Breaker Breaker, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog

I was talking with Peter Kafka of SAI yesterday, and he mentioned John Markoff’s disdain for blogs. Sure enough today I was putzing around, as I compulsively do, and came across this:

“John Markoff covers Silicon Valley. He began writing about technology in 1976 and joined The Times in 1988. He gained some notoriety several years ago when he stated that he thought blogs might be the CB radio of the 21st century. He still believes that.”

Not sure how I missed this the first time around but… John, are you on crack?* The innovations wrought by blogs are here to stay.**

CBs died because better technology came along, not because they were a bad idea. We now use cellphones to talk in our cars, and the web to chat with strangers in stilted lingo. With blogs as with CBs, the underlying technology and nomenclature may well change, but the needs they fulfill remain, and will be met.

Many of the characteristic traits of blogs–reader comments, frequent updates, a personal voice–are being incorporated into other forms of media. And as that happens, blogs per se may fade away. Maybe “blog” will be put out to pasture with “information superhighway,”***.

Though I suspect they will stick around and evolve, and we’ll just keep calling them blogs. It’s a succinct and useful word, where “information superhighway” was always an awkward eight syllables, dated on the day it was coined. But just because we don’t call it the “information superhighway” anymore doesn’t mean the Internet isn’t all that and a bag of donuts. Likewise blogs, by that or any other name.

* John, I don’t really think you’re on crack. Hyperbole is a rhetorical device typical of blogs.

** Self-assured pronouncements by those totally unqualified to make them? Also typical.

*** Larding your “posts” with “links”, either for informative purposes or in hopes of getting “link love”**** back from those you’ve linked to? Again, a typical blogging strategy.

**** Bloggers love cutesy phrases like this.

3 thoughts on “Breaker Breaker, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog

  1. Right on! As usual, your keen insight into the world of media couldn’t be more on target. I completely agree with you!* Clearly, Markoff, specifically, and the MSM,** generally, simply do not “get” the Web.*** If they did, they would understand that the future of news belongs to the blogosphere,**** not the antiquated model of delivering news and information to which Markoff and his ilk are so futilely grasping. You might be interested to know that I recently blogged about something both uninteresting and unrelated here.*****

    * Sucking up to the blogger is a typical — and highly effective — means of getting a comment posted.
    ** MSM = Mainstream media. In this context, a derogatory term for an industry that simply does not “get” the Web.
    *** Like I said.
    **** Blogger/commenter echo chamber. This is what bloggers call having a “conversation” with readers.
    ***** Payoff: Writer’s true motive is leeching traffic onto his own site.

  2. I think you’re right that blogs may stick around, though I’m not so sure that they will be called “blogs” indefinitely – actually, I was just wondering about this today. Five years ago I used to write on livejournal, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t call it my “blog”. In fact, I just checked – in my first few posts I keep referring to my new “journal”. Obviously this may be something to do with the fact that I was being hosted by livejournal and not liveblog, but I’m pretty sure I was only dimly aware of what a blog was at that time, and thought it was something quite different to my journal. So…etymology of blog, anyone?

  3. My nemesis, Bill Safire, wrote about “blog” in a 2002 column, in which he attributed it to the ‘Robot Wisdom Weblog,’ created by Jorn Barger of Chicago.”

    I think he got it wrong, though. The excellent Mother Tongue Annoyances quotes the OED citation, which dates it to August 30, 1999. Peter Merholz is credited with the coinage.

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