BYLINE: Rhodri Marsden
The admission that you write a blog shouldn't be one that's accompanied by a great deal of soul-searching, any more than "I play golf" or "I like cake" would be. But the blogger's lot is not necessarily a happy one.
They're pilloried by much of the traditional media for supposedly devaluing the written word. The political establishment resents their freewheeling, unspinnable vigour.
Those unconvinced about the value of the web as a platform for ideas regard them with suspicion, imagining them as self-promoting at best, narcissistic at worst, while those whose lives are inextricably woven with the internet are deeply aware that "blogging" doesn't guarantee quality any more than "cooking" does.
Because, in just over a decade, blogging has morphed from a niche activity, a thrilling self-publishing opportunity, into the biggest creative splurge the world has ever seen. Tens of millions of bloggers shovel many more millions of blog posts on to an already unstable data mountain every day of the week; the vast majority of those are incoherent, repetitive, self-indulgent, crass or simply boring.
But the amount of good stuff is still overwhelming - certainly more in a day than you'd ever be able to read in a year. There's compelling storytelling, incisive comment, rousing calls to action. Socially, politically and commercially, blogging is a potent force, well on the way to becoming as powerful as the traditional media, while utterly unencumbered by the latter's affiliations, obligations and traditions. And yet, while "I write" has a certain nobility to it, "I blog" certainly doesn't. The two, as acts, are essentially indistinguishable, but "blog" is seen as a four-letter word.
The inherent hideousness of the word doesn't help. If it were more attractive, if it were "flah" or "sool", it might not be spat out with such contempt by its detractors.
It evolved in the late 1990s from the term "web log", a collection of links to other websites with added commentary that appeared in the now-familiar reverse-chronological order. During 1999, "we" disappeared from "web log", while we embraced the way it simplified web publishing; until that point, updating a site had been a laborious, manual, error-prone process.
But blogging now lent itself to the publication of more varied content - not least online diaries, which were already prevalent on the web but now found their more natural home in the (brace yourselves) blogosphere. You could visit a website, see the most recent post, click through to the comments or scroll down for older material. Today, this procedure seems like second nature to many, but at the turn of the century, it felt like a revolution. And to create, no knowledge of HTML or ownership of expensive software was necessary; you just had to type and click. Anyone could do it, and anyone did.
Anyone sharing stuff with their friends on Facebook, be it notes, status updates, photos or other media, is - whether they'd care to admit it or not - blogging. Microblogging services such as Twitter and "tumblelog" services (which hark back to the original idea of the web log) such as Tumblr or Posterous all make sharing of content, either yours or someone else's, ridiculously easy.
But as the mass of blog content has proliferated, it has become incredibly disposable and ignorable. …