Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The changing face of blogging

I love the guys at Despair, Inc. Their "demotivator" material is a riot and provides helpful social commentary. This is one of their newer posters and is indicative of their wit and wisdom.

It is clearly noticeable that blogging has slowed down. Not only here, but throughout the blogosphere it seems that, as a phenomenon, blogging reached its peak a year or so ago (which in blog-years, is about a generation). It's not going away. Some uber-bloggers are still worth reading regularly. But there simply aren't that many bloggers who consistently have something to say that is worth reading.

A far greater number have some really good things to say occasionally, and I am grateful that this medium exists to make those pieces of wisdom readily available. I am also grateful for Justin Taylor, and others like him, who consistently call attention to individual blog posts that are particularly worth reading.

Blogging has helped shape the conversation in the SBC in ways that are mostly good, I believe. First, some of the foolish things that have been said and done by SBC influencers over the last 3 years have been held up to the light of scrutiny and properly chastened as bloggers have given unvarnished accounts of them. This has frustrated and angered many who missed the sea change that occurred in communications a few years ago.

Previously, if a prominent Southern Baptist said or did something dumb, their reputations could be protected through well-honed denominational spin and scrub techniques. Because the gate-keepers were were few and well-entrenched, the information that made its way to the public was often closer to propoganda than news. With blogging, the curtains were pulled back and lights were turned on in ways that surprised and often embarrassed some who were unaccustomed to having their words and actions scrutinized, much less challenged.

After the initial complaints and attempts to discredit this new way of communicating (anybody remember the charges that blogging is nothing more than graffiti or porn?), most of these protesters became chastened by the process and have become more circumspect in their (public) comments. That is a good thing, because it has significantly lowered the harsh rhetoric that has too often characterized some of our internal Baptist Battles conversations.

A second way blogging has helped is that it has allowed for more voices to be added to those conversations than would otherwise be the case. Not all of them are equally helpful, but some of them have provided wonderful insights that would never have been given a hearing if it were left up to the old-line gatekeepers. Granted, the volume has some times been ramped up too much and all of the chatter can at times be distracting, but, all-in-all, it has been refreshing to hear some new voices in the mix, often with new and better perspectives than the typical party line that previously monopolized denominational lines of communication.

Blogging will continue to play an important role in the future SBC. If nothing else, its presence helps keep folks honest. I intend to keep this blog going, though, as is rather obvious from the last few months, the frequency of my posts will not keep pace with the previous 3 years. I also hope to begin blogging fairly soon at our new church site and perhaps at one other site that is yet to be launched. When that happens, I will mention it here.

9 comments:

adamtown64 said...

Thanks Bro. Tom....
I've only been blogging about 6 months now. I guess I'm kinda slow at embracing change and now that "change" is slowing down some. I do greatly appreciate your tasteful use of the medium and believe it has been a positive force for truth in God's providence. You and your brother (my former pastor in Clinton) always seemed to be on the cutting edge of using technology for God's glory and to that I say "amen".

To God be the Glory

Tony Kummer said...

Tom,
Cold weather = more blogging, wait and see. I even expect you Florida boys will find something to write about.

Will said...

Brother Tom
Tony is on to something. Once it gets cold up north, it will pick up.

The Internet age isn't going away, and blogging is an intrical part of it. Like anything, it can be used for good or evil. I appreciate what you do here, and my wife and very much appreciated the privilege to listen to you in Mansfield last week.

Will
Cedar Hill Tx

Morris Brooks said...

Tom,

Keep up the not good..but excellent work. Obviously your health is improving.

Morris

Ranger said...

Will,
You're right that blogs aren't going away, but in terms of informational blogs they are trending downwards in that a lot of people are quitting, and a lot are posting less. Some have decided to simply use Facebook, Twitter or something else, and others have moved away from blogging to simply podcasting.

I blogged for about three years, and podcasted for two of those, but quit around the middle of 2006 after realizing everything I was saying was being said better elsewhere, or realizing how often I was simply linking to a post elsewhere. Did I really need to link to an article by Adrian Warnock that had already been linked to by Justin Taylor, Jollyblogger, Evangelical Outpost and others? Isn't it probable that if someone subscribes to my blog they are already subscribed to those other blogs? After thinking this through for awhile and realizing how much time I spent on my blog that was usually only rehashing material elsewhere, I quit.

My RSS reader used to have about 300-400 different blogs I subscribed to concerning various topics. Some quit blogging, some starting blogging less or joined group blogs and now I have about 80 that are all pretty good quality.

IMO, I hope the downward trend continues as blogs become more professional (replacing magazines and newspapers) and concerned with less filler material or simply furthering the latest debate in their corner of the world (whether that be the SBC, reformed theology or whatever). Furthermore, I assume the trend toward group blogging (which is usually higher quality) will continue and personal informational blogs will diminish.

Of course, there will always be plenty of family blogs, baby blogs, etc. which fill a niche, but Tom is absolutely correct in noting the downward trend in blogging which started around the start of 2007 and has continued to this day. I expect as other forms such as Twitter gain popularity, the trend will only continue.

Greg Welty said...

"Some uber-bloggers are still worth reading regularly. But there simply aren't that many bloggers who consistently have something to say that is worth reading."

But Tom, how many bloggers out there have been hit by lightning, and have lived to blog some more? It follows that your blog is absolutely unique, and offers something to be found nowhere else: LSB, or lightning-survivor-blogging.

Therefore, you must blog *more*, not less.

[Tom scratches head; "Did he just compliment me, or insult me?" ;-)]

Tom said...

Adam, Will and Morris:
Thanks for your encouraging words.

Tony:

Of course, here in Florida, winter is more a state of mind than a discernible season. But, you may have a point.

Tom said...

Greg:

Well, I can't argue with the uniqueness of my post-lightning blogging. If that experience is worth points, then I may be ahead of the game. ;-)

ta

ForHisSake said...

Tom,

Hang in there with me while I tie these two thoughts together...

In a previous post, you said (regarding engaging in controvery):

"No one has helped me more with this than John Newton....
Newton believed that perhaps his greatest usefulness in ministry came from the letters that he wrote....Today it is far easier for someone to get his or her words spread abroad than it was 200 years ago--or even 20 years ago. We can do it in seconds by clicking "send" or "publish post." That ease and immediacy often work against wisdom and humility."

I am so thankful that the "dead guys" were techno-deprived. I am also thankful that many of us realize that what they had to say is far more useful than anything we come up with.

As more bloggers are introduced to these men's letters, sermons and commentaries (through blogs like yours and many others); I believe that many more will be humbled by the depth and wisdom already available--on any given subject, and will spend their time 1) reading before they write; and than 2) posting posthumously for all the "dead guys" out there!

That's exactly what you did with John Newton's letter. Excellent!