Monday, January 03, 2005

Do we need a bloggers manifesto?

One thing Steve Outing asks for in his articles is a code of ethics for bloggers. This is one of the hot topics for journalists when facing bloggers. Bloggers do what too many of them wish they could do - thought they could do, when they started. Bloggers write without editorial restraint, they write about what ever they like, everything they write gets published and some gets a LOT of attention, and they appear to have fun.

No wonder it bugs the journalists. Something has to be wrong. And this something needs to be the thing that distinguishes a journalists from any casual pen-wielder: journalistic methodology and ethics.

The journalists are not the only ones driving for a more formalised world of blogging. Teachers, researchers, publishers, readers, software developers: everybody want to define blogging as one thing or the other. We want standards, intent, categories and definitions. These things are some of the most important tools for measuring quality, assigning status and doing research. Of course we want them: to get credit, to perform comparative studies, to get approval.

But does the world of blogging need this? The potential of blogging is that it can be A, B, C or just about any letter of the alphabeth you know, and possibly some unknown ones too. The wonder of blogging is that a blog can be written in any style, discuss any topic, have any intent and fit into any category or none. Blogs are as individual as the people writing them.

If we make a blogger's manifesto, a code of ethics or what ever, it either needs to be very open, along the lines of "An' it harm none, do what ye will", or it will limit blogs to something other than what they are at the moment. If we do make a definition which, for instance, defines bloggers as a kind of free-form, uninstitutionalised second-rate journalists, a VERY large group of active bloggers will fall outside of the definition.

Personally I prefer the first kind of manifesto, but it doesn't matter to me if blogs become defined as only one thing. It will mean that "blogs" as we know them today will disappear, but personal publishing online will not. The people who today use blog software for their own puposes will go on doing that, or they will switch to new software which suits their purpose even better. The important change in media use which the blog signifies is not limited to a certain genre or style of publishing, but to the act of publishing itself. Blogs gave publishing power to the people. I don't think the average net writer is going to stop writing just because somebody redefine what a blog is.

No comments: