Chatting with my wife as we were driving somewhere in Berkeley, we had a pointless discussion about the total failure of a popular American TV series re-launch. This inconsequential conversation lead to revealing my hatred of the word “blog” in mass media. A character on the show had a “blog” and other characters talked of her “blog’s” page views; it lacked any truth to my discerning ear. As I started to rant and ramble about my intense hatred of the word “blog,” her response (quite accurate) was to say that I use the word quite often to hate its useage.
Her response made me realize why I loathe the word: it is imprecise.
The character on the TV program was a podcaster, but the podcast was referred to as a “blog.” Technically, a podcast on a person’s page in which they write on occasion is a “blog,” but this high-level characterization as such leads the unknowing public into lumping all blogs together. I am assuming that whenever the word is used by the media, it is just a shallow description of an online world of which the writers have no concept or of which they assume the viewing populace is unaware. Every time I hear a character on a TV show or a news commentator refer to a person’s “blog,” it makes me cringe.
I created the simplest possible query to find common definitions for the word “blog,” and top results range from the simple on Blogger.com: “A blog is your easy-to-use web site, where you can quickly post thoughts, interact with people, and more” to the more complicated, but similarly non-specific Wikipedia result: “A blog (a contraction of the term “Web log“) is a Web site, usually maintained by an individual, with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order.”
The definition I gave to my wife as we were driving was something along the lines of: a group of chronological, serial entries on one website available via syndication, which does agree with the previously defined parameters.
The problem with the word blog is that there are a multitude of different permutations of the concept, all of which can be described as blogs. There are Photologs for pictures, podcasts for pre-recorded audio delivery, microblogs for small text snippets, vlogs for video delivery and lifelogs for syndication of all of your other blogs (very meta BTW). If there is an interest or community, there is a way to adapt the blog to be a conduit for its transmission and consumption.
Something that further confuses the mix is the addition of journalism to the blog community. Professional media outlets have joined the blog bandwagon creating blogs that report their news in a serial manner and reporters that report and editorialize via blogs. Simultaneously, there are people who use their blogs to report the news, but as unpaid, unaffiliated individuals (the damned citizen journalists). This increases the fringe borders of the definition of the word “blog,” allowing it to encompass traditional and non-traditional news sources (and their content).
Then there are the worst offenders, social networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook. These are self-referential homepages with blogging aspects, but not blogs in and of themselves. They have the ability to have a journal, but they are, at their core, a very complicated “About Me” page that allows people to continually comment upon a person. Most Myspace/Facebook pages remind me in practice of a single-threaded, infinite BBS. Unfortunately, individuals using these and people representing them through words often use the word “blog,” so they become lumped into the increasingly massive definition of the word.
As social media explodes and the average individual is allowed to create content on the web without understanding the underlying machinations of the process as well as the delineations between types of content creation/sharing, everything on the web will eventually become known as a “blog.” This seems similar to the semantic extraction from words in Orwell’s novel 1984, in which the defining essence of words are taken away until they becomes imprecise, all-encompassing shells that describe distinct, separate practices/concepts with a single word that does not allow for differentiation.
As the word’s use becomes more prevalent and all-encompassing, it is inevitable that all user-created content on the internet (and perhaps, in the future, all content) will be considered “blogs.”
I hope that you enjoyed this entry in my blog. There are links to other blogs I blog on in the “other sites” section on the right. I hope to read others’ comments on my blog and in linkbacks from their blogs.