[Warning: This is a long and rambling post that may or may not make a point.]
Superbowl XLVI (46 for you non-Romans) starts at 6:30 p.m. eastern time on the NBC television network. The teams playing are the New England Patriots and the New York Giants. You may be wondering what the heck I’m talking about, but I’ll get to it in a moment.
But first, a few thoughts about blogging. Some people who know the most about the social part of the web, the individuals who helped conceptualize and role-model what can be done when everyone is wired, networked and has a simple-to-use publishing system, are using the IPO of Facebook as a reason to revisit some of the central themes that have concerned them (and me) since the days when we still said “web log” instead of just blog.
That Facebook is the launchpad of another round of meaningful debate (hidden under a layer of invectives, navel-gazing and trolling) does not surprise me.
In my 2012 prediction post, I wrote:
“The IPO of Facebook will be the focus of a discussion of the value of relationships vs. products and we will hear lots of laments from the pioneers of online community over what has been built on the foundation they laid. (The laments will be deserved.) The IPO of Facebook will be a milestone, however, not the finish line. As we learn more and more how certain companies view us as hamsters in their cages, we will start to think more-and-more about how our role as customers should evolve. (But again, others started thinking about this long, long ago.) That topic will be explored in a book by one of the Cluetrain Manifesto authors, Doc Searls, that will be published in May, The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge. Like I said, this is not a new topic for a lot of people — but it is a very new topic for the vast majority of people who think Facebook is the Internet.”
Way back in the early, early days of blogging, most people who blogged spent at least part of their time blogging about blogging. I tried my best to avoid that topic, but it was impossible. I look back now at some of those early blog posts about blogging and find some of them prescient. Others were clueless.For example, while I predicted early that some great B-to-B companies would start on the web and grow big, I never dreamed there would be some that, within so brief a period as a decade, would grow in size, value and importance that they would be perceived as being more important and valuable than legacy players in their vertical industries.
I never imagined that the New York Times would lose the battle for the Internet. It seemed so obvious that they had everything they needed to win. But it also seemed obvious to me that a world as large as the internet should have room for everyone to win. While I obviously thought there would be robust and large communities online (I had already attempted a startup based on that assumption even before I started blogging), I never imagined that in 2012, there would be a company that packaged up all of the things one can do with blogs and would make something out of that bundle that would ever appeal to a generation who we thought was smarter than those of us who had broken free from AOL. I could never see so-called “digital natives,” or members of a “digital generation” give up the ability to create their own web and settle merely for a web created by Facebook. And what I really didn’t think I’d ever see was some smart people express a belief that whatever seems on-top and unstoppable today (Twitter, Google, Facebook) has some sort of power that will make them unstoppable forever (Dell, Tiger Woods, Network TV).
While I have yet to hear a stock analyst employed by a Wall Street investment firm provide any over-the-top exuberance on Facebook’s prospects (Wall Street analysts have the ghost of Henry Blodgett’s exuberance keeping them in check), there is no shortage of arm-chair punditry that is over-hyping Facebook’s prospects. The most mysterious punditry (to me) is that like Robert Scoble’s mash-up stock valuation with how much time people spend on Facebook, how many people comment on his Google+ account and debates over “the open web,” which in this case, means lots of different things to different people, but for this post, let’s just say it’s everything that’s not branded by Google, Facebook or Twitter, et al.
I could understand the debate if it were focused on the nuances of whether or not an individual or corporate entity should anchor their web residence in something they can own and control, like RexHammock.com or be a share-cropper on some real estate like Facebook.com/rexhammock.
I think my use of the term “share-cropper” reveals my prejudice.
But to take that argument beyond a debate over identity, privacy and the role of the individual in a world run by corporations, and attempt to suggest that Facebook can be the most valuable company in the world in three years, as Robert Scoble does in that post, takes the debate into la-la land. Robert is a great evangelist for tech startups, but predicting the future market capitalization of a company based on how many people follow him on Facebook is lost on me.
But I think I started this post somewhere else, oh, yes: What time is the Superbowl?
Back when I started blogging, I never imagined in a million years there would be something like the Huffington Post or Business Insider (unintended second swipe at Henry Blodget) or Demand Media — types of companies and business models that are variations on the theme that news is whatever people happen to be typing into Google at the time as that’s where the clicks are.
SEO-driven news is what many people call it. Pathetic is my term.
For instance, on the Huffington Post every year before the Superbowl, they have a story with the headline, “What Time is The Superbowl?”
I never saw that coming. Blogging was, and is, something different for me than a lot of things people have created, using the technologies and approaches of blogging — things that are worth billions today.
Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist, is a consistent and prolific blogger (and sometimes a controversial one, so don’t view my quoting him as some endorsement of some whacky theory he may have expressed in the past, that I’m unfamiliar with.)
Here’s something he wrote on his blog earlier this week:
“The main reason I blog is because it energizes me. I could rationalize my blogging by telling you it increases traffic on Dilbert.com by 10%, or that it keeps my mind sharp, or that I think the world is a better place when there are more ideas in it. But the main truth is that blogging charges me up. It gets me going. I don’t need another reason. As soon as I publish this post, I’ll feel a boost of energy from the minor accomplishment of having written something that other people will read. Then I’ll get a second cup of coffee and think happy thoughts about my tennis match that is scheduled for after lunch. With my energy cranked up to maximum, I’ll wade into my main job of cartooning for the next four hours. And it will seem easy.”
Hey, that’s the reason I blog also — or, at least, that’s the outlook about my blog that has kept me blogging consistently for over 11 years.
I will never blog if it’s solely about helping me get clout or links or follows on Twitter or Google+ or Facebook. If people want to follow me, I’m flattered and I appreciate them and I’ve found many, many friends that way.
But I don’t have the energy to make all of this a game — especially if it’s a game designed to turn the internet into nothing more than Facebook, Google and Twitter.
Blogging gives me energy. And I love helping create the web with my own little website here.
Using Facebook or this or that because it can help me get more likes or comments (or, any comments, in my case) zaps my energy.
And I bet I’m not a lone.