Is blogging here to stay?

commentary Is blogging a fad or a sustainable revolution in the way people receive and digest information?I must admit, I have been -- and to a certain extent still am -- a sceptic.

commentary Is blogging a fad or a sustainable revolution in the way people receive and digest information?

I must admit, I have been -- and to a certain extent still am -- a sceptic. Far too many bloggers still drown any occasional nugget of wit or insight in a pungent pool of "look at me" witterings that tax the most patient reader. All too few use their blogs to craft sharp, economically worded, personalised insights into issues of interest to people beyond their immediate family.

However, while for me the proclamations that blogging is usurping the role of traditional media are vastly overheated, the best blogs on offer do contain a level of insight and impact that match the best top newspaper and magazine columnists have to offer. These have often been drawn from the blogger's unfortunate presence in a location and time of disaster -- Salam Pax, the Baghdad blogger, won worldwide fame for his musings from the strife-torn capital, while many have written compelling material about the disaster zone that is post-Katrina New Orleans.

What blogging is doing well is allowing decision-makers to talk direct to a community without having their message filtered (distorted?) by a journalist or commentator. The heavily read blog written by Sun Microsystems' president and chief operating officer, Jonathan Schwartz, is a prime example of this.

Another thing blog postings do -- thanks to their subjectivity and personalisation -- is encourage reader feedback and debate. While traditional journalists generally write with a level of impartiality -- and traditional newswriting models actively discourage insertion of the reporters' opinion -- blogs are the e-equivalent of a conversation at the pub. Of course, while journalists also have some security of tenure, bloggers are only as good as their last post. You can lose your readers with one ill-considered comment or factual error.

A sure sign of blogging's growing mindshare worldwide is the interest taken by regulators, law enforcement agencies and courts in what is posted. In Singapore, bloggers have been charged under the island republic's Sedition Act for allegedly posting racist comments online, a move which has sent shockwaves through the local blogging community. This exemplifies a looming problem for the community worldwide -- the inexperience of the vast bulk of its members in complying with laws governing what can and cannot be said in their postings. Many will be shocked to realise that a hastily-written post expressing irritation with a fellow employee for example could land them in court facing defamation action.

Blogging IS a revolution -- and an extremely healthy one too. But its growth is inevitably going to be followed by consolidation as casual bloggers lose interest in the work required to continually update their offerings and lawyers start eyeing some of the juicier postings as providing the bucks for their next trip to Bermuda.

Blogging will not usurp the role of traditional media or other information sources - it will instead provide a healthy complement to them.

What do you think? Does blogging provide a better experience than traditional media? What do you think is the future for blogging? E-mail us at edit@zdnet.com.au or use the talkback facility and let us know.

Iain Ferguson is the News Editor of ZDNet Australia.

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