal computers (using them every day from my early teens, but not during my first 10 years) as opposed to the second generation, I don’t know. But looking at history, I think these things are deeper than that, and it may just be that blogging settling into its rightful place alongside other media.

    There you go – a long-form comment!

  10. speedbird says :

    LOL: yes, just so. Will engage point-by-point when we’re back from the film.

    Shittring: GMTA, no? See the original post. ; . )

  11. Enrique Ramirez says :

    Brilliant response, Dan!

  12. Michal Migurski says :

    Dan, pointing *is* an original contribution to the internet.


  13. nicolas says :

    I have the same feeling Adam. And it’s also DUX which makes me think about it. Since it’s impossible to go to every event on earth, I like to read what people say about presentations/talks/meetings/workshops, how they capture both content and atmosphere of places (through flickr for example).

    And it’s less and less available on the web.

    As a conference organizer, your description also echoes my feeling about getting some feedback in blogposts et al.

    At the same time, it seems to me that readerships remains stable, it’s maybe just that the percentage of contributors is dropping (moving to smaller input platforms or are too busy with whatever underlying reason).

    I quite enjoyed Dan Hill’s “there’s always time for it”-argument since I fully agree with this statement. I am often amazed by the number of people who asked me the time I use to write my blog (“you must spend hours”)… which really makes me wondering about what people think I am doing on a day-to-day basis. Even if, as Adam says, the golden age may be over, it’s as if writing was still suspicious or some weird stuff you do when you have too much time on your hands. Asking me if “I spend hours” writing is misunderstanding the fact that I am doing research which is (yes) partly about reading, writing and commenting and all the material I collect in my notebook (my blog is a notebook, and asking me if I am a “blogger” would be the same as describing myself as “user of a pen”).

  14. Dan Hill says :

    Yep, fair call Mike. Point taken. I guess I mean it’s a second-order editorial function, a filtering function … which is of course valuable. Just as those Bayesian algorithms are. So it’s certainly an original contribution to this giant ‘building the internet’ project we’re all undertaking, but of a different nature to the communicating of an original idea. But still valuable – don’t get me wrong. Editing, curation, the linking of concepts to recombine and make new ones – these are all valuable functions whether performed by humans or machines. I think Brian Eno, as ever, said something along the lines of curation being the most imporant skill for the 21st century. Or something.

    And you know Adam, I skipped right over that Shittr reference! Totally didn’t see it. Sorry. Looks like we are thinking the same (I plonked it in the middle of my delicious feed a few months back and no-one picked up on it then either!).

    And re-reading my comment, apologies for the typos and sentences trailing off occasionally. I wish I could say I’d crafted it like that to illustrate the difference between commenting and writing …

  15. sevensixfive says :

    To Mike’s point: on the one hand, the generic form of almost any blog post is something like: ‘This reminds me of this, oh, BTW you should also go and check out this.’ Where this is, as Greenfield puts it, a primary text. Insert footnotes, asides, and other research to suit.

    But on the other hand, as Dan points out, there’s a fundamentally different kind of creative imagination that can be brought to bear in the kind of thinking that says something new: the creation of primary texts themselves, and I’ve seen that happen in online writing, too.

    Not that one’s better than the other, necessarily, just that they seem like different enough modes to note.

    Is the above formula that much different from scholarly research (just with less backup and peer review)?

  16. Anne says :

    Not to change the subject too drastically, or to derail all the smart comments, but Adam – have you considered posting slides or summaries of your talks that people could refer to, and discuss, here?

    Just speaking as someone who doesn’t get to see/hear you speak, it can be really difficult to keep up with, and productively engage, your work if I don’t know what you’re doing these days…

    I know it’s not the same as getting feedback on a situated performance, but surely blogs are still useful as forums for trying out new (and old) ideas?

  17. speedbird says :

    Anne, hmmm…I’m not so taken with the idea of posting my presentation decks per se for a couple of reasons, but primarily ’cause they’re so partial. You of all people will understand me if I admit to feeling that the “presentation” is something that emerges in the happenstance alignment of a time and a place and an audience and the weather and my body chemistry – the slides are just cues for me, and mnemonic aids for the audience.

    I’m warmer to the thought of posting summaries, but, you know, that’s generally the last thing you’re thinking when you come off stage. I can try to be better about it.

    To Dan’s point that it’s early days yet to be identifying periods and epochs, I’m not so sure I agree. Maybe the only permanently useful insight I ever retrieved from an early-90s infatuation with Terrence McKenna is that time is fractal, especially that manifold we used to call “Internet time.” I have no doubt that there are unfolding patterns that will elude observers sharing this particular vantage point, because we lack anything like an appropriately long baseline, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t finer-grained patterns of use to be found (and named) at a scale of years or even months.

    I’m also not sure I *necessarily* want to conflate “long-form” with “edited, footnoted, factchecked and vetted.” One of the primary reasons I blog is because – and here Dan is absolutely on target – I can’t not. I did zines, I did freelance, I even broke down and went to work for SPIN, and when a platform came along that allowed me to cut straight to the core of all those various endeavours, I leapt at it. And what blogging has always shared with zine writing, for me, is that it’s consciously suboptimal.

