Blogging: The Rules

by Jonathan Rauch

Well, I'm blogging. Those who know me will know I have a pretty bad attitude about the blogosphere. I've done my share of blogging over at the Independent Gay Forum, but my mild, moderate, think-it-through-and-get-it-right style doesn't mesh well with blogosphere culture, which seems more to resemble, say, Roman gladiatorial entertainment, only without the subtlety. Plus…I'm not getting paid. That's good for you, but it's not so good for me. Or for reporting. Or for journalism. And don't even get me started on commenters.

Am I whining? Sure. But I submit that the whining of traditional journalists (you know, the kind of people who punched their tickets on newspaper police beats where they learned quaint notions of fairness and accuracy and keeping one's opinions out of it and all that) is nothing compared to the self-congratulatory smugness of internet culture, which tells us at least five times before breakfast that it is the Great New Thing.

It isn't. For people who want to read and think, which is still a lot of people, the worldwide web is an incorrigibly hostile environment. Thank goodness, it is already in the process of being displaced by the far more reader-friendly world of apps, which is hospitable to quality writing and focused reading, as opposed to knee-jerk opinionating and attention-deficit-disordered skimming. The blogging format, I believe, was an outgrowth of a particular technological moment, specifically the gap between the decline of paper and the rise of HTML5. Its heyday is over.

There are a few great bloggers out there. Andrew Sullivan is one of them. But they're depressingly rare.  If some strange magnetic pulse wiped out every blog post written since the format began, hardly anything memorable or important would be lost; and, after 15 years or whatever, it's too late to hope for maturation. The medium is the problem. The Web is great for shopping and research, but intrinsically lousy for serious reading and writing. Over the past decade and more, the most striking fact about the blogosphere is how little it has produced of distinction or durability.

On the "When In Rome" principle, I propose to be no exception. While I'm blogging, I'm going to try to observe a few rules.

1) No second drafts. There isn't time.

2) No reporting. There isn't money.

3) Factuality is approximate.

4) Crabbiness is allowed.

I'm psyched.