There’s been some chat around here regarding why people blog. I’ll leave out the entire matter of why people write in the first place—that topic is so well covered in undergrad, there’s no reason to try to add to an already voluminous literature.
But why blog?
Well, anyone can do it. I don’t have to apply for a job, submit samples—I don’t even have to be good. I can just type away to my heart’s content.
So lack of ambition and talent could explain a large segment of the blogosphere. But that’s too cynical even for me.
Some bloggers truly enjoy the less formal area of communication, and can float and share ideas that might not fly in standard media (assuming blogs aren’t a standard medium).
Some don’t enjoy it much at all—but they feel duty-bound. Sound a bit grandiose? Sometimes it is, but sometimes it turns out that a blog is actually read by people who influence policy. You can actually see the ripples of some posts through the blogosphere, through institutional emails, and into the mainstream press. More than a few SciBlings have affected public policy and debate here.
But are blogs really “alternative”? Sure, mostly. And not so much. I know of a talented young journalist who is writing for a major paper, but is going back to grad school to study “new media” and increase her chances of remaining a journalist. Traditional print journalism is not doing so well.
Blogging is a bit different than other writing as well. If my reading habits (and my analysis of my stats) are any indication, bloggers are correct when they feel driven to post regularly. I used to read the NYT daily. Sure, I’d love it if Tom Friedman showed up every day, but since I look at the OpEds daily, he’ll show back up.
Some of my favorite blogs, though, drop off my radar if they stop posting for a while. I just get too lazy to cruise over for nothing. (Although my reader will pick it up of course. If you have a Blackberry, I can’t recommend Viigo strongly enough.)
Blogs are often very strongly identified with a particular writer…more so than, say, newspaper articles. But every once in a while, a blog that might be considered “important” suffers a crisis…the primary writer gets a life, or some such catastrophe. However, many blogs have an identity of their own, and new writers can be gently folded in to spell writers who are burning out, or just to add a new set of ideas.
If commenters are any indication, many of the readers of ScienceBlogs are bloggers themselves, so I you folks have anything to add…well, the thread is open.