    It’s shoot-from-the-hip stuff – sometimes more so than others, of course. But what makes the practice useful and valuable to me is that it allows me to vent the stack, without necessarily having to backstop all the assertions I make. And all of you know very well that I can go on to two, three thousand words in this mode, easy.

    That said, I find that it takes me a certain amount of buffer time – time in my life during which I do “something close to nothing, but different than the day before” – before I can even sit down at the keyboard and sketch a coherent thought. It’s that buffer that suffers from my current optempo, and writing is far fromt he only thing that depends upon it. So where you’re absolutely correct, Nicolas, to question the fatuous separation of “writing” and “thinking” and “living” into discrete spheres of activity, my difficult circumstances have sadly taught me that it is possible to show all the signs of the former without being able to manage the latter.

    And thanks, everyone, for your engagement and your considered responses.

  18. Michal Migurski says :

    I’m not sure I’m totally convinced that pointing and writing are entirely different modes. A scholarly text after all relies heavily on a list of citations at the end. There’s a passage-of-time effect that makes important pointings into primary sources, and I don’t see why it’s necessary for the original intent to be in any way different. Geoff Manaugh was mentioned above, and is a great example of this – BLDG BLOG is 99% about unearthing and publishing interesting photographs of big things, but the fulfilled promise of a repeat performance has made it a first stop for a lot of people. I imagine that’s the point of the Brian Eno bit about curation being an important skill.

    Adam, I agree with Anne that you should post your talk notes online. I don’t know if that means Slideshare, or just a few paragraphs … they’ll be easier to point at that way.

  19. Vidiot says :


    (um, I want to respond when I have a chance. That very sentiment might be a large part of my thinking going into your answer.)

  20. John says :

    This post suxxors you windbag.

  21. Dan Hill says :

    Mike, it’s all the effort required to shift a ‘point’ in the form of a delicious link, say (akin to a citation), into a post like Geoff’s. So yes, with a medium almost literally borne from a system for academic citation, your analogy is good. And you could zoom out, high above of a series of pointers, to overlay a pattern of meaning onto them. (Or let someone else do that, with your delicious feed.) You should think about making a go of it in the visualisation business …

    But curation is the important element, I think, and genuine curation does become something new, in and of itself. To mention curation as normally understood, like Phillip Johnson’s Machine Art exhibition at MoMA in the 30s, or the Smithsons’ This is Tomorrow at the ICA in the 60s, or the way Miles Davis or John Zorn might ‘curate’ musicians for their various groups, or a film-maker might do likewise with her production unit … They’re all hugely valuable and influential curated productions that have fundamentally changed things. Genuine markers in their respective epochs, to use the term suggested earlier.

    To shift gears to blogging makes me realise the difference in achievement thus far again, but leaving that aside, something approaching that kind of creative curation is what Geoff and others do so well. That kind of post becomes an exhibition of ideas. They’re immensely rewarding. So maybe I’ll stick on curation as a way better frame to hang this kind of thing off. It’s slightly more open-ended, which is appealing, and could traverse this continuum from aggregating delicious links through to a densely-hyperlinked long-form text.

    To Adam, I’m still not sure about the time point. I get what you’re saying. And there may be ‘patterns of use’ emerging that will prove useful (though again, I tend to look for ones with historical precedent or cultural capital, enjoying a bit of backup.) But a notion of ‘internet time’ as something new I don’t really agree with (and if it came from McKenna, definitely not. On principle.) I’m sure a peasant in 1503 would also have had the sense that the world was moving at 1000mph. And they certainly would’ve had in their damp, packed, Mancunian basement in 1903. So we can’t have a deeper sense of yesterday, never mind today, until tomorrow. I guess I’m saying I still think we’re in the pre-talkies phase of all this, to awkwardly switch metaphors one more time. But I really don’t mean to sound curmudgeonly or ‘restrictive of enthusiasm’ or anything. I find that all fascinating. Can you imagine how genuinely thrilling it would’ve been to have worked in silent movies?! Totally amazing. Or to have been working on the development of the Spinning Jenny or the notion of longitude or the Manhattan Project (What? Oh.)

    And John: Hi Dad!

  22. sevensixfive says :

    I like that point, Dan, that the meaning, the new thing is in the pattern, the relationship between this and this; and the perception of that pattern is a matter of scale, zooming in or out. That’s something I’ve been trying to articulate for a while. Texture becomes text becomes texture.

    This is why I also like Things Magazine the blog: patterns of things coalescing into other things, punctuated by soul-searching rants on the deeper meaning of it all, and apologies for the endlessly defferred print version.

    Yeah, and Adam, your mention of the time it takes to chill out before a few thoughts can settle into a thing really resonates, too. There’s a productive capacity to near-boredom that’s relevant here.

  23. Enrique Ramirez says :

    On the time factor … yesterday we had dinner with K. Michael Hays, Joan Ockman, Reinhold Martin and others. The subject of “generational distance” with regard to dissertation topics came up. In other words, there seems to be a pragmatist (not “Pragmatic”) consensus that says: you should not write about a topic unless it is at least 40 years old. In other words, an object, architect, archive must have aged at least a generation before it becomes fair game for a doctoral dissertation. This is interesting, because as of next year, 1968-related topics will suddenly become au courant.

    This 40-year maturation thing seems a little random, yet it makes a certain amount of sense. I also think it speaks to some of the concerns that Adam, Dan, and Fred espouse.

    Dan’s comment about not being able to know about yesterday until tomorrow reminds me of Walter Benjamin’s famous rumination on Klee’s Angelus Novus from his “Über den Begriff der Geschichte” (“On The Concept of History”):

    A Klee painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such a violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

  24. Michal Migurski says :

    Enrique, what do you suppose the odds are that the forty year mark passing on “The Sixties” is coinciding with one of the first political campaigns I’m aware of that’s not being fought exclusively on those well-trodden grounds? It doesn’t seem random to me, it seems like just the right amount of time for the principals to get old enough to stop caring, or die. It’s also enough time for the effects of a thing to first manifest themselves. I remember being taught in high school that “the Nixon years are still current events, as far as historians are concerned.” (freaking Jesuits)

  25. speedbird says :

    This is interesting, because as of next year, 1968-related topics will suddenly become au courant..

    Hey, I’m a “1968-related topic”! Does this mean I’ll finally get my moment in the sun?

  26. Enrique Ramirez says :

    You’re right, Mike. The generational thing does not seem random when it comes to studying the 1960s. I was just saying that in my field, doing a dissertation topic on the 1980s (say, Tschumi’s La Villette or GSA policy towards public art, like Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial) is frowned upon because it is seen too contemporary to be historical. But I think that it can take less than 40 years for the effects of something to become manifest and begin the maturation that will give it historical weight.

    Ha, ha ha … I guess you will get your moment, Adam :) But, it is true … there will be all these conferences trying to assess the significance of 1968 in the upcoming year.

  27. David says :

    I used to blog consistently about things both personal and professional. My of my writings were off the cuff, and an untempered by concern for my audience. now it is becoming common for employers to Google potential and current employees, digging into their personal lives further then before. Images on Flicker have been used for commercial use without permission. I have personally bumped into a dozen colleagues who have read my blog, including my former manager and some of his peers. It is becoming prudent to hold your tongue to maintain barriers between your professional and personal life. Even if it’s to keep your boss from finding out about that 3 martini lunch.

  28. speedbird says :

    So this piece seems to have stirred up a fair bit of passion. If you’ve gotten this far – especially if you’ve come from or the two or three German blogs that have linked it – do me a favor and bear with me while I re-emphasize a couple of points that seem to be getting lost in translation:

    – Nowhere do I “claim” blogging is dying. I’m asking whether it is or is not, and to me, at least, the distinction is important;
    – I never make a valuation that places long-form blogging over any other kind. I’m not implying that short-form blogging is objectively less valuable, merely less useful for the specific sorts of things I rely on blogs for;
    – I am most definitely not bored with blogging or with reading blogs.

    I never fail to be amazed by how readily people – possibly in good faith, possibly not – misread what would appear to be plainly stated. If I’ve been unclear, I apologize…but if not, please do me the courtesy of not implying that I intended for this to be some grand global statement. About anything, really. It’s a got-damn blog post, you know?

  29. michele says :

    something interesting to be said as other platforms amplify the existing behaviour to be heard, with less effort, higher platform integration (ie- the combined twitter/facebook/youtube strangeness) and varying forms of efficiency and media richness.

    i will continue to write the long posts as well as the short ones, sometimes the ideas need a concise home and closure, and trying to reflect the nature of conversation is fulfilling in a different way than the micro-blasts, especially since most of my reading now occurs online.

    something i came across shortly before reading your post, that speaks to the slowness and intention of writing.

  30. Greg Borenstein says :

    I definitely agree with you that I’d hate to see microblogging replace full-length, more thoughtful posts. On the other hand, I don’t that the two forms are necessarily in conflict. Everyone talks about the importance of high posting frequency as one of the keys to acquiring and maintaining a sizeable audience for a blog. There aren’t that many people who can write lenghty, considered pieces on their chosen subject(s) often enough to fully satiate the readers’ hunger for new posts. It seems to me that things like link summaries, twitter posts, flickr streams, etc. can have an important appetite-whetting/interest-maintaining role to play for a blogger committed to the longer form. Especially if kept relatively on-topic (through the creation of custom accounts to filter the tweets and photos down to the relevant, if necessary) these kinds of additons, when rolled into a blog’s feed, or presented alongside it, can serve to sustain and broaden a writer’s coverage of their area. For example, in the early days of 43 Folders, Merlin’s link posts were filled with great hints about what he’d soon be writing about as well as many other things that were highly relevant to his readers.

    Like any other tool, the plethora of content filling the feeds effortlessly and automatically generated by our online activity is only as good as its user.

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