I found an article written nearly two years ago on Wired Magazine by a Paul Boutin discussing the futility of the personal blog. Essentially, the author states what was as obvious then as now: people are leaving the “impersonal” sphere to blogging and sharing their lives and experiences through Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr, leaving the professional sites with multiple authors to claim the blogs.
For most users, these services do everything they need for them to be able to express themselves and share with their friends. They all have different strengths and limitations1, but obviously appeal despite themselves. They are all useful tools, but I don’t feel they replace a blog entirely.
So why keep a personal blog in addition to such social networking sites? I can think of a numerous reasons, but will mention four.
Obviously doesn’t apply to me, but some people would like to have a place to vent about their lives in a way that isn’t associated with them personally. For this, you need something separate from social networking, or at least an alter-ego on the social network.
Separation of Public and Personal Sharing
This is one of the reasons I like to use this blog rather than facebook, for example. Though facebook offers the ability to change your sharing settings for each individual thing you share, it’s difficult to share with people outside of facebook. The most popular content on this blog is actually walking through setting up a sheevaplug, which most people find through Google. I’m certain most of my real life friends have no interest in this.
Similarly, sharing more personal information such as phone numbers or birthday party plans are more suitable for facebook, so long as privacy permissions are set properly.
Aside from notes on Facebook, it is difficult to write something lengthy through some form of status update.
This is the reason in my mind why social networking will never eclipse blogging. The content is the focus of the blog, whereas the person is the focus of the social network.
Blogging is a much richer experience than can be provided by any single one of these sites. Those sites with media content such as Flickr and Youtube make it easy to incorporate content into your blog through their API. Even Twitter does this. Your possibilities for content and format are limitless.
In a nutshell, the blog is whatever you want it to be, whether that is an expose on your cat, sharing your cooking recipes, programming tips, or human rights abuses in Africa. A social networking site can never be so flexible.
In his final paragraph, Mr. Boutin claims one of the strengths of Twitter is leveling the grammatical playing field between amateur and professional by limiting both to 140 characters. Be that as it may, it is ironic that this strength is killing people’s ability to express themselves in more verbose writing, such as university placement exams.↩