Thoughts about blogging
by Doc Searls Monday, February 20, 2017

Let's look again at Blogging 1.x, which Dave (dad of, which I'm using here) led, starting in the last millennium. I was one of Dave's earliest users, blogging at, which is still up, thanks to Dave's durable code and the hosting largesse of Jake Savin (@jsavin).

Here is one day in the life of my blog back then, chosen at near-random: September 18, 2001. In it, as you see, I used the blog as a way to share thoughts and work on many subjects, as an accessory to my other work as a journalist.

All of us bloggers were in the midst of processing 9/11 at that time. That event happened only a week earlier and cast a prevailing angst over everything, kind of like the Trump Phenomenon does today. The whole period makes for some very interesting reading, and I encourage readers to click on various dates around then on the blog's calendar. Even though many links are rotted away, it's a good window into a time, and into the dawn of blogging's golden age, which seems to have come and gone: not away, but... somewhere. Not sure yet.

Some provisional thoughts, off the top of my head:

1) Blogging was originally something individuals did for themselves and their readers. While most of us used platforms, those were not "social," or located inside giant silos. Even after Blogger (one of those platforms) was eaten by Google, most of the blogs there (at were personal. Still are.  Wordpress blogs are also still kinda the same way, but Wordpress' design encourages essays rather than shorter posts such as I had at Since '07 I've been blogging mostly at and, both at Harvard, which uses Wordpress. 

Medium, which Dave calls the Web's Central Park (a good analogy) is a publishing more than a blogging platform. It has a nice UI, outstanding import capabilities, and is remarkably simple and easy to edit, and yields attractive results.  But it's also a silo and still a startup, with the risks that accompany both.

Twitter was called "micro-blogging" in the early days (see here), but then "tweeting" took over as the prevailing vernacular, and the Venn overlap with blogging was reduced to linking and little more. (Example: tweeting links to blog posts.) I tweet mostly via @dsearls, and mostly to share links or spread news of some kind. Fo example, last night I tweeted a link to a photo gallery of the doomed bust of Francesco Franceschi, the namesake of a steep 18-acre Santa Barbara hillside park. Francesco's bust, carved into the crest of a sandstone boulder a century ago, is imperiled by recent rain storms and dramatic erosion in many places, including the slope right under his rocky nose. The tweet alerted three local news outlets. One of them, @Edhat, picked it up. This drove about a hundred readers to my Flickr site, for what that's worth. Far as I know, it hasn't saved Francesco. 

2) We lost something big when Twitter and Facebook replaced blogging for many bloggers. The biggest loss was readership. My original blog had between 5000 and 20000 visitors per day, most of which arrived via their RSS readers. I had a very strong sense of connection with those readers, and that's gone now. My two main current blogs get reads in the dozens to hundreds per day. But then, I don't blog daily any more, because Wordpress doesn't make that easy, and I'm too busy with other stuff.

When I do post on my Wordpress blogs, I often run the same posts on Medium, where they typically get a few hundred views. Some go over a thousand, with actual reading running about half that. On Twitter I have 23,700 followers, a handful of which see any of my tweets, given the firehose-y nature of Twitter and tweeting. I can count clicks on shortlinks I've created using, and those run in the handful range, per tweet. Posts at also tend get at most a handful of likes or comments (and often none at all), even though I have more than a thousand friends there.

I posted many times per day on my old blog because it was easy and I could feel the readers there. I want to do that again here, but don't yet sense the readership or the interactivity. This is my fault, because I haven't gotten into the groove yet. Instead my groove right now is writing a book.

It's also just harder to blog when there is very little sense of connection anywhere outside of tweets and retweets, which all have the permanence of snow falling on water.

Repartee with friends and relatives is what Facebook seems best for But it doesn't go where I used to blog.

Many of the bloggers who were active in the old days are still active, but on Facebook. I also know some group conversations about Subjects That Matter happen on Facebook and Linkedin, but going to either feels to me like going to a loud hall in an old building with no food and bad art on the walls, where groups of people gather, mostly to yell toward each other over the din.

3) I think Marshall McLuhan has a lot to say about all this. His Laws of Media, for example, form a Tetrad (foursome) of Media Effects, posed as four questions:

a) What does the medium enhance?

b) What does the medium make obsolete?

c) What does the medium retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?

d) What does the medium reverse or "flip into" when pushed to extremes?

Here's a stab at what blogging did, back in the decade:

a) It enhanced journalism.

b) It made obsolete emailing of some kinds. I used to call blogging "email that's 'cc:world'".

c) It retrieved diaries

d) It reversed or flipped back to vanity publishing

IMHO. Just saying.

Here's my whack at "social media," notably Facebook and Twitter: 

a) They enhance social connections (reconnecting people to friends and relatives, and generating much more social interaction.

b) They obsolete blogging, and possibly journalism (or at least journalism as we knew it) as well. (I think Trump knows this instinctively, and uses social media to re-characterize mainstream journalism as the “enemy” of the very social network that put him in office, and is increasingly becoming a tribe. See d below.)

c) They retrieve gossip, functioning as a worldwide backyard fence.

d) They reverse or flip us back into tribes and tribalism, isolating conversation inside echo chambers and making us blame other groups. The Wall Street Journal's Blue Feed/Red Feed shows clearly how isolated and opposed those tribes are becoming.

Since the tetrad are posed as questions, there can be many answers. I'm still a visitor to the McLuhan oeuvre, even though I've been reading a lot in it. So please don't take my answers as anything more than a way I've followed toward understanding just a bit of What's Going On. Love to hear what others think.

Meanwhile I'll try to blog more here.

Bonus fact: my body of photographic work on Flickr, in excess of 65,000 shots, gets 4,000-10,000 visits per day, and is past two million visits since I started it in 2005. My Medium post titled Dear Adobe, Please Buy Flickr is by far at the top of my readership list, with 12,800 views, 9,100 reads, a 71% read ratio and 409 recommends. Neither Adobe nor Flickr responded, so that worked out.

  • I wanted to just press the like icon, but couldn't. So this is a reply to say "I like". ;-)
    I notice main main page doesn't shows number of comments to each post, but main page does.