Okay, this is what's bugging me about blogs and blogging (and let me say at the outset that I'm not an expert on blogs, bloggers, or blogging. Mostly I'm fascinated by the enthusiasm that blogging generates: What compels an ordinary schmo to set out his/her thoughts for the world at large??):
The standard rap on blogging is that blogs provide two things (well, probably more than two, but two MAIN things): First, they provide an alternative viewpoint, alternative, that is, to "mainstream" media coverage of people, places, and events. Eg, an erudite blogger with a purple mohawk (or whatever hairdo passes for hip-chic these days) and seventeen tattoos dishes up a perspective on the war in Iraq, the economy, Democratic party politics, etc., that diverges from the view presented in the New York Times or on CNN.
Second, blogs create links between and among ideas and "dialogues" that might not otherwise be connected out in the "real" world. The resulting ideas and dialogues are layered with texture, text, and heft that they would otherwise lack.
But I wonder: are either of those assumptions accurate?
Take writers' blogs. As near as I can tell, MOST (not all) writers' blogs are about -- writing! Now I don't know about you, but if I weren't a writer, I would find a writer's blog to be dull, dull, and still more dull. Or, to put it a bit more grandiosely, a writer's blog about writing is self-referential. Which is not surprising, but it's also, well, hardly novel (no pun intended) or particularly exciting.
Similarly, if you look at the links listed alongside most writers' blogs, those links lead to other writers' blogs, or to blogs produced by editors, agents, and booksellers.
In short, most writers' blogs exist to link to other writers' blogs and thereby generate more name recognition for all concerned. (In the political world, say the one that revolves around Capitol Hill and The Beltway, this is known as back-scratching.) Meaning that most writers' blogs exist within a web of insularity and self-reference that can't possibly be interesting to anyone but the initiated (other writers......)
(I should also add that M. J. Rose made this same point in a blog entry in April, a blog that was pointed out to me by an editor. Rose's blog that day was about a more important topic: namely, writers need to think twice before they waste their time blogging if the only point of the blog is to link to other writers' blogs. A point with which I whole-heartedly agree.)
Now it's POSSIBLE (and even likely) that there are some bloggers who link to bloggers beyond their own worlds. Eg, a blogger interested in the wired world links to or comments about neuroscience or quantum mechanics. And the person who originally read that particular blog in order to keep up on events/ideas in the world of cyber-politics ends up learning about the ways in which neuroscience influences and affects the creation and design of computers and the internet.
But I'm guessing that those kinds of blogs are the exception rather than the rule. (I'd be happy to be proved wrong.) If you read an article somewhere about some buzz-generating blog, it's likely only generating buzz amongst an insular group. The choir preaching to the choir, as it were.
Which brings me (finally!!) to my point: What IS the point of blogging? Especially for writers.
Frankly, I don't wanna waste my time blogging away in hopes that my blog will be linked to that of other (better-known) writers. I belong to two online writing groups and get all the writerly chat I need from them. And frankly, I don't want to spend ALL MY TIME hanging out with a bunch of people who are just like me! I need some variety, if you know what I mean.
The problem, of course, is that if someone blogs about what's on her mind, well, the human mind being what it is, the content of the blog will be all over the place. Point in case: my own blog -- which so far has discussed beer, conferences of brainy people, and proofreading. Hardly the sorts of topics that are gonna get me far on technorati's search engine (I kinda doubt there's a search term for "musings on the human condition").
And the things I'm writing about are certainly not going to bring me to the attention of people who might read my blog and then, GASP!, buy my books........ (Because let's be honest: the other reason writers take up blogging is so that they can grab the attention of the book-buying public. But of course that almost never happens because, well, see my point several paragraphs above.....)
So at this particular moment (early July 2006), I'm not convinced that blogging is the Next Great Thing in human interaction. I suspect that mostly, it's the Next Great Thing destined to push our society to the next level of bowling alone: namely, a place where we think about bowling alone, rather than actually getting out there in the lanes and knocking down pins, alone or otherwise! Indeed, here I am, blogging for an audience of one!