Those who have no desire to ever make money off their work will really enjoy Paul Boutin’s take on blogging: Quit, open a Twitter account, upload more pictures to flickr, friend more “friends” on Facebook. Yes, ideas have no better form than in the comment section of a flickr account or in the 140 character limit format describing your “status”. Had Andrew Sullivan’s feature for the Atlantic on blogging not been published only a few days prior this post would have lamented the dearth of intelligent writing on what makes a blog extraordinary.
Those waiting for the art connection to this story may find tenuous connections at best. Sullivan is known to be friends with a few Chelsea dealers, which I assume means he collects from time to time. His interest in arts occasionally expresses itself in the form of short blurbs and links on The Daily Dish. Mostly, I’m quoting a few choice excerpts from his feature because I think it provides the best summation I’ve read thus far on what makes blogs extraordinary. I get asked this question all the time, so it’s not entirely without relevance here.
For the sake of readability, I’m not using blockquotes below. My scant comments appear in italics.
No columnist or reporter or novelist will have his minute shifts or constant small contradictions exposed as mercilessly as a blogger's are. A columnist can ignore or duck a subject less noticeably than a blogger committing thoughts to pixels several times a day. A reporter can wait—must wait—until every source has confirmed. A novelist can spend months or years before committing words to the world. For bloggers, the deadline is always now. Blogging is therefore to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.
You end up writing about yourself, since you are a relatively fixed point in this constant interaction with the ideas and facts of the exterior world….But a blog, unlike a diary, is instantly public. It transforms this most personal and retrospective of forms into a painfully public and immediate one. It combines the confessional genre with the log form and exposes the author in a manner no author has ever been exposed before.
Alas, as I soon discovered, this sudden freedom from above [editors] was immediately replaced by insurrection from below. Within minutes of my posting something, even in the earliest days, readers responded. E-mail seemed to unleash their inner beast. They were more brutal than any editor, more persnickety than any copy editor, and more emotionally unstable than any colleague.
The blog remained a superficial medium, of course. By superficial, I mean simply that blogging rewards brevity and immediacy. No one wants to read a 9,000-word treatise online. On the Web, one-sentence links are as legitimate as thousand-word diatribes—in fact, they are often valued more. And, as Matt Drudge told me when I sought advice from the master in 2001, the key to understanding a blog is to realize that it's a broadcast, not a publication. If it stops moving, it dies. If it stops paddling, it sinks.
[Anyone who’s ever experienced the dullness of bloggingheads will dispute the labeling of blogging as broadcasting medium. It’s somewhere in between for sure though.]
But the superficiality masked considerable depth—greater depth, from one perspective, than the traditional media could offer. The reason was a single technological innovation: the hyperlink… Now this innovation, pre-dating blogs but popularized by them, is increasingly central to mainstream journalism.
The blogosphere may, in fact, be the least veiled of any forum in which a writer dares to express himself. Even the most careful and self-aware blogger will reveal more about himself than he wants to in a few unguarded sentences and publish them before he has the sense to hit Delete. The wise panic that can paralyze a writer—the fear that he will be exposed, undone, humiliated—is not available to a blogger. You can't have blogger's block. You have to express yourself now, while your emotions roil, while your temper flares, while your humor lasts. You can try to hide yourself from real scrutiny, and the exposure it demands, but it's hard. And that's what makes blogging as a form stand out: it is rich in personality.
These friends, moreover, are an integral part of the blog itself—sources of solace, company, provocation, hurt, and correction. If I were to do an inventory of the material that appears on my blog, I'd estimate that a good third of it is reader-generated, and a good third of my time is spent absorbing readers' views, comments, and tips. Readers tell me of breaking stories, new perspectives, and counterarguments to prevailing assumptions…A good blog is your own private Wikipedia.
[I’d attribute the same content percentage or more to Art Fag City readers. Thanks guys!]
What endures is a human brand…It stems, I think, from the conversational style that blogging rewards. What you want in a conversationalist is as much character as authority. And if you think of blogging as more like talk radio or cable news than opinion magazines or daily newspapers, then this personalized emphasis is less surprising. People have a voice for radio and a face for television. For blogging, they have a sensibility.
The reason this open-source market of thinking and writing has such potential is that the always adjusting and evolving collective mind can rapidly filter out bad arguments and bad ideas. The flip side, of course, is that bloggers are also human beings. Reason is not the only fuel in the tank…You can disappear into the partisan blogosphere and never stumble onto a site you disagree with…But linkage mitigates this. A Democratic blog will, for example, be forced to link to Republican ones, if only to attack and mock. And it's in the interests of both camps to generate shared traffic. This encourages polarized slugfests. But online, at least you see both sides. Reading The Nation or National Review before the Internet existed allowed for more cocooning than the wide-open online sluice gates do now. If there's more incivility, there's also more fluidity. Rudeness, in any case, isn't the worst thing that can happen to a blogger. Being ignored is. Perhaps the nastiest thing one can do to a fellow blogger is to rip him apart and fail to provide a link.
Each week, after a few hundred posts, I also write an actual newspaper column. It invariably turns out to be more considered, balanced, and evenhanded than the blog. But the blog will always inform and enrich the column, and often serve as a kind of free-form, free-associative research. And an essay like this will spawn discussion best handled on a blog. The conversation, in other words, is the point, and the different idioms used by the conversationalists all contribute something of value to it. And so, if the defenders of the old media once viscerally regarded blogging as some kind of threat, they are starting to see it more as a portal, and a spur.
[To simply reiterate that point: My reviews are always much more considered as a result of the blog. At this point, I doubt I could do one without the other.]