The latter does a good job of extrapolating current trends. But the truth is really somewhere in the middle, I think. Somewhere between 10% and 20% of the students I have introduced to what I will call “public blogging” (blogging for an audience wider than friends and associates) have taken to it, while the rest have blogged only under duress. And this is among a fairly fertile group.
My guess is that when AOL, MS, and the others open up blogging to Joe and Jane Sixpack, folks will be surprised to find no blogging gold rush. Yes, many new bloggers will enter, and there will be some growth, but we will not see half of America blogging in the same way as we see half of America on the Web.
(1) Because blogging takes time from (other forms of) work, from (other forms of) entertainment, and from (other forms of) communication. Most bloggers I know can justify blogging as part of their work — I do — or just have oodles of spare time to fill.
I think we need to know where people blog. Are they blogging at work? Where have they borrowed the time to blog?
(2) Writing for fun? I guess the question we should be asking is whether Americans will stop watching WWE, the most watched sportainment in the world, in order to blog. I don’t think so. Despite invoking pro wrestling, this isn’t meant as an elitist argument. It’s simply the case that many people do not enjoy the written word–or at least would prefer to engage that word in a more expertly crafted form, like a good book.
I have heard from my students time and time again the same thing: “I have nothing interesting to write about.” Of course, they do, and discovering this can be a great experience for many of them. But most of them are not ready or interested in discovering this. They would prefer to remain uninteresting.
(3) Blogs are for techies. It’s easy to forget that many people still don’t like to use email. They prefer to telephone or meet in person, or even to send a letter. Blogs are populated by the technophilic.
Blogger is easy? Think again. There are a significant number of people who do not have enough familiarity with the technology to be able to use Blogger effectively. Then there are systems like MT, which presume a certain familiarity with setting up CGI scripts, working with CSS, and a basic understanding of HTML. In other words, it is Greek to the average undergraduate student. I think bloggers tend to be more friendly when it comes to tech help than many other techy communities, but then AOL may change that quickly.
I predict that the age of grand pronouncements about the world of blogging is dead. I suspect the term “blog” will also die a slow death. But some of the underlying social changes that blogging has brought about are likely to continue to spread like a virus throughout the web and throughout organizations. Blogs may die, but the bloggy way of doing things is likely to show up in a variety of surprising venues as time goes by.
In the meantime, I think we do a disservice in trying to lump together the blogging world as a whole. There are interesting commonalities, but–as I’ve said before–the atypical blogger is far more interesting in many ways than the typical one.