This makes me wonder: did blogging die off because the tools changed?

Everyone had their own space on the internet and the internet itself was the medium which opened up the conversation. I could use WordPress while someone else might have been on Blogger, Moveable Type, Live Journal, TypePad, or something they made in HTML themselves.

Now it's all siloed off into tinier spaces where content is trapped for eyeballs and engagement and there's not nearly as much space for expression. Some of the conversation is broken up into 280 character expressions on Twitter, some on Instagram, and now people are aggregating content inside Substack. Substack at least has a feed I can subscribe to and a free form box to add a reply.

I appreciate Jeff's comment about the "flywheel of social media". We're definitely going to need something like that to help power any resurgence of the blogosphere. I also like to think of it in the framing of "thought spaces" where the idea of a blog is to give yourself enough space to form a coherent idea and make an actual argument. Doing that is much harder to do on a microblog where the responses are also similarly limited. It just feels so rude to post 250 words in reply to a sentence or two that probably needed more space to express itself too.

I suspect that if we want a real resurgence of thought and discourse online, we're going to need some new tools to do it. As Friedrich Nietzsche famously conceded to his friend Heinrich Köselitz “You are right — our writing tools take part in the forming of our thoughts.”

It would help if we could get back to the bare metal of the internet in which to freely operate again. Substack at least feels close to that, though it could be much better.

Can we have a conversational medium that isn't constrained by a handful of corporate silos that don't allow conversation across boundaries? Can we improve the problems of context collapse we're seeing in social media?

I'd like to think that some of the building blocks the IndieWeb movement has built might help guide the way. I love their idea of Webmention notifications that allow one site to mention another regardless of the platforms on which they're built. Their Micropub posting tools abstract away the writing and posting experience to allow you to pick and choose your favorite editor. They've got multiple social reader tools to let you follow the people and content you're interested in and reply to things directly in the reader. I presented a small proof of concept at a recent education conference, for those who'd like to see what that experience looks like today.

Perhaps if more platforms opened up to these ideas and tools, we might be able to return, but with a lot more freedom and flexibility than we had in the nostalgic blogosphere?

Yet, we'll still be facing the human work of interacting and working together. There are now several magnitudes of order more people online than there were in the privileged days of the blogosphere. We're still going to need to solve for that. Perhaps if everyone reads and writes from their own home on the web, they're less likely to desecrate their neighbor's blog because it sticks to their own identity?

There's lots of work to be done certainly, but perhaps we'll get there by expanding things, opening them up, and giving ourselves some more space to communicate?

(Practicing what I preach about data ownership and online identity and blogging, I originally posted this reply (with supplementary links) on my own site at: https://boffosocko.com/2021/05/13/55791124/ )

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That's why I'm experimenting with the Fediverse (Mastodon, ActivityPub protocol...). I had an active blog on Music & Africa in 2008 (in French). After I moved to WestAfrica in 2016, I created a new one (on WordPress), where I mix "fun" stuff (music, cats, art...) and more serious content... With ActivityPub, my blog is an existing "persona" on the Fediverse, where people can comment, reply... from their favourite platform without the need to open the blog by itself.

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why did you decide on substack as opposed to medium? blogspot lol?

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I recall talking about this with Ben Smith at netroots nation in 2008. It was the height, but also the beginning of the end. Political targeting began using the big social media platforms and that sucked the revenue away, and conglomerates started to emerge. Those platforms are seeing the hegemony ending this year, a good thing. Who is not sick and tired of the way those have become anti-social media sites wrapped up in an addictive stimulus-reward system that has resulted in online warfare spilling out into the world. So yea, there is definitely an opening. I'd say the swing is going to be toward more decentralization. I've actually been a laggard in this regard, reading a few subs up to now, but not really engaging. Or maybe, hopefully, it's just in its beginning phase here.

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your post resonated with me / i had a blog during those years / i don't know if blogging is coming back but efforts like substack's are definitely encouraging for the public discourse / our republic won't survive if we don't have some kind of healthy public discourse / i say mix it up / that's what i do / i used your introductory info as inspiration for my current newsletter https://rohn.substack.com/p/everybodys-wrong-

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I admire the effort. I think it's doomed to fail.

One of the virtues of blogging was that it was an open platform. If MattY has a bad take, you can post about it and MattY can read your post and respond and then some random might be able to weigh in and there's an interesting conversation.

That can't happen on Substack because of paywalls. If you're not subscribing to MattY's blog, you won't see his bad take. If MattY isn't subscribed to your Substack, he won't see your response. And so it goes.

Social media platforms work on a sort of flywheel of engagement. View->Engage->Comment->Create->View. Paywalls inhibit that flywheel, and so I think any hope for a return to the glory days of the blogosphere will result in disappointment.

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I think we (at least of a certain age) miss The Blog. There are many that are dissatisfied with the various platforms, including this one, for various reasons. Just last week, a friend asked "where do I write?" He wanted my answer to be "start up your blog again," and while that was, indeed, my response, and probably what he wanted to hear, it was also unsatisfying because I had not provided him with a solution he hadn't already contemplated. A part of the problem, now at least, but probably always, is volume. I think I cancel subs every day and still my inbox is full. People who make a living with words ("content" - ugh) know that less than half the work is the writing. The majority of the work is...marketing. Building the audience. Which you have done, of course. You've put in the work. And your unique mix - high and low, politics and culture - is your brand. So it works for you. I've always enjoyed it.

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I was part of the golden age of theatre blogging. I’m not sure it will come back but maybe. Part of the joy was the conversation in comments and the link back and forth you would find there. And then also blogposts in answer to blogposts and the blog roll. Because of the semi-paywall nature of Su stack I’m not sure it will fully recreate that but maybe. Good luck! Also the mixing of politics and culture work for me. But I know some like more mono theme.

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