It All Sounds the Same
April 13, 2005

For quite some time, I've attempted to pinpoint the exact moment at which the blogosphere became boring to me--reading it that is. Don't get it twisted. As long as Al Sharpton has a perm and MTV is on the air, I will always enjoy the writing aspect. Yet these days I find myself completely uninterested in the goings on of the latest blogosphere hype. From one day to the next, most "conservative" blogs I check start reading identically. Same stories, same news, same tone. Same goes for "liberal" blogs. Maybe it's the overkill. Maybe it's the lack of original thought. Maybe it's the catblogging. I simply do not know. All I know is I miss the weblogs of yore.

This year has seen lots of conversation about the power in the blogging medium. Pajamas will never be viewed the same way again. All around the world, people with vast amounts of time on their hands have abandoned the title "blogger" and picked up the mantle once held by McGruff the Crime Dog. Inspector Gadgets are everywhere exposing lies, weaknesses and flaws in mainstream media. It's all great--really it is, but so help me, if I have to read about Dan Rather one more time, I am blacklisting my OWN self.

The way I see it, "the blogosphere" has hit a wall of irony. We made an inner vow of sorts. In short, by attempting to police the news media we despise and vowing that we'd be different, the blogosphere has in fact become just like them: dry, unaffected, impersonal, and driven by scandal. As it stands, blogs are slowly trying to assert themselves as alternatives to regular news media. For the most part, the integration is slowly working. Major blogs are being added to popular search engines, network news programs are reporting on blogging, and some are even integrating bloggers into their daily news reports. I assume this is for the better.

I'm not a voracious blog reader but when I do read, I don't go to blogs for the news (although at times getting daily news is a byproduct). I go to blogs to filter the news and get wise analysis. I liken a good blog to a glorified opinion column, not a rundown of events I can read at MSNBC.

When I first began reading weblogs there was only one intrigue: personal opinion. With so much regurgitation in the world, I found it refreshing to read the opinions, rants, and analysis of people willing to just tell it like it is. Even better was the insight of those who told it like it wasn't. The point wasn't even so much that I agreed with what I was reading, but more that I was able to gain access into the uncensored worldview of people around the world.

I suggest that not only should blogging not take the place of mainstream media, but it never will. The schizophrenia of mainstream media is what makes blogging great.

In his post, "Rediscovering Wisdom in the Blogosphere," Joe at the Evangelical Outpost precisely writes:

"Bloggers, and the audience who reads them, have access to one of the most powerful and transformative technologies in the history of mankind. We not only have access to information that was unavailable to the Aquinas, Newton, and Einstein but we possess the ability to communicate instantly with people across the globe. Yet the vast majority of our time is spent reading and writing about ephemera; warm milk has a longer shelf-life than the average blog post.
..............
Almost every blog has an archive listed by date and category but the average blog reader will never take advantage of this resource. Why? Because we assume that anything that was written in the past (i.e., last month) will be of little relevance today. We accept the absurd notion that the latest news is more necessary for understanding our times than the past. But, to paraphrase the historian Arnold Toynbee, the blogger trying to understand the present is like the man with his nose pressed against the mirror trying to see his whole body.

This is not to suggest that blogging should never be timely or focused on the latest news. Nor do I want to imply that light-hearted, even trivial blogging efforts are entirely unworthy. But those of us who spend an inordinate amount of time with this medium invariably want to believe that we are not merely wasting our time.

Words are powerful. I look on my nightstand and I see books written by people who are no longer alive. Their written words have remained beyond their lifespan. When I began this blog, I wanted it to be a running chronicle of my worldview. That included current events, but it also included the issues of life that seem to be relevant from one generation to the next. When I've left this earth, I want my great-great-great grand children to be able to read my words and gain insight into my thoughts. There are many goals in blogging. Maybe everyone isn't trying to have an impact. In his post, Joe asks,
"How then should we blog? How can blogging be used to promote wisdom and understanding? Even if the primary 'message' of this 'medium' is normally transient and shallow, can it not be redeemed? If so, what should we be doing? And, more importantly, what should we not be doing?"
I'll tell you what we shouldn't be doing: trying to become news media sources, that's what. It's a mistake that will turn the blogosphere into a biased monolith (an oxymoron? I think not).

Blogs can impact people beyond news bites and exposes. I don't know about you, but I prefer bloggers, the people, not bloggers, the institution. Blogs should offer a unique and unfettered voice. That's the foundation of the blogosphere and the selling point of a blog.

As a reader, I am drawn to perspective, insight and the ability to leave a weblog changed, provoked, or even bothered. My advice to bloggers: write in such a way that sets you apart. Form a unique perspective and communicate it in a unique way. Make it personal and real because in the end, people connect with people, not laundry lists and newsletters.

Posted by Ambra at April 13, 2005 12:21 AM in Blogging
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Great post! Although I disagree with your point about the blogosphere becoming dry, unaffected or impersonal, maybe there are particular blogs that have become just that, but not the entire blogosphere. Just as in the MSM, there is still some news outlets and journalists that seem to be able to separate themselves from the pack.

I do agree with your latter points that the blogosphere should never become like the MSM in how it reports on news and events and the strength of the blogosphere is the ability to give personal insight on a given topic. I am not an avid blog reader, I only really read a few blogs regularly, but maybe once a week I will "surf" through several new blogs and so far I haven't grown tired of it yet. I've grown tired of reading some of the same blogs regularly simply because many of them have gotten larger and have sort of morphed into more of a webzine reporting on or about other webzines rather than a portal of fresh, new thoughts and insights.

