Jawa Report Turns 10
Blogging has changed much over the last decade, and not all for the good.
The blogger known as Rusty Shackleford started the Jawa Report ten years ago yesterday. The site began, as most back in those nascent days of this genre, as a general purpose, single author blog and evolved into a group blog best known for its coverage of the jihadist threat.
Way back then, blogging was a much smaller, communal experience. Some of it was silly. We spent a lot of time checking our trackbacks and gaming the Truth Laid Bear ecosystem, running dozens of weekly link roundup “carnivals,” and blogging about blogging. Naturally, and mostly for the best, the enthusiasm for that sort of thing died down and most blogs—or, rather, most of the tiny minority that didn’t fade away and managed to attract a meaningful readership—tended to become multi-author, quasi-magazine sites. And the blogging about blogging—including this sort of blogoversary shoutout—all but disappeared.
But something has been lost along the way. In the old days, I was reading dozens of blogs, from all across the political spectrum, and engaging in a vigorous dialog with the likes of Rusty, Kevin Drum, Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Reynolds, Josh Marshall, Jim Henley, Steve Hynd, Stephen Green, Sean Paul Kelley, Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein, and literally dozens of others. Nowadays, frankly, I hardly read blogs at all anymore. Hell, I pay help Sullivan and Marshall support their sites and hardly read them anymore.
The rise of aggregators and the death of RSS feeds have led to everyone reading and commenting on the same two dozen stories a day. While most of what rises to the top that way is very good, the old relationships and sense of community are largely gone. And that’s one of the biggest reasons, along with changes to my work and home life, that I just can’t motivate to spend as much time as I used to writing. For the first eight or nine years, I was blogging every day. I blogged on my honeymoon. In the early years, I was averaging well over ten posts a day; enough so that Henley singled me out as one who blogged too much. This past year or more, I’ve been lucky to write five or six posts a week.
While I don’t miss the old silliness and obsessive tracking of my Sitemeter stats, it may be time to recapture some of that cross-blogging community of the early years. It was a large part of what made this medium special. Now, we’re just self-published magazines, distinguishable from the big boys mostly by site layout and the nature of the advertising.
Yes indeed, started my own blog in 2002 then moved to a group blog in 2009 and when that died Joe Gandelman invited me to join The Moderate Voice. When I had my own blog I did 2 or 3 posts a day now I do 1 or 2 a week so on can concentrate on subjects that interest me.
In addition to the developments you’ve noted, aggregators and the death of RSS feeds, there are a couple of other notable developments.
The first is “taking the Boeing”, i.e. corporate sponsorship. Individual blogs or small group blogs received most of the traffic among the political blogs ten years ago. Now blogs associated with newspapers and magazines have absorbed a lot of that. Blogging by subscription is the new experiment.
The other development is the rise of bots and comment spam. Today there’s orders of magnitude of it more than there was a decade ago and it creates a major problem for small, non-commercial bloggers like me. Akismet can block spam but it still takes up a lot of bandwidth. I have blocked, quite literally, thousands of addresses. It’s a daily chore that takes up time that could be used for blogging.
No offense James, but I miss Doug. Hope he is doing well.
Same here. I still read this one, daily. May be one of the few.
James: “While I don’t miss the old silliness and obsessive tracking of my Sitemeter stats, it may be time to recapture some of that cross-blogging community of the early years. It was a large part of what made this medium special. Now, we’re just self-published magazines, distinguishable from the big boys mostly by site layout and the nature of the advertising.”
This is a function of blogging going from a niche activity to a major activity.
“In the early years, I was averaging well over ten posts a day; enough so that Henley singled me out as one who blogged too much. This past year or more, I’ve been lucky to write five or six posts a week.”
It’s hard to keep up a lot of activity, especially as one’s career – and personal life 🙁 changes.
@Barry: I’ve changed the way I even approach my blog, these days. I know it must be tedious, but I’m just using it to do my research for a couple books, and adapt the posts as chapters. I’m working on a half-dozen things, with one in preliminary edits. I don’t think I could legit the time I spend on it if I weren’t doing this.
I think the blogs that survive will be the ones that gather together a group of people who are willing to post relatively frequently on stuff that interests them and is all vaguely around the same area, and attracts a group of commentators that add to the interest. A single-person blog? You get burned out.
If I ever get enough time to write it, I’d like to post something about Bitcoin and where it’s probably going. (The problem with Bitcoin is that one of the legitimate “killer app” aspects–the international transfer of money at a cheap rate–is very easy for the entrenched behemoths like Western Union to guard against: they just drop their prices.)
It’d be great if, as older bloggers phased out, newer ones stepped up. But the new generation is geared more toward Twitter. That’s great for links and sloganeering, but not for constructing arguments. And our political discourse is only going to get worse because of it.
There was a moment (which peaked in and around the 2004 elections, I think–it was certainly gone by the 2008 election), where blogging was most a truly amateur, individual affair that had a certain community feel to it. As newspapers, magazines, think tanks, etc. started their own blogs this changed blogging forever.
Also: a lot of personal stuff migrated to other social media, especially FB and Twitter.
Aaron or Raymond, which one is this guy?
On the same subject, I recently noticed something on this site. When a comment gets a good number of up- and down-votes, it gets marked as a “hot debate”. I suppose you could call it “hot”, but how in the world has clicking on pictures of thumbs become classified as “debate”?