One of the best things about the old biblioblogosphere… a term I will continue to use even though, or especially because, it probably annoys people. See also: webinar.
One of the best things about the old biblioblogosphere was when one librarian wrote a post, then another librarian picked up on that post and expanded it, and then another librarian took the idea into another direction. It wasn’t that we all felt we needed to have our own take on a topic (although sometimes it could feel that way). We were just inspired by each other and that inspiration lead to an interesting kind of collaboration.
The rise of social media platforms changed the way we interacted with each other. In theory, social media made conversations more linear and compact, but in practice it took away from the way we expanded on and cultivated our thoughts through our blogs.
It made sense for us to set up shops in social media. In “Back to the Blog,” Dan Cohen writes, “Human beings are social animals and centralized social media like Twitter and Facebook provide a powerful sense of ambient humanity—the feeling that ‘others are here’—that is often missing when one writes on one’s own site.”
Meredith Farkas writes about what we gave up to join those centralized platforms in her post “We are atomized. We are monetized. We are ephemera. Do we deserve more online?”
What was most frustrating about blogs was the distributed nature of the conversation, but moving to a centralized space destroyed the close sense of community, at least for me. In the move from blogs to the centralized ecosystem, what we gained in the ease of connection and the quantity of connections we lost in quality of those connections.
Kathryn Greenhill echoes the sentiment in “Ten years after Peak Biblioblogging.”
I think this move away from our self-hosted blogging platforms, as much as us all moving on to other responsibilities and interests, eroded that daily “I will post in my blog or comment on three others this morning because if I do then this great conversation and growth of knowledge and ideas will keep going.”
To be fair, we were able to create a vibrant community on particular social media services. Kathryn alludes to Meebo, which along with FriendFeed was part of the epicenter of that community. (If you’re not familiar with either, I describe them both briefly in “A Post About Slack That Isn’t Really About Slack.”) But that meant we ceded control of our conversations and our ideas to entities that would shut down our spaces as soon as it was no longer viable to keep them going. Moving to other social media platforms doesn’t really solve the problem. As Meredith puts it, “We’re also giving ourselves — or at least our digital representations and content — to companies that don’t protect us in any meaningful way (from others or themselves).”
Fiona Bradley expands on this in “What’s so amazing about really deep thoughts?”
I posted about some of the reasons why I restarted this blog a couple of months back (with a note about some life changes). A sense of ownership and control over my identity is among them. I had the opportunity to work on policy and advocacy around the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) before leaving the UK, which made me keenly aware of the ways in which many companies did not give us choices about what they collect and how, until they were forced to.
Taking all that into consideration, I don’t think it’s much of a coincidence that a lot of us almost simultaneously started to think about this topic and started to blog about it. To wit: Chad Boeninger notes that he began working on his post “Is this thing on?” before Meredith published her post.
Also, I spent four days trying to come up with a summary of what I am writing about here and Chad just nails it when he writes:
Possibly related to my recent interest in writing again is social media has got me down lately. There’s lots of sharing but not much caring. I’ve always liked the sharing aspect of blogging.
So I am giddy that folks like Fiona, Tara Murray, and Morgan Wilson restarted their blogs this year after long hiatuses. “These days, a librarian type blog which is active and has posted within the last year or so is kind of special,” Morgan says in “Return of the Blog Roll.”
But I think the time is right for more library blogs to come back or start up. In “Library blogs reach mid-career,” Tara writes, “It seems many of us are about the same age and are struggling with the same kinds of issues.” A long Twitter thread or a detailed Facebook post just doesn’t seem to be the right place for us to work out those issues and “Like” buttons aren’t enough to fully express our solidarity.