Wednesday, March 30, 2005

An Internet for the People, By the People

The backlash is building speed. 2004 was the year that saw weblogs move beyond the purview of just the web-hardcore, and is now well and truly part of the Mainstream. And with the assimilation of weblogs into the hive-mind consciousness of the non-geek world, following a battery of news stories about the wonder of blogs, comes a second wave of stories about how much blogs suck.

But these non-story straw-man articles overlook one blindingly, blatantly obvious fact. At this point I’m going to invoke Sturgeon’s Law, which states that 90% of everything is crap. And that is precisely where all these blog-slagging stories fall apart.

Yes, most blogs are rubbish. A lot of blogs will only be of interest to the immediate friends and family of the writer. A lot of blogs really do just skate around the minutiae of day-to-day life, along the lines of “what I had for lunch” and “what I saw on television last night”. Some are just plain ol’ fashioned journals, the sort of thing that used to be buried within the pages of a private and personal diary, but now thrown out into the world for all to see. So? There is fundamentally absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Weblogs are the true democratisation of the Internet. Everyone can have a say. Everyone has a forum for their thoughts. It’s “Let’s put on a show right here!” in its purest form. It’s a bunch of teenagers jamming in their parent’s garage. It’s a gang of filmmakers running around with a video camera making their own movie on the fly. It’s a guy beatboxing and freestyling on a street corner, with nothing but a boombox for back-up. Anyone can do it, and everyone has the right to do it. And I love that about it.

Some days I can come on here and write some ill-conceived raving nonsense. Some days I can come on here and write a well-thought out, considered piece of writing. Both are equally valid. Some days I don’t have to write anything at all. It’s my playground, and I can do what I want with the toys, for good or ill.

Does that mean every blog is worth reading? No, of course not. But I don’t see why that should be made to be the point. Because it really isn’t the point. Most big-budget Hollywood movies are crap, but then so are most low-budget independent art-house movies. Most corporate-owned superhero comics are crap, but then so are most small-press indie underground comix. There is always lots of good stuff that we can cream off the top. I am never short of movies, books, comics, music, and television to enjoy. There is a lot of great stuff in every medium available, and there is a lot of great stuff being consistently created and produced. The bad majority doesn’t have to even bother me.

The main reason these “blogs suck” articles bother me is the inherent stupidity of the argument. If I turn on a really terrible TV show, I don’t wail and moan about it. I change the channel. And if I stumble upon a blog that I don’t particularly like or enjoy, that’s OK. I won’t visit the site again. Doesn’t mean the blog shouldn’t exist. Because there are plenty of blogs that I do enjoy a great deal.

I despise the fact that book stores are heaving with ghost-written celebrity memoirs on the lives of people who don’t merit a great deal of attention: glamour models, reality TV contestants, pop stars who have only managed to carve out a five-minute career. It’s depressing. But I don’t have to read them. I can just blank them out whilst I head for something a bit more substantial, or worthy of my time.

But here’s the real truth. Ready? OK. Drum roll…maybe, just maybe, all these print and online journalist deriding the quality of blogs are shitting in their little pants with fear. Know why? Because there are some truly brilliant writers writing on the Internet. There are lots of writers at least the equal of, if not superior to, their print counterparts. And, unlike these paid hacks, we do it for free. Not for money. Not for fame. Just for the love of language, and creation, and expression. Because we can. And the Internet, and the Blogosphere, will be the most fertile hunting-ground for the next generation of professional novelists and journalists and writers. Because the desire, the passion and skill and ability to do this is how we learn to become better, more articulate, more entertaining, more effective writers and communicators, without going through the meat-grinder of an expensive education in professional writing.

Are there other skills that need to be learned? Sure. It’s always worth having a good editor cast an eye over your words. And on a blog, we don’t have that. But if your blog isn’t up to scratch, no-one will read it. And fellow bloggers will no doubt point out your shortcomings.

(Man, this is a long blog entry. I could do with an editor coming along to snip away at this a bit myself. But it’s my blog. And this is what I want to say, and how I want to say it. And, ultimately, surely that is all that matters.)


Bonnie_Blue said...

Well put, that man. Backlashes are so inexpressably dull.

By the way, did you get my mail re. birthday drinks?

AKA said...

I did indeed. If all goes according to plan, I'll be there.

B oug-e-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-freshhhh said...

Did you say beatboxing?

Download the Hammerhead Rhythm Station and then add the "Beatbox" user bank. Then put some beats together and hey presto, you're the king of the be-bop swing!

All the fun with none of the phlegm.

AKA said...

6 mintues, 6 minutes, 6 minutes, Brother B, you're on!

Bert said...

I'll love that neat segue from `Because there are some truly brilliant writers writing on the Internet' to `And, unlike these paid hacks, we do it for free.'