blogging and the blogosphere

Robin Sloan’s reply to my last post, which was a riff on something Robin wrote … ah, you’ll figure it out. Follow the links. Robin has been very generous to me.

Children, gather around. Grandpa has a story to tell.

A long, long time ago, there was a a network within the network we call the World Wide Web, which is of course a network within the network of networks that we call the internet … anyway, this demi-network was sometimes called the blogosphere. And once, back in the first decade of the 21st century, Grandpa wrote that “the blogosphere is the friend of information but the enemy of thought.” Of all the millions of words that Grandpa has published, those are the most quoted. And Grandpa is not super happy about that.

See, the blogosphere, when Grandpa wrote those words, was dominated by sites like Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish, Glenn Reynolds’s Instapundit, Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo. The Dish shut down; TPM morphed into something larger and more complicated, as did Instapundit – though the latter is closer to its original incarnation. When these sites were at their height, fifteen years or more ago, each was basically one person pumping out responses to the most recent news all day every day. Dozens of posts per day, in some cases, and almost all of them what we would now call tweet length.

Which explains why nobody makes that kind of site any more. If you want to post in microbursts from dawn to dusk, Twitter is a superior platform.

When Grandpa wrote against the blogosphere, that kind of site is what he had in mind: a constant stream of hot takes, some of which had to be walked back later because they were offered before, and instead of, reflective consideration. You’d therefore have a better sense of what I meant in that much-quoted line if you replaced “blogosphere” with “Twitter.”

In short: Blogosphere ≠ blogging. Blogging, at least as I try to practice it here, is a different thing. What I like about blogging, and the reason I have chosen this as the venue for my thoughts on Invitation and Repair, is summed up in Austin Kleon’s post on blogging as a forgiving medium: “Blogging feels to me like a world of endless drafting, endless revisioning.”

Exactly. I post a thought; later, I return to it with an update; someone responds and I incorporate their thoughts into a new post that links to them and to the original – basically, what I am doing right now. Note also that blogging, when done in this fashion and in this spirit, is also seriously dialogical, and I think there is a close connection between a dialogue-friendly medium and a forgiving medium. More on that another time, perhaps.

In his Preface to Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Robert Nozick wrote,

One view about how to write a philosophy book holds that an author should think through all of the details of the view he presents, and its problems, polishing and refining his view to present to the world a finished, complete, and elegant whole. This is not my view. At any rate, I believe that there also is a place and a function in our ongoing intellectual life for a less complete work, containing unfinished presentations, conjectures, open questions and problems, leads, side connections, as well as a main line of argument. There is room for words on subjects other than last words.

This series of blog posts is one of those “less complete works.” But that doesn’t mean that, for me anyway, it’s any less serious.


UPDATE: Another way to think about blogging, in the spirit that I’ve outlined above, is to see it as a way to open oneself to stochastic resonance.