Blogging For Blogging's Sake or The Tyranny of the Term
3 min read

Blogging For Blogging's Sake or The Tyranny of the Term

Web 1.0 gave us “internet,” “HTML,” “email,” “hyperlink”, “online,” and, of course, “web.” Web 2.0 has given us “social media,” “citizen journalism,” “tagging,” “blog,” “podcast,” “Web 2.0″ (of course) — and the list goes on.

Web 2.0 is still in the wrangling over terminology phase — especially over Web 2.0 itself. Recently, there’s been some debate about term “consumer-generated content,” started by Derek Powazek, who argued:

Calling the beautiful, amazing, brilliant things people create online “user-generated content” is like sliding up to your lady, putting your arm around her and whispering, “Hey baby, let’s have intercourse.”

So let’s not give in to the buzzphrase du jour. Let’s use the real words. Those people posting to Amazon pages? They’re writing reviews. Those folks on Flickr? They’re making photographs. And if we must have an umbrella term to describe the whole shebang, I have a suggestion. Try this on for size: Authentic Media.

Scott Rosenberg pushed back:

Well, I’m sorry, but “authentic media” is a problem, too. For one thing, it’s oxymoronic: “media” refers to the middle-man, yet this stuff is ostensibly authentic because it cuts out the middleman — as Derek suggests when he says, “Authentic media is what happens when the mediators get out of the way.” Furthermore, if “user-generated content” carries a whiff of contempt for unwashed amateur contributors, then “authentic media” is vaguely discourteous to those of us in the other, older-fashioned media who still aspire to some level of authenticity ourselves, and believe that it might be attainable, even if we don’t always achieve it. The label a priori rules out that possibility.

Ah, that’s the problem with language — never as simple as it seems. You try to fix one problem and you cause another. There is no such thing as “real words” — all language is fraught with issues, as Orwell would tell you. Tim O’Reilly may not have intended the term “Web 2.0″ to fuel the next generation of internet hype, but that’s what many people have done with the term.

“User-generated content” may not be the friendliest term, but it’s reasonably accurate and descriptive, and I’d rather be stuck with that than something more problematic and obfuscating like “authentic media.”

Take “blog” as another example — “web log” software is simply a publishing platform — an easy-to-use content management system — but it has come to connote an iconoclastic, power-to-the-little-guy ethos. On the face of it, I don’t like the word “blog” because of its unfortunate onomatopoeia.

What are you doing? Blogging. Okay, but please clean it up when you’re done.

The real problem I have with the term “blog” is that everyone from stodgy old corporations to stodgy Old Media has adopted “blogging” to try to tap into that “hip” ethos — call it blogging and suddenly it’s supposed to be more than mere publishing or PR.

The problem is, it’s not.

In the case of Old Media publishers, the problem stems from their print publishing mindset. Take the New York Times’ wine critic Eric Asimov — he publishes “articles” in the print paper that also appear online. Then he has a “blog” called The Pour.

So what’s the difference between Asimov’s “articles” and his “blog posts,” especially where they appear online? Well, you can’t comment on or trackback to the articles, but that difference is purely artificial. Asimov is more informal in his blog posts, as you would expect, but again, that is an artificial difference.

Now image that the Times were entirely digital (if only) — all of Asimov’s content would be comment and trackback enabled, it would all be accessible in one place, some of it would be long and in-depth and some would short and more informal, but in the end, it would all be the Times publishing Asimov. No need to call this an “article” and that a “blog post.”, not surprisingly, gets it right by making all of its content trackback and comment enabled — but they don’t need to use the term blog as an excuse to make the content interactive (or “Web 2.0″). There’s no “interactive media” over here and “dead tree” media shoved online over there.

Now I realize the term “blog” is probably here to stay, and it’s useful in that we all know (generally) what we’re talking about when we say something is a blog.

But I think online content would evolve and “converge” a lot faster if we just saw it all as a “digital publishing.”

Or Publishing 2.0, if you will…