When I asked myself the question “Why do we blog?” and then did an Internet search I got 82,200 hits on Google. This, in itself is an indication of how interested we all are in the phenomenon. At the moment there are millions of people blogging away on the Internet, so why do we blog rather than writing articles in traditional magazines or newspapers?
For a few years I thought about blogging and even tried various formats with my friends and students but I felt often that it was a case of a lone voice in the desert. I wrote but I didn’t think anyone was listening, and often I really felt that I didn’t have much to say anyway. I had a MySpace account, and I still have it but I soon stopped using it.
Then, one day during the Christmas holidays, I started writing experimental notes on Facebook, and friends would comment on them, and from that moment on I was well and truly hooked. The key, of course, is the feeling that someone is reading what you write. The resonse when you have an audience is often immediate, and discussions develop in a way that would have been impossible just a few years ago, before the advent of Web 2.0. When you write an article for a journal or a magazine you may well get some feedback when you meet colleagues who’ve read it, or the odd email from people too, but it is not the same as the community and discussion that exists online.
The key, of course, for readers is knowing which blogs are interesting, and for bloggers knowing how to reach out to “the big, wide world”. Both these are no mean feats and the daunting number of really good blogs available can almost, paradoxically, put people off. This leads me to my next point: Twitter. Last year I went on Twitter for the first time and used it a bit, and then thought I didn’t really see the point. After all, I could write comments like that in my state line on Facebook, and do a lot more, couldn’t I? Then I went to the Harrogate Iatefl Conference this April and my eyes were well and truly opened. People were tweeting away during and after all the events, almost like an underlying wave of discussion and networking spinning a motivating, mad web around the whole conference. At some sessions the speakers asked for tweets and it soon became clear to me that Twitter is a way of stepping into what several people have referred to as a “virtual staffroom”. You can follow other people from the profession, and they will soon reciprocate. Twitter is truly democratic as everyone can speak to everyone else, and those with more experience are very happy to help others. We all exchange information, good sites to go to, good tools and, of course, good blogs. Thanks to these tweets I’ve found a whole wealth of new places to find ideas and as a “new” blogger I can tweet everyone when I write a new post. At the moment I must say that I’m finding the whole thing rather…addictive.
Does this mean the end of magazines, newspapers and books?
Well this is the million dollar question. Personally, I think not. The experience of holding a book in my hands and putting it down, picking it up, carrying it round etc. well that’s just part of the read, as far as I’m concerned. But I may of course change my mind if I get an iPad. Who knows? As for articles in magazines and journals, they serve a different purpose, I feel to blogs. When I write a post for my blog I’m speaking to you. The register is different from an article. When I write an article I refine and develop things more to provide a “finished product” as far as though processes can ever be “finished”. So my answer would be no. This is a different way of writing and communicating, but whatever happens in the future the combination of a blg and a Twitter account can open up your world to infinite promise… Come and join the fun.