There are still many blogs out there that are incredibly interesting and I believe, what makes them that way is just what you pointed out, they are regular folks telling it like it is about the world around us. I like that as well.

Great points miss Nykol!

Bloggers rely on the MSM for nearly all of their information - blogs just massage and regurgitate the news to their perspective. For example, I wanted to know more information this morning on the explosions in Baghdad, since an oil tanker blew up and my brother-in-law happens to drive one in Iraq. I checked several different news sources, and each one of them just had the same blurb originally from AP.

If a blogger in Iraq had actually come upon the scene and posted some names and more details, then that would have been more useful to me (if I could ever track down that individual blog). Otherwise the US military and Iraqi police are going to limit the information going out at their convenience.

It tickles me when bloggers change hosts/services and wring their hands over migrating their archives. I think that you would want a clean start if you're changing, but maybe that's just me. It can be interesting to compare posts from a year or two ago to see if your writing style (or values?) has changed, but that would only be important to you and maybe your mom. Maybe.

While it can be good to get different viewpoints over current events from various blogs, the true strength of blogging is the ability for someone in, say, Pigsknuckle Oregon finding other folks with similar mental capabilities, and be able to dialogue/communicate/debate with them. Get to know me! Get to e-socialize with others! It's not IM, and it's not e-mail, but it's something.

One of the reasons I read you regularly, Ambra, is because you DO cover different things. It's nice to see some offbeat commentary on subjects that the "serious news" bloggers don't deem to address.

As long as you keep doing things your way, I'll keep coming back. I am waiting eagerly for the next Fashion Faux Pas installment -- please, oh please, find a pic of some dude wearing black socks and sandals in the summer. Or any woman over waist size 30 wearing low-rise jeans with a goot hanging over :)

I totally agree. I actually read very few news-oriented blogs, but the ones that do attract me are worthwhile because of perspective and insight. I've seen (quite popular) blogs that seem to me to just be lists of events with little commentary. What's the point? Like I used to tell my students in English class: find a way to get your perspective in. No one wants to read a dry paper that's a recitation of a novel's events, for example. Give me something interesting, from your mind.

Archives probably aren't as important for news blogs. I write about the Bible and culture (mostly the Bible!), so something I write today may be something I or someone else want to reference later. Blog functionality depends very much on its content and purpose.

Heh.
Nice one.

Ambra,
Thank you for this post. I have only just discovered blogging and am thinking hard about doing one. Your thoughts have encouraged and confirmed my own, that before I begin, I want to be clear in my own mind why I should spend the time on it--what is my unique voice and slant on life? I don't want to be just another diary, no way am I going to do politics (not enough time or inclination), but what have I, a Christian homemaker and homeschooling mom of six, got to say that could make an impact on someone else? Plenty, I'm bold enough to think--and that's what I should focus on, as you have encouraged. I've also wondered if there was a place in the blogosphere for sharing and discussing books and ideas that have impacted my life but are not what everyone else is linking to! I feel encouraged on that point also.
I also liked your point a few days ago about not feeling like you have to blog every day whether or not you have something to say.
Jeanne

You know, I have to agree with you. Though I don't necessarily go thru the blogosphere in search of news, I do search for something interesting...something that catches and holds my attention past the first 10 seconds it takes to read the title and first few sentences, whether it be news, opinion, what have you. And i'm finding that nowadays, and potentially myself included, blogs are just getting boring. The freshness isn't there like it used to be. I find myself getting bored with my own blog.

I've been wondering at what point every blog was going to look the same, and for me its happened. Though I still do hope that eventually that same edge comes back because I used to have fun reading everybodys rants on anything and nothing at the exact same time. Here's hopin!

Good post. I've started blogging myself and haven't found a lot of readers yet. But, while I want readers, I suppose I blog because I blog. Do I make an impact. I don't know. I really don't. But for the time being I will blog--practice my writing skills and work out, in black and white, how I feel about a lot of things that matter to me. And blather on about stuff I can't blather on about elsewhere.
Is it earth shattering--of course not. But can I have the potential of electronic conversations with people of like-mind and some of unlike mind--yes. And I kind of like it.
In general I like the uncensored nature of blogs. I'm speaking as a Christian who tends to censure himself. And I like their idiosyncratic points of view. Main stream blogging seems like an oxymoron.

MarcV, after you've written some 600 proof-read posts, you'll understand why migrating archives is so important. For me, that's a portfolio. I can't tell you how many old posts I pull and rework into columns or commentary.

I often forget about my own archives until some reader emails me about a typo in them or something like that and I realize....wow, people really do read that old stuff. Does my heart good.

Glen, you crack me up. I got one comin' for you. Haven't found a dude with black socks and sandals on yet. I have seen a few middle aged men with shorts, white tube socks, and black dress shoes on though...in the grocery store no less!

Just so you know, I found this blog on a Fox News search. ;)

"It all sounds the same"

Oh boo hoo, evey day isn't going to be an adventure.

Blogs require issues, news, change. We are in a lull I suppose. I agree with the feeling but writing about it only confirms the premise.

Vann :)

It has nothing to do with news vanyogan. A good writer can fabricate topics out of thin air...everyday life...those are the ones that keep me coming back.

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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Why I'm Not a Republican Parts I, II, III, IV
Reflections on the Ill-Read Society
The ROI of a Kid
The Double-Minded Haters
Hindsight
Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?
Oh parent Where Art Thou?
Requisite Monthly Rant: the State of the Nation
College Curriculum Gone Wild
Walmart Chronicles
An Open Letter to American Idol
Gonorrhea and the City