What the Blog
The other day, Dave Winer wrote about writing a State of the Blog. Intrigued, I expressed my interest in it. In return, Dave noted: "A good way to get the State of the Blog thing going is for everybody to think about the SOTB from their POV and then (of course) blog it."
I started blogging in 2002, as I recall. At the time, Salon had a clunky-but-cool blogging platform, and since it was attached to a publication, there was some promise of traffic, so I launched my blog there. It was called The Reverse Cowgirl, and it was rather successful. I remember getting a kind of high off what we called "hits" back then. I believe my first big influx of traffic arrived when I posted images of a woman who had streaked or half-streaked a golf tournament. Maybe she was a porn star. I remember I got something like 5,000 hits. Wow! I was really impressed. As it turns out, with a blog, you could do your own thing. You didn't really need an editor, or permission to write something, or a budget. You could just churn, and the world would burn. It was ... fun.
That blog, as one can surmise by the name, was about sex, mostly, as I recall. That's what I wrote about as a freelance journalist, and the blog was kind of a way for me to funnel some energy into an outlet where someone wasn't telling me "No" all the time. I really liked blogging. It felt like I owned it. It felt like it was all me. It felt kind of true.
Blogging isn't really like that anymore. Along the way, it got eaten by corporations, and some of the greats I loved died over time or were killed. What was once an outlier's art became a series of cubbyholes in which millennials sat to crap out shit that passed for what we used to think of as blog posts. What's a blog today? I don't know. The New York Times does it. Those idiotic sites for bros do it. Some people still do it for love.
These days, the blogs I read are limited, because I, too, get most of my feed of news from social media. For me, that's usually Twitter. But I do read some blogs, still. One example would be Kottke, which remains about as true to its original self as a thing can. (I've guest-blogged there a few times, and it was like praying in church.) Another blog I enjoy that is distinct, original, and unfaltering is BLDGBLOG. What is it? That's hard to say. It's about curious places in the world, and our curious place in the world, and how the curious never fails to delight us. Sometimes I read GOMIBLOG, which is like an anti-blog blog. Its primary stance is calling out bloggers for ridiculous or scandalous behaviors. It is the ouroboros of blogging.
For the most part, though, gone are the distinctive voices that rose to popularity in the early days of blogging. Its practitioners got hired away or started writing sponsored posts. And the very idea of a blog got sucked into the maw of capitalism, which has never really done anybody any good -- not creatively, anyway. Once upon a time, blogging was an act of rebellion. Nowadays, it's a lost art sacrificed to the gods of selling out and getting ahead.
Which is too bad, really. Because blogging was the bridge that brought us here. Social media gave everybody a platform, but when the chorus sings, the most singular, strident, and spectacular voices get lost in the din of the many clamoring for attention, showing their abs in hopes of parlaying their status into influencer, exposing their thirsty status in a short-term hustle for likes, clicks, and views that, in the end, signify nothing but vanity and vapidity.
What's next? A return to blogging! Or, no. Scratch that. Blogging is dead! Or, well. Maybe not. To blog or not to blog is the question I sometimes ask myself. Maybe the answer lies in pornography. When I started writing about the porn industry, it was the late 90s. A boom was underway, and the internet was taking X-rated content to the masses. But after the turn of the century, Porn Valley found itself flooded by production companies. The barrier to entry had lowered with the affordability of the technology required to make it, and "porn movies" rapidly morphed into "content." Then: piracy, the Feds, the economic apocalypse. By '08/'09, the adult movie industry, like much of the rest of the American economy, had shit the bed. But something interesting happened in the years after that. The competition was wiped out, and only the strong and the stalwart survived. Few remained, but they persevered. And in a lovely sort of mirroring, the audience changed, too. Tired of dreck smut shot on cum-stained couches, exhausted by masturbating to crap content shot by fly-by-night operations, bored with the ubiquity of gonzo-porno starring gaping assholes and cam-girls-gone-wild, consumers of porn surmised what they wanted was more. Not more of what had come before: the outrageous, the explicit, the deranged. They wanted quality, they wanted stories, they wanted craft. Now, the pornographers who survived the apocalypse are learning that if they make better porn, there are people out there who are willing to pay for it. Slowly, but surely, it appears, some 20 years (to the fucking month!) since I first set foot on a porn movie set, the industry has come circle. You can hear the wheels churning from here.
Maybe that's where blogging is. A few of us have hunkered down to wait out the storm. We watched from the sidelines when the clowns showed up and hijacked the show. As the masses move on to the next hot thing, we are finding there is a little elbow room in blogging again, and we are stretching ourselves -- tentatively, at first, to see if these muscles of ours still work -- and we are trying to figure out what it is we have to say. I'm still here. I know you are, too. I am setting out on a journey that is the unfolding story of my life. Will you come with me?