One More Technology on the Scrapheap

vcr-blinkBeing an old guy has very few advantages as far as I can tell, but one is the perspective of time.  In my 50 years I have seen more technologies than I can remember arrive with the herald of great expectations only to expire with a whimper.

  • CB radios
  • 8-track cassettes
  • Cassettes
  • Film
  • VCRs
  • Floppy disks
  • CDs/DVDs
  • Zip Drives
  • Fax machines
  • Blogs

Blogs?  Wait a minute, you may be thinking, isn’t this a blog?  Aren’t we sharing big ideas (Keliher), penetrating commentary (Mrje), economic analysis (Carideo),  erudite opinion (Benidt) and “MILF Porn Tube” (Austin) via this forum?

Yep.  And we’re a dying breed.

That’s the conclusion I draw from a report in Friday’s New York Times that points out the truth most of us know about the blogging world – the vast majority of blogs are essentially abandoned, standing like empty ghost towns along the information superhighway.  Started with the same misplaced enthusiasm that led Sam Parkhill to open a hot dog stand on Mars, most of them were never well-patronized even in the boom days and now have been left even by their owners whose dreams of wealth, fame or influence went “Poof.”

The Times‘ story reports that “[a]ccording to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days.”

The hard truths are threefold:  first, lots of people have discovered that successful blogging is hard work – not in the ditch digging sense but in the sense that it takes time and effort to create new posts that are interesting and thoughtful enough to merit reading and to do so frequently enough to bring readers back.  The SRC has always run best when all of its contributors are posting frequently and adding comments to one another discussions that – along with the excellent commentary by all 7 of our most frequent readers (and you know who you are) – make the joint lively and worth visiting.

Second, lots of undiscovered authors and pundits have discovered that the reason they were undiscovered was not lack of access to the audience.  One of the big insights from the blogging phenomenon is the confirmation that most of us, when given the opportunity to speak our minds on anything we want to a potential audience of billions, don’t have much original or profound to say.

Third, blogging – like any species – is evolving to fit a niche in its environment.  A year or so ago, the news of Governor Spitzer’s stupidities was broken by bloggers; today the first notice would almost certainly come via Twitter.  Bloggers who previously viewed their mission as delivering breaking news have moved on to an even faster, more urgent channel.  Ditto the bloggers who thought it important to provide instant “reaction” to such news.

Technological obsolescence is not a new story, of course, but it’s also not a story that’s ending any time soon.  Looking forward, here’s a couple that are about to peak (or maybe already have):

  • Flash drives
  • Voice mail
  • Incandescent light bulbs

What are your candidates for the technological scrapheap?

– Austin

20th Century Boy

Yes, it’s more than a song by T-Rex last heard in a Suburu commercial, it also apparently describes presumptive GOP nominee John McCain’s grasp of and involvement with our digital age:

Q: What websites if any do you look at regularly?

Mr. McCain: Brooke and Mark show me Drudge, obviously, everybody watches, for better or for worse, Drudge. Sometimes I look at Politico. Sometimes RealPolitics, sometimes.

(Mrs. McCain and Ms. Buchanan both interject: “Meagan’s blog!”)

Mr. McCain: Excuse me, Meagan’s blog. And we also look at the blogs from Michael and from you that may not be in the newspaper, that are just part of your blog.

Q: But do you go on line for yourself?

Mr. McCain: They go on for me. I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself. I don’t expect to be a great communicator, I don’t expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need – including going to my daughter’s blog first, before anything else.

Q: Do you use a blackberry or email?

Mr. McCain: No

Mark Salter: He uses a BlackBerry, just ours.

Mr. McCain: I use the Blackberry, but I don’t e-mail, I’ve never felt the particular need to e-mail. I read e-mails all the time, but the communications that I have with my friends and staff are oral and done with my cell phone. I have the luxury of being in contact with them literally all the time. We now have a phone on the plane that is usable on the plane, so I just never really felt a need to do it. But I do – could I just say, really – I understand the impact of blogs on American politics today and political campaigns. I understand that. And I understand that something appears on one blog, can ricochet all around and get into the evening news, the front page of The New York Times. So, I do pay attention to the blogs. And I am not in any way unappreciative of the impact that they have on entire campaigns and world opinion.

Can’t you hear the overtones of panic in the interjections by family and staff?  Why, Senator McCain sounds positively not “with it,” not a hipster or whatever you young people call yourselves these days.  Why, he sounds like a 71-year-old who is describing a foreign country he knows (or has been told) is important, but not one he much cares to visit, much less take up residence in.

Read the whole New York Times interview here; it covers much more than just Senator McCain’s swing-swing-swing-and-a-miss-miss-miss on being connected in the digital age. For example, he also waffles egregiously on whether or not kids should be taught evolution, creationism, intelligent design or who-knows-what.

Jeez, first the Phil Gramm thing and now this slip; where’s the message discipline, dammit!  How can Team McCain run as an in-touch, empathic change agent if people keep screwing up?

– Austin

PS – A tip of the cap to Brother Loveland and his traveling salvation show for spotting this one. tax planning fine

Minnesota’s Blog Scene Gets NYT Coverage

The New York Times has an interesting look at the impact it believes Minnesota’s bloggers are having on our State’s political landscape. The article focuses mostly on the role Minnesota Democrats Exposed is playing in the Senate race, but also mentions True North, Truth vs. The Machine, MNPublius and the Minnesota Campaign Report.

– Austin free printable invoices fine

Conversation By Fire

Two of your Rowdy correspondents are heading up to Princeton on Saturday to commune around a kiln with some conservative bloggers in what Chad Everson, who runs the Grizzly Groundswell blog, is calling the Blogosphere Divide Summit: A Conversation by Fire.

This is a pretty cool thing. When the I-35W bridge went down, I opined about rotting infrastructure being a sign that “No New Taxes” may not be the best way to run the state or country. I got hammered by several conservative bloggers, we went back and forth, and eventually one of the conservatives, Ryan Evans, who writes A (Sometimes) Logical View of the Illogical), and I met for lunch in Wisconsin to — gasp — actually listen to one another. Each found the other was (mostly) human, and we each wrote a little about that. Others chimed in, applauding the detente. Then Chad had the grace and generosity to take the next step by inviting some conservative and liberal bloggers to his “Clay Empire” to get our hands dirty together, make some tiles or pots or, most likely, messes, and see what we can learn about ourselves and one another.

Ain’t it just like a human,” as the poet Kris Kristofferson sings.

Chad’s website talks about the benefits of people working with clay: “If they will only remember to take a deep breath and get creative, relying on faith, trusting in hope, and determined in action, they will be able to live their dreams as well with no regrets and a mind that hungers for knowledge.” Now, I’m not sure Chad can get Austin’s mind to hunger for knowledge — Pad Thai, maybe — but this should be a great adventure. Charlie Quimby and Eric Black are joining us, and Ryan and others from the right. The Princeton Union Eagle has been invited, and I expect Geraldo to show up.

What if people of differing viewpoints stopped yelling at one another and did something real and creative together? What the hell kind of a world would that be?

If peace breaks out, we’ll send up a flare.

-Bruce Benidt