In ancient times, when there was something that a tribe or village needed to discuss they called a folk moot, in which all the free members of the community would come together to discuss the matter at hand and decide what should be done. It is from this practice that we get the contemporary phrase “a moot point” which originally meant not that the subject was beyond discussion but that it was not yet decided and thus it could only be discussed at a moot, in the presence of everyone.
It is in this tradition that I coined the term bloot last week, for a blog moot, an opportunity to have the kind of cross-blog discussions that used to be the lifeblood of the blogging community. And indeed, we have now had a bloot – not the first of its kind, by any means, but perhaps the first to be recognised as such. It is with considerable gratitude that I thank everyone who got involved with this.
The first to speak up was Oscar Strik at Sub Specie, a new part of my blog existence but an increasingly important part of my life as a writer and lunatic. A late comer to the experience of blogging, Oscar nonetheless recognised the problem I was talking about in The Extinction of Blogs. He suggested that we might need to “jury-rig solutions” to the problems inherent in the currently overcrowded space of social media. His concluding remarks are worth quoting:
Twitter and Facebook are the virtual pub, if you will. They can lead to some wonderful acquaintances, and these have the potential to develop into deeper friendships. But again, if we want to maintain more in-depth conversations with some people, we will have to make a conscious effort, and allocate our time and attention accordingly. New technologies haven’t changed that basic principle.
This point reappears in the contribution Chris Lepine at The Artful Gamer made the following week, responding to Prototypes for Blog Revival. Chris, oddly, seemed to think part of the problem was an obsession with listening to ‘celebrity’ voices over personal interconnection. Oscar and I have been sceptical of this point, but I think perhaps only because the problem Chris points out is the wider one – that celebrity interest is more widespread than the desire to have a worthwhile discussion about serious matters. He concludes:
The disappearance of the game blog meant that independent voices were choked out by behemoth institutions that themselves have no special insight into gaming. What we lost was the ability to choose which topics mattered to us, and then start the conversation there… Imagine something like an 18th century Salon, without all the pretension and pseudointellectualism – just some serious chat with nice folks.
This ideal, that of the ‘salon’, is one that I share – and I’m not so worried about the pretension or pseudointellectualism as long as we get the conversation. But if this bloot has shown me anything, it’s that we’re not going to get this with our current technology, a point brought out nicely by Joe Tortuga at Cult of the Turtle:
Whatever software gets created will have to… incorporate the ease, identity and networks of the social sites. I suspect it’s going to be some technology that makes it easier to be who you are online, to carry your identity around, and participate in your networks and blogs at the same time. That’s going to take a third party who is willing to merge these networks together into some new identity, and that’s going to be hard from a political/business standpoint, probably more than engineering of it.
But then there was the tolling of the bell of doom from the longest standing member of my blog cluster, Corvus Elrod of Zakelro! Because Corvus, in sharp contrast to the rest of us, isn’t looking for the revival at all:
So the question becomes - do blogs need reviving? Are they critical, as Lepine suggests, to the growth and development of conversation around videogames? Are they the best outlet, as Bateman suggests, for more formal discussion around certain topics? I don't know. I know that the blogs I continue to read are highly personal explorations of important cultural and social issues around videogaming. I know that any continued blogging I do will be less about being socially networked and more about exploring my own issues in a semi-public forum. If that leads to interaction, that's terrific, but I'm not going to rely on interaction as my motivation for posting. After all, if I were doing it just for the interaction, I'd be on a social network posting this in smaller chunks right now. Speaking of which, I wonder what's happening on Twitter.
And this is the nub of the issue… because not all blogging is about community. My problem, and presumably Chris Lepine’s as well, is that right now none of the blogging is about community, which is a serious step down from where we were not that many years ago. So the situation going forward needs to be to leave the door open for community, when it is appropriate. For this, the informal bloot – an invitation to community on a specific topic – would seem to be a barely adequate solution, and yet the best we may be able to manage.
Fortunately, it was not all doom and gloom, as I discovered when a post appeared at Psychochild’s Blog and produced over a dozen comments within twelve hours! What was Brian’s secret? The answer seems to be twofold. Firstly, his blog cluster is part of the MMO community, which was always much livelier than neighbouring clusters, and although he complains that “there are less MMO bloggers these days” it seems there is still life in this corner of the internet. Secondly, he specifically courted a community geared towards commenting – something that I probably failed to do as my interests veered ever more towards philosophy and away from games as such. Brian concludes:
I think blogs have some serious benefits over social media. Not that I think anyone is going to forsake Twitter or Google+ to go back to just reading blogs, but I think we can do so much more. It might be time to really look at how we present blogs.
I agree. And I agree that we have a technology problem, too. But while we wait for the technical landscape to change, we should take heart from what this bloot has revealed – that bloggers are still out there, that some have maintained community and comments, and that all is far from lost.
Although I welcome further discussion on these topics, this bloot is now at its logical end. But I would like to use this final post to invite everyone involved to accept this imaginary Klieg searchlight with a stylized symbol of a blog on it, and to use the Bloot-signal whenever you feel the need to throw the discussion out to your wider cluster, a cluster of which I am a part. Not every topic demands this kind of discussion, but I for one am heartened to know that it is possible, however difficult, for debates like these to still take place out in the wilds of the internet.
You know where to find me. And you can always bloot me if you need me.
With infinite thanks to everyone who joined the discussions!