Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Blog-writing and writing for publication

Let's look at the evidence, all of which came to my notice last week.

Evidence 1

Let's hear David Warsh (author of the widely acclaimed Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery), who quotes John Updike:

I’ve been discovering how fundamentally antithetical is the world of the blog to the ethos of writing for publication. This disjunction was described supremely well by the novelist John Updike in a little essay that appeared yesterday in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, adapted from an earlier speech to booksellers.

The electronic marvels that abound around us serve, surprisingly, to inflame what is most informally and noncritically human about us — our computer screens stare back at us with a kind of giant, instant “Aw, shucks,” disarming in its modesty, disquieting in its diffidence.

The printed, bound and paid-for book was — still is, for the moment — more exacting, more demanding, of its producer and consumer both. It is the site of an encounter, in silence, of two minds, one following in the other’s steps but invited to imagine, to argue, to concur on a level of reflection beyond that of personal encounter, with all its merely social conventions, its merciful padding of blather and mutual forgiveness.

Evidence 2

Let's give the mike now to Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on happiness :

... I made a commitment to myself when I started this blog that I wouldn’t insult its readers by yapping about nothing just so that I can say I made an appearance. Every one of my blog entries reprints an essay that I spent a great deal of time writing and that I hope is worth your time to read. So for those of you who want to hear me babble about my every third thought, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to get me drunk first. For those of you who don’t want to read a blog that has no real meat on the bone, I’m your man.

Evidence 3

This one is about the blogospheric misrepresentation of what Tim Berners-Lee said at a recent press meet (To be fair, bloggers were not alone; almost all MSM outlets lustily participated in this crime). Here's Becky Hogge on this 'incident':

Let's take a break for comic interlude.

A search on Google News several days after the event reveals tremors still reverberating from as far as Spain, India and Taiwan. "World Wide Web developer concerned Internet could be misused" and "World Wide Web creator warns of cheats and liars" scream the headlines; my favourite being from Mac Daily: "World Wide Web creator (and Apple Mac user) Berners-Lee fears for Web's future."

It was the story the traditional press had been waiting for. Misinformation will take over the web, warns internet inventor; "undemocratic things" will start happening. Quick, big media, save us! And then, just as surely, the backlash: "Hands off the Web, Sir Tim," demanded Sarah Dempster in the Times on 6 November, presumably so that her paper's proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, can continue to get his hands on it.

One lonely blog post tells the real story. What had been an attempt to explain how reputation works in the blogosphere had apparently been misinterpreted, and Berners-Lee's words had been "turned upside down into a 'blogging is one of the biggest perils' message," as the Guardian reported on 3 November. The author of said lonely post was one Tim Berners-Lee.

Berners-Lee's "lonely post" is here.

Is it possible -- is it just possible -- that a huge number of bloggers are into blogging in a way that was so nicely articulated by Joel Achenbach?