In the current issue of Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan has written an article about the current phenomenon of blogging (Why I Blog).
Sullivan started blogging in 2000 because he felt that, as a freelance writer, he needed to have a presence online. He was immediately struck by how easy it was to post his thoughts on any subject under the sun. The barrier to entry was, and is, an internet connection and a desire to communicate.
Sullivan discusses the pros and cons of this relatively new medium. On the pro side, it’s easy to get started. There is an immediacy to blogging that isn’t found when writing for traditional newspapers and magazines. There is freedom in being able to write about any topic without editorial tinkering or intrusion, and feedback from readers tends to be instant.
On the negative side, Sullivan talks about the harsh and brutal nature of the feedback. He refers to the “fierce immediate scrutiny” of readers, who are quite prepared to rake a blogger over the coals in pointing out factual errors or to register their disagreement.
Sullivan draws a clear distinction between bloggers and writers. Writes have time to research, analyze, and organize their thoughts before committing them to paper. A blogger, on the other hand, has no such luxury: his/her work is an ongoing diary or collection of opinions expressed on the fly.
Sullivan also does a good job placing blogging into a larger historical perspective. He argues that some of the heavyweight thinkers of western civilization, such as Plato, Pascal and Montaigne, actually wrote in a blog-like style, in “a series of meandering, short, and incomplete stabs at arguments, observations and insights.” They would have been the bloggers of their day.
I particularly like Sullivan’s summation about blogging in general, where writes: “The blogosphere has added a whole new idiom to the act of writing and has introduced an entirely new generation to nonfiction